Sermon 9th February 2020 St George’s Preshute
3rd Sunday before Lent: Matthew 5.13-20 & 1 Corinthians 2.1-12
The passage we hear this morning is set at the start of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. I suspect that the images are familiar to many of us. The phrases ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’ have become very much part of our shared vocabulary. They are also particularly apt at this time of interregnum, moving hopefully towards the appointment of a new Team Vicar, because the words give us an idea of what discipleship looks like. Not just for the crowds who were addressed two-thousand years ago, but also for us, here at St George’s in the twenty-first century.
The first thing to not is that in this passage, Jesus addresses his listeners directly: ‘You are the salt of the earth’, ‘You are the light of the world’. These words are said to us, the challenge that following Jesus means is ours. Here in Preshute you have been very good in sharing this calling together, with a great diversity of services and events, as well as an impressive level of pastoral care for others. But is there still something we can learn from this passage? What might it look like to be salt and light, here and now?
Continue reading “Salt of the earth”
A sermon for the Feast of the Epiphany
6 January is the day on which the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany. It is also the last day of the Christmas season. Many of us will have already taken down our Christmas decorations, or will do so in the next couple of days. Christmas is behind us, and the new year lies ahead of us.
The Gospel reading set for the Feast of the Epiphany is the reading of the wise men visiting Jesus: a scene we often associate with the Christmas story itself. Indeed, it is the Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel, who does not include shepherds or choirs of angels as in Luke’s version, but narrates the story of the Incarnation here. Hence, the Christmas story as we often hear it in nativities and see it in cribs is a conflation of the two different Gospel accounts.
Matthew does not tell us very much about these wise men. We know that they came from the East and followed a star. First the star leads them to Jerusalem, and later, on instruction of the scribes and Pharisees, the men follow the star to Bethlehem. It is a significant detail of the story, revealing Matthew’s purpose in telling it this way. The wise men are foreigners, non-Jews, gentiles. They do not know the stories of the Jewish faith, nor the God as revealed in the Jewish scriptures. But that does not mean that they don’t know anything about God, as they can see Him in the world around them. Hence, they follow the star.
Continue reading “Welcome!”
In this fourth reflection after my Camino pilgrimage, I will share some of my thoughts on the Church and its challenges. One of the hopes I had as I set off what to find some clarity on my relationship to the Church and a renewed sense of belonging. I don’t think that I found any answers, but the questions have become clearer, and bigger …
Where is the Church?
I had every intention for my journey to be a true pilgrimage, preparing myself not only practically, but also spiritually. I went to Confession beforehand, prayed for a blessing upon these two weeks and decided not to take any books apart from my Bible. Working as a school chaplain means in many ways finding yourself at the fringe of the Church community, so I felt that this pilgrimage was an opportunity to focus on my inner spiritual and religious life.
People walk the Camino for all sorts of different reasons, but for most it includes elements of searching, reflection and transition. The vast majority of people have embarked on this journey intentionally: it is not really a last-minute holiday destination. This meant that, as I already said in an earlier reflection, that encounters with others were meaningful and profound, whether people had religious intentions for their journey or not.
Continue reading “Where is the Church?”
A homily for the Feast of Pentecost: Acts 2.1-21 & John 14.8-17
It’s the Feast of Pentecost, and not surprisingly we hear this morning the remarkable reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit, and they begin to speak in other languages. Of course, those who hear the noise are bewildered, and they go and see what has happened. To their astonishment, each one of them hears the disciples speaking in their own native language, and telling them about God’s deeds of power.
Although on some level, this means that everyone is able to understand what the disciples are saying, not everyone does fully comprehend: some sneer and accuse Jesus’ followers of being drunk. This raises the question about which I would briefly like to think this morning: “what do we need to understand?” From our reading we gather that being addressed in our native tongue alone is not enough, so what else do we need? To answer this question, I would like to look at our reading this morning in two metaphorical ways, two additional layers of meaning without intending to deny the reading of the events as historical. Continue reading “Speak love; hear truth”
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)
Yesterday, it happened to be Ascension Day, I made a flying visit to Berlin. The occasion was a sad one: the funeral of a beloved friend of many and associate priest at St George’s, but as so often it is an opportunity to meet friends, to share memories and to be thankful for not only what she meant to us, but also what we mean to each other. In a subsequent reflection, I will write some more about the friendship of those who have gone before us. However, here I would like to focus on the friendship offered by a hugely diverse group of people.
