Sermons 2021 

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 at St Giles’

Sunday services will resume in church from 7 March.

 

Sunday 7 March  Lent 3

We will be livestreaming the service at 10am on Sundays via our YouTube page here

For Music and Readings 

Click here

Virtual Coffee Morning at 11am. 

Click here to join.

Weekday Services

08.30 Morning Prayer (Monday to Thursday in the Chancel)

Wednesdays   

10 March and 24 March         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 4 March  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 

1 April, 6 May, 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 is suspended until further notice. 
Dates in 2021 

1 April, 6 May, 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)

23 March

w/b 3-May Supper*
22 June
13-September
15-November

* in the Rectory at 7.30pm

 

APCM Sunday 25th. April 2021

for more information click  here

 

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

Print Print | Sitemap
© St Giles Cripplegate Church