In the UK, during the pandemic, singing in church has been forbidden for congregations. Last Sunday the ban was finally lifted and we could sing again!
Today, after a hiatus of sixteen months, we are allowed to start singing hymns again. We can once more give voice to our praises, and sing out as we worship. And singing is such an important part of our worship. It’s something that believers in our God have always done. The Old Testament is full of hymns – not just in the book of Psalms but elsewhere as well. The New Testament too. And there are three hymns in the New Testament that the Church attaches such great importance to that they are said or sung every day, as they have been since the earliest days of the Church.
And all three are in the gospel of Saint Luke. They are Mary’’s song of praise that we know as The Magnificat which is sung daily at Evening Prayer. Then Zechariah’s song of praise following the birth of John the Baptist, sung daily at Morning Prayer and known as The Benedictus. And Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis, which he uttered as he received the baby Jesus in his arms when Mary and Joseph took him to the Temple at 40 days old.
Now, as many of you know I rather like illustrating sermons with lyrics from popular music. So how could I pass by today without coming up with a song to fit? And given our gospel reading today, Mary’s song of praise, there really is only one song to choose.
I’ll give you a clue – it’s a Beatles song. And for those of you who haven’t immediately guessed let me tell you – it’s Let It Be. One of The Beatles most famous songs, with Paul McCartney singing:Continue reading
Well, it’s all over for another year, with people across the country wondering what on earth to watch on TV last night – we certainly were! Yes, a week ago yesterday Stacey Dooley and her partner Kevin Clifton were crowned Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars outside the UK) champions for 2018, with Kevin shouting out live on air, “it’s a Christmas miracle.“Continue reading
Last Wednesday, the 15th August, was the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by Christians around the world. At St John’s we kept the feast this Sunday, it being the Sunday within the octave of the feast. Here’s what I said.
I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I am addicted to the ITV reality singing competition The Voice. I’m not at all embarrassed to admit that I have never watched a single edition of the ITV reality singing competition The X-Factor. Whether you like these programmes or not, like me you may well be amazed me that seems to be endless supply of young people desperate to be plucked from obscurity and rewarded with fame and fortune. They are all convinced that they can sing. Whether it’s the X-Factor or The Voice there are plenty of would-be stars – as to whether they have any talent or not, that’s for the public to judge. And then there are always those who say, “I’ve wanted to be a singer all my life!” Well – the pedant in me wants to say to them, “No, you haven’t – you didn’t want to be a singer when you were six months old!”
Today we come together to honour a young woman to whom the prospect of being plucked from obscurity and thrust into worldwide stardom simply never would have occurred. Such things are a product of our age, of course – there was nothing equivalent in 1st century Palestine. She was simply one teenage girl among thousands of others. And what had she wanted to do all her life? Well, she probably had no expectations of anything other than getting married and bearing children – that was life for women in 1st century Palestine. Though as far as we know she had spent her life in the service of God – certainly Church tradition would have us believe that, and that belief would be supported by the words of Gabriel when he came to announce to her that she had been chosen, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Continue reading
Today, the 15th of August, Christians around the world celebrate the woman chosen by God to bring his Son into the world – Mary. At St John’s we kept the feast last Sunday, and followed it with our customary celebration for the occasion with pre-lunch drinks in the vicarage garden. Here’s my sermon for the occasion.
Every year thousands of young people, desperate for fame and fortune, audition for TV shows such as The Voice UK or the X-Factor. They’re all apparently convinced of their magnificent voices and star quality.
Of course, not everyone has star quality. Those of you who who are familiar with X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talents will know that Simon Cowell can be somewhat forthright when dealing with some of the competitors. As he said to one X-Factor contestant: If you were the only one in the competition, you couldn’t win it. And to another: My advice would be if you want to make a career in the music business, don’t.
And my favourite, to a contestant whose day job was as a lifeguard: Continue reading
Last Sunday was the fourth Sunday of Advent, and as we approach Christmas our thoughts turn towards the coming nativity. This year, being the year of Luke, our gospel reading gives us Mary’s visit to her kinswoman Elizabeth, and her famous song of praise the Magnificat.
Don’t you sometimes have a great day – a day when the sun is shining and the birds are singing and the temperature is just right. A day when you feel really good. A day when, as you’re walking down the street you feel like bursting into song and singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning!” Because it’s a beautiful day and like Howard Keel in Oklahoma you’ve got a beautiful feeling that everything’s going your way. Perhaps you feel like that this morning! Well, perhaps not! Particularly this close to Christmas Day with so much still to do to get ready. But most of us have a day like that now and then – just not as often as we would like. Continue reading
Today the gospel reading is Mary’s visit to Elizabeth following the Annunciation. Here’s what I said.
When I first looked at today’s gospel reading last Monday morning there was a bit of me that thought: Perhaps I should put off any sermon preparation until after the 21st – after all, no point in putting a sermon together if it turns out I don’t need one. As it is, the end of the Mayan calendar on Friday didn’t result in the world coming to a sticky end, as some were predicting. And we all woke up on Saturday morning to find the world still here, and much the same as it was the day before. So, here we are, with yet another failed end of the world prediction behind us, considering once again the reaction of a young Jewish girl to the news that – for her, at least, the world was never going to be the same again. For most people, the day following the Annunciation was much the same as the day before. For Mary, the visit from God’s messenger, Gabriel, meant that her whole life was to be turned upside down and she was projected from unknown Jewish teenager to eventual global fame.
There are those who think that receiving the blessing of Simon Cowell and winning X-Factor is a big deal. Believe me – Mary’s blessing from God puts her in a whole different league. Continue reading