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.
Sermon 24th November 2019, St Andrew’s Church Uxbridge Christ the King and Admission to first Communion Colossians 1.11-20 & Luke 23.33-43
It is very good to be here with you this morning, especially as we are here to celebrate the first Communion of a number of young people of this parish, and their families. It was particularly nice to be welcomed by a lovely breakfast, and it fits rather well with what today’s service is all about!
I’m sure that in your preparation sessions you have been thinking already a lot about Holy Communion and what it means, so I may be repeating some of what you already know. So as you are the experts in a way, I’d like to start with a question to you specifically, but it is also a question to all of us: what do you do when you celebrate something? What do you do when there is a birthday, or Christmas or Easter, or maybe a wedding or a Baptism?
I would like to suggest that there are four key elements to each celebration: gifts or presents, food – like this morning –, stories and other people. These four aspects are not a bad way to understand Holy Communion too, so let’s look at them briefly.
Sermon St Mary’s Upavon & St Matthew’s Rushall, 6th October 2019
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
Lamentations 1.1-6, 2 Timothy 1.1-14 & Luke 17.5-10
Saying ‘please’, ‘thank-you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ is probably what most people learn from a very young age. It is showing respect to one another to acknowledge that someone has done something for you, or when you’ve made a mistake. However, when and how often we say these things, is partly cultural.
I grew up in the Netherlands, where we definitely say these things less often than here. If, for example, you would say ‘thank-you’ to a bus driver on leaving the bus, chances are that you have terribly offended him or her. After all, driving you safely to your destination is surely just their job? So on a very basic level, I can emphasise with Jesus’ words in the Gospel reading today, when he tells us not to expect any gratitude after completing what we ought to have done in the first place.
Sermon St Mary the Virgin, Bishops Cannings, 7th July 2019 10am Third Sunday after Trinity: Galatians 6.1-16, Luke 10.1-11,16-20
Today’s Gospel reading from Luke speaks about the mission of the seventy, or the seventy-two, depending on which sets of manuscripts are to be believed. The precise number doesn’t matter theologically, as both indicate an expanded scope from the mission of the twelve disciples, which is recorded by Matthew and Mark, as well as by Luke.
Through the text we are invited to reflect on the wider mission of the Church, and our own particular role within that. Of course, our situation now in 2019 is very different from the time and place in which Jesus lived and worked, so we need to be careful to look at this passage too literally. However, there are a few key themes which apply to us as much as to the seventy-two who Jesus sent out in Luke’s Gospel.
Sermon St George’s Preshute, 26th May 2019 Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 16.9-15 & John14.23-29
The Easter season is drawing to an end, with Ascension Day this coming Thursday and Pentecost ten days later. Our readings this morning invite us to start moving our focus from the celebration of the Resurrection to the reality of living in the knowledge of that Resurrection; the reality of living the life of faith, both as individuals and as a Christian community. He, I would like to reflect on what this may look like for us today. As we do so, our focus will be on the unexpectedness of God’s gifts to us. As Jesus reminded his disciples: God does not give to us as the world gives.
We have already seen in our readings over the last few weeks from the Acts of the Apostles, that the life of the early Church was not always easy, but punctuated by moments of grace and hope, unexpected conversions of individuals, such as Lydia this morning, and unexpected moments of insight of what it means to be a body of believers, such as Peter’s vision to include the Gentiles last week. Continue reading ““I do not give to you as the world gives””→
Only a very short reflection and a poem today, this day of silence between Good Friday and Easter Day.
When I went out for a walk on the downs this morning in the glorious sunshine, there was one thing I really wanted to do: I wanted to say ‘thank you’. For what precisely, I didn’t know; to whom precisely, I didn’t know either. The closest I may get in articulating it, is wanting to say thank you for the gift of life, to say thank you to the God who created and redeemed me. And that is what I look forward to celebrating once more tomorrow.
The following poem by E.E. Cummings puts this sense of gratitude into words:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
The Feast of the Epiphany
A reflection for at the start of the New Year
On 6th January, we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. It is the twelfth day of Christmas, and so traditionally the last day of this season of celebration. Epiphany literally means manifestation or appearance. The Gospel set for this day is the well-known story of the journey of the wise men, who after having followed a star find and recognise the child in Bethlehem, bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
This is Matthew’s version of the Christmas story: no stable, donkeys or shepherds, but instead a star, wise men and gifts. It is a story full of signs and significance all pointing towards aspects of Jesus’ identity: a star signalling the cosmic significance of his birth, the gift of gold indicating his royal status, and myrrh to foreshadow his suffering.
Address for the Lower School Marlborough College Chapel, 12th December 2018
Here we are, on the last day of this term. It has felt like a long term, and the lists we just had, were a good reminder on how much we have achieved in these last few months; of how much you have been giving to this College community over this last term. As I said at the carol services, I think it is worth repeating, that at Christmas we have an opportunity to celebrate who we are, the gift we are, and to say thank you for this. Maybe in many ways, not unlike the lists we just had.
Homily Marlborough College Carol Services December 2018
Christmas is only a couple more weeks away, or, for us here at the College, only a couple more days away. Today, we celebrate together, but later on, we each will celebrate in different ways. For some, it will be a large gathering with family and friends, whereas for others, just those closest to us. Some will travel to sunny or snowy places, whereas others will not travel any further than the Berkshire border.
But, no matter where we go, or what we do, there is – I think – one thing we all have in common: in some way or other, we will all be involved in exchanging gifts: we will all be giving something, something of ourselves. For many, of course, this will be actual gifts, great or small. But it also may be giving of your time, or your skill: providing the music or cooking the turkey. Giving is so instinctive to us human beings that often we forget that we are doing it.
Sermon preached at Keble College Oxford, 21st October 2018 Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity: Isaiah 53:4-end, Hebrews 5.1-10, Mark 10.35-45
First of all, thank you to the Chaplain for inviting me to preach here at Keble College tonight. Writing a sermon is in many ways not unlike writing an essay. You read, you think, you read again, and despite your intention to be well-prepared and organised, eventually you realise that still, you haven’t started writing yet the day before.
I myself come from a physics background, so for a long time I was blessedly unaware of the process of writing essays – although working to the deadline wasn’t that uncommon for myself and most others! What struck me when writing essays was that some of them, in which I had invested a lot of time and effort, were subsequently marked disappointingly low. Others, which I thought were far less well-researched, would sometimes get marks much higher than expected. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had this experience.