Address Hurstpierpoint College Senior School Chapel 8 January 2021: Feast of the Epiphany
Here we are at the start of a new year. Together as the Hurst Community, yet dispersed throughout the country. None of us had hoped to start 2021 with remote learning; none of us had hoped that the exams would be cancelled also this year; and none of us had hoped to see the fragility of our freedom and democracy pointed out so clearly in the US. You might be wondering, as I have done in the last few days, is there still something we dare to hope for this year?
The Feast of the Epiphany, the three kings or wise men, which is celebrated in the Western church on 6th January and which we celebrate today, gives a resounding ‘yes’ as the answer to the question if there are still things which we can hope for. As much as Advent, Christmas or New Year, the story of the wise men is one of hope and of new beginnings. Particularly, new beginnings in a dark and challenging time.
Let us for a moment imagine ourselves to be one of the three travellers. We actually don’t know if there were three or more, we only know that they had three gifts. But that’s an aside. What does matter though, is that they are not on their own. They have each other’s company and support. Imaging ourselves to be one of the wise men is not thinking of ourselves in the fancy dress we imagine from our nativity plays, but about getting a little bit of an appreciation of who they were, and maybe who and where we are.
It is Easter morning, and the first words on our lips are ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen!’. We then look at the news, in the hope to find the world a different place; a place in which we had never heard about Covid-19, and we felt safe and secure. Yet, we wake up to the same reality as yesterday: what we had wished to be a dream from which we wake, is the world in which we live.
Yet, today, everything is different, although it may not seem so. To understand, let’s look at the story of Mary, one of the most moving stories in the Bible. Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary goes to the tomb where they had laid Jesus a couple of days earlier. She is on her own, and I wonder what she is looking and hoping for? Is she hoping that by visiting the grave, she will wake up from this nightmare, and realise Jesus is still there?
As I am writing this, it is the Saturday before Palm Sunday. This year, Holy Week will be very different from the previous times we have prepared for our Easter celebrations. Our experience this year will bring us closer to the experience of the first followers of Jesus: they too saw a crisis unfolding in front of them, without knowing where it would lead them. I suspect that this is the first time that we really share in their uncertainty, rather than knowing the outcome of the story already.
One of the questions I asked myself today was what the disciples were doing on the day before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem? What were they doing to prepare for the unknown as they travelled towards the city?
Homily St Mary’s Marlborough 24th February 2019 8am Second Sunday before Lent: Genesis 2.4b-9, 15-25 & Luke 8.22-25
Inevitably, when teaching Religious Studies to fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds, when we look at the story of the Creation, the question comes up whether I believe in the Big Bang Theory. Some of the pupils ask out of pure interest, others because they think that they have found an easy way to proof that religion is based on non-sense, on a story that is so clearly untrue and inconsistent on a lot of levels.
Trying to explain that for me, as well as for many other Christians, the story in Genesis is more like a myth than a chapter in a science book, proves more difficult than it may seem. For many, teenagers and adults alike, in cases like this it is hard to think beyond the black-and-white of true and not-true, although in many other aspects of life we do it all the time.
Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream. – Barbara Winkler
As I am writing this in late January, I am looking out over lightly snow-covered rooftops: it is definitely still winter. Yet, despite the snow and the cold, the mornings are slowly getting lighter; notwithstanding the forecasted snow, I know that the first snowdrops and daffodils will soon announce the change of the season.
In many ways, it is an apt image for our faith: often buried under a cloak of doubt and bewilderment, we know that we have seen and will seen glimpses of what God is like. Although we cannot see it now, somewhere growth is happening; and we will have to wait until it is ready for us to be noticed.
Sermon St George’s Preshute, 28th October 2018, 10.00am
Second Sunday before Advent: Daniel 12.1-3 & Mark 13.1-8
I think that I have managed so far this year not to mention Brexit in a single sermon. Today, however, I will. Don’t worry, this won’t be a ten-minute long political manifesto, nor an analysis of what I think post-Brexit Britain will look like – or whether there will be a post-Brexit Britain.
What I would like to do is draw some parallels between the readings this morning, and our own current political situation. I won’t focus so much on the issues at stake as Britain renegotiates its position within Europe, but on the process, and what it tells us about ourselves and possibly our relationship with God.