Sermons 2021 

Sunday 9 May Easter 6 by Alex Norris

 

Today’s Gospel reading really spells out Jesus' expectations of all of us;

to love him, and follow his commandments, and in this we hear the well

known commandment to love one another as he has loved us. The final

verse from this reading particularly resonates with me, ‘You did not

choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit,

fruit that will last’. This was the text written around the commemorative

plate that was given to me upon my ordination to the priesthood, here on

this very spot, last September.

 

These words really shift the emphasis of the meaning of this text, from

our choosing to follow Jesus and following his example, to Jesus

choosing us.

 

For me this reading focuses on vocation, and what that means. I would

venture that everyone here today has some kind of vocation; Vocations

are not just a calling to the Priesthood, they are a calling for all kinds of

roles within the church, be it our musicians, churchwardens, PCC

members, readers, intercessors; the list is endless.

 

Many of us experience that sense that God is calling us to his church. I

had this sense for many years and it took twenty-five years for me to

properly listen to it and do something about it.

 

You did not choose me, but I chose you….

 

Something I find very appealing about this reading is the simplicity of

what Jesus says to us all, with the heart of this message being love.

Loving one another, as he loved us; No one has greater love than this, to

lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

 

LOVE. That one powerful, simple, evocative word. Used the world over.

There are endless examples of people who have lived their lives

according to these rules. Loving one another, laying down one’s life for

their friend. Only a couple of weeks ago a young man drowned after

diving into the Thames to save someone who had fallen in. He sadly lost

his life, and not for a friend, but someone they did not even know, a total

stranger. What greater example of love is this?

 

However, sadly there are numerous examples within the history of the

church of horrific behaviour, towards others, those who do not fit in with

the beliefs and understanding of doctrine of the ‘mother church’.

Issues around sexuality, identity, even nuances concerning Holy

Communion and what happens when the bread and wine are blessed

among many others, have caused people with differing views to be

subjected to the most horrific treatment. Not exactly very loving.

 

When we look to follow the life and example of Jesus and his

commandments (which he neatly summarises for us) in loving one

another; this is at the heart of what it is to be a Christian. It’s that simple

really.

 

Or is it?

 

This is, of course easy to say, some people cannot stand their

neighbours (!) and asking us to love them, might be a bridge too far; but

of course, the interpretation of the word ‘Neighbour’ is slightly different

from those who live in the flat or house next to yours.

 

If we look at Luke Chapter 10, where Jesus appointed 72 others and

sent them off into the towns, from this account the term ‘your neighbour’

is basically anyone who crosses your path. So, actually now, this loving

thy neighbour idea is becoming even more difficult! I am sure we all

know people who try our patience, people we do not have time for,

people who annoy or upset us, I am sure we would (well I hope!) not

wish harm on any of them; but loving them, is a whole new ball game.

 

So, what do we do? We are only human, and our patience and tolerance

of others only goes so far. In short, we need God’s help, we cannot do

this on our own. There is also one other aspect to all of this. If we are to

make a go of this important commandment, we need the ability to

forgive.

 

I have preached before about those who have forgiven people who have

committed the most heinous of crimes against them, such as murdering

their family members, and their testimony on the effect that forgiving

them has personally had; setting them free, enabling them to get on with

their lives. I still think on the testimony of those I read when researching

it, and it still moves me. These are obviously extreme examples; but I am

sure we all have our own challenges and situations where forgiveness

has been, or yet still might be the solution.

 

One thing that has come out of the last year or so has been the effect

the pandemic has had on community, neighbours who used not to ever

talk, starting to talk with each other, help out those that have needed it,

truly Christian behaviour. If anything, it has shown that communities

across the land are capable of loving their neighbours, and it should be a

good model for us all. But will it continue post pandemic? Only time will

tell, but I would hope so.

 

All in all, the question I leave for all of us (myself included) is, what is God

calling us to do? Maybe you have thought that God is calling you to the

Priesthood or another role in the church? If you think he is, reflect o it,

pray on it; come and talk with us and we can explain more about how the

process works, and how to discern what God’s will is in your life. It’s a

joyous thing to do.

 

Along with our calling to the church, there God’s calling on all of us to

love our neighbour, and as part of this maybe God is calling you to

forgive a particular person, and with his help, you might be able to do

just that and it could have a really positive effect on your own life, let

alone the person you forgive.

 

Whatever our calling is, as our Gospel reading has laid out for us this

morning, know that God loves us all, and as he loves us, he wants us to

love him. If we can all commit to this, then we will all be the better for it,

and able to live out our lives s as Jesus intended. Amen

Sunday 25 April Easter 4 by Katharine Rumens

 

John 10: 11 – 18

 

I expect she could feel me looking at her. I didn’t want to be there – perhaps she didn’t either.

 

It was 48 hours before we were to be priested and we had been sent off on retreat. I wanted to be Heathrow meeting family and friends. After all, we had waited a long time for this. All those, meetings, discussions, debates, demonstrations, vigils, phone calls, and all that letters writing.

 

But there we were, stuck on retreat with a woman who was telling us how to be shepherds. Then she became aware that I was looking at her, ‘shepherds or shepherdesses,’ she quickly added. It’s obvious when you think about it – women when they are ordained priest become shepherdesses complete with poke bonnets, crinolines and pretty ribbons on their crooks. Oh yes, we were about to tip toe into the Church of England with the feminine flutter of the women’s chorus in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

 

It’s not just a male/female thing – the image of the shepherd, or even shepherdess, our free use of the word ‘pastoral’ as in pastoral care all take us back to models of leadership and being together that are not always that helpful.

 

It says in the ordination service, ‘Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent.’ It’s easy for us shepherding types to get carried away by a sense of our own superiority, especially when we know sheep are not given to depth of thought and easily take flight.

 

We might update our views on shepherds – like those on the telly: energetic young women and men in wax jackets and wellington boots on quad bikes, although in many societies, shepherds are seen as a rough and ready lot of hard drinkers. However, they present, shepherding is necessary for the wellbeing of the flock.

 

And we shepherd one another in our concern and compassion as we travel to new places together.

 

A theologian blames stained glass windows as being responsible for more bad theology than, as he puts it, all the lousy preachers who ever were. He is not a fan of the pastel Jesus in long robe, with a cuddly, co-operative sheep on his shoulders.

 

At least those red pigment scratched figures 3rd and 4th century funerary slabs found in the Roman catacombs show large characterful sheep on the shoulders of burly shepherds. No long robe and no cuddles here, just scratched figures that try to convey the simplicity, the love and the power of the faith.

 

 A common prayer in the early Church was that the deceased should be led to heaven ‘borne on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd.’ And even today Psalm 23 with its familiar words ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ is the most popular psalm at funerals. As unlikely as it might seem, shepherds still speak to us.

