Sermon preached at Compline on the Tuesday of Holy Week, Preparing for Darkness 2 (Fr Jeremy Davies)Read Now
Simon and Garfunkel may have regarded darkness as an old friend, and we too may
recognise the sympathetic, life embracing aspects that we associate with the dark night.
Just to pick out some of those in the paragraph on your sheet of ‘dark texts’ by Ian
Matthew (see below 1) - stillness, rest, peace, silence, sleep, dreams, moonlight, stars,
refreshment, romance - and so on. But these positive aspects of darkness stand
alongside negative perceptions as well - solitude, fear, the unknown. And in St John’s
Gospel where the contrasts between darkness and light are a recurring theme
throughout the gospel, darkness is always represented negatively.
On Wednesday evening we will celebrate the ancient liturgical office of Holy Week
called Tenebrae. Tenebrae is the Latin for darkness or shadows and although it is
essentially the Office of Morning Prayer it is celebrated at night time (following the
monastic practice of anticipating the dawn of a new day by saying morning prayer in the
middle of the night).
It is night time - the darkness - that is the potent visual image for this office. For in the
course of this dramatic liturgy all the candles will be snuffed out and as much electric
light as possible excluded from the church, to recall the darkest moment of our
humanity. Not simply the daily elimination of light which heralds tranquility, quiet and
restfulness - which we know will be followed by a new dawn and a new day. Not simply
the cycle of night following day, but the extinguishing of the Light of the World; the
snuffing out of God himself; as the world - not just night and day - is plunged into that
moral and spiritual darkness from which we may never recover. The lights which
illuminate the church at the beginning of the office which should be welcoming the day
are one by one extinguished, until only one candle is left alight. and that candle is hidden
away, entombed if you like. It is not quite extinguished - but buried, seemingly snuffed
out, defeated, killed. Even God dies, and we are left in the darkness.
Exodus 34. 29-end, 2 Corinthians 9. 28-36, St Luke 9. 28-36
Today our thoughts our thoughts are focussed on the Transfiguration – what are we to make of this mysterious event. We think about it on the Sunday before Lent so that through Lent itself and Passiontide we can keep in mind what will only be revealed on Easter Day – Jesus’ victory over sin and death – something very far from the suffering servant of God.
Exodus 33:12- 23; Rev 21:1-7 and Mk 6:45-51.
The typical miracle in Mark is to do with healing, often combined with casting out unclean spirits, making the blind see, the deaf hear, and so on. Very good things to do. Nowadays we understand far more about illness and medicine---so these miracles aren’t quite as supernatural for our consciousness. In the gospel, faith (your own or someone else’s) is a condition to be healed, or there is some other theological overlay. Nevertheless it’s all in line with a universal human want and something we’ve got quite good at ourselves.
Proverbs 3.13-18; 2 Corinthians 4.1-6; Matthew 9.9-13
Well all I can say is – at last. I have been coming here to Mass on St Matthew’s Day for nineteen years now and finally I get to speak.
And what a wonderful occasion this always is - a chance to meet with friends old and new. Perhaps people we only ever hook up with when we are here. St Matthew’s is most definitely a church where warmth and hospitality abound.
In Chapter 31 of Genesis, Jacob runs away from his father-in-law Laban taking with him his two wives, Leah and Rachel, Laban’s daughters. Before she goes, Rachel steals her father’s household gods. Laban ran after him, and said: “Maybe it was foolish for you to run off with my daughters, but why did you steal my gods?” Jacob didn’t know Rachel had stolen them, and said “If you find anyone who has them, that person shall not live”. So Laban searched around. When he got to Rachel’s tent, she hid the gods in her camel’s saddle and sat on it while he searched the tent and found nothing. Rachel said to her father “Don’t be angry, my Lord, that I can’t stand up in your presence. I am having my period.”
Exodus 17. 1-7
A reading from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life – William Law (1686-1761)
William Law was born in Kings Cliff in 1686 educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and after ordination as Deacon, he became a Fellow of the College in 1711. When George I came to the throne in 1714, William declined to take the Oath of Allegiance – being a member of the non-Juror party who believed that the anointed but deposed, James II and his heirs should occupy the throne. He lost his Fellowship but was made a priest in 1728 and published several influential books. He returned to his home town of King’s Cliffe, Northamptonshire in 1740 where he led a life of devotion, simplicity and caring for the poor.
In the non-biblical reading from his book ‘A Serious Call to a devout and Holy Life’, William refers to ‘the Common Good’. This is a phrase we more readily associate with Catholic Social Teaching rather than with Protestant England in the 18th century.
But I think it is represented in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions because the Common Good is central to what it means to commit ourselves to one another – the theme of this sermon and next Wednesday’s Lent Group.
Overview: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” (Ps 24:1) How to Save the World - in 12 minutes…
Is our Commitment to the World simply a matter of recycling bottles, saving the rain forests and bathing with a friend? Of international agitation with Amnesty, Oxfam or Save the Children? Is it nearer to home with Barnardos, Food Banks or Payday Lending? All are laudable.
From Genesis’s “Fill the earth and subdue it” to Revelation’s consumption of the earth in a ball of fire, Christians are called into a specific stewardship of God’s creation.
First Reading | Genesis 2.15-17, 3.1-7 The Holy Gospel | St Matthew 4. 1-11
Look at our Bible readings today: the story of the fall and Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. How do we know about either? There were no observers of either event; can you imagine Adam and Eve telling Cain and Abel the story of their downfall? Or Jesus confiding in the disciples what happened to him out there in the wilderness? So what do we have? A just so story which explains why we live in a less that perfect world, and a story which, while it may very well contain an element of truth presents us with the unedifying spectacle of Jesus and Satan quoting scripture at each other.
Presented with such unpromising material can we do other than question our commitment to scripture?