This is the second of five reflections following my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. As I was walking, I quickly realised that I was not only part of a community of walkers, but also of a community that extended far beyond.
Behind the scenes
Even before I set off on my pilgrimage, I already felt part of a community of walkers (and cyclists): friends who had already been and were ready to give me good advice, both practical and spiritual. Walking the Camino gives you something in common very quickly.
This sense of belonging to a community was also my experience as soon as I arrived in Madrid. At the train station I met an Italian walker, who was also heading to Leon to start her journey there. We talked a little, and then made our way to our allocated carriages. I saw her again a few times in the following week. Although I did not set out to make great friends, the conversations and encounters on the way were moving and profound, whether we shared a common language or not.
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”→
Sermon St Mary the Virgin, Calstone, 19th May 2019
Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 11.1-18 & John 13.31-35
I remember a Church meeting a few years ago, in which there was a disagreement over the right course of action. I don’t quite remember what the conversation was about, but maybe it was something rather trivial like the colour of painting, or maybe more precisely, the shade of white we were going to use to paint the church hall. It was clear it was hard to find a way forward as too many people had a too passionate opinion about the matter. Until one person said “Well, I have prayed about this and we need to go for ivory white.” So, the decision was made: it is hard to argue with God’s word.
Maybe on a first reading, we are left with a similar feeling about Peter’s vision in the Acts of the Apostles. In the early days of the Church, the question whether Gentile converts had to follow the Jewish law, including circumcision and the avoidance of certain unclean foods, was hotly debated. Some Church leaders, such as Paul, felt that faith in Jesus Christ alone was enough to obtain salvation, whereas others placed a greater significance in the adherence to the law of Moses. Peter, being a Jew himself, may have been one of them.
The previous reflections for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have focussed very much on who we are in relationship, who we are as members of a group, of a collective. It is very much the pattern of Holy Week, when the crowds welcome Jesus into Jerusalem; when the disciples have their last meal with Jesus and when people gather around the Cross.
However, the encounter on Easter morning, at least in John’s version, is very much an individual encounter between Mary and Jesus. Early in the morning, while it was still dark – we hear – Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb. Maybe she has taken the remainder of her costly oil to anoint the body of Jesus after his death. However, when she comes to the tomb, she finds it empty. Mary runs to the disciples; Peter and presumably John run to the tomb and they see it empty as well. They see and believe.
So I did sit and eat. A reflection for Maundy Thursday
Sharing a significant experience can turn strangers almost instantly into, what feels like, intimate friends. Many of us will have had such an experience in some way or other. A very trivial example, but imagine yourself in a train carriage that is stopped and searched. You may not quite know the reason, but it’s an unsettling experience. Almost certainly, the passengers in the carriage will start talking to each other in a way they wouldn’t have done if the train had kept moving. Suddenly there seems to be something in common that wasn’t there before.
Or think of wedding receptions and funeral wakes, where often you find yourself sharing your thoughts with people who were strangers to you the day before. And then there are the events that for some of us have shaped our lives: a tragic accident or the painful experience of losing a loved one. They often bring people closer together. However, as we all know too well too, these experiences can also drive people apart. Good friendships or relationships may be formed, but also be lost, in the wake of trauma.
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 heara 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”→
Bible Sunday: Isaiah 55.1-11 & John 5.36b-47
Sermon preached St George’s Preshute, 28th October 2018, 10.00am
Today, the Sunday before All Saints’ Sunday, can be celebrated as Bible Sunday. As it is usually also the last Sunday of October, we can link this in with Reformation Sunday, remembering that on 31st October 1517, Luther allegedly put his 95 theses on a church door in Wittenberg, marking the beginning of the Reformation.
The Bible as we now know it, was formalised, so to speak, in the fifth century. Despite some differences, most Christians agree on the contents of what is now our Holy Book. However, although we may agree on the content, since the very early days of Christianity, people have disagreed on what it means to believe in the authority of Scripture.
A sermon preached at Marlborough College Chapel 7th October 2018, Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
Quite a controversial reading this morning, I suspect – I hope! When I looked at the reading suggested by the lectionary, my first thought was to choose another one. Although some of you may agree with my interpretation of this reading, I am almost sure that what I will say this morning may upset and offend some people. Others may think that I am plainly wrong. For someone who doesn’t like an argument, that’s not great.
The text below is written by St Augustine of Hippo, sometime early in the 5th century. St Augustine is one of the most important writers in Christian history, and I have to admit one of my favourites. I find the best way to approach his work is not as a Religious Studies textbook for the fifth century, but on the contrary, almost like poetry. Words that try to give meaning to something we feel or believe, but is very hard to articulate.
As often the case with poetry as well, the first time, or times, you hear it, a lot of it doesn’t quite make sense when you think about it. But, most of the time, there is even on a first reading, something that strikes you and resonates. So, as you read the reading below, I’d like you to try and read it as poetry, trying to look out for something that connects; something that strikes a chord. Continue reading “Love with the love that is God”→