 

I read the real shepherd is a tough and resourceful character, who can live very simply when necessary. She cannot be afraid of going out in all weathers - in order that the flock, those in her care – as it were – can sleep at night.

 

And who are the hirelings? Our theologian identifies them as the pushy, the greedy, the ambitious. Someone on the make – who will fleet at the first fight.

 

He says, as always, the words and the word pictures of Jesus are not meant to make us religious, but simply to make us happy in our work and at peace with ourselves and with God. Building up the kind of community where everyone, not just the churchwardens and PCC, but everyone has a voice and a place in the process of being the Body of Christ.

 

It is in concern for the welfare of the whole flock – stray sheep and all. In self-emptying love, that is how we lay down our lives.

 

I know my own and my own know me, ‘Says the greatest shepherd of them all.’

 

It’s a good Sunday for our East window, not only because as the spring turns into summer and the sun gets higher, in the early morning light floods into the church bathing us in colour.

 

It’s a good Sunday because in the past days we have commemorated in the church calendar the lives of George – not a shepherd, Alphage – an episcopal shepherd and Anselm – another episcopal shepherd. The crook belongs to Lancelot Andrewes – episcopal shepherd, who we commemorate in September. All depicted in the bottom row of the window.

 

In the ordinal we read that, ‘Bishops are ordained to be shepherds of Christ’s flock and guardians of the faith of the apostles. They are to gather God’s people and celebrate with them the sacraments of the new covenant.’ Pushy hirelings need not apply. 

 

The PCC learnt more about Alphage Archbishop of Canterbury when the Corporation was developing St Alphage Gardens. Captured by the Danes,   rather than impoverish his people by paying a ransom, he chose execution and was killed nastily and brutally in Greenwich. We thought his chosen martyrdom needed to be named as a timely reminder for the pushy, the greedy and the ambitious of the City. Rather than impoverish his people by allowing the ransom to be paid, he chose death. A shepherd of Christ’s flock.

 

Anselm was Archbishop of Canterbury when a stone church was first built on this site in 1099. We are told he really wanted to stay in Bec, France – possibly as a hermit. A reluctant shepherd of his people, yet it is noted that reluctance was common practice in the medieval church as open willingness indicated the hireling’s ambition, greed and pushiness.

 

Risen Christ, faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep: teach us to hear your voice. People of St Giles’ you will not scatter over the next months. Prayerfully together you will discern God’s purpose for you as you choose your next Rector, the one who will come among you as your shepherd or even – in a crinoline as shepherdess.    

Sunday 18 April  Easter 3 by Alex Norris

 

Luke 24: 36 – 48

 

‘The Broiled FIsh’

 

Today is the third Sunday of Easter, and our celebration of the

Resurrection continues, and in our Gospel reading just now we hear

more about the reaction of those closest to Jesus and his resurrection,

and the events immediately after this momentous event.

 

I once heard a story from a Vicar about an undertaker he had met. He

had met this person, I assume in relation to a funeral, and after the initial

niceties the undertaker said, would you like to see my Death Certificate?

Taken aback, the vicar said, go on then. And lo and behold this person

produced his very own, bona fide Death Certificate. How did you get one

of these? said the vicar, and the undertaker then explained what had

happened.

 

In short, he had a very rare condition, something like catalepsy which

means your vital statistics drop to such low levels that you appear to be

medically dead.

 

Something like this had happened here with the undertaker; and when

he came round, he was in the morgue, and upon waking up; the poor

morgue assistant nearly keeled over from shock, and had to be sat down

and made a cup of tea, if not something stronger.

 

Why do I cite this story? First, this is not a case of resurrection, the

undertaker had not died, but to all those around him it appeared as if he

had. But second, if you do come back from the dead, it is terrifying for

those around you (and probably yourself as well!) Disbelief and a whole

host of other emotions must flood around your system, like that poor

mortician. I want to explore resurrection and its impact on others, in the

light of our reading this morning.

 

When Christ stood among the disciples, his friends, people he knew very

well. Luke said, ‘They were startled and terrified, and thought that they

were seeing a ghost’. Does anyone blame them?! I would. Just think

how that poor mortician needed looking after. How can we further prove

this to not be the case that he was a Ghost?

 

We have already had Thomas indulged and satisfied, but seemingly the

doubt continues. I always think Thomas gets a lot more flack for doubt

than he deserves in the Gospel accounts.

 

It's quite clear there was a lot of doubt, and fright among all of the

disciples. Then comes the clincher…

 

And he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a

piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Our reading from Luke this morning continues to reiterate Jesus’

resurrection; not as some metaphorical, allegorical expression, but as a

truly physical event.

 

A friend of mine was preaching this text a few years ago, and the

weekend before the other priest in the church had preached that the

resurrection was only allegorical, and not a physical occurrence.

 

He said to me, what am I meant to do with this reading, Jesus eats, that

is not an allegory, that is absolute physical corroboration of the

resurrection!

 

I am going to directly contradict last week’s sermon…..What shall I do…..’contradict’, I said!

 

Christ’s eating of the broiled fished shows us, the reader, and those

present, the truth of the resurrection. This was not a situation like the

one of our undertaker friend earlier, and just a medical anomaly, or some

poetical account of Christ’s death and legacy, this is the awesome and

terrifying power of God. Here, laid bare before us.

 

The resurrection is at the heart of the church's teaching, and the truth of

the Gospels, it’s what gives us all hope, the victory over death, the

forgiveness of our sins, that ultimate sacrifice that God made of his only

son for all of us. Even the ‘home team’ had their doubts, and needed

some proof, and they got it. We can read of it, as we have this morning,

but we do not have that luxury of proof, today in front of us.

 

We have faith. Faith is what equips us to deal with this. Faith is what

holds it all together. Jesus knows that those who had not seen him would

need it.

 

Just as Christ had supper with his friends before he died on the Maundy

Thursday, he again eats with his friends after the death and resurrection

he foretold, as a means to make everything clear to them, to remove any

doubt, and probably also calm their nerves, which after the events of the

last few days would have probably been frazzled.

 

Shortly we will be celebrating Holy Communion, and remembering this

sacrifice, the Last Supper, the body and blood of Christ, here, now,

together, using those ancient words that Christ himself used all those

years ago, before he endured the most horrific suffering. This is our

opportunity, to again remind ourselves of what went on through Holy

Week, culminating with the might of Christ’s resurrection.

 

With our faith, and all that the Holy Scriptures tell us, we are given all

that we need to understand these cataclysmic events, which we

remember every year through Holy Week and Easter.

 

As we journey on celebrating Easter together, let us continue to

remember the Resurrection, not as some ambiguous event, or anomaly,

that can be explained away, but for what it actually is, in all its awe and

beauty, and all that it brings for each and every one of us as we live our

lives in the faith of Christ.

