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Banish Evil in Hayes
God has given us a sack full of seeds to plant in Hayes. So let’s go out and plant those seeds. Let’s pull up the weeds and plant the seeds of Jesus Christ in people’s hearts, because if that seed grows in their heart, it will banish all evil and darkness from them.
In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Please sit.
I love the parable of the mustard seed and I love the imagery behind it. I think I think one of the reasons I think I love it is because it’s the most I think it must be the single most used name for Christian coffee shops and books around the country, the mustard seed. And the reason for that, I think, is because we can connect with it. We can understand what Jesus is saying to us. And that’s exactly the point of the gospel.
Jesus taught people in a way that they could understand. So we all know how tiny a mustard seed is. We all know how absolutely tiny it sits on the tip of your finger. And we all know what the outcome is when that seed is planted and when it grows, how big a thing it turns into. And that’s the joy of the parables in the Gospels, because they they help us think about our lives in Jesus Christ. I always think of the mustard seed as us when we are baptised, because for most people we’re baptised when we’re babies, some people are baptised as adults, but that that faith inside us that little spark God, that beginning of a relationship with Jesus Christ is tiny.
It’s miniscule. You worry that if you prod it too hard or you breathe on it in the wrong way or you don’t look after it, then it won’t it won’t grow into anything. But that seed, just like us in baptism, contains everything that is needed to become a fully grown, fully realised Christian in the world from that tiny little plant, that tiny beginning. It will grow into something useful and good in the world. And of course, often you don’t know what that will be as Jesus talks of the man who throws the seeds.
We don’t know what shape that plant will be. We don’t know what colour it will be. We don’t know whether or not it’s going to hang over to the left is going to hang over to the right whether or not it’s going to be enormous or whether or not it’s going to be a small plant. We don’t know if it’s going to produce wonderful fruit. We don’t know if it’s going to be bitter and have a use in a different way.
But we do know that it will grow. And that’s what’s asked of us here in this place in Hayes, when I arrived a little over 10 months ago, I said to you that there were three things that we were going to be about, that we were going to be rooted in the parish. And we’ve been that we’ve spent 10 months becoming rooted in the parish because each and every one of you has gone out and told your friends that I know you have because they come and see me and spoken to me.
You’ve gone to your friends and you’ve said to them, the church is open and it’s alive and it’s joyful. Come to church. And you’ve spoken to people about the enthusiasm and excitement that we have for our future and people have come, we see it day by day when we are open and people come into this building to seek comfort, to seek succour, and they don’t even know that they’re looking for Jesus, but that’s what they’re looking for. I said that we would be rooted in scripture and sacrament, and that’s what we’ve spent 10 months being, even through lockdown.
We have been able to receive the sacrament pretty much every day. We have received scripture every day. We have received teaching on the scripture every day. We are rooted in scripture and sacrament. And so now we must embrace the third of those things that I talked about, which is a love in proclaiming Jesus Christ. Over the last 10 months that has grown from just something that I tal
Corpus Christi 2021
It’s powerful. It’s powerful beyond words, and when you leave this place on a Sunday, when you leave this place after daily mass, you should feel like you’re walking five foot off the ground because you are a superhero.
In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen, please, sit.
There were some very determined humming going on during that last hymn.
It strikes me as somewhat odd, as many of you know, I’m a trustee for SPCK, the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, and it’s been about since the 17th century and it predominantly helps people understand their relationship with God through publishing. So we publish lots and lots of books.
And my career before I became a priest was in publishing. And it’s always struck me that the books that sell most in Christian publishing, often those that purport to help people live good Christian lives. So, for example, daily devotional books where you can open a book each day and there’s a daily daily devotional that helps you connect with God. They’re beautiful and they sell wonderfully. So clearly people are looking for a way to connect with God each and every day.
They’re looking for something to help them find that connection with God. And the reason I find it slightly odd that they sell so well is that Jesus gave us the tools we need to connect with God each and every day. He did it the night before he died. He gave it to us in the Eucharist and he gave it to us through scripture. Now, that’s me, being an absolute purist, but we have everything that we need to know God every single day, we have the pattern to live a good Christian life every single day.
