Address given at Shell Chapel at Marlborough College, Wednesday 8th January 2020
It is your second term now at Marlborough. I am sure that coming back yesterday felt very different from coming here the first time in September. Probably it feels a long time ago, that first afternoon when you all went to Court to meet your teachers; your first experience of Norwood and being lost quite a lot of the time, if you’re honest. Not so this time. You have learned a lot and grown a lot, but that also means that the expectations are now a little bit higher. You will get a blue chit if you’re late, if you have forgotten where you need to go, or if you’re not wearing your uniform properly. You are no longer newcomers, you are now part of this community as much as anyone else.
Part of growing up means that as you get older, you get more privileges, but also more responsibilities. The two go hand-in-hand. In your first term, you made friendships and learned to get to know the workings of this place, hopefully enjoying at least most of it. Now starts the time to build on those experiences. You start to know what it means to have real friends: people who support you when you need it, but they are the same who will need your support at times too. Friendship is a two-way process, you cannot only take, you will also have to give.
Continue reading “The way ahead”
Sermon St John the Baptist, Mildenhall
Advent Sunday, 1st December 2019
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” In this Gospel reading from Matthew’s Gospel set for the first Sunday of Advent, Jesus is speaking about the end of the age, also known as the second coming or the day of judgement. It is a reminder to us that during this season of Advent we are not only preparing for Christmas, for the celebration of God becoming one of us some two-thousand years ago, but we are also preparing for the end of the age, the day about which no one knows. How we can prepare for that day, and how we can do that in such a way that we do not fear, but instead anticipate with readiness and joy, the unknown of God’s judgement?
Last week, I was visiting someone in hospital. She had just received the diagnosis of a terminal illness. Although we talked about Christmas, it was clear that for her it was very uncertain what this Christmas would look like. For her, this season of Advent would be a time to prepare in a very real way for the day and hour that we will all face, but of which no one knows. Continue reading “A journey into the unknown”
This fifth reflection concludes the short series of thoughts on my Camino journey. Those who have read the other pieces will recognise some of the themes. What I realised is that I was looking in the wrong place, and that my journey away needs to become a journey home. I am pleased to say that it was Augustine who set me on the right path!
The day I arrived in Santiago was a beautiful day. A clear start with the moon giving enough light to discern my shadow, but still giving the opportunity to see hundreds of stars against their black backdrop. It made for a beautiful sunrise too, and by the time I reached the cathedral square, the sun had gained enough strength to enjoy a few moments to sit down and enjoy the busyness of pilgrims arriving to their destination.
However, as soon as I arrived, I also knew that this was not, and would never have been, my final destination. A small part of me had hoped to receive a revelation that would put everything in place, that would possibly change me forever, but I knew deep down that this was not what I was looking for. Before I set off, jokingly I said to a colleague: “I may come back a different person”. His reply was: “I hope not”. It was precisely this truth that I needed to discover, but it was only the journey that had made me realise that I wanted to know what I already knew, and was looking for that which I already have.
Continue reading “Coming home”
This is the first of five reflections on my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. During ten days over half-term, I walked from Leon to Santiago. Although it was by no means the full length of the French Way, it was long enough to make it a worthwhile experience.
Sometimes it rains
When I was thinking what to do with my two-week break during half term, I landed upon the thought of walking a stretch of the famous Camino. Having done my research, October seemed a good month to walk as the weather is generally settled and the number of pilgrims is lower than during the summer months. Without much time to train, I decided that about 20km per day would be a reasonable distance, with enough time to rest, think and pray, presumably in the late autumn sunshine.
Having waited booking my flights, trains and first night’s stay until after the start of term, this became a rushed job between lessons and other activities, so it was not until a couple of weeks before I started that I realised that my starting point should have been Ponferrada, not Leon. Well, 315km is not that much further than 200km!