Amen

Sunday 10 April  Easter 2 by Katharine Rumens 

 

John 20: 19 – 31

 

It’s one of those Sundays – when preachers have to rewrite their sermon. All those gently nurtured thoughts and insights that we have been collecting over  the past days – the brooding in the bath; the pondering over the washing up; rehearsing the internal monologue on the way to the shops. All abandoned. All change. Prince Philip died in his sleep on Friday morning and his death dominates the news. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.  

 

Whatever else is going on, the story today’s gospel of Thomas hasn’t changed and won’t change. ‘Unless’. ‘Unless I see’. ‘Unless I put my finger, unless I put my hand’. I will not believe. The story of the Royal Family and thereby of the nation has changed. They will have to learn to take their new place in the world. Across continents – those who loved, those who knew, those who met and those who felt they knew the Prince – mourn his death.

 

The story of Thomas, the same yesterday, and today and for ever

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Blessed Thomas (Becket) pray for us. So weep the chorus at the end of the play.

 

I was only ever once knowingly in the same space as Prince Philip. It was at an anniversary service commemorating the restoration of All Hallows by the Tower after bomb damage during the second world war. I, being local clergy, and having arrived early was sitting at the front on the left. He being royal, and also having arrived early, was at the front on the right. He sat there acquainting himself with the gift aid envelope in his pew.  I don’t think he’d ever seen one of those before. Probably the gift aid envelopes at Sandringham and Balmoral – are tactfully removed from the pews where the royal family sit.

 

Privilege protects the rich and powerful from some everyday realities – like needing to carry money or picking up a biro and writing your post code. However, privilege doesn’t prevent church attendance, or faithful living, or belief in God.

 

He sought the good of others: our bishop spoke about Prince Philip’s dedication, ‘Dedication’ is a word rooted in classical and biblical language: in this context, to be ‘dedicated’ is to be absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God.  Whilst it was the Princess who gave the historic message at the Coronation, the commitment to dedication was also made by Prince Philip.

 

"He consistently put the interests of others ahead of his own and, in so doing, provided an outstanding example of Christian service.’

 

As we prayed in today’s Collect: “open the doors of our hearts, that we may seek the good of others.”

 

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell called the Duke of Edinburgh "a remarkable man who lived a life of service dedicated to his country, to his wife, Queen Elizabeth II and his family." "His faith in Jesus Christ was an important part of his life and one which shaped who he was."

That person, as the press has reminded us, could tell it like it was, be direct, be open, could speak with robust candour, someone who was very much his own man. You don’t have to be shy and retiring to be a Christian.

 

Prince Philip was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church, and later upon his marriage received into the Church of England. His was an Ecumenical journey.

 

The creation of the conference centre, St George’s House Windsor with Rev Robert Woods is described as his “late-life religious awakening. St George’s House – somewhere where clergy and people of influence and responsibility come together to explore contemporary issues. It is said it provided the long-needed dimension for which Philip had been searching in his spiritual life.”

 

May he rest in peace at the end of his earthly journey.

 

We don’t really get confused about the story of Thomas, we tend to need to hear the story only once for it to stick, perhaps because his so called failure of discipleship is a bit too much like us for comfort.  This man with his conditional acceptance……Unless

 

The author of John tells us that when Jesus first visited the disciples, Thomas was not there, but he does not tell us why. It is left for us to surmise, or offer what CS Lewis called a supposal.

 

A theologian supposes Thomas had a broken heart, and not an inability to believe. Jesus died leaving Thomas alive but left behind. This is how it feels when someone we love deeply dies and we are left (behind) bereft.

When a heart is broken in pieces there is nothing from within to reach out, so God has to reach in and draw us to herself.

 

Thomas is the only person in the New Testament, other than Jesus himself, to call Jesus God. ‘my Lord and my God’ (the Greek is ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou) —the literal translation: the Lord of me and the God of me is spoken only by Thomas.

 

Having established how unique and inspired Thomas is in his encounter with the risen Christ, in the light of Jesus’ earlier visit to the disciples who had to be convinced that he was not a ghost, we should change the tone of Jesus’ words to Thomas so that his criticisms lose their negative connotations.

 

When he makes his second visit to the disciples, when Thomas was present, after his shalom he turns to Thomas and gently says to him (in effect): ‘It’s alright Thomas, I am here now: as you can see, I am alive.’ And as he had already done with the other disciples, he told Thomas he could reach out and touch him. In fact, the text does not say whether Thomas does or not: his only possible response was to fall on his knees and worship.

 

Thomas was a man of considerable courage whose broken heart was the result of sorrow beyond endurance.

 

His story is good news for people who have lost their faith, or never had faith, or experience a late-life religious awakening; maybe they are suffering from grief, broken relationships, or simply the vicissitudes of everyday life. Like us.

 

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Blessed Thomas pray for us.

21 March Passion Sunday by Katharine Rumens

 

I got cold feet on the way to Jerusalem. Try taking your shoes off and walking the canvas labyrinth.  You too might find that the marble floor gives you cold feet. Previously, we’ve had it in the body of the church, and it could only be put down when services and events allowed – like in the first part of Holy Week. The old wooden floor creaked as you walked, but your feet stayed warm.

 

Cold feet for Passion Sunday. Loss of courage or confidence. An onset of uncertainty or fear – perhaps making us too fearful to continue. Turn back Jesus, you don’t have to set in motion the chain of events that will lead to your arrest, that kangaroo court and your execution.  Turn your back on Jerusalem, flee while you still have the chance.

 

On the way to Jerusalem: in the Middle Ages, undertaking a pilgrimage to one, if not more, of the holy sites throughout Christendom was a goal that every person, regardless of social standing, sought to fulfil. It was your great adventure of a lifetime.  Risk and danger at every bend of the way. Many pilgrims died on the journey. Many were attacked, robbed, cheated. Amazingly, many achieved their dream.  In fact, there are surviving accounts of women from England who made multiple trips to Rome, Santiago de Compostela, and even Jerusalem during their lifetime.   

 

For us right now it is a risk-free journey on a labyrinth.  The pavement labyrinth at Chartres between 1215 and 1221 – of which ours is a smaller version- was one of the earliest. It is thought the building of the cathedral was profoundly influenced by the then recent loss of Jerusalem to Muslim forces in 1187. It was no longer possible for European Christians to travel to Jerusalem, and as a result, many began looking for alternative ways of making the journey. The labyrinth was the solution.  Keep on the pavement and get home safely.

 

And the other connection with Jerusalem? Jerusalem had been remodelled by the Romans who divided the city into quadrants. Our labyrinth design is an example of an idealized Jerusalem. So, while Christians had lost the right to visit Jerusalem – or never had the money to go, they could still make pilgrimage to this holy city using the labyrinths in the various cathedrals and churches. 

