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Resurrection life – Honorary Minor Canon Peniel Rajkumar

Preacher: Honorary Minor Canon Peniel Rajkumar

Title of sermon: Resurrection life

Date/time/service: Sunday 8 May 2022, 4pm, Choral Evensong

 

When I initially told my wife about my new association with York Minster, I was gently reminded that I had a hard example to emulate, because one Indian many would associate with Yorkshire would be the Indian cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar. Well, no pressure there, though I have to admit that my cricketing abilities are not quite up to Tendulkar’s. But on the other hand, I learnt that Tendulkar’s link with Yorkshire lasted just a little over four and a half months, and I’m genuinely hoping to be here a bit longer, not the least because of the beauty of this place and the generous welcome I’ve received from its people. Thank you.

Narratives, narratives and more narratives! The Easter experience of Jesus’ disciples seems to be filled with narratives. Our gospel reading is set in the middle of one such narrative and begins with the words “while they were talking about this”. The disciples are talking about Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus appears in their midst.

However exciting these narratives of Jesus’s resurrection may have sounded, they nevertheless seem powerless to irrupt into the reality of the eleven disciples, who seem barricaded from the rest of the world by grief, fear and doubt. The disciples seem to be in some senses what the Indian theologian Stanley Samartha calls “the Saturday people”, squeezed between Good Friday and Easter, who inhabit that unbearable pause between death and life, to whom Easter never comes.

No wonder they are shocked when Jesus  appears among them. They did not expect this because Jesus’s crucifixion was a Roman execution that was meant to be the metaphorical final nail – something so cruel, so cunning and so complete that it was meant to be a ‘full-stop’.

And into this reality of doubt, despair and disillusionment Jesus breaks in, confounding the disciples.  But what happens next is even more shocking. Jesus calls the same disciples who doubt his resurrection, to a new life of witness. While they are still caught in a flux of conflicting emotions – joy, disbelief and wonder – Jesus calls them to a new life which will culminate in them receiving power from on high. They are embraced in all their vulnerability and confusion into the possibility of a transformed life.

Yet, this transformed life is not a life of quick fixes. One of the consistent features of Jesus’s resurrection stories is that they offer no quick solutions for the disciples’ fears and doubts.  Jesus appears and disappears, but very little happens in their life. However, the way the disciples are transformed is through embracing Jesus’ invitation to enter into a new pattern of living.

In our reading we see that the initiation to such living begins with the sharing of food – a distinctive mark of Jesus’s earthly ministry. In this table fellowship the disciples become hosts to Jesus himself, who enters their life as a hungry guest and asks them “have you anything to eat?” and teaches them at the heart of their new life was the challenge of responding to the need of the ‘other’.

It is a pattern of living where the disciple’s minds are opened to fresh readings of the scriptures in a context where closed minds may have provided more comfort and certitude.

It is a pattern of living where the disciples are promised the power to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in a context where revenge and retaliation might have been easier and preferable.

Finally, it is a pattern of living where they are asked to wait to be clothed by that power which is not of this world, while resisting the overwhelming temptation to make this power one’s own possession.

That is the promise and possibility that the risen Christ opens to a despairing and disbelieving people. The former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams captures the significance of this dimension of the resurrection in the following words, “The Christian proclamation of the resurrection of the crucified just man, his return to his unfaithful friends and his empowering of them to forgive in his name offers a narrative structure in which we can locate our recovery of identity and human possibility”.

In Christ’s resurrection we are offered the possibility of a life that is both transformed and transforming. It is this transformed and transforming life that we may be called to live out in a turbulent global context of war, hate and greed, where it is easy to lose hope like the disciples, and  – as a modern poet poignantly put it – “let the wire brush of doubt scrape from our heart, all sense of ourself and our hesitant light”.

Thankfully this life is available to us as an invitation of the risen Christ, who accompanies us through our fears, our doubts and beyond with the words – “Peace be with you. Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Amen

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The Resurrection Perspective – Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Preacher: Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Title of sermon: The Resurrection Perspective

Date/time/service: Sunday 1 May 2022

 

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There are moments in life that change us. That change our perspective indelibly.  Not just a U-turn to save face, or an alternative choice, but a complete ground breaking, life-changing, earth shattering transformation of fundamental proportions.

