Hurstpierpoint College Senior Chapel Address
Friday 29th January 2021: Candlemas, Luke 2.22-40
On 2 February, in the Church year, we celebrate the Feast of Candlemas. Traditionally, this has been the end of the Christmas season, the day that even the most persevering amongst us put away their Christmas lights – or maybe not this year. It is also the service in which we bless and give out lots of candles, as I am sure many of you who were here last year will remember. As we all know, this year is different, and we cannot be together in one place. However, I hope that most of you received a tea light from us this last week. Some of you may have already lit it, but if you haven’t, today may be a good opportunity to do so.
Lighting a candle is a universal sign of comfort, and of hope. Many of us will have been into churches and lit a candle to think of someone dear to us, or to remember someone who had died. As a nation, we have also been lighting candles to remember all those caught up in the global pandemic: again, a sign of comfort and hope.
Today, I would like to extend the image of the candle as a sign of hope a little further – maybe a little too far for some of you. In our reading just now, we heard how Simeon proclaims Jesus to be one who will give light to those who sit in darkness: the image of Christ being the light of the world. That is also the image represented by our Paschal candle, which we light every year for the first time on Easter Day.
As Christians, we believe that each of us carries with us that light too, that each one of us is uniquely created and loved by God. That each of us is unique, and each of us is to be valued and celebrated as a human being, is of course not only a Christian belief: it is not even distinctively religious. I would go as far as that the belief that everyone is to be respected and celebrated it is a necessary condition for humanity to live well, and to live well together.
Continue reading “Candles of Hope”
Hurstpierpoint College Senior Chapel Address
Friday 11th December: Advent 3, John 1.6–8,19–28
Although we’re not quite there yet, it is fair to say that we are nearing the end of term, and nearing the Christmas holidays. There are still two-and-a half days of lessons left, and for some of you some last tests for which to revise. Yet, the Christmas trees have been decorated, Secret Santa gifts have been bought – or will have been by Monday – and the list of things to do before Christmas is slowly getting shorter.
In this time between preparation and celebration, I would like to take the opportunity today to take stock. Not so much looking at what we have done or achieved, as there will be plenty of time for that next week. But I do like to reflect on the past few months using the question we hear asked to John in our reading this afternoon: Who are you? What do you say about yourself? Those are questions we all encounter at some point, and it is good to give them some thought.
John the Baptist’s answer that we hear in our reading this afternoon is that he is the voice crying out in the wilderness. He is the one who is proclaiming what is to come after him: Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour. Those words ‘a voice crying out in the wilderness’ seem to indicate a loneliness, yet there is certainly also a sense of purpose with John. He knows who he is, and that is why he does what he does.
Continue reading “Who are you?”
Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 25th August 2019
Tenth Sunday after Trinity: Jeremiah 1.4-10 & Luke 13.10-17
Last week, rather by coincidence than anything else, I found myself watching the film The Lion King, which was recently produced making you feel you are watching real animals rather than an animation. It being our favourite film as I was growing up, I was rather familiar with the story, but nonetheless moved by its profound simplicity, and of course its beautiful music.
As in so many Disney films, we see the story of good and evil, with which we are so familiar in our human lives, acted out in the lives of fictional characters or animals taking on human features. The Lion King in particular teaches us about the difference between good and bad stewardship – a topic that is maybe even more relevant today than it was twenty-five years ago.
Continue reading “Our freedom through God’s love”
A reflection for the Easter season
The news over Holy Week and Easter was dominated by two devastating events: the fire at the Notre Dame and the horrendous Easter Day shootings in Sri Lanka. Now, at the beginning of May, both these events seem to have disappeared almost completely from the news headlines. On one level, this is understandable, as there is not much more news to report. However, it also makes us realise how quickly major events disappear to the background, unless we ourselves have been personally afflicted. Particularly when tragic events involve a loss of life, the lives of those who are left are changed forever, but for many others life carries on as before.
Continue reading “Before and After”
Sermon All Saints Church All Cannings, 7th April 2019
Fifth Sunday of Lent: Philippians 3.4b-14 & John 12.1-8
Today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, marks the beginning of Passiontide as we are drawing closer to Holy Week and Easter. The reading from John’s Gospel this morning almost cannot be any fuller with themes that foreshadowing the events to come. To fully appreciate the richness of this text, it is important to remember is that John’s Gospel was the last of the Gospels to be written, probably towards the end of the first century.