Matthew Mark and Luke – all have decisive points in Jesus’ ministry when he turns his face to Jerusalem.

 

‘See we are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. We are going up to Jerusalem. See we are going up to Jerusalem.’

 

Spiritually and literally Jerusalem took you to another level being nearly 800 m above sea level.

 

Passion Sunday, we are positioning ourselves for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem next week on Palm Sunday.

 

In the verse that comes before today’s gospel: John 12: 19 we read that the religious authorities have failed to rein in Jesus. Are they getting cold feet? You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.’ There’s nothing we can do.’

 

The world, that is everyone - is flocking to catch sight of Jesus, hear what he has to say, follow him around.

 

The wider world – Greek and Jew- at on their way to Jesus. Some Greeks came to Philip – on behalf of the Greeks Philip goes and finds the Andrew-  a man with a Greek name that was common among the Jews. Gentiles are asking for Jesus and the world is united in their search. This is a sudden dramatic twist in John’s account of Jesus in which he reveals the universality of his mission.

 

Twists and turns in John’s the story. Surprising encounters are every turn. Like Jesus – a Jewish man - asking the Samaritan woman for water. Or the overturning of the moneychangers’ tables.

 

‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ It is some Greeks who articulate that familiar, ancient aching longing for some hope, for some sign beyond the passing show of things.

 

Was the coming of these Greeks and the asking of their question a sign? It is suggested that Jesus has been waiting for this encounter – it is the turning point that will set his death in motion. The crowd is behind him, fascinated, hanging on his every word, the question is asked, Jesus tells the people he will die – be lifted up high as Moses lifted the snake in the wilderness. After Jesus has said this, ‘he departed and hid from them.’

 

To be lifted up – elevated, promoted, sound glorious. The curious, the seekers after truth, will no longer have to weave their way through the crowd and get access to the man via one of his henchmen. He will be carried on the shoulders of the crowd, be seated on the platform, put on a pedestal, stand in the pulpit. Here is visibility, fame and glory, but Jesus refused the way of domination. Lifted up above all creation: for him it will be the terrible uplifting of the cross and a slow death.

 

Our many deaths: our lives are an amazing mixture of living and dying: a continual process of movement, change, losses and gains. Of twists and turns in the story that is our story.

 

The twists and turns of living through this past year of the pandemic: the anxiety, the fear, illness, death. Getting vaccinated and being looked after by a kind neighbour. The strengthening of friendships, learning our resourcefulness and creativity. Job losses and trying to make ends meet. Otherwise overlooked joys and delights. Our pattern, journey, of living and dying, of death and resurrection, is given meaning by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

And that probably is the best answer to the census question I had to answer, ‘What is the main activity of your organization?’

Sunday 28 February Lent 2 by Katharine Rumens  

 

Genesis 17: 1 – 7 and Mark 8: 31 – end

 

Let me introduce you to a friend of God, Abram, who for 99 years had apparently been happy with his name. God invites – or instructs Abram to walk beside him and be blameless because God is to enter a covenant - a promise – with him. There are to be lots of children – a multitude of nations which of course, doesn’t worry patriarchs one bit; they have wives and concubines to take the life-or-death risk of childbirth and thus people the nations. And because Sarai is to have a child, Abram gets a new name, as will Sarai in a bit.

 

God flinging God’s promises around, last week with Noah. This week with Abram and God asking almost nothing in return. Just walk before me and be blameless, though there is no checking up on how blameless Abraham proves to be.  

 

Jesus is much more exacting in what he demands of the individual. It’s not just a question of walking beside Jesus and being blameless – that is not enough.

 

Jesus and the disciples are ‘on the way’ the term that will come to mean commitment to Christian discipleship in the early church. They leave Caesarea Philippi to make the 100-mile journey to Jerusalem where Jesus will challenge his nation at the centre of its religious activity.

 

Jesus began to teach them, he predicts his condemnation and execution in the hands of a new political coalition that will engineer his murder.

 

We hear Peter’s voice of protest, Peter who in earlier verses had proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. Messiahship means royal triumph and restoration of Israel’s collective honour. Yet Jesus speaks of himself as the Son of Man, the Human One and such a term necessarily means suffering

 

The Human one as a critic of the debt code and the Sabbath – necessarily comes into conflict with the elders and chief priests and scribes. These verses are a discourse of political inevitability.

 

There is no middle ground, no fence to sit on.

 

Jesus turned from the disciples and called the crowd – this is for everyone to hear.

 

Deny yourself

 

Take up your cross

 

Follow me

 

The cross on which dissidents were executed. Crucifixion was a political and military punishment – inflicted on slaves, violent criminals, and unruly elements in rebellious provinces – they must have been very familiar with crucifixion in unruly Judea. Crucifixion of people and their thinking who had to be suppressed.  The public display of a naked victim at a prominent place, at a crossroads, in the theatre, on high ground, at the place of his crime – represented the victim’s uttermost humiliation.

 

Jesus invites the crowd to share the consequences of those who challenged Rome.

 

We are not told what the crowd thought of this.

 

Mark is writing for Christians taken to court in times of persecution: they have to choose – profess Jesus or deny him. One or the other, there is no compromise. This stuff is not about resisting a second slice of cream cake or a doing something slippery with money.

 

Deny yourself is risking one’s own life.

 

A scholar points out that identical rhetoric can be found in speeches by Hellenistic military officers on the eve of battle – exhorting the faltering spirits of nervous soldiers. We find similar rhetoric in Shakespeare: Once more into the breech dear friends…

 

Mark is pointing out the paradox, it is precisely the fear of death – the fear of crucifixion - that keeps Rome in power. Thus, the dominant order stays intact. It is by denying yourself and pursing kingdom values that the powers’ reign of death is shattered.

 

Set into a wall to the east of Chartres Cathedral where the ground drops away to the river is a simple metal disk commemorating the French Resistance leader Jean Moulin. The words are his, ‘I did not know it was so simple to do your duty when you are in danger.’

Sunday 21 February by Alex Norris

 

The Baptism of Christ

 

In many of our post-Sunday service Zoom calls we have been having 

recently there has been a lot of discussion around art. Art is something that is entwined with Christianity, and all of the central stories from Holy Scripture have been painted by numerous artists across the many different artistic traditions over the years. And if you are like me, you will like many, and some you will find, let’s say, rather challenging. But that said I like to be challenged by what I see, I don’t always want the artist to be playing to the home crowd, so to speak.

 

The Baptism of Christ is no exception, a quick search online will show

literally hundreds of depictions of John the Baptist pouring the water over

Christ’s head and the Dove ascending and descending above representing the Holy Spirit, which was present at this event, and is present at all Baptisms since.