And the best devotional you can possibly take home and follow is your Mass Card. Now you’re looking at me like Father’s finally going over the edge and lost it, because how can this help you live a good Christian life? Well, it’s because the Eucharist, the mass, gives us the model of a perfect Christian life. And it’s not a model that the church invented. It’s the model that Jesus Christ gave us. So let’s look let’s look at that structure.
Let’s look at what we do. It’s the reason why we have mass every single day in this church. How does mass start? In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we call on the name of the Trinitarian God. Brains, tummy and heart, like I preached about last week. And then the first thing we do is confess our sins. We fall to our knees and we say, God, we’ve got it wrong, we’ve made mistakes.
But we want to be better. Will you please forgive me my sins so that I can be better? Will you please wipe clean the slate so I can go out into the world and be better? Then we sing Praise Glory to God in the highest, because the moment our sins are wiped clean, that we receive that forgiveness from God. What do we say? We say, thank you, God, thank you for this wonderful gift. And I know that it’s a gift that stays with you all week because I’ve been stood behind you in the Iceland queue hearing you singing Glory to God in the highest.
So it sticks with us through the week, that glory of thanks. And then we then we offer our prayer for the week The Collect, which brings us back to focus on – Scripture. You know, Catholics, us Catholics in our bit to the Church of England, we often get criticised for not knowing our scripture. But my gosh, we know our scripture, there isn’t a single service in this church that doesn’t have a multitude of readings every single day in this church morning prayer -we have several readings from Scripture. Mass, we have several readings from Scripture, evening prayer, several readings from scripture. We constantly study scripture. And so it’s at the heart of our mass, what is God saying to us today? And
Love Inside the Trinity
…because the only way to understand the Trinity – is to live inside its love.
In the name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Amen.
What a powerful powerful command!
“Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.”
There’s no mistaking the intention of Jesus in this command. Go out into the world! Preach the Good News and do so in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today, as I’m sure you’re all aware is Trinity Sunday. It’s a day we call to mind the Holy Trinity and what that means to us today. An annual reminder of this simple command – to make new Christians in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
It is tempting to try and pull apart the Trinity. To understand it at a purely academic level. To pull apart the gospels – scripture in general and to concentrate solely on our brains in the exploration of our faith. To forget our stomachs and our hearts.
We shouldn’t do this – because our faith is a felt faith. It is a faith that exists as much in our hearts and our stomachs as it does in our brains. The moment we forget that we lose the awesome breadth of what God has in store for us – we lose the ability to engage with what Jesus taught us – and we lose sight of what the Holy Spirit wants us to do in this life.
Now, I’m not saying we should leave our brains at the door when we come to church. What I am saying is that academic and intellectual exploration has to work alongside that gut feeling we all experience when we see the work of the Holy Spirit and that gentle warming of our heart we feel when we see the love of Jesus in action.
Our faith is a broad, complex and wonderful thing. It interacts with the world in a myriad of ways and people interact with us – and the faith they see in us – in a myriad of ways.
We should be open to all those possibilities.
The fact that somebody may want to talk to us about where the Trinity appears in scripture for example. There are many myths in the world that the Trinity does not appear in scripture – I gave a talk to a Muslim study group two weeks ago and was confronted with this so-called fact – but I was prepared for it and was able to open scripture for them in a way they were not expecting! We spent half an hour reading Matthew together and discussing the implication of the Trinity being a real thing in their lives. They were clearly shocked that this was there – right there in scripture and we were commanded to go out and baptise in the name of the Trinity. I was rather cut off short by the leader as more interesting questions started cropping up!
Or it may be that people want to know what the practical outworking of the Trinity in our day to day lives is, or they may want to understand how our love of God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit makes us feel.
We need to be prepared to answer these questions in the real world.
How does God make you feel?
How does the Holy Spirit guide your daily life?
How has Jesus taught you to live a life more pleasing to God?
These questions form the heart of what we talk about in the world when we bring people to the love of Jesus – and in so doing – to the love of God and the Holy Spirit.
They are true because we experience them. We experience them with our brains, with our stomachs and with our hearts.
This is a truth that has been known for millennia.
Our faith is an experienced faith.
It has to be lived out to be understood. It has to be engaged with and asked questions of, but ultimately the truth of it is found in our hearts, stomachs and brains.
