During a four month exchange to the U.S. I came across a hymn which has pretty much become my favourite. The hymn “If you but trust in God to guide you” was written in 1641 by Georg Neumark and comes to us in English by the prolific translator of German hymns Catherine Winkworth. The hymn was written during the 30 year war which ravaged Central Europe during the first half of the 17th century. Georg a young musician and administrator was robbed and lost nearly everything when travelling from Gotha to Kiel on the Baltic coast. The only piece of his possessions he was left with was a collection of recommendations from his former position in Gotha. He had lost nearly everything but due to these letters he was finally able to secure a position as a teacher in Kiel. And so he is able to write,
Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Offer your service faithfully,
And trust His word; though undeserving,
You’ll find His promise true to be;
God never will forsake in need
The soul that trusts in Him indeed.
Today’s readings have a similar tone to them. They speak of the broken and hurting world we see around us today – but they hold onto the assurance of God’s faithfulness.
Today as we part ways it is my prayer that you will continue to “approach the house of God with a true heart in full assurance of faith” as the letter to the Hebrews puts it: You here in Pound Hill, Worth and Maidenbower, and I in Shoreham. Let’s continue to sing, pray and offer our service faithfully. Amen.
When I entered high school – now a frightening twenty three years ago – the syllabus for music had us study medieval music. This was my first introduction to plain chant and to the sequence we will hear this evening as part of the Requiem service for those departed this past year. Our teacher was so effective that you would have heard 12 year old boys chanting the first line of this sequence at any opportune moment: Dies Irae, dies illa solve saeclum in favila teste david cum sybilla – and I am still humming the tune as I write. We will hear it this evening in the setting Mozart wrote and it is quite a terrifying movement both as listener and performer, conjuring up into our imagination the day of wrath and judgement.
Today we enter the last part of the Church’s year as we celebrate All Saints. Today we will hear how Jesus was moved by the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus wept for Lazarus and at the sight of his friends’ distress. Jesus has compassion for Mary and Martha.
We begin a season of Remembrance. We remember those who have gone before us in faith – this morning those who are examples to us in their life of faith, this evening those who have inspired us personally by sharing part of this earthly life with us. They had experienced Jesus compassion and understood that it had conquered the darkness of the day of judgement.
I hope you join us this evening for our Commemoration Service as we hear Mozart’s Requiem and listen to the names of the departed read out. Let us remember that Jesus shares in our grief as he shared with Mary and Martha. Let us rejoice with all the saints this morning that we have a share in God’s kingdom.
Back in the 1990s a new fad emerged among a few young people in my youth group: they started having rats as pets. However they were not kept in cages at home where they belonged but carried around wherever they went. First one rat appeared then another and at the high point of the fad between tamagotchis and pagers we had about five rats running about during youth club. Not the typical pet and often not more than a “goth” accessory. They were for some part of their expression of rebellion; rebellion against the typical pets. I am pretty sure we won’t have any rats blessed at today’s Animal Service.
Today, we will be remembering St Francis of Assisi whom we have transferred from next week due to our Parish Eucharist and Dedication Festival (have you already booked your place for the Pork Roast after the service?). St Francis took stewardship of God’s creation seriously and wanted to live life in harmony with nature. His love for all things living had a deep impact on the Church and so it is at this time that we pronounce the blessing on all God’s creatures – a blessing God spoke first when he created everything and saw that it was good.
For us it is at this time that we give thanks for all God’s creation and remember that we should be good stewards of that creation including rats. Hope you join us for a furry Animal Service later this morning.
First of all, a warm welcome back after the summer break to those of you who have been away over the summer. I hope you have had some rest at some point to enjoy the summer months.
Last Sunday, we opened the “Season of Invitation” which will take us through September and a number of special opportunities up to Christmas to invite people to church, a place and community that is important in our own lives.
It is quite providential that we are reading our way through James’s letter. James reminds us of the importance of underpinning our faith with action. This Sunday’s epistle focuses on the way we treat those who come through our doors. In years gone by churches used to charge pew rents. I haven’t been able to find out when these were abolished in St Nicholas, but in my former church they weren’t abolished until 1931. People paid to sit in their favourite seats; where one sat signified status within the community. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry these days about sitting in someone else’s seat. As we, hopefully, welcome people into church who haven’t been or haven’t been for a while we might want to reflect on our own tendency to “partiality” as James calls it.
Jesus learns, too. Through his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman Jesus’ understanding of his own ministry and of God’s plan grows. Jesus believed he was sent to Israel but realises now that all will have a part in the salvation he brings.
May our faith be always underpinned by the way we welcome those who come to us.
When I started training for the priesthood six years ago this summer I did not know how I would sustain myself along the new path I was about to enter. I had a pretty good idea of the priest I wanted to be. I also knew how much my failing could and probably would be a stumbling block to the formation into the priest I wanted to be. As for most of us I wasn’t quite sure if I would cope; and I still wonder.
God gives as much as we need. Five loaves of bread and two fish seemed nowhere near enough to feed the masses of people that had gathered to hear Jesus. But from the little that was offered Jesus was able to feed all. From the little that we are able to offer we can trust that God will sustain us. This is good news for all those who are on a journey with Jesus. We do not need much to follow but we need to be able to trust that God will provide just enough to sustain us.
A quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written in 1943, has sustained me over the years,
“I believe that God will give us in each state of emergency as much power of resistance as we need. But he will not give in advance, so that we do not rely on ourselves but on him alone.”
As we reflect on Jesus feeding 5,000 men and the women and children who had come to listen to him I hope that we will continue and maybe learn anew to trust that God will provide as and when we need it. Bonhoeffer’s words written at an immensely difficult time have helped me to focus on how God is sustaining me rather than despairing at the never ending to-do lists. As God fed the 5,000 he is feeding us just as much as we need.