 

How do you picture that scene? Do you have an image you have made

yourself, using your go to image of Jesus, the River Jordan and John the

Baptist? Who else is there? Angels, as some pictures show? The disciples? How about yourself? If you were there, where would you be standing? Or are you the one painting the picture?

 

I think our understanding of this event can be really personalised and made relevant to us in each of our contexts if we spend some time doing this. Also, we should remember that pictures don’t just arouse emotion, but also enable contemplation.

 

As we make our journey through Lent together, reflecting on the Baptism

of Christ is a good starting point for our journey, as this is where it all began.

 

Water has featured in both of our readings today, but in very different

capacities. In Genesis, and the story of Noah, the waters rose and killed

off everything on the earth and in the sky (I always wonder what happened to all the fish, but that’s for another day!) and then they receded, and Noah came out of the ark, and when he did so God said that he would establish his covenant with him, and ‘that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth’. Looking at climate change today, this may not be as certain as originally thought.

 

Water plays a big role in many of the stories of the Bible, dramatically it

was parted twice; The Red Sea, when God closed it again on the ensuing army and the River Jordan, for the Israelites, and then again for Elisha.

 

Here water has been viewed as something dangerous and obstructive,

which God can govern, and rule and change the behaviour of as required. Water is also cleansing, we use it for washing and cleaning, removing grime and dirt. So, water can support life and end life, and in Baptism water supports our spiritual life. It could be said that water has metaphysical qualities as well! So, when we consider the waters of baptism, to me this is something more genteel, holy, sacred, cleansing.These waters are the waters re-birth, a fresh start.

 

So what happened when Christ was Baptised, it must have been different to when we have been baptised in a font in church?

 

As one scholar notes, ‘In undergoing baptism, the sinless Christ has

identified himself with sinful humanity. The descent of the Spirit inaugurates a ministry which will wash away those sins once and for all.

 

To accomplish this, Jesus has to undergo a further baptism: the Passion

journey in which he bears humanity through the deep waters of death into the light of resurrection.

 

It is from this “baptism” on the cross that the Church receives the gift of

baptism as a sacrament’, which we all receive today.

 

This explanation neatly links Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan to his death on the cross, and glorious resurrection, which we await as we journey through Lent together. In Mark’s reading we see this journey start quite abruptly after his Baptism, with Christ being driven by the spirit into the wilderness to undergo his temptation, as he denies himself.

 

As we ponder Christ’s baptism, and picture that in our minds eye, think

about what this journey of sacrifice means to you. Why not look at some

of the pictures of Christ’s Baptism online, there are some inspiring images to reflect on, as we walk with Jesus through this Lent.

 

As things start to feel more optimistic as the days get longer, let us all 

consider our own Baptisms, and picture the Holy Spirit being there, and

what that would have looked like to us. Would it have been a Dove also?

And as we do this, let’s remember Christ’s own baptism and his being

driven into the wilderness, as we too find ourselves in the wilderness of

Lent, in the knowledge that in the end, these times will pass, with Christ’s victory over Death for all of us

Sunday 14 February Sunday before Lent by Katharine Rumens

 

Mark 9: 2 – 9

 

What do you and I know of mountains? Here in the flat lands – where the best we can do is take the lift to the top of one of the tower blocks, book a ticket on the Millennium wheel, or climb up to the dome of St Paul’s. From there we have all London at our feet and in the far beyond, the landscape stretching for miles in all directions.

 

 When I’m telling the story of Moses and the 10 commandments or the Sermon on the Mount in school assembly, I ask the children to imagine – imagine because like us, that is the only way they can get up mountains from where they live. I tell them high places allow you to look all around, high places enable you to get things in perspective. Traditionally, high places bring us closer to God. And when you come back down the mountain, what had been bothering you is all sorted, you can now have a plan of action.

 

Except, according to scripture, mountains have the touch of death about them. God instructed Moses, ‘any who touch the mountain shall be put to death.’ It’s amazing that Jesus ever had any climbing companions when you consider the risk they were taking.

 

Today’s gospel, Mark Chapter 9. The midpoint in his story. Jesus leads Peter, James and John up a high mountain. As in the second half of the gospel the chief priests will bind Jesus and lead him away to Pilate.  The one who leads will become the one who is led.

 

Up the mountain they encounter a sort of salvation history summit conference – Moses and Elijah standing by Jesus. It’s an impressive lineup. A cloud descends and the heavenly voice speaks. A theologian helps me to look at the story in a new way. He suggests being on the top of a mountain is not necessarily a high point in the life of either Moses or Elijah. Moses was gone for so long up Mount Sinai - 40 days and 40 nights – that the people got bored and made the golden calf as distraction therapy. Thus, rejected he had to go up the mountain a second time.  It must have been a long and weary climb. Mountains have not been kind to Moses. Similarly, Elijah was not having the best of times, he was on the run from Jezebel who has vowed to kill him ‘by this time tomorrow.’ He fled to mount Horeb – that is Sinai where in the sheer silence God speaks to him. God instructs Elijah to go down the mountain, and he found Elisha who would continue his work. Well – it’s all you can do really, having once scaled the heights, the only way is down.

 

Moses and Elijah, both going through times of great discouragement in their lives. Both stories are clearly instructive at this midway point in Mark’s narrative. The cross now stands with the law and the prophets, up the mountain the veil between earth and heaven is torn in two, as at the baptism of Jesus and at his death. The revelation of God, as revealed in these past weeks of Epiphany – to the magi and then to Simeon and Anna is revealed on high today.  

 

And we are not to hang on to this revelation of God - life goes on. The magi return by another road, Simeon and Anna – we presume, stay at prayer in the temple. We cannot carve the revelation of God in stone or cast it in concrete. But tangible proof reassures, and Peter speaks for us, ‘Master it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings – or tents’.

 

The disciples will come down to earth after what they have experienced together up on the mountain. They know that somehow, just somehow, without any tangible proof, they are on the right path.  Amen.

Sunday 7 February Second Sunday before Lent by Alex Norris

 

A Perfect Planet’

 

I am not sure if you have been able to see David Attenbrorough’s latest series ‘A Perfect Planet’, in which he explains specific aspects of planet earth, such as the weather, volcanoes, or most recently, humans. This last episode went out on Sunday evening just gone and, along with a panel of experts, discussed the future in the light of what humanity is currently doing to the planet.

 

It was not easy viewing, with distressing images of suffering animals, fish

caught up accidentally in nets and also the impact of climate change on

humanity; nobody escaped, and it was fairly damning, and something that I would recommend everyone to watch (it's on the iPlayer if you want to catch up on it).

 

I also like the name they have given to the series, ‘A Perfect Planet’, as I

believe creation is, and always has been perfect, but is currently being

badly damaged.

 

This viewing really resonated, for me, with today’s Old Testament

reading and Psalm, which are both about creation, as they also relate

the perfection of creation to our part in it.

