A Message for Mothering Sunday

From the Rector

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together
in perfect harmony.

In Oscar Wilde’s story, the Happy Prince of the title, is a gilded bejewelled statue set on a column overlooking a town, who develops a friendship with a migrating swallow.

‘Who are you?’ he said. ‘I am the Happy Prince.’ ‘Why are you weeping then? asked the Swallow; ‘you have quite drenched me.’ ‘When I was alive and had a human heart,’ answered the statue, ‘I did not know what tears were… everything about me was so beautiful. My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if indeed pleasure be happiness. So I lived and so I died. And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot choose but weep.’ ‘What! Is he not solid gold?’ said the Swallow to himself. He was too polite to make any personal remarks out loud.

And so the story unfolds. The statue of the Prince persuades the Swallow to take the jewels that adorn him, one by one, to particular people in desperate situations around the city. The ruby from his sword hilt to the mother of a feverish boy, the sapphires of his eyes and finally leaf after leaf of the gold covering to the poor and the sick and the hungry. The dramatic tension in the tale is added to by the Swallow lingering in the cold North at the onset of winter instead of flying south to the warmth of Egypt. In the end there is nothing left for the Prince to give and the Swallow who has helped him in his acts of benefaction, dies from the cold. It is a poignant and touching tale. Self-sacrifice born out of compassion and pity and love’s response to love. The more the Prince is moved by the plight of his people the more compassionate he is, the more he gives of himself, until he has given all. Likewise the Swallow, as he becomes more and more engaged in the situation he finds himself in, the more obvious it becomes that he cannot quit, even if it means his own death.

The start of the list from the letter to the Colossians (chapter 3, verses 12-17), ‘clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience’ is not all that remarkable but the implications, when we really think about them, are. These qualities are not qualified, not limited and may involve a cost.

Today, being Mothering Sunday, is a day to remember and celebrate the compassionate gifts of those who nurture and support, who prefer the needs of others before their own, especially the needs of the dependent and vulnerable. We celebrate mothers present, absent and departed and it is a celebration of motherly qualities. Not all those who have and show these qualities of compassion, kindness and patience are mothers and, sadly, not all mothers are motherly, so today we also pray for individuals and families whose relationships are fractured, whose lives are blighted by indifference, coldness, selfishness or any of the other painful attributes of wounded personalities that diminish rather than enhance the lives of those around them.

The joy and pain of love is present in the little scene described in today’s Gospel (Luke 2.33-35). Simeon with great presence of mind sees who it is who has been brought to the Temple, the very one promised of old, Messiah. And the implications of what that might mean slowly dawns on him, ‘destined for the falling and the rising of many’ he says to Mary. He also sees what it all will cost her.

The winter and spring months in the Church’s calendar focus on the coming of Jesus the Messiah; his birth, the revelation to the world of God with us, then as the story progresses we hear more and more of his mission and ministry of healing and mercy and abundant grace and now, half-way through Lent, we sense the rising tension, the harder times, the conflicts with authority, the frustrations and disappointments. Through it all, his Mother stands by him.

Scripture describes Jesus as being the visible image of the invisible God. We have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. In him we see the qualities of God’s love in clearest definition.

We are encouraged to imitate these qualities and replicate them in our own lives, especially in these times of anxiety and uncertainty. ‘Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.’ Compassion, which is drawn from the deep well of God’s love, flows freely and is a powerful force for good in the world, it is a word of Christ, a word with costly implications as the Happy Prince and the swallow found, that, when written on human hearts influences our deeds and thoughts and is a word that ‘dwells in us richly’.

Let this be the word we hear today and in the coming week: ‘Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… And be thankful.

Fr Michael






From the Rector…


“Let mutual love continue” is a fittingly poignant scripture passage to have as a text for my final contribution to the column which goes online and in the pew sheet.

Our vision as a parish is to be a “Christian community growing in faith, hope and love” – and, as I am regularly reminded at weddings, St Paul declares that “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13.13).  So, with the fifth anniversary of the Ball family moving in to the Rectory having just passed, I look back and recall my response to (I think) Bishop Mark at my interview.

Q. “What would you plan to do as Rector?”

A. “I’d want to love the people of the parish into a fuller experience of the joy of life in Christ” (or words to that effect).

Of course, I’ve failed more times that I’d care to admit.  But, even when struggling with parish admin late at night or perceived hostile comments, that motivation of love (received as well as given) has been a constant encouragement.  As another interregnum looms, I pray that I am not kidding myself in feeling there is a spirit abroad of greater confidence, a deeper sense of community and even some excitement amidst the anxiety for the future.  The fruit of mutual love, perhaps?

Going forward please, “do not neglect to do good and to share what you have”.  Most especially share, with each other and those who know it not, that precious gift of joy in the life of Christ.
Thank you for your love – receive mine.


Who Art in Heaven

Season of Prayer

When, in the Lord’s Prayer, we go on to say “who art in heaven”, we’re saying Heaven, God’s place, God’s home, is also our home. “Our citizenship”, says St Paul in one of his letters, “is in heaven”; that is, heaven is where we belong.  And the kind of relationship that exists in God’s presence in heaven is a relationship of love and trust and intimacy and praise that can be ours here and now.  Short, simple words, and yet they tell us that heaven is here on earth because of Jesus, and we can enter into that. For some heaven is up there, we are somewhere in the middle and down below is hell. Well, Heaven and Hell are realities today.

When people use the word hell, what do they mean?  Probably something like a place, an event, a situation devoid of how God desires things to be.  Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter–they are all hell on earth.  Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth. As Christians we should want to do what we can to resist hell coming to earth, by loving our neighbour.  When that happens without an agenda or a transaction, just out of love, then we have each time a glimpse of heaven.

As a Church this is our most important witness to our faith.  An outward expression of love.  An example: a group of Christian students went out into their neighbourhood, they looked around and saw the homeless on their streets.  They wanted to walk alongside them.  What did they do?  They went out and bought lots of cigarettes and handed them out and chatted to them.  Their Church leaders said, “What on earth are you doing?”  They said, “Well, this is the thing.  What we found is that the homeless don’t get to die of lung cancer.  They die from drugs and alcohol and loneliness long before that.  The brief time we give them a cigarette we give them company and we say we are not judging you.  We’re with you.  We don’t then try to convert them, but if they ask why we are doing this we say, “because God loves us” and “we want you know he loves you too, no matter what”.  A small glimpse of heaven.

A quote from Mother Teresa shows us what our attitude should be:


So, our God “who art in heaven” – isn’t a distance and unreachable God, but a close, intimate God. We just have to reveal Him.

In our novena of prayer for the evangelisation of the nation, today we are praying for the area of Maidenbower to the west of Billington Drive and all the roads off Matthews Drive and Harper Drive (plus Mercer Close and Proctor Close) – an area which includes Oriel High School.  Our youth face a difficult environment today with so many more challenges, temptation and expectations.  As you pray for the School, please pray that they experience a glimpse of heaven, especially those just starting GCSE, A/S and A Level exams.

Novena Prayer

Almighty God

who in your Son Jesus Christ,

declared the coming of your Kingdom,

strengthen us in the ways of righteousness

and peace, that our brothers and sisters may

know the healing power of the gospel,

and that you will be done on earth,

as it is in heaven;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.