When we talk to people about God, we engage them with all
Call in the Holy Spirit
The promised helper – the Paraclete
We have been living in hard times. I hardly need to tell you that. In many ways we have been taken out of our ordinary lives and placed somewhere quite different. For some the change has been extraordinary and for others it has been more subtle.
We have had to be like the disciples. Following Jesus after his resurrection and assentation and searching for a way to follow him now that many of our usual paths, routines and systems have been removed or changed beyond recognition.
Some of us will react like Thomas in that upper room – ‘I won’t believe it until I can touch His wounds’. Some of us will be like Philip ‘Lord give us a sign!’. Others of us may be like Peter and at first deny the truth, our association with Jesus, and try to push it away when questioned by others.
But over Eastertide – over lockdown – perhaps we’ve all had a chance to go on a journey with Jesus in a way we have never done before.
Nearly 2000 years after it was written scripture continues to inspire and guide us.
How can Jesus speak to us so directly across this space and time?
Let’s start with the Gospel of John which contains todays reading. For John, there is only one test of Love – and that is obedience. For John – love is not some silly fleeting thing that causes butterflies in our tummy, it is not something that can be summed up in a Hallmark card on valentine’s day. No. Love, for John, is an all-encompassing thing whose outward working and sign is obedience. We have heard many times over the last few weeks:
“If you love me, keep my commandments;”
I think we all know people who say they love us; whose love is a fleeting thing. We’ve all been teenagers and have experienced that wave of love that seems utterly overwhelming – but ultimately has no depth.
It is only in marriage where love truly blossoms – where a true dedication to each other’s lives and obedience to one another and to God – takes hold of that love and builds it up into the kind of love that John talks of.
A love that will result in sacrifice for the other, a love that will result in hardship and depravation if that is what is needed to sustain the family, a love that will excel and build to a level you never thought possible when times are good.
Love is not an easy thing, but it is most clearly demonstrated in obedience – and this is what Jesus was teaching us. He knows that we are going to find this obedience difficult.
We all know this kind of obedience is difficult. It is the reason we pray, the reason we come to church, the reason we share this life of following Jesus because we know that if we want to experience and share that love we need help.
And it is why Jesus sends us a helper – and we see that helper arriving today at Pentecost.
Jesus is telling us this week that we don’t have to try to achieve this love, this obedience to his commandments on our own. We do not have to struggle with being without Him on our own. We do not have to endure this hardship, this depravation on our own.
He is sending us the Paraclete.
That’s an odd word.
We only really hear it at this time of year and although I’m not normally a fan of Greek lessons in sermons this word demands it because the meaning behind it is the meaning of what Jesus is telling us in sending us this ‘helper’
The word in Greek is paraklētos – it’s pretty much untranslatable because it’s a word that contains a great deal of meaning. John Wyclif translated it as the ‘Comforter’ – but that word has changed its meaning so much that it no longer quite does the job. Another translation has it as ‘helper’ – that’s better – but perhaps the best way to translate it is not as a word but a series of uses
Pray to be holy
…you don’t need a collar… in order to be Holy, what you do need to do is pray.
Consecrate them in the truth, your word is truth. In our gospel today, we see Jesus praying. His eyes raised towards heaven. And this is what he asked us to do when he ascended into heaven to spend these days before the coming of the Holy Spirit in prayer. To raise our eyes towards heaven. To our almighty father and to seek his wisdom and his love. Many people think that to pray, you must somehow be especially Holy.
And we touched on that in the gospel, with that word consecrate, what does it mean to be consecrated in the truth of the Lord? Well, it’s taken to mean to be Holy. And this piece of gospel, this prayer is often called the priestly prayer Jesus priestly prayer. He is praying for his apostles, the forerunners of priests that we have today. And he’s praying that they are consecrated to the truth of God. And before the 1960s and 1970s, there was a real sense that in order to be Holy, the only path to holiness was through the consecrated life being a priest, a deacon, a bishop, or being a member of a religious order.
That was the only way that you could lead a Holy life. And after the 1960s, Vatican two, there was a sense that this was missing out on the everyday holiness that exists in in people that we meet all of the time. And to say that the only way that you can be Holy or the only way to live a consecrated life is to be ordained or to be a member of a religious order is to rather miss the point of the holiness that exists in all of us.