 

As Proverbs said this morning, about the role of Wisdom in creation, ‘I

was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race’.

 

There is a large quantity of debate about who Wisdom actually is, be it Solomon, The Holy Spirit, but convention has it that Wisdom is referred to as ‘she’, which is quite befitting when considering the creative role of Wisdom in our reading today.

 

What image do you have in your mind's eye when you hear Wisdom being referred to? When I think of Wisdom it invariably involves a sagely old man with a long white beard, like something out of Hogwarts, or an Owl, such as you see in literature or films, or possibly even David Attenborough

himself, because of his decades of knowledge and expertise in his field.

 

Do I regard Great Thunberg in the same light? Probably not,

but should I?

 

She has mobilised tens of thousands of people in this cause, chastised the member nations of the UN, saying she should be in school and not telling the UN that they should be looking after the planet. I suspect all of our images of what we regard as Wisdom probably need updating.

 

In our world today, with all its suffering and imperfection, especially with the pandemic, we might want to question the perfection of our world, especially in the light of what humanity has done to the planet in the last two hundred thousand years. But, with that questioning, we should not forget that God

delights in his creation, and in all of us. Our God is a creative God, he made us, and the world around us.

 

As the well-known Gospel reading from John this morning, used lovingly in carol services across the land reminds us, ‘All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being’. God made everything. And as he delights in it, so should we. And in doing this, we should respect it.

 

Attenborough doesn’t just give the viewer a diatribe of doom and gloom, he also gives us hope with some of the projects that are being done to counter the effects of the damage we are inflicting on the planet, and these projects are amazing, and already making a difference. It shows that we have the

capacity to repair, and to care, and as Christians, we are all called to love and respect God’s Creation.

 

As we move from the Christmas and Epiphany season towards Lent, I think it gives us all good time for pause and reflection. The creation in which we all live, was not just abandoned by God, as some creative experiment, as the Gospel reading this morning reminds us, ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us’, the Word being God, his only Son.

 

It is really quite dramatic stuff, God, becoming human, and living among us, with all of the risks that this entailed, from a fairly dramatic birth, through to a final humiliation and agonising death, and all for us, God’s creation.

 

And as we come to reflect on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ this Lent, we are also given time to reflect on our own failings and shortcomings.

 

Just as Christ endured the temptation in the desert and denied himself, we too should look at what commitment we will make in our Lenten observance this year.

 

So, when considering giving up cigarettes, not drinking alcohol,or heaven forbid, stopping eating chocolate (all admirable pursuits) maybe we tie in our Lenten observance with our commitment to care for God’s creation, by making changes to our lives to help us to be more environmentally friendly.

 

Proverbs said of the Oceans, ‘...he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command….’ I suspect David Attenborough would say that we are very close to the waters making this transgression, and that now is the time to act, before it is too late.

Sunday 31 January Candlemas by Katharine Rumens

 

Today we mark Candlemas a cross quarter day, the midway point of winter halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  “Down with the rosemary and bays, Down with the mistletoe, Instead of holly, now up-raise The greener box for show.” Says the poet.  

 

Its equivalent in six months’ time is Lammas - the cross-quarter day between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox; the feast of the Transfiguration in the Christians calendar.  The early church knew how to impress itself upon the world.  In the pagan calendar it is Imbolc and traditionally marks the first stirrings of spring. It is time for purification and spring cleaning in anticipation of the year's new life.

 

Whatever calendar we follow, pagan or Christian, the year is on the move. Candlemas refers to the practice of the blessing a whole year’s supply of candles – that light may shine in the darkness of people’s lives. In 542 the Emperor Justinian ordered its observance in Constantinople as a thanksgiving for the cession of plague. These historical details that previously might have been interesting, but not thought of as significant, find a resonance with us right now.

 

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, brackets Candlemas, marks the end of the Christmas cycle. Mary and Joseph go to the Temple to fulfill the necessary religious rituals.  There are two encounters, one with Simeon, described as righteous and devout, the other with Anna, a prophet who never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day.

 

There is significance is in the meeting of the old dispensation and the new. The elderly man takes the new-born child in his arms and gives thanks. ‘A light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and to the glory of your people Israel.’ This is the Christ, the sun of righteousness, who will shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path.   

 

Simeon sings his song. If we put our ear to the ground and listened would we hear the songs of this place? The songs of thanksgiving and praise down the ages which are held in time and etched into the fabric of this church and the earth beneath our feet. Listen.

 

There is that wonderful account of the Inuit brought back from his travels by Martin Frobisher and paraded through the streets of London. “The captive suffered them to lead him about; he seemed like a man in a trance as if his soul were elsewhere. But all of a sudden, he rose up and began to sing in his own tongue. He looked upwards to the sky, and sang with a great voice, and shortly after that he expired and died. He sings to the world of which he is a part, and from which he was snatched but to which he now returns.” In a strange land he sang his song and died.  

 

We are not told how the song was heard by the traders in Cheapside or the bankers in Lombard Street. Was it one more distraction on a busy day, or did the song of the Inuit inform their own song at their time of death?

 

Simeon, holding the child sings in the Temple. The moment had come for which he had been living.  Praise be to God that I have lived to see this day. God’s promise is fulfilled, and my duty is done. What will it take for us to die in peace? 

 

As we leave these seasons of the incarnation, I return to the Advent exhortation: ‘Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’ Simeon and Anna watched for God’s redemption. The result is that even when God appeared in the most unexpected guise (that of an eight-day-old baby) they were able to recognise him and give thanks for him. That’s what watching and keeping awake does for you.

Sunday 24 January Epiphany 3 by Alex Norris

 

Talking about weddings in this current situation is probably not the most

sensitive thing to do as so many couples have had to drastically alter,

significantly postpone, or cancel their wedding plans because of what is

the Pandemic and National Lockdown that we are all subject to. So, I

continue down this route, holding all those couples in my prayers as they

await the opportunity to make the vows to one another before God.

 

Whether it’s a wedding, birthday or celebration of any kind where you

have your guests being catered for, guessing the rate of alcohol

consumption can be very difficult, and the unmentioned nightmare of

running out of drink at such an event looms as some spectre that must

be avoided at all costs, driving many hosts to seriously over order ‘just to

be sure’. Having those conversations of, well half a bottle of wine a head

should be fine,. Shouldn’t it, but then there is auntie Gladys, it just would

not be enough for her, so count her as two….!

 

This must go on in households all over the country, they certainly have in mine. And no, I do not have an auntie Gladys!

 

More importantly I always find it interesting that the focus on such

logistics seems to be far more important than the actual wedding itself.

In our Gospel reading, the writer only gives a slight nod to the actual

ceremony, in as much as ‘there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and

the mother of Jesus was there….’ then we get straight into the business

of the drink running out and Jesus stepping in to save the day. But the

events of this day would go down in history, and are remembered all

these years later.

