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
Since our church has as its patron Saint John the Evangelist, we always keep the Sunday following Saint John’s Day (27th December) as our patronal festival. Here’s what Mother Anne-Marie said on the occasion.
If you were with us over Christmas, we seemed to have a theme in the talks and sermons – at least at the Christingle and Midnight Mass – that of light and darkness. It wasn’t planned. In fact, after my talk at the Christingle service, Fr Jerry said, “you’ve stolen some of my midnight sermon!” You see there was no conferring – the theme emerges from the readings and what we are thinking about – Jesus as the light of the world.
These themes of light and dark interweave in the writings of St John the Evangelist whose feast we keep today. At midnight mass we heard the great Prologue to his Gospel – “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”. Today in his first letter we hear “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all”. These days we hear the phrase “God is love” banded about a lot and it is a comforting, cuddly, warm sort of phrase, also coming from the pen of John, though he didn’t mean it in the rather bland cuddly way it is used today. He was talking of a costly love which involved an agonising death on a cross. Continue reading
We had a really full church for Midnight Mass this year. As always, the gospel reading was the wonderful prologue of Saint John’s gospel.
On Christmas Day in 1977 over half the population of the United Kingdom did exactly the same thing at the same time. 28 million 835 thousand of us in this country sat down to watch the same television programme at the same time on Christmas Day. And it wasn’t the Queen’s speech! It was …….any guesses I wonder? It was the Continue reading
The 27th December is the feast day of Saint John, patron of our church, so we keep the Sunday after as our patronal festival. Here’s what I said, though my apologies for being a little late. My script was somewhat annotated from the computer copy and after the service a member of the congregation asked to borrow it to read. Now it’s been returned I am able to post what I actually said.
The Church is often accused of being out of touch with society. Well, it certainly seems to be out of touch with society on the few days after Christmas Day as those who attend mass on the three days after Christmas Day can testify. For they are faced with a Church that is a far cry from the eating, drinking and partying that is going on in the world outside. Get to Boxing Day and it’s clear that the Church isn’t celebrating the way everyone else is at all. Continue reading
This Sunday the gospel reading was Jesus giving the disciples the new commandment of love. Here is what I said.
Every Saturday night, as I cook our Saturday Supper, I close the kitchen door and put on some good, loud music to cook by. And you can’t help but notice just how many of the great songs released over the past fifty years or so have something to do with love.
There seem to have been more songs written about love – whether requited or unrequited love – than about anything else. There are thousands of them – and many of them instantly forgettable, though some of them have stood the test of time. “All you need is love”, sang the Beatles, tuning in to the mood of the Sixties but rather missing the point that life is not quite that simple. And, I suspect, thinking of love as warm feelings, feelings of kindness, a desire to do good to others, even, perhaps, as desire for others, but without any of the sense of deep commitment that Jesus calls his disciples to in today’s Gospel reading. Perhaps Michael Ball was closer to the Christian concept of love when he sang the words of Andrew Lloyd Webber: “Love, love changes everything, how I live, and how I die”.
Abba sang about love a lot. I should know. I listen to Abba a lot. Take their song “People need love” which I listened to again last night while preparing our Jambalaya. Continue reading
The gospel reading for last Sunday was the story from Saint John of Mary, Martha and Lazarus entertaining Jesus. And Mary pours perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair. Here’s what I said.
In the name of the Living God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I’m going to begin with a story – a true story. It is told by William G Carter , a Presbyterian Pastor from Pennsylvania. He writes:
I will never forget the furor sparked at a stewardship conference at which an ecumenical group of pastors gathered to discuss generosity. One presenter spoke about offering a gift directly to God, and the clergy began to yawn. Then he pulled a $100 bill from his wallet, set it on fire in an ashtray, and prayed, “Lord, I offer this gift to you, and you alone.” The reaction was electric. Clergy began to fidget in their chairs, watching that [banknote] go up in smoke as if it were perfume. One whispered it was illegal to burn currency. Another was heard to murmur, “If he is giving money away, perhaps he has a few more.” “Do you not understand,” said the speaker. “I am offering it to God, and that means it is going to cease to be useful for the rest of us.”
Today’s gospel is about burning money. Continue reading
Last Sunday we kept the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It should, of course, really be on the 15th and in recent years we have kept it on the sunday of the octave. This year we were just a little bit naughty and pre-empted the feast. Here’s my sermon
Today we come together to honour the mother of Jesus. Every year on or around the 15th August Christians around the world come together to give thanks for the role played by Mary in bringing about our salvation. For without Mary’s “yes” to God there would have been no incarnation. Continue reading