Weekly Online Sermon
Crying out to be free – 2nd Sunday of Advent
‘…the voice crying out in the wilderness’. What a powerful phrase that is, it speaks of a yearning, of a need so deeply felt that it erupts from inside, a cry for justice, for deliverance, for humanity in the face of cruelty, for peace in the face of violence, for freedom in the face of oppression. In the desert of human suffering, in the wilderness of pain, a voice cries out. At this time in Advent, why do we hear of John the Baptist? Is his call for repentance all that Advent is about – or is there more?
Finding our real self – Advent Sunday
It has become a cliche to say that Advent is a time of preparation, especially as we so often seem to prepare for the expected rather than the unexpected. But what does it even mean to prepare? Are we being invited to make temporary and external arrangements, are the changes to be practical, visible but extrinsic? Is this to be but a brief hiatus before we return, once more, to ’normal’? Or are we being invited on a journey of transformation that is essentially intrinsic, perhaps even private and invisible to others, but which for us helps to uncover and discover our true selves, the true ‘us’ inside. Isn’t that what Jesus meant when he called us to life ‘in all its fullness’?
The Kingdom of Christ
Due to illness – this week we have a short video meditation.
For the festival of Christ the King, this poem entitled ’The Kingdom’ was written by R.S. Thomas 1913-2000.
Remembrance Sunday 2022
Today we make an act of commemoration but not celebration; we hold in our prayers those who have died and suffered in two world wars, in countless regional conflicts since, and in peace-keeping duties across the world. We mourn their loss and their suffering; the failure of politics and diplomacy that led to their sacrifice on the altar of human pride, obstinacy and indifference, and we also confess the darkness in our own hearts that all too often gives way to anger and seeks retribution. We pray that humanity may, before it is too late, consign war to the sins of history, and instead walk the ways of conciliation and peace.
We are all a bit cracked
The video was recorded in Montesinho, Northeastern Portugal at A Lagosta Perdida (https://lagostaperdida.com). The poem comes from ‘the state of us’ a first collection of poetry by Larry Doherty – ISBN: 978-1-5272-7173-9. Larry Doherty’s debut collection of poetry is eclectic, nuanced and powerful. It reflects his thoughts and feelings on life in these challenging, turbulent, watershed times.
All Saints & All Souls | Does charity really begin at home?
Perhaps one of the hidden dangers of keeping ‘All Saints Sunday’ is to project their goodness away from ourselves. To see sainthood as rarely bestowed, exceptionally lived out, the province of the miraculous and extraordinary. Examples perhaps, but ones that shouldn’t trouble us too much as they are so far removed from the normal, the average, the everyday human condition – hardly human at all, divine, godlike creatures. But the proximity of the feasts of All Saints and that of All Souls reminds us that the witness and example of the few, must also be reflected in the witness and example of the many. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus’s Sermon on the Plain confronts us with stark choices, for does charity really begin at home?
The Reality in the Eucharist – Last Sunday after Trinity
Christ was the word that spake it. He took the bread and brake it; and what his words did make it, that I believe and take it.
These words are famously attributed to Elizabeth the first when she was asked in Queen Mary’s reign what she believed to be happening in the Eucharist. In fact, it is a quote from John Donne’s Divine Poems – On the Sacrament. Today we focus on the sacrament itself, its meaning and implications for us, how in the Eucharist, Communion, we encounter Jesus in a way that we do at no other time. But what do we mean by Christ being present? And are more than bread and wine transformed?
Let justice roll down like waters – 18th Sunday after Trinity
Jesus tells the story of the so-called unjust judge – a story unique to the Gospel of Luke. From the language that he uses it is clear that Luke is not relating a parable about a particular judge, but a stock character, an archetype. The casting of a widow in the story heightens the listener’s sense of the judge’s wickedness. In Israel of the time, as in any patriarchal, agricultural economy the most vulnerable type of people were invariably orphans, strangers and widows, without land to their name – at the mercy of the powerful.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said: “What is the gospel if not a gospel of justice” We might re-phrase that and also ask ‘What is our church, if not a church of justice’. We might further ask ourselves, can that truly be said of me and my church?
The Wisdom of Strangers – 17th Sunday after Trinity, 2022
As the author, Aldous Huxley once said “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted”.
And if that is true of our everyday lives how much more true it is of our spiritual lives? For we can all get caught up in the routine, the familiarity of it all, the expected.