 

Jesus’ first miracle, which is performed at the Wedding in Cana, as

described by the evangelist John, is probably one of the most famous

miracles of them all, Jesus turns water into wine. And not just some

water, but around 20-30 gallons of it. And not any old wine, we are

talking more a fine wine, so less Blue Nun, and more Pinotage if you get

my drift! Whether you actually believe this event took place as described, or not, the meaning and deep imagery that this event conveys is what we should be taking away from this account.

 

First, some context: Galilee was a wine producing region, and whilst

many residents of Galilee were involved in the production of wine, they

could only afford to drink it on special occasions, it was a luxury.

 

The bridegroom and his family would have saved for a long time to put

on such a feast and running out of wine (as happens at this wedding)

was one of the most powerful ways in which poverty became a cause of

shame. Because not having enough wine for your guests was the most

obvious way of stating that you were poor.

 

Interestingly, the Aramaic word for “wedding feast” has the same roots

as the word for “drink”, so culturally drinking wine and attending a

wedding reception were closely associated, and one could assume that

the provision of wine was expected at such occasions, and that it should

not run out.

 

So, in this case Jesus’s actions quietly helped out his host, restoring

dignity to the household, which was obviously living in the shadow of

scarcity and shame. Because of Jesus’ actions the shortage of wine is

known about by only a few people who were present. In short Jesus’s

discretion saves the bridegroom and his family from public humiliation,

which would have been certain if word had got out.

 

But if that is not enough, the steward has to get involved asking why they had saved the good stuff until the end of the evening, when the guests would not have been so considered in the quality of the wine that they were drinking.

 

Should Jesus have matched the vintage, were the family quietly feeling

upstaged that the wine they have slavishly saved up for was considered

‘plonk’ that should have been guzzled at the latter stages of the feast by

the more hardened and less scrupulous drinkers?

 

Well, we will of course never know.

 

This miracle was not a parlour trick to amaze everyone. As previously

noted, nobody knew what had happened apart from a select few people,

it was far more important than that. We get our first clue in what Jesus

says to Mary when she prompts Jesus to step in. (Did she know that

Jesus was able to do something like this, or was she expecting

something else?)

 

He tells his mother that his hour has not yet come, this shows us the

dependence of his actions on the will of the Father and connecting the

miracle he is about to work with the mystery of the Cross. It also

represents the switch from Jesus’ family life, and being subject to what

his parents asked, to his Public Ministry, which was reliant on God.

 

But there was more; the miracle at Cana represents a far greater work of

transformation.

 

As the eucharistic preface for this season expresses it:

 

In the water made wine, the new creation was revealed at the wedding

feast. Poverty was turned to riches, sorrow into joy.

 

And here we get into the deeper meaning of what was going on here.

 

This new wine, refers to Jesus’ blood which is poured out for all of us,

the redemption of fallen humanity. As our reading from Revelation says,

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the

Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready’ we can see the

use of the matrimonial imagery for something far greater here, the use of

the image of the Lamb, a strongly sacrificial image in this context.

 

In our Genesis reading, bread and wine are also offered, when the kings

gathered and Melchizedek blessed them, and blessed God. So even

from the earliest times, hospitality has been closely associated with God

and the blessing he gives to all of us.

 

As one scholar notes, ‘At Cana, at his last supper, and at each

celebration of the eucharist, Jesus reveals himself in deeds as well as

words.

 

These actions summon us to bear witness to him in our daily, material

relationships, so that the abundant love of God is made known in a world

still held captive by scarcity and shame’.

 

Drawing this conclusion, in our current circumstances is very timely. We

live in a world of scarcity, and one where the few have so much, and the

many have very little. In contrast to the message of scarcity and

embarrassment of not having enough, which is the pretext of the

Wedding at Cana, I wonder whether we should turn this round, and

wonder whether those with too much should feel the shame, especially

when we look at the world around us.

 

Hospitality and care is at the heart of the Christian message, as is justice

and fairness for all. When we next think of the wedding at Cana and the

water being turned into wine, maybe we look to think more deeply about

the message that this miracle is trying to convey.

Sunday 17 January Epiphany 2 by Katharine Rumens  

 

It never happens to Londoners – or certainly not to those of us who dwell in the posh parts like Zone 1. Can anything good come out of the City of London is not a frequent remark. The City of London has substance, significance, eminence, a world-wide reputation, Whereas, meeting local builders working on my house, hearing where I was living, remarked ‘Oh you got away’. Local builders in that city that disdainful youths call Smallisbury.

 

The son of a man from Nazareth – what a joke. A small village in the backwaters of Galilee. A nowhere place up north. Admit it, we know what we know about people in the north – all coal in the bath and not a Clerkenwll hipster or chai latte in sight. Or why I found it hilarious when (at a party in Zone 2) a woman said that she was from the pretty bit of Didcot. We can be dismissive of people’s place of origin or habitation.  And such dismissals obstruct our openness to one another. Today’s gospel reading about son of Joseph the carpenter who was from the pretty bit of Nazareth.

 

The first reading also indicates the surprising nature of the call of God – here  to the boy lying in the temple of the Lord. ‘Samuel, Samuel (wouldn’t it be just wonderful if every now and again we could read in scripture the account of a girl or woman being beckoned in this way by God, but we don’t and we just have to get on with it.) And Eli advises the child to say yes, speak, I am listening. Here I am.

 

The gospel reading is from the last verses of John chapter 1. A chapter that  begins with such profundity: ‘In the beginning was the Word’ and the Word was – guess what - the son of Joseph from Nazareth. It is not supposed to happen this way – the Messiah – him about whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote.

 

I’m with Nathanael here, under my fig tree enjoying the shade on a hot day – the Messiah can’t possibly come from Nazareth. But those who live in the shadows may not be alert to the urgency of the task in hand. Andrew and Simon are followers of John, Jesus walks by. Andrew and Simon leave John and follow Jesus. Come and see. The next day Philip is invited, Follow me – and Philip found Nathanael. Oops.

 

The author of John’s is teaching us something about community. About the people we have to get on with, however different they are from us. Philip and Andrew have Greek names, Simon and Nathanael (which means God has given) are Hebrew names. The first disciples are a mixture.

 

Back under the fig tree the mood is not receptive. Why does Jesus bother with one who is cynically dismissive? Even Matthew was an easier call and he was a tax collector: Jesus went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Yet Nathanael is prepared to reconsider, unlike Jonah, there is a limit to his sulking.

 

As his ancestor Jacob, that cunning thief who stole his brother’s birthright, saw in a dream, A ladder set up on earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it, Nathanael too will see the gates of heaven opened, and he will find himself in the nearer presence of God. You don’t have to be that perfect to see angels – you just need to be ready to see heaven opened.