There are moments in life that change our perspective and make us look at the world differently. Almost as if we have been given a new way of seeing things. Moments that turn all of our assumptions upside down. Paradigm shifts, Eureka moments at the most personal level: a ‘Damascus Road experience’, is the phrase often used. An Epiphany, an enlightenment. An event which completely re-orients our very being, our lives, and our way of life. We’re never the same again.

When orbiting in space or walking on the moon, Astronauts from the International Space Station, are able in the most unique and profound way, to quite literally look at the world differently, from a different point of view. They look back at our blue planet, silently spinning, and see it in all of its wonder and fragility. The effect that this experience has on the astronauts has been well noted.

The NASA Astronaut, Nicole Stott describes how looking upon the earth from a distance, gives humanity a new perspective: She says: “We have this connection to Earth. And I don’t know how you can come back and not, in some way, be changed. It may be subtle. You see differences in different people in their general response when they come back from space. But I think, collectively, everybody has that emblazoned on their memories, the way the planet looks. You can’t take that lightly.”

This is a common phenomenon amongst those who journey into space, they call it the ‘overview effect’, a cognitive shift in awareness, a huge ruction in perspective which changes your life forever. It might result in compassion for the planet, an acknowledgment of the preciousness of life, a desire to do good and make the most of the time that has been given to us.

Most of us, will not be lucky enough to jet off into space.  But there will be moments in our lives when our world view shifts in a similar way to those astronauts- moments of clarity and insight-when we see the world differently.  In your own life can you identify the moments which have changed you? A moment of intellectual clarity? A sudden realisation of the truth? A revelation? Falling in love? The birth of a child? The experience of grief? An illness? A global pandemic perhaps? Can you identify the moments when you have experienced the Overview effect and been enlightened or shocked into seeing things in a new way?

The events of the resurrection which we continue to celebrate and which we are witness to today (recounted in the Gospel of John), illustrate world changing events in the lives of a small community of men and women in first century Palestine. The Lord of heaven and earth, the one who had been crucified, dead and buried, appears in a garden to Mary, moves through closed doors to be with the disciples in the upper room, walks along a road and reveals the meaning of the scriptures- breaking bread with the disciples, stands with them on a beach, early in the morning.

As the sun rose, this was the new day, the new beginning which no-one could have anticipated. The new day of a new world. Here was Christ, risen from the dead. How could this be possible? Of course the disciples didn’t know that it was Jesus, because that possibility was beyond anyone’s comprehension. The dead did not come back to life.  But here was Jesus. Stood on the beach and when their nets were empty, when they felt dejected and useless and lost, when they perhaps could see no way out, no way forward, when they had no perspective, this risen Christ tells them to put their nets on the other side. In sense he is telling them to look at things differently.

This is what Christ does, always calling us to see the world differently, to believe in the impossible, daring us to change, willing us to be born again and see the world as if for the first time. Urging us to throw our net on the other side, strengthening us to break out of the traditions and expectations and assumptions that bind and imprison us.  Christ wakens humanity from the slumber which obscures new life and breathes into us the gift of spirit, bursting the prisons of our souls and turning hearts of stone to hearts of mutable, transformable, changeable flesh.

For Saul, on the road to Damascus the voice and the light of Christ are dramatic interventions which turn a persecutor to a protector, an enemy to an advocate, a denier into a believer. This new perspective gives birth to Paul, whose life is then lived in proclaiming the risen Lord to anyone who was ready to see the world differently, a man whose life was turned upside down by Christ. The same might be said of Peter in whom three denials are transformed into three commissions, to tend and to feed the new community of Christ. A weak willed man, through the eyes of Christ is changed into the rock on whom he will build his church, a sinner is turned into a saint.

This is the Christ who is called the shepherd and yet is also the lamb, the God of heaven who is with us eating breakfast on the beach, this is the body crucified, and made glorious through resurrection.

Listen, says St Paul to the church in Corinth- a little time after his Damascus Road experience: I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. I suppose he, of all people, was able to talk to the Christian community about the change in heart and the change in perspective enabled by Christ.

The reminder of our baptism at the beginning of this service challenges us with the question: Do we really want to be changed? Are we open to having our perspective transformed? Are we ready to see the world differently?  I think we might all acknowledge that something might need to jolt humanity into a new perspective as we face this moment in our history- climate breakdown, war in Europe, the stock piling of nuclear weapons, a loss of integrity among those who lead us, a growing inequality between rich and poor, poverty on our doorstep, anxiety and confusion. We surely need to pray for a resurrection perspective on what it means to be human? Yours are the eyes, ours are the eyes, says St Theresa of Avila, with which Christ looks with compassion on the world.