Scheming, intrigues, unscrupulous, maybe feisty characters: today’s gospel reading has it all. Mark presents us with the power games of first century Palestine; power games which are not unlike the kind we enjoy watching in TV dramas or plays. Shakespeare made a living of telling these stories. We enjoy watching these because they amplify what we see and hear in real life. Over the past weeks we have seen the power play between Europe and Greece as the latter’s debts unfold. We are not expecting any of the grisly consequences John or Amos faced for calling out the powerful for their sinfulness but experience time and again how power tries to silence truth.
We are faced with a choice. Mark presents us with two models of kingdom and power. Our own which sets out a dichotomy between winning and losing and God’s by which we win everything by losing everything to be free to love and serve unselfishly. It’s our choice which one we want to follow. Its effects are wholly of this world.
Only yesterday we celebrated St Benedict of Nursia who inadvertently set up the first monastic community: A community which still exists today and which has also shaped our own parish with its Benedictine community at Worth Abbey. Benedict fled the intrigues of his time to live a life that eschewed the power games of this world to fully submit to God’s kingdom. As it continues to shape our world we hopefully can follow as pioneers of God’s kingdom drawing others with us as we welcome all as beloved children of God.
I love a good storm – as long as I am dry and safe in a well built home that will weather whatever nature hurls at it. There is nothing better than watching the force of nature unleashed, from a safe distance. However that’s not where the disciples are. They are in the midst of it – right out in the middle of Lake Galilee with no protection against the wind and the rain.
Probably the same way those who understood Jesus felt when he talked to them in parables. Their world had become quite a stormy place after Jesus spoke about God’s kingdom. It’s not an easy place. It’s a place where we are challenged, where the things we thought we knew don’t cut it anymore.
National media was full of the Church of England’s next storm about its teaching on marriage as Jeremy Pemberton’s employment tribunal began this week. In our parish we have weathered storms over centuries and they reappear in different forms and on different issues.
Jesus calms the storm ! And it didn’t even need faith on the part of the disciples. If they had trusted Jesus they could have been spared much distress but they chose to panic. We all fall into that trap, but hopefully we can call on Jesus without panicking.
But we need to be out there in the storm in the first place. Just watching from the outside, from a safe distance, means that we’re not involved in the issues that really matter. Only when we as individuals and as the Church, engage in that which matters can we understand how Jesus calms the storm.
Trinity Sunday is upon us. A final Sunday of wearing white before we enter the weeks of green as we move into “Ordinary Time”.
To set the tone for the next twenty odd weeks of the Church’s year we are invited to engage in the many ways God interacts with us – the many ways in which we experience God. God as giver of life, God who sustains us, God who transforms us!
Plenty of food for thought for the next few weeks.
This year, the next few weeks aren’t quite so ordinary for our parish. Steve will be ordained priest next week on Wednesday and will celebrate his first Eucharist on Thursday at St Nicholas’. We wish him well for this exciting week and next step in his ministry.
Next Sunday we will also be celebrating St Barnabas’ Patronal Festival with a Parish Eucharist. It’s a special one as well – 60 years of serving the community in Pound Hill. At the service we will conclude our anniversary appeal and give thanks for the many gifts we have received. There is still time to pledge – up until the service – if you haven’t done so already. Cheques should be made out to Worth PCC. Please also join us for the Big Lunch after the service to which we would like you to also invite your neighbours to share in our celebrations.
Hopefully we can gain in confidence that in God we find a place where we are able to flourish. A confidence worth sharing with those we meet.
If there was one point to make about the Gospel this Sunday then it should be this: The disciples’ unbelief knows no bounds.
- They are told by the women and don’t believe that someone could be raised from the dead.
- They didn’t believe the two disciples who running back from Emmaus after their encounter with the risen Christ came to tell them the good news.
- When Jesus enters the room they believe he is a ghost.
- Even after Jesus shows him his wounds they still don’t believe it possible that Jesus could have come back from the tomb.
It takes Jesus eating for them to believe that he was alive. It is not only Thomas who doubts but all eleven disciples are struggling to come to terms with this weird and wonderful news.
David Lose, president of the Lutheran seminary in Philadelphia, and one of my favourite bloggers, writes on this Sunday’s reading “If you don’t have serious doubts about the Easter story, you’re not paying attention.” That a human being is able to be raised from the dead is so improbable that it demands of us to completely rethink how we believe the world functions. What looked like total failure suddenly became a victory that changed the world.
And so doubt is inextricably part of our faith. It is part of the process that enables us to expand our understanding of how God works in our world. And how God works in and through everyone of us! The disciples’ understanding of the world was changed by meeting the risen Christ. Our understanding should change too, if we are paying attention.
This also affects how we see ourselves within our Christian community. What wonderful works is God able to do with us? We might have to re-imagine how God can use us as God’s Church in our parish.
Last Tuesday we were asked at the Lent Course to take stock of our Lenten journey. It had been nearly four weeks since the beginning of Lent. As we all experience it can feel an awful long time and the energy that might still have been there at the beginning of lent often has faded a little by now.
With this Sunday we enter Passiontide. These last two weeks before Good Friday we are on the home straight of Lent. How did we set out on our Lenten path? What has made us stumble on the way?
The Readings this Sunday remind us that stumbling is all too human. Israel stumbled their way through the desert for forty years.
But God is faithful. God is in the process of setting up a new covenant. Although we might stumble Jesus hasn’t and so we have hope that we too have a share in the new covenant promised to.
In this hope we can regain strength to continue where we might have left our Lenten journey. Let this Sunday be a time where we can refocus on our path with James so that we are prepared and ready to enter into the joy of Easter.