John’s purpose is to articulate the belief that Jesus was the Son of God, who was born in human form, died and rose again. He is trying to understand and to help us understand what it means for the Scriptures to be fulfilled as the Word became flesh. In contrast to some other parts of Scripture, I would like to suggest therefore that the theological background of this particular passage is more important than its historical context, and so that is what I would like to focus on this morning, hoping that it will give us a better appreciation of what Jesus may have meant by that last – easily misinterpreted phrase – ‘You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
Continue reading “‘You do not always have me’”
A reflection on what it means to be a light to the world
Doing a bit of last-minute research in advance of Shell Chapel later today, I discovered that the British Museum was one of the first buildings in the UK to be lit electrically. Candles and oil lamps would have been too dangerous and their smoke would have damaged the artefacts. This means that before the lights were installed in the late nineteenth century, often the building had to close early because it would get too dark to see anything.
It sounds like a pretty obvious point to make, but not matter how many or how beautiful artefacts or pieces of art a museum has, without adequate lighting it will be very hard to see and appreciate them. A further Google search taught me that there are innumerous businesses selling dedicated museum lighting nowadays, something one could probably have guessed, but had never occurred to me.
Continue reading “‘You are the light of the world’”
A reflection after four weeks of different uniforms
As I’m not really the person looking forward to nine weeks of holiday, the last five weeks I have been working for Marlborough College Summer School. Although I still don’t quite know what it means, my official role was ‘Operations Manager’, and my code name for radio communications ‘Goldfinch’.
My role was a new one this year, and it effectively meant I fitted in somewhere between the art technicians, support team and, more tangentially, the office staff. Each team has a different colour polo shirt, so that they are easily recognisable when people have queries (and the occasional complaint!). I haven’t quite made it to having a pink shirt yet, but in the morning I had the choice between a purple and a black one. To make it even more confusion, on the days when I was having a more specifically priestly ministry, I would be wearing my clerical shirt. Usually I was reminded of this during breakfast, when people looked at me in a slightly confused way. Continue reading “What you wear is who you are?”
A sermon for the Feast of St Mary Magdalene
2 Corinthians 5.14-17 & John 20.1,2,11-18
The reading from St John’s Gospel in which Mary Magdalene meets Jesus after the Resurrection (John 20.1-18) is one of my favourite, if not my favourite Bible reading. Mary Magdalene was known as someone with ‘problems’. According to the Gospels of Luke and Mark, Jesus cleansed Mary of seven demons. And in later tradition in the churches of the West, Mary Magdalene has also been identified as the Mary who anoints Jesus, the woman who used to be a prostitute. Although this tradition cannot be deduced directly from the Scriptures, it has been persistent in history.
Whether or not this was true, I think it is fair to say that Mary was someone on the fringes. Not least because she was a woman. I won’t by any means preach a feminist sermon, but I think it is significant that it is not Jesus’ disciples who are the first witnesses of the Resurrection, but Mary, a woman, a minority if you like, someone who was in some sense an outsider. Continue reading “Celebrating our brokenness: St Mary Magdalene”
Some thoughts about living in community
‘The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are.’
Edith Stein (1891–1942)
For any community to thrive, whether it’s a town, a school, a business or even a nation, its members need to be able to live together and form meaningful relationships. It also requires an economy of giving and receiving, in which people take on particular roles and show a willingness to contribute to the flourishing of all. This, in turn, will only happen, if relationships are defined by trust, loyalty, and mutual fulfilment.
To establish relationships of this nature, we need a sense of self-awareness, and I would like to suggest that, maybe paradoxically, we will obtain the truest perspective of ourselves if we are rooted in a flourishing community. For most of us, our first community in which we discover who we are consists of our family, and in later life school, university, workplace and neighbourhood provide a framework in which we find our own particular place. Continue reading “We and those around us”
Sermon preached at St Mary’s Marlborough on 4th March 2018
Third Sunday of Lent:Exodus 20.1-17 & John 2.13-22
This morning we hear what I assume are two quite familiar passages: The Ten Commandments and the cleansing of the temple. I would like to suggest this morning that both these readings teach us something about who God is, and hence, can give us an insight in who we are, and who we are meant to be.
Last Sunday, our Old Testament reading spoke about the covenant of God with Abraham, and the week before, on the first Sunday of Lent, we heard the end of the story of Noah’s Ark. That makes this the third reading that is about a covenant between God and his people. This gives us an idea how these commandments need to be approached: not as a legal stand-alone document, but a set of guidelines that teach us what this covenant is actually about.
Continue reading “Discovering who we are”