It is through the eyes of Christ that we can see for ourselves all the things that mar the image of God in the family of humanity; it is through the universal and cosmic Christ that we can look upon this earth in wonder and awe, and see also its fragility and beauty; it is through Christ that we can be transformed by an overview effect which changes who we are and how we live.  Most of us do not need to become astronauts, in order to gain a new perspective. God simply asks us to turn to Christ, to submit to Christ and to come to Christ the way, the truth and the life.

It is in Christ that we can be changed and made new, and stand each day as if on the seashore, with endless possibilities set before us, if only we could open our eyes the reality of the living God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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‘Ok, let’s go to York Minster and get it over and done with’ – Canon Maggie McLean, Missioner

Preacher: Canon Maggie McLean, Missioner

Title of sermon: ‘Ok, let’s go to York Minster and get it over and done with’

Date/time/service: Sunday 17 April 2022, 4pm, Easter Day, Choral Evensong

 

York has been full of visitors in recent days. After two Easters with COVID restrictions it’s been good to welcome so many visitors into the Minster. A couple of days ago I was walking nearby when I heard a family debating their plans for the day. Sometimes it’s not easy to decide what to do when there is so much to do. However, eventually, one voice rose above the others, saying: ‘Ok, let’s go to York Minster and get it over and done with’.

I was amused. But I suspect we all know that feelings. When you tell people you’re going away and they say, ‘oh if you’re going there you must see so-and-so’. Whether it’s the Louvre in Paris or Nelson’s Column in London, every tourist destination has its own ‘must see’ place.

In the events we’ve marked in recent days the city was Jerusalem and the place was the Temple.  The streets would have been packed, the stalls and money-changers thriving. Every available room in the city would have been taken and many visitors would have camped outside the walls.

But this festivity was overshadowed by the darkness of a public execution. Now, on the third day, there are strange reports of an empty tomb; Jesus no longer dead but living; his body seen bearing the wounds he received on the cross. In time, as our second reading describes, more and more people would come to encounter the Risen Christ. All of this fulfils God’s promise to save his people.

In Isaiah and Psalm 66 we are reminded that even though we may suffer for a time, God does not abandon us. God freed the people from captivity in Babylon – just as God had freed the people from slavery in Egypt. The promise we celebrate today is the news that even death cannot hold us captive.

As we pray for God’s Kingdom to come (on earth as it is in heaven) we look forward to a time when each of us and everything is brought to completion in the light of God’s love.

And that’s why the comments I heard in the street are prophetic.  Christians look forward to a time when the Church will ‘be over and done with’.

Holy Week and Easter in Church help us affirm our faith and shape our determination to love as Christ loves us. Fed by word and sacrament in the hope that one day all this will no longer be needed.  God promises to save the people. In Jesus Christ death no longer holds us captive.

At Easter Christians are sent out to live this promise of freedom and work for God’s peace in a world torn apart by violence and hatred. We all know how much that is needed. This Easter may the Risen Christ inspire us and lead us to that day when God’s Kingdom comes, and justice and peace will be established for all people in our world.

 

Amen. 

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God tugs us back into life – Canon Maggie McLean, Missioner

Preacher: Canon Maggie McLean, Missioner

Title of sermon: God tugs us back into life

Date/time/service: Sunday 17 April 2022, 8am, Easter Day, Holy Communion

 

We began this week shadowing the last days of Jesus of Nazareth.  Like the first Palm Sunday it started with lots of people, excitement and anticipation.  We had a great service here last Sunday, bright sunshine for our Palm Sunday procession with donkeys and crowds of people following them into the body of the Minster.

But how quickly things can change. Back in church later the same day I was with a bereaved family as they remembered someone very special to them.  From the many and the joyful, I was with the few and the mourning.  We live lives threaded through with all these different experiences – often without much time between them.

It’s hard.

Last week pulled all these themes together, moving from the joy of Palm Sunday to the desolation of the cross.  It’s hard to imagine the rollercoaster of emotions Jesus and his followers went through.  To be the object of popular approval; to be sharing a meal with your closest and dearest friends; to the public ridicule of a shameful death – with your mother watching it all.

Then there’s today.

Friday was supposed to be the end of it all.  As Newman puts it in his prayer: “the fever of life is over and our work is done”.  Despite its horror, at least Good Friday was an end.  The disciples could return to their normal lives, friends could mourn and life would once again become routine, ordinary.