 

It is always worth taking a closer look when something new invades our experience. It might just be a vision of angels ascending and descending. To follow God is to witness the bridge between the divine and human. And to stop sulking – not that we are.

Sunday 10th January - Baptism of Christ by Alex Norris

 

Today the church celebrates two festivals, the Baptism of Christ, as we

have heard described in our Gospel reading today, but also Plough

Sunday, which of we were in a more rural setting, we would be more

likely to be celebrating, praying for the farmers as they begin to break

the ground and sew the seed for the future harvest. The seed and

ploughs would be blessed. Something that both of these festivals have

in come, is of course new life, whether it is the Baptism of a new child or

the cultivation of new life in our fields; and both of these are essential for

our survival as a species, and as part of God’s creation.

 

Baptism is one of the great sacraments of the church, an outward

physical sign of inward Grace. It is in itself a new life, a new life in Christ,

signified with the blessing of water and then the sprinkling of water on

the head of the child, or depending on tradition, a portion of the floor

would be removed, revealing a large baptismal pool, in which the

candidate would be fully submerged. I am glad we are not doing that

today, in these temperatures!

 

The font we use, is, as it is in most churches at the back of the church.

Ours is at the back in between the two entrances to the church.

 

It came from St Luke’s church, when the church was closed, and used to

be used by the Wesley brothers, so lots of history there.

 

As I mentioned, the font and baptism signifies new life, not just in the

child that’s being baptised, as is our tradition here, but also the font itself

signifies new life.

 

Many fonts are made octagonal in shape, having 8 sides to it. Why?

Well, each side represents a day, with the 8th day being the first day of

the new creation, also the eighth day would traditionally be the day that

circumcision would take place.

 

With the font placed where it is at the back of the church, it also sits

within the design rationale of the church, and this is generally the layout

for all traditional churches.

 

When you come through the doors, your first part of the journey is

Baptism, you then progress down the church through the pews, to where

you receive communion, through to the sanctuary and finally heaven. So

the journey of life is represented here. As with many things to do with the

church, there are always exceptions to this rule, and variants, but I hope

this gives a good idea of how baptism sits within the scheme of things.

 

I do find this journey through the church interesting at this time of the

year, as we still have the nativity scene set up, now with the three kings

present, as it is Epiphany, and at the heart of this, the baby Jesus. As I

stand here on the threshold of the sanctuary of the church, the boundary

between heaven and earth, I have Jesus here (Point to the Nativity) that

new life that came for all of us, being visited by the Magi, with their gifts

for the new-born king.

 

And as with Christ’s baptism, with Plough Sunday, and with Christ’s own

nativity, the theme of new life runs like a seam of gold through all of this.

New life, it's what helps us make sense of death, what preserves our

race, and what is at the core of the meaning of life; Survival.

 

In the current situation that we all find ourselves with the pandemic and

all that this entails, we should take heart at the story of Christ’s baptism,

that new life that has come upon us, and the work that carries on apace

to grow our food, and all that takes place throughout the rural

communities in our land.

 

Too many people are dying at the moment, a hard battle is being fought

to bring this pandemic under control, and with the measures being taken,

we will get there.

 

But whilst all this is going on, and whilst it might seem a dark time that

we are all currently living in, there is light at the end for all of us, whoever

we are, wherever we are.

 

Christ fought with death, and won, for all of us, and as we remember the

life of Christ over the next few months as we move from Christmas and

Epiphany through to Lent and then the joys of Easter, we can experience

that journey that Christ took physically as well as spiritually in his

relatively short life here on earth.

 

The alternative Gospel reading for today is the famous passage about

worry, and how by worrying you do not add to your number of days. For

the farmers, worrying about their crops, what the weather will do, and the

impact on their livelihoods is of course a natural and expected thing to

do. I suspect many will be worrying about what is going on nationally and

for what this year holds.

 

I think that the two Gospel readings for today sit well together, because

as Christ is baptised and clothed with the Holy Spirit, as signified when

the Dove came down as Christ came up from the water, so, as we have

been baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, we too

are clothed with the Holy Spirit.

 

And whilst, I would not stand here and simply say, ‘well because of this,

we all need not worry’ when, I know there are things that I certainly worry

about, I would, say, having this reassurance should at least help us deal

with our worries, whatever they are.

 

As we celebrate Holy Communion today, as we remember the sacrifice

that Christ made for all of us, remember the Crib scene, and picture a

font, and in doing this, remember your own birth, rebirth through

baptism, and also the sacrifice that Christ made for you, for all that you

have done, and as we start the new week in the uncertain world that we

currently find ourselves, remember the certainty of the saving love of

God, his constant presence with us, whatever we are going through.

 

We have been baptised not just with water, but in the name of the

Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As John said, he was unworthy to untie the

shoes of the person who was to follow him. Well, that person has now

come and is now here with us, and will always be with us, from this day

on and forevermore.

 

Birth, Baptism, Life; all things we can remain positive and hopeful about,

constants that are around us all. Let is give thanks for our lives, for the

life of Christ, and for all he did for us.

Amen.

Where to visit us:-

St Giles' Cripplegate Church
Fore Street
London EC2Y 8DA

 

Registered Charity               Number 1138077

Services now in church at St Giles’

 

Thursday 13 May   Ascension  Day 

08.30 Holy Communion

 

Sunday 16 May Easter 7

For Music and Readings 

 Click here

Weekday Services

08.30 Morning Prayer (Monday to Thursday in the Chancel)

Wednesdays   

2 June and 16 June             

Home Prayer Group - Lectio Divina 19.30 via Zoom. To join contact Suzanne Royce   susanjroyce@gmail.com

 

The church is open for private prayer

The church is open from 11.00-16.00 Monday-Friday for private prayer. Please observe social distancing and any other instructions required when visiting the church.

 

Private Prayer and Reflection on first Thursday of the month 

You are invited to join others in church on Thursday 6 May.  Please bring the monthly prayer sheet  here. If you are not able to join us, we hope you will continue to pray with us wherever you are.

Dates for 2021 

3 June, 1 July, not in August, 2 September, 7 October, 4 November, 2 December. 

 

Cleaning Angels

The monthly sessions on the first Thursday of the month from 13.30-15.30 including tea and cake.

Cleaning Angels  
Dates in 2021  

3 June, 1 July, not in August, 2 September, 7 October, 4 November, 2 December. 

 

2021 Dates of PCC meetings in church at 19.30 (all currently on Zoom)

22 June
13-September
15-November

 

As many of you know, our Rector Katharine Rumens is to retire in May after 20 years at St Giles. Please make a donation to show your appreciation of her ministry here.  Donate

 

Parish Office Opening Hours

Mon-Fri 11.00-16.00

Tel: 020 7638 1997

admin@stgileschurch.com

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