Trinity 5 ~ Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:36 – end
Mark 5: 21 to end
May I speak in the name of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Our God is a God of Surprises. And on one level, nobody here today is more surprised than I am to find myself standing before you preaching my first sermon as an Ordained Deacon in the new creation of Father Jonathan. Thank you God of Surprises!
Yet on another level perhaps those of you who are regular members of our congregation will not be so surprised - for reasons that have little to do with me. I say this because it is in the DNA of this small church that we frequently and regularly inspire, encourage, guide and prepare candidates for ordination.
Proverbs 8.1,22-31, Colossians 1.15-20, John 1:1-14
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Today’s lectionary readings took me a little by surprise! It feels only yesterday that I was preaching from chapter one of John’s Gospel on Christmas Day. This past week the two Christmas trees at St Stephen’s finally came down, along with the rather sad looking Christmas Ponsettias on each window sill. The crib set was carefully packed away, and at 8am on Friday morning we celebrated the feast of Candlemas – the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. At the beginning of that service I read those poignant words: “Today we are looking back to the day of Christ’s birth and forward to the coming days of his passion”. The message was clear - these are transitional times. How then do we inwardly digest the poetic prose of John’s gospel at this particular time on the Second Sunday before the start of Lent?
Readings: Isaiah 64: 1 – 9, Corinthians 1: 3 – 9, Mark 13: 24 - end
“Will we enter the season of Advent with faith or with fear?”
This was the challenging question put to our congregation by Father Jamie in his Sermon here two Sundays ago.
So let me pick up his gauntlet with the help, or arguably with the hindrance, of today’s readings.
Year A: Acts 2.1-21; 1 Corinthians 12.3b-13; John 20.19-23
It is good training for a deacon to find that the sermon you have carefully prepared has been in some ways superseded by the shock of a news event. There have been too many such shocks in recent weeks, and we probably have to face the fact that there will be more. For those whose lives were suddenly, brutally disrupted yesterday evening on London Bridge and Borough Market, the after effects will last a lifetime, and our prayers this morning must be with the bereaved, the injured and the traumatised. And with those who helped – the emergency services, the medical teams who worked through the night, and countless women and men who did extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances to help their fellow humans.
Year A: Easter 4 - Acts 2.42-end; 1 Peter 2.19-end; John 10.1-10
May I speak in the name of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Today is known as ‘Good Shepherd’ Sunday, when the Gospel reading offers us one of the images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In particular, it contains the memorable saying that he came so that his flock ‘may have life, and have it abundantly’.
Fr Philip suggested to me that, as this is also the Sunday on which our Annual Parochial Church Meeting takes place and I have now been here for nearly a year, it would be a good point for me to reflect on and share some perceptions about the particular ‘charism’ of St Matthew’s.
Alleluiah! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, alleluiah!
How long we have been waiting to say those words. We have literally been in quarantine
for the last six weeks. That after all is what forty days and forty night are - quarantine!.
For this period of time Alleluiah has been struck from our vocabulary. In the Middle
Ages the Sarum Use liturgy instructed that a chorister should be whipped out of the
cathedral on Ash Wednesday to symbolise the Alleluiah being whipped out of the
liturgy. There were times when I was Precentor of Salisbury when I thought seriously
about reintroducing that ancient tradition.
This is where life begins;
this is where the church begins;
this is where you and I and the world around us begins again.
Here in the darkness (you must close your eyes and imagine the
darkness!) - in the darkness, the emptiness and the silence -
before any candle was lit we gathered together. We had nothing, -
all our success, our status, our prestige, our respect and position
in the community, have been stripped away. Like the Lord we saw
crucified yesterday we stand naked. Ecce Homo : Behold the Man
said Pontius Pilate, as he presented the Christ to the multitude.
Homo in Latin but Adam in Hebrew - Behold Man. Here we
behold ourselves - humankind - stripped of our pretension -
revealed as we truly are.
You probably know the medieval English carol Tomorrow shall be my
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
Sing, O my love, O my love, my love, my love; This have I done for my
It’s a carol usually sung at Christmas - but the original ballad contains
these rather unChristmassy verses:
The night is closing in: the enemies of goodness, some of them thinking they do the
Lord’s work, are closing in as well. Even at the supper table there are those who are
singing from a different hymn sheet; whose mind is set on betrayal. There are those
indeed who will say one thing and do another; those who do not know what they will do
until confronted by overwhelming force - when they will crumble, disappear into the
crowd. In the poignant words of St John’s gospel “They all forsook him and fled”.
The cathedral congregation waits in rapt attention, the electric
lights are dimmed and then extinguished, the organist comes to
the end of J S Bach’s Nun Kom der Heiden Heiland. The ancient
gothic spaces are now still, though packed with more than 1,500
people, attentive, silent and expectant. In the silence and the
darkness a single, flickering candle is lit. Everyone in the
cathedral can see it, tall and towering on its magnificent stand.