Not today.  Today is the day that changes every day.

The appeal of Jesus had been that he was larger than life – and now we discover that he’s larger than death. Crucifixion; a sword in the side; a stone sealing his body in the darkness of a tomb.  God seems to smile at our puny efforts to decide that his Son is dead.  None of it matters.  God calls Jesus back into life – to bring his life and new possibility to all who put their faith in him.  With God, everything is possible.

What we celebrate today isn’t a ‘get out of jail free’ card.  It doesn’t allow us to skip past pain or be sheltered from suffering.  But when we’ve had enough, and would rather stay in a tomb of our own despair, God tugs us back into life. God asks: “Bring me whatever you have – even if it looks and feels like death: and I will call it back into life”.

We only have to look down the long centuries of Christian history to see how time and again God has taken what the world has written off in order to breathe new life into humanity.

People discarded by the world have wept and battered at the doors of the powerful and demanded justice.

Every Easter we find ourselves at a particular moment in our lives. I hope, for many it will be a good and hopeful place.  But for others it won’t be.  For many today will simply be a grim repeat of yesterday – and a fearful taste of tomorrow.

God knows.  And God says to us: ‘bring what you have – bring who you are, and I will give it life’.  Because today God doesn’t let death have the final work.

 

Alleluia Christ is Risen!

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Lament and Hope – Prayer and Poetry – Canon Maggie McLean, Missioner

Preacher: Canon Maggie McLean, Missioner

Title of sermon: Lament and Hope – Prayer and Poetry

Date/time/service: Sunday 3 April 2022, 4pm, Passion Sunday, Choral Evensong 

 

Here in the Minster, as in many cathedrals and churches the psalms have a special place in our daily acts of worship. In fact, it’s not difficult to argue that the Psalms have a special place in Christianity. Often you will find them in a copy of the New Testament – the only part of the Jewish scriptures routinely included. Why? Why should these songs and poems be of such critical importance that they stand out from all the other books that stretch from Genesis to Malachi.

During Lent at the Minster we’ve been holding a series of talks that look at the relationship between the arts and prayer. One of these talks, given by Wendy Lloyd, discussed ‘Prayer as Lament and Hope’. For many, ‘lament and hope’ might be a good description for what Psalms express. They don’t shy away from the realities of human pain and suffering.

 

According to the Richard Schmidt:

“It is not that every sentiment expressed by a psalmist is admirable, but that in praying the Psalms, we confront ourselves as we really are. The Psalms are a reality check to keep prayer from becoming sentimental, superficial, or detached from the real world.”

 

In Lent many of the Psalms we hear in church articulate lament. The music to which they are often sung reflects that sense of anguish and sorrow. If this was all the Psalms conveyed it would indeed be a very bleak 40 days before Easter. As it is, in every Psalm, lament is peppered with hope. Anguish is countered by resolute faith and trust. The lost dare to believe that they might be found; embraced and loved.

Like a rainbow the Psalmists’ hope can seem beyond reach. Despite the grim realities we can all face the Israelites nevertheless believed that this arc of hope was worth pursuing.

It transcended the journey through ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ and gave people who might otherwise have been crushed by life the determination to endure.

Perhaps this is the reason why Psalm 31 has become the key text in the spiritual response to the war in Ukraine. It’s a Psalm that touches on the realities of conflict, with the Psalmist writing: “I was beset as a city under siege”.  The text gives full recognition to the distress, grief, horror, alarm and sense of shame felt by victims of violence. Yet it moves between those feelings and expresses a great sense of hope in God – a conviction that God will come;

that God will restore justice; and that we will be saved through the steadfast love of the Lord.

Our prayer tree here in the Minster is littered with words that express the anguish of what we are all seeing and the longing for peace. Mostly the prayers consist of just a few words – a cry from the human heart for an end to this senseless conflict and the passionate desire for peace. Time and again these prayers express a human solidarity with people whose lives have been ripped apart by conflict.

In holding together gritty realism and spiritual hope the Psalms are strongly poetic.

Like so many of our prayers, poetry allows us to allude to a hope that vanishes if we try to pin it down too exactly. Hope is about something that doesn’t yet exist – but might. The form of language reflects the emerging nature of what we long for; pray for; work towards.