One of the things that I always say and I’m absolutely convinced of, is that God exists in every single one of us as a spark in our hearts. And that spark, that flame can be pushed down, it can be dampened and it can be hidden, but it never really goes away. But what we can do is we can blow gently on that flame and we can give it a little bit of kindling, we can give it a little bit of wood, and with a little bit of work, that flame will grow.
That spark will turn into a flame, the flame will turn into a fire. And before we know it, God will be burning brightly within us so brightly the fact that it shines out into the world around us.
Now to me. That’s what being Holy is about. Being Holy is about understanding that that spark of God within us takes time to look after. That it requires fuel. That it needs a little bit of encouragement every now and again, that it needs protecting from too much wind or too much thrown on it at once.
So we have to care for that spark, and if we do, it will grow. And this is why I think we have that connection between ordained ministry and the religious life and being Holy because the very structure of being ordained, the very structure of living a religious life, is daily care and maintenance of that holiness that already exists within. Through daily prayer, through daily mass, through learning to live with people that you don’t necessarily get on with in a community.
Through structured study of scripture. Through all of those things that these lives that I and many others lead force on, and that’s a gift, that’s a gift, because I don’t have to think very much about maintaining my spark because I have to do it as part of my everyday life. I think it’s often harder for those who don’t live that rigorous life of prayer and of mass because you have to figure out how to maintain that spark. How do you help it grow?
And it’s been particularly tough over the last 12 months because we’ve not been able to do those things that will help with that, we’ve not been able to meet and study scripture together. We’ve not been able to meet and pray together in house groups. I have not been able to come and visit you in our homes to talk about the things that will help you give mo
The Love of God
Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48 & John 15:9-17
And so we are called to love one another. Not just when it’s easy. But when it’s hard.
In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen, please sit.
What I command you is to love one another. I mean, it’s kind of where I should stop the sermon, isn’t it? I mean, what else is there to say? What I command you is to love one another. We have our APCM today, that’s the annual parochial church meeting, and because the Church of England is an established church and because it can make laws of the land, we have to make sure that we have oversight from the people that we care for in our parishes.
And so once a year, we have to have this this meeting where we present our accounts and we present what we’ve done in the year and we write reports and then it’s open for anybody in the parish to ask any questions or say, could you do this or could you do that? We do it every year.
And in in in many ways, that’s very irritating because we have to sit down and write quite detailed reports. We have to produce quite detailed accounts. And actually it would be an awful lot easier if I could just shut the doors of those church of this church, and we could all just come in and everybody else could just get on with their business and we could get on with our business and just get on like that. But if we were to do that and there are churches that do that, if we were to do that, we would miss we would miss this command to love one another.
Now, to love one another isn’t to be nice to one another, we can all be nice to one another, and I’m sure we’ve all had a smile on our face when we’ve spoken to somebody that we don’t like and through gritted teeth, be nice to them. I know I have. But to love somebody. Is hard. It’s really, really hard and to love somebody who isn’t in your club. Is even harder. What do I mean by that?
Well, to love somebody in your family, well, you can kind of go, OK, I get that. I understand that love is kind of hardwired into us, that love for our family is hardwired into us by years of evolution and protecting our family. And you can go a little bit further. You can say, well, I can love my friends because this is my group of people who support me and care for me. So that’s easy.
And bizarrely, it’s quite easy to love somebody that you don’t know at all. Because they have no impact on your lives.
But it’s hard to love those people who are at the edge of your community and at the edge of your family, and that’s why we as churches and that’s why we here at Saint Anselm continually go on about loving the people at the edge, because it’s the hardest thing for us to do. We have to fight our human nature to allow it to happen because the people who are at the edge.
Well, there’s lots of reasons not to like them, never mind, not love them.
Now, this is really interesting because as soon as I said that, I used the word them and I’ve already put the people on the edge into a separate category, then what do I mean by that? What I mean is that people who do not comply with our rules of how to live a life are not welcome. That is how the world is. It is how the world has been for thousands of years. It’s there in our first reading.
People believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God. Jesus has risen from the dead, and yet still the people of the time are saying, if you don’t follow this rule, you cannot be in this club. They’re gate keeping the love of Jesus. Saying here is the gate and you could only come through it if you jump through these hoops. And what they are doing is they’re getting it the wrong way round. There shouldn’t be a gate to come to know Jesus, there shouldn’t be hoops you have to jump through in order to come to Jesus.