“While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them.” A third reflection on the nature of friendship, looking at the importance of sharing our experiences.
One of the first things one learns when undertaking any pastoral training, is never to say “I know what you are feeling”. None of us know what someone else feels, particularly not when they have experienced something we have not. However, I suspect many of us have also been in situations when we did have the sense that the other knew what we felt, and were indeed much comforted by this experience.
In those conversations, our experience mirrors the encounter between Cleopas and the other disciple as they are on their way to the village called Emmaus (Luke 24.13-35). It is the day of the Resurrection as they are discussing everything that has happened in the last few days. Presumably still scarred by the reality of the Crucifixion, the two disciples are trying to make sense of the events and seek their significance. Continue reading “The Road to Emmaus: Companionship”→
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.
Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 17th February 2019, 8.00am Third Sunday before Lent: Jeremiah 17: 5-10 & Luke 6: 17-26
Both readings set for this morning speak about what it may look like to be ‘blessed’. In the passage from Luke’s Gospel, hardships in this life – poverty, hunger and suffering – are contrasted with rewards in the life to come: great is our reward in heaven. I guess, in isolation it is a confusing message for us: for those who on the whole have led a life in which we have been well-fed, not without a roof over our heads, and a reasonable amount of happiness.
However, it will be very different to hear this passage when you are poor, when you have not got enough to eat, or when your life has consisted of more suffering than many of us can imagine. In those cases, this is not a threat, but a message of hope and consolation: a message that tells us that ultimately justice will prevail.
Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 25th November 2018, 8.00am Christ the King: Revelation 1.4b-8 & John 18.33-37
In these last few weeks, we have been hearing readings from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. Readings, prophecies and visions, that encourage us to think about ‘the last things’. And today, on this last Sunday before Advent, this theme culminates in the Feast of Christ the King, putting before us the question what or who it is that ultimately rules our lives.
We speak about ‘leading a life’, and so we indeed use on a day-to-day basis the language of ‘leadership’ to describe the way we go about living. That is why these readings about the last things, the kingship of Jesus, and the kingdom of God are not just abstract theories that apply to the future, but they apply to our lives now as well: those moments in which we truly let Christ rule in our hearts, are the moments we see God and for a moment can be in His kingdom.
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.
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.
It is remarkable that in an era where society calls itself more and more secular, music, arts and literature festivals are increasingly popular. I would like to suggest this evening that a reason may be we are facing a level of disillusionment, and that arts, music and literature are a beacon of hope and truth. I would also like to suggest that this disillusionment is in many ways not dissimilar from where we were a century ago, at the end, and during the aftermath of the Great War.
Of course, there are many ways in which our society is completely different now from the 1920s – as historians will be very able to point out. However, when I came across the following quote from the artist and author David Jones written in 1926, I sense that there are some parallels to be drawn too. In his first published essay since the Great War, Jones wrote that art must express contemporary culture and that, since today – 1926 – we are generally unable to create ‘a thing of beauty’, the only hope for authentic art is a counter culture determined ‘to avoid … the general decline.’
Art: a thing of beauty, determined to avoid the general decline.