Here we are – Advent Sunday. And I wouldn’t mind betting that even though Advent is still only a few hours old you’re already, most of you, thinking about Christmas. In vicarworld we can beat that – we’re already planning Lent and Easter. So let’s just think about Easter for a moment and the words of Saint Augustine: “We are an Easter people – and Hallelujah is our song”.
But away from Easter and back to Advent. We are an Easter people, but we are also an Advent people – a people for whom the world is only temporal and which one day will end when Jesus returns. Father Charles Riepe, an American Roman Catholic, wrote this linking Easter and Advent: Advent then is dedicated to the last things, to death, judgement, heaven and hell, but above all to Jesus’ glorious coming to complete his Easter work. The church goes so far as to set aside an entire liturgical season to the end of the world and the final coming of the Lord, so important a part of the faith does she consider these truths.
An entire season to think about the end of the world! And linked, I would suggest like Charles Riepe, to Easter rather than Christmas, ‘dedicated to Jesus’ glorious coming to complete his Easter work.’Continue reading
I never thought I’d ever find myself saying this.
I think I want to go and live in Albert Square.
Albert Square is, of course, in the London Borough of Walford. And for those of you are still in the dark let me tell you – it’s where Eastenders is set. (Note: Eastenders is a famous soap opera broadcast by the BBC.)
But why do I think I might want to go and live there?
Well – the residents of Albert Square are coping with the Covid19 problem just like the rest of us. We know they are because every so often it gets a mention. But living there is so much better than living anywhere else. For a start, no one has been shielding or self-isolating. And no-one seems to possess a mask. Not only do you not see any of the local residents wearing masks in the street, they don’t wear them when they go into the local convenience store to do their shopping. Neither do they wear them when they go into the Queen Victoria public house. Yes! The pub is still open and has been all through lockdown! As is the local café. No ‘takeaways only’ in Albert Square!
People in Albert Square are in and out of each other’s houses all the time. I grant that it’s usually to argue with each other, but at least they can go visiting.Continue reading
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
It was, of course, Easter Day last Sunday. And here is the sermon preached by Mother Anne-Marie.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Come on, you all know the joyful answer: “He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!” It is spring, well maybe it is spring – we remain ever hopeful. The daffodils are blooming, and the blossom is just beginning to come out, there are Easter Eggs to eat, and the Lord is risen. There are no notes of sadness, worry, grief, or fear in our greetings to one another this morning.
But how different it was early on that first Easter morning as Mark tells us in our gospel. The three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, didn’t greet one another with such great joy. There were no alleluias, no happiness in their hushed whispers. They were grieving and devastated. They had seen their beloved Jesus, their teacher, stripped of not only his clothes, but every possible shred of human dignity, executed in the most horrible way, and laid in the garden tomb late on the Friday.
And then sunset had come, the Sabbath was upon them and they could do nothing. Continue reading
Today at St John’s we kept Godparents Sunday – a new initiative of the Church of England last year, though the Orthodox Church has always done it as far as I know. The gospel reading was the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection. Mother Anne-Marie gave the talk at our main service and it was interactive, as we had all the children in, so isn’t easily reproducible here. I, however, also gave a short homily at our early mass and spoke about the road to Emmaus – here’s what I said.
Many years ago we had a friend who – although in a well-paid job – was not particularly good at handling her finances. At regular intervals she would get a letter from the bank informing her that she was over her limit and asking how she intended to correct the situation. These letters always depressed her greatly – and to ease her depression she always resorted to the same solution – she would go out shopping and have a spending spree. It made her feel better even though it just made things worse in the long run. Continue reading
They had watched the person die. They checked the body – yes, definitely dead. And so, having made sure that the body had been buried, and knowing that the grave was subsequently sealed, they thought it was all over. The only problem was that subsequently someone saw the person again – apparently alive. Or was it a ghost. They can’t be alive, surely, thought those who knew the body must still be buried. And then they were confronted by the person they thought gone for ever, alive and talking to them. The grave is empty.
Yes – Eastenders (For those outside the UK – a widely watched British TV soap opera and a bit of a national institution) have done it again. For those of you who don’t watch Eastenders you don’t know what you’re missing. Or perhaps you do, which is why you don’t watch it. Let me explain. Continue reading
It was my turn to preach this week for the feast of Christ the King. Here’s what I said.
“We do not go to Church; we live in the Church and go into the world”. Words of the Roman Catholic writer Keith Fournier. “We do not go to Church; we live in the Church and go into the world”.
So it’s Sunday morning and the family are milling around getting their breakfast, cereal is spilling on the floor, the radio is booming out music you don’t like, “Are you going to church this morning Mum?”, asks one of your teenagers who is still lolling about in pyjamas. He’s probably hoping you will say “yes” so there will be a couple of hours free of nagging about doing jobs and homework! You pause, and say “No, I’m not going to Church, I’m going Home”. Continue reading
Easter day at St John’s began with our dawn service at 5.45am. We started with the kindling of the Easter fire and the lighting of the Paschal candle we processed in the darkness into the church where everyone lit their Easter candles. After I sang the Exsultet (the ancient hymn praising God for the light of Christ, represented by the Paschal Candle) we listened to the drama of our salvation unfolding through readings from the Old and New Testament before renewing our baptismal promises and celebrating the first mass of Easter.
This year we had the gospel reading from Mark and his account of the women going to the tomb. Unlike the resurrection accounts in the other gospels it ends on a rather odd note. Continue reading
“I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.” The final words of Humphrey Bogart just before he died at the age of 57.
Famous last words. Some clearly thought them through. Some tried to be amusing at the last. Others simply didn’t know what to say. And yet if you’re famous you can guarantee that your final words will live, and be repeated, long after you are gone. And one of the problems of being famous is that you are often expected to leave behind you something inspirational. Karl Marx, as he neared death, was asked by his housekeeper who was the only person with him, for some profound and meaningful last thoughts. “Go away!” he shouted at her, “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!” and she fled from the room to leave him to pass away in silence. And yet last words can often be deeply moving and inspiring. Continue reading
Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Lent and as usual the gospel reading was about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness.
“Well, Jesus. You’re marooned and alone on your desert island. Well, perhaps not an island but you’re in the desert and on your own. What are your eight pieces of music? What luxury would you like to have? And what book, apart from the Bible and Shakespeare?”
We are all familiar with the concept behind Desert Island Discs [Note – Desert Island discs is a popular long-running radio programme in the UK]. Each week a famous person goes along with the fantasy that they have been marooned all alone on a rather nice hot and sunny desert island somewhere in the tropics with an apparently endless supply of food and clean clothing, a decent bed and toilet facilities. I’m assuming those things are all there since no-one ever seems to ask for them for their luxury. Continue reading
Here is my sermon for Easter Day.
Perhaps it’s just my imagination. Eastenders (for readers from abroad – Eastenders is a highly popular TV soap from the BBC noted for its miserable storylines and characters) always used to seem to be so miserable and depressing. But recently I’ve noticed that nobody in Eastenders seems to have to face the problems that the rest of us are dealing with. In fact they seem to be rather oblivious to the regular stream of bad news that we normal people have to cope with.
I can’t remember anyone moaning about the cold weather – or the cost of petrol – or rising fuel bills. Continue reading