Until 1994, St George’s was the Garrison Church for the British military stationed in Berlin. When the Allies withdrew from Berlin after the Reunification, St George’s became a civilian church. By the time I arrived in 2010, so in about a generation, the congregation had turned into an eclectic mix of Brits, Germans, Americans, Africans and many others of different nationalities and backgrounds such as myself. As soon as I walked through the door, I felt welcome, and I was not the only one. The fact that St George’s has produced a steady stream of ordinands is only one of the signs of its ability to welcome and nourish people in their faith.
Continue reading “From all tribes, peoples and languages”
Signs of God’s wonders in the world
A sermon preached at St Mary’s Marlborough on 27th January 2019
The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany: 1 Corinthians 12.12-31a & Luke 4.14-21
It’s not easy to be in an interregnum, as I’m sure the Churchwardens and many others will agree. The extra work, the extra responsibility and the uncertainty what the future of the church in Marlborough will look like. On the other hand, there is also, I suspect, a sense of excitement: what new opportunities will lie ahead of us, and the opportunity for people to explore their gifts within in the church community.
In many ways, we, here in Marlborough in 2019, are not in a dissimilar situation from the people in Corinth in the early days of the Church. A time of excitement, but also uncertainly, a time in which people discern what their gifts are they can offer to others and to God. And, I am sure, then as now, there is the problem of our human tendency to think that we ourselves are just that bit more important or more indispensable than the people around us.
Continue reading “A Church Manifesto”
Reflection on the local Church
30th September 2018, Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
James 5.13-20 & Mark 9.38-50
As some of you reading will know, Marlborough is currently without a Rector. It is a strange thought that the local Church is currently without a leader. However, todays readings remind us that being the local Church, being the Body of Christ in a place, is a responsibility in which we all share. We all have a role to play in the local Christian community, each in our own way, as well as together in relationship.
Starting at the end of the Gospel reading, I’d like to work back toward the reading from James’ letter, making some observations on the way. The Gospel reading set for today ends with the phrase ‘Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another’. At the face of it, two competing principles. Having salt in ourselves: standing up for what we believe in; and yet being at peace with one another: making sure that relationships are harmonious.
Continue reading “We are the Body of Christ”
A Reflection for the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary
15th August 2018
When I was teaching a physics course a few weeks ago, one of the questions asked was how I reconcile science and religion. In answering that question this time around, I realise that the answer has changed over the years, and I would not be surprised if it will continue to change. So to start with a disclaimer: don’t hold me to this answer forever.
My first response to the question how I can be a physicist and a priest is that both enable me to have an inquisitive attitude to the world around me. Signs of a healthy approach to science and faith are that we feel encourage to seek a deeper understanding; to ask questions that probe deeper instead of signing up to a set of doctrine or dogmas. Continue reading “Why I go to Church: today’s answer”
A sermon preached at St James’ Cherhill
8 July 2018, Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Ezekiel 2.1-5 & Mark 6.1-13
If we’re absolutely honest, I don’t think it’s hard to imagine the scene of today’s Gospel reading happening. For a moment, think back to the place where you have grown up. For some of you that may be this village, or nearby. For others it may be further away. Many of the children we went to school with, we probably haven’t seen for a while. Maybe we can think of one or two of them, who we would be surprised to see speak and teach in public with authority. So, yes, in some ways, we would probably be like one of the people in the synagogue, surprised to see someone come back and teach.
And again, if we’re honest, sometimes we also judge people by their families. Well-educated people are often able to offer their children a good education, and we can also think of families where education is not a priority, and children quickly fall behind in school, and their opportunities in later life become more limited. Continue reading “Hearing and speaking truthfully”
Sermon preached at St Mary’s Calstone on 12th May
Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost, John 17.6-19
Today is the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost. It is interesting, I think, how in the UK Ascension Day does not really feature, whereas on the Continent in most countries it still is a public holiday.
In the Church of England, this is now the third year that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, have asked people to use these ten days between Ascension last Thursday and Pentecost next Sunday to pray for the nation and the Church. The initiative is called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, and this year for the first time there will be a big event in Salisbury Cathedral as well, next Sunday evening, 19th May.
Continue reading “Thy Kingdom Come”