May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Surely Cinderella wore not only golden slippers when she went to the ball, but perfume too. Most people love fragrance. It is a wonderful way of giving ourselves a treat. It refreshes and energizes us, or it makes us feel sensual.
Perfume certainly changes the way we feel about ourselves. So we wear it when we go out to meet someone special and want to be attractive. Sometimes it becomes part of a ritual, say, when we leave work and move into a different environment like going to a party directly afterwards.
Even the names of perfumes such as 4711, Shalimar, Dunhill for Men, Blue Grass or Beyond Paradise make our imagination work overtime.
The novelist Ernest Hemingway reckoned that his greatest story consisted in its entirety of just 6 words: “For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.“
Thus he unknowingly issued a challenge that continues to inspire many generations later. A 2012 author won with the oblique: No taxidermist loved his daughter more
Then there’s the intriguing: See that shadow? It’s not yours.
Or how about the social commentary: The modern fairytale: frog; snog; sprog
Alexander McCall Smith contributed: Humorous book. Critic died laughing. Sued.
I rather like the potential behind this: Megan’s baby. John’s surname. Jim’s eyes.
The Calling of St Matthew, Caravaggio
I am grateful to all of you for making me go to Rome to prepare for this sermon. I had to go twice and each time I happened to be presented to the Pope. How interesting that I remembered him but that he did not appear to recognise me! This was quite incidental to my having to be in Rome to visit the church of San Luigi dei francesi close to the Piazza Navona. The church houses several Caravaggio paintings.
Caravaggio could well be the kind of resident artist well-suited to St Matthew’s. He travelled widely, like Father Philip. He mixed with a very wide group of friends, just like the congregation of St Matthew’s does. I shall stop there, I think, while the going is good. I am particularly fond of the Caravaggio painting The Call of Matthew which was my roman homework. Accompanied by Peter, Jesus bursts into the dark room of the counting house bearing a miraculous light about him and points to the seated Matthew as the sign of his call. Matthew points to himself as if to say, ‘Do you mean me?’ Matthew’s companions either do not notice Jesus’s appearing or are ambivalent to him. Matthew, the unlikely one, is chosen; and there is no time to tarry. Jesus is already poised to turn and return to the wider world. He wants Matthew to follow him out into the world right away.
Today, since it’s only my second sermon, I thought I would speak to you about something uplifting, easy to talk about, and something that anyone can connect with. So I thought today I would talk about everything that is wrong with the Anglican Communion.
‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing around looking at the sky?’
Acts 1. 6-14
Laudabo Nomen Domini
It had certainly been a strange couple of months…actually, it had been a strange couple of years, but it had been just a few weeks since Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and burial, followed by the disciples’ flight to their upper room hideout and then the women’s unbelievable message: ‘He is alive. He is risen. We have seen him.’ And soon the men saw him too…
Photograph © Toby York, 2011
Sermon for a Solemn Requiem for the Revd Prebendary Gerard Irvine (1920-2011). Preached on Saturday 1st October 2011 at St Matthew’s Westminster
‘You are here to kneel where prayer has been valid.’
Little Gidding I. 45-46, by T. S. Eliot
You will not be surprised, I’m sure, if I tell you that this sermon has been for me the source of, not inconsiderable, anguish. And that anguish is still there today, in spite of the sense of pride and privilege that I feel in the knowledge that Gerard himself, albeit posthumously, has requested that I preach it.
Sermon for the 20th of August, 2011, 9th Sunday after Trinity.
Readings: Isaiah 51. 1-6, Romans 12.1-8, Matthew 16.13-20.
Who do you say that I am? Now you don’t have to answer that question, in fact I’m a bit fearful of what you might say. When I started thinking about this sermon a couple of weeks ago, that question rolled round in my mind time and again. As we’ve just heard, Jesus asked this to his disciples-“Who do you say that I am?” It seems a bit of an odd question to ask to friends, people you’ve spent any length of time with, as Jesus did to his disciples.
Tonight I will send a postcard to my university teacher in Systematic Theology at Halle University in Germany. I might choose a postcard showing Rublev’s so called icon of the Trinity, just because I was advised by a priest not to mention this all too famous icon this morning because everyone mentions it on Trinity Sunday. I will write this postcard because I remember him telling us, send me a postcard whenever you really preach a sermon on the Trinity, and today I am doing just that. For my professor the Trinity was just a hybrid concept, a theological construct. He couldn’t see how the doctrine of the Trinity could connect with any experience of the Christian faith.
Isaiah 9: 1-4 1 Cor 1: 10-18 Matt 4: 120-23
To the surprise of many, a religious film (or rather, a film with a clear religious topic) won one of the top awards at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. It was a surprise because the common wisdom is that religion not only doesn’t get an audience (the primary function of film-making) but worse, it stands a high chance of courting the kind of controversy that kills rather than builds attendance. Set that film in the limited confines of a monastery populated with 7 celibate and mainly elderly men and little opportunity for car chases, love interest or condemnatory behaviour – I’d love to have seen the faces when the producers first tried to pitch that one! Nevertheless – it got made. And the result is the beautifully-filmed and emotionally-charged “Of Gods And Men”.
Luke 18. 9-14
Well, it’s very good to be with you this morning – and I’d like to thank Fr. Philip and Fr. Peter for inviting me.
For those of you who don’t know, I was here at St. Matthew’s between October 2004 until August 2005, working as a pastoral assistant – and like so many pa’s, before or since, spending a year here was a way of taking those few vital steps along that road to full time ministry.
So here I am, 6 years later suited and booted – a Priest in the Church of England.