In today’s gospel by using the example of Jesus’ encounter with the faithful ‘outsider’, Luke is powerfully warning the Jewish people of his time, but also us and anyone who cares to listen, of the danger of taking some of the most important blessings of our lives for granted. Do we truly see and hear what is around and within us? Are we willing to learn from the one who is different?
Faith’s warning label -16th Sunday after Trinity
By chapter 17 of Luke’s gospel, we are now approaching the end of what is called the journey narrative. Jesus’s disciples will soon welcome him into Jerusalem, for some brief moments of triumph, and so it is fitting that the main focus of his teaching now moves to them. By now his audience is well primed to favour the ‘poor’ over those of riches and privilege. But, just because you might be considered among the more blessed poor, Jesus warns them, don’t think for a moment that you are exempt from responsibility and judgement. Even in the Kingdom there is opportunity for scandal and the need for repentance and forgiveness. How might that warning apply to us in our own time and very different circumstances?
Which side of the gate is safest? – 15th Sunday after Trinity
The idea of the ‘gated community’ has grown enormously in recent years. They are a symptom of societies that are so divided, so unequal, with such a small proportion of those who might be called well off and a vast number of those living in poverty, where such communities fear that at any moment the dreadful reality of their society could come crashing into their lives and homes. Gated communities are an attempt to deny the truth, to create a bubble of existence, that shuts its ears and eyes to the pain and suffering of society, in which one is actually involved and of which one might be also a cause. In today’s gospel reading Jesus confronts the timeless reality of injustice and indifference.
Showing who we are – 14th Sunday after Trinity
In Amos, the guilty are directly addressed – “…. you that trample on the needy and bring ruin to the poor of the land.”
And as he continues to travel towards Jerusalem, preaching as he goes, Jesus tells those with him just what it means to be a ‘disciple’.
Many of those with him would be the poor, the outcast, the oppressed, so a story about a rich man, moreover the most hated kind of all, the absentee landlord, would go down well. The master directs the cruel policy, the manager, the steward enacts it.
A tragic story not unknown in this land too.
And Jesus goes on to speak of money, how in their case, but also how for us, our attitudes to money can reveal who we are.
Lost, and found again – 13th Sunday after Trinity 2022
Jesus tells the parable of the hundred sheep, the ninety-nine in the shepherd’s care and the one who has wandered away and become lost.
The Pharisees and the scribes were quite certain, totally reassured, without any doubt, that they were the ninety-nine and that those of whom they so readily disapproved were the lost. No doubt there are some Christians today, equally convinced that they stand in the full and enduring glow of God’s approval, that they are the elect, the favoured ones, the ones who are certain and guaranteed and secure. But if we are honest, and have true spiritual humility, which of us, can be in any doubt that oftentimes we are in fact the one? Hoping against hope to be found – calling out here I am, please find me – bring me home!
Are we just a drop in the ocean? | 12th Sunday after Trinity
Today’s gospel message seems to create extreme pre-conditions for entry into the Kingdom: a willingness to break family ties, a willingness to face radical self-denial, and a willingness to renounce all material possessions.There may be some consolation in the fact that Luke was employing a typically Palestinian form of expression of its day, where the word ‘hate’ denotes not so much the emotion as a sense of priority, but nevertheless this is strong stuff. In wrestling with the passage we need to confront our notions of self, of society at large and lastly what, who, how we conceive God to be. We may come up with different answers to the people of Luke’s day – as well we might. What does it mean to be a drop in the ocean?
Exposing the great deception | 11th Sunday after Trinity
Sadly, in our modern world we have bought the great lie. The great deception. The famously wealthy businessman and politician, Nelson Rockefellor was once asked “how much money does one need in order to be happy?” His answer – “Just a little bit more.”
Coveting is based on fear, fear that only our possessions guarantee security, fear that we have nothing that we can put in place of the great lie. Coveting today is not only condoned, it is promoted and praised. We are told to be demanding customers, for whom good is never good enough. To be discontented. Except maybe that small still voice inside, telling us that we surely are meant for higher things.
So how then, can we be truly free?
All are free or none are free | 10th Sunday after Trinity
In the time of Jesus illness was not just a terrible burden in a time of primitive medicine, but also seen as a sign of guilt and divine punishment; freedom from illness as a sign of virtue and of moral worth. In today’s gospel the synagogue leader castigates Jesus for performing an act of healing on the Sabbath – his piety and fixity on the rules cancelling out his compassion. Jesus, on the other hand, speaks not only of healing, but also of setting free, of emancipation from the strictures of false piety and prejudice. Are we prepared to follow his example?