Continue reading “Sometimes it rains”
Sermon St George’s Preshute, 15th September 2019, 8am
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity: Luke 15.1-10
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us two familiar parables: the lost coin, and the lost sheep. Deliberately trying to provoke, or at least to startle, He starts by saying “Which one of you would not …”. I’m not sure about you, but when I’ve lost something not so essential, I usually just wait for it to turn up again. If I can’t find the pen I was using, I’ll grab another one lying around. Unlike the woman in our reading this morning, I would certainly not spend hours looking for a missing coin, if I had nine others lying around.
This also applies for the shepherd. We may understand someone going to look for a vulnerable, fluffy, lamb. However, in the time that the parable was written and originally heard, shepherding was a profession like any other. It was part of the job to lose a sheep here and there, and certainly not something worth risking a whole flock, as it meant risking one’s livelihood.
Continue reading “God’s economy”
Sermon St Mary’s Church Marlborough 24th March 2019
Third Sunday of Lent: Isaiah 55.1-9 & Luke 13.1-9
In the second part of our Gospel reading this morning we hear a gardener asking for just one more year for his fig tree to grow, after three years of no fruits at all. Given the news the recent weeks, I couldn’t help myself thinking of that gardener as our prime minister. Almost three years now without a result, so should we also be understanding and give her some more time?
Don’t worry, I won’t mention our current political situation any further, but it does illustrate rather well the point that it is not always easy to discern when patience is required, or when it is important to be ready for a decision to be made. And that, in a way, is what today’s readings very much address: the tension between patience and urgency, as well as the other tension, more problematic one maybe, the tension between love and judgement.
In our Gospel reading, it becomes clear that there is a real tension in our understanding of God, and of our relationship with Him. On the one hand, we believe in a loving God, who is patient, forgiving and always ready to give us another chance. Yet, there is also a sense of urgency, a need to repent, to be ready for a time when judgement comes. Continue reading “The Way of the Cross”
A reflection at the start of the season of Lent
For some of us, Lent seems to have turned into an opportunity to prove ourselves. Consciously or not, we can find ourselves competing against others – how many food groups can you give up? Or, maybe more commonly, we realise that we are competing against ourselves – how much time can I spend praying, reading and studying? How much good can I do in one day?
However, of course, this is precisely what Lent is not about. It is not a 40-day competition with a reward at the end, but, I would like to suggest, it is a journey towards our beginning. A journey in which we have the opportunity to realise that we already have what we are looking for: God’s love. Continue reading “A Journey towards the Beginning”
Homily St Mary’s Marlborough 3rd March 2019
Sunday next before Lent: Exodus 34.29-35 & Luke 9.28-43a
On this last Sunday before Lent, we traditionally hear the account of Jesus’ transfiguration before his disciples. It has strong resonances with the account of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, and it is a few of those I would like to explore this morning.
Firstly, both Moses and Jesus intentionally seek God. Although we believe that God’s presence is always with us, and He can meet us in unexpected places and at unexpected times, there are times in life when we need to seek God through prayer. The start the season of Lent this Wednesday may be a good opportunity to commit ourselves anew to an active seeking of God, as we worship and pray – for example using the Praying Together resources that Salisbury Diocese is offering.
Continue reading “Seeking God”
A Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
1 Kings 19.4-8, Ephesians 4.25 – 5.2 & John 6.35,41-51
When I was working as a physicist, part of my job consisted of facilitating experiments for visiting scientists. Individuals or small groups of researchers would come to our lab for a week, or sometimes two, to use our facilities for particular experiments they would not be able to do at home. Generally, it was a very exciting time, meeting people from all over the world, usually experts in their fields, and I would be infected by their enthusiasm for their research and experiments.
Continue reading “Food for the Journey”
The title sounds a bit more pretentious than I mean this post to be! I have signed up for the Bristol half-marathon in September. Don’t ask me why or how it happened, but it happened. Those of you who know me a little, know that I am a reasonably strong cyclist, but not a very good runner. Even the adjective ‘average’ sounds like a far-fetched compliment when it comes down to my running.
However, I have found that my ‘training’ so far has given me lots of food for thought. It has made me think why it is that I so desperately want to give up at times, as well as made me challenge how I perceive myself. I guess some of these thoughts reflect experiences not unique to me, but common to some of us, so here they are.
Continue reading “Running as a metaphor for life”