It was a great privilege for us to have here in the Minster recently the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage. He had written a poem commissioned by the Chapter of York to mark the second anniversary of the first UK lockdown. Reflecting on our experiences of isolation Armitage writes about how we “candled our own hearts till the air was fit to breathe again”. Entitled ‘Only Human’ the work concludes with the words: ‘We are better now – that is the hope’.

As the Psalms illustrate, and poets tell us, believing that things will one day be better isn’t an idle or an easy hope. The hope of faith can test the best of us. Whether it’s the Psalmist, Jesus on the cross, or ourselves, there can be times on the journey of faith when we wonder where God is in the darkness.

These fundamental questions are of concern to people of faith and as we, at the Minster, see and hear on a daily basis they are also questions raised by those who come here as tourists but through the experience of this place they find space to explore their spirituality.

At times this can be tentative and ambiguous such as the prayer offered the other day by a visitor which said: ‘I am not a Christian but please God do something about this war’. Rather than dismissing that complexity we need to respond with skill and sensitivity.

The Explore Project is designed to address these kinds of questions.

That’s why I’m delighted that we are launching tailor made resources: prayer cards, booklets and a website, which are informed by research into the kind of questions people experience here and in other Cathedrals and Churches across the UK.

And so to mark this launch I would like to finish with a prayer of dedication:

 

God of all our explorations,

let this ancient place of prayer

and the churches and Cathedrals of this land be places where faith can blossom and lives be transformed.

We dedicate the resources of the Explore Project, that they may be a means by which the gentleness of your invitation to know and to love you is stirred; a means by which fears and anxieties can be named; and an opportunity for questions and doubts be explored. In your name we pray and give thanks.

 

Amen.

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A brief history of the Fourth Sunday of Lent – Revd Dr Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Preacher: Revd Dr Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Title of sermon: A brief history of the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Readings: 1 Samuel 1:20-end, Colossians 3:12-17, Luke 19. 25b-27

Date/time/service: Fourth Sunday of Lent, Mothering Sunday,

 

I know it says that today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent on the front of the order of service, but in fact this Sunday can go under the guise of many different names. We could mark this day in any number of different ways. So I thought I would offer a brief history of The Fourth Sunday of Lent so we can all make an informed choice as to why we might be here today!

Many years ago, when the church was fairly new, the fourth Sunday of Lent, was called Refreshment Sunday or ‘Rejoicing’ Sunday, in latin, Laetere Sunday. It was a day of celebration during the season of Lent, a little oasis in a season of fasting and penitence.  It got this name because one of the readings on that day began with the words ‘Rejoice! Rejoice!’. And people were happy to take it literally. Some people called it Mid-Lent Sunday, rejoicing that perhaps that they had managed to get half-way through!  Sometimes, the clergy would wear rose coloured vestments to show that they were relaxing- a change from the normal purple, or in our case blue- so, some  people called the fourth Sunday of Lent ‘Rose Sunday’. Confused already?  Welcome to the Church of England!

Another reading that could be read on this Sunday, was the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, telling us about the generosity of God.  So sometimes the fourth Sunday in lent was called Five Loaves Sunday. People would rejoice and give thanks, and sing psalm hymns and spiritual songs to God for all they had. It was a day to remember the goodness and providence of God.  As the years went by, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, people would be given a break, a day off, a holiday for rest and refreshment. They would make a cake to share with their family- a spicy Simnel cake, covered in Marzipan, and so some people called the Fourth Sunday of Lent ‘Simnel Sunday’. There’s more….

Another reading on the Fourth Sunday of Lent was written by St Paul, and he said that Jerusalem was the Mother of us all, reminding us that we are all children of God.  So again people gave thanks to God in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs for the Mother Church and for Mary, the mother of Jesus.  On the fourth Sunday of Lent, people went back home to their mother church. It might have been the church where they were christened as a baby, or sometimes they would even go to the Cathedral, the mother church of the Diocese.

People who visited their mother church on the fourth Sunday of Lent, would say they had gone “a-mothering.” So, the fourth Sunday of Lent became known as Mothering Sunday. Please note: This is a different festival to Mother’s Day, which began in America about 100 years ago, though in England over the years the two festivals have kind of merged into one at least in secular culture.

So from that day to this, if not keeping the fourth Sunday of Lent, the church still keeps, not Mother’s day, but Mothering Sunday, though we remember all the qualities of mothering shared among us, we also remember Mary, the mother of God, and the family of the church, which helps us make a new kind of human family.

All these choices, all these options, what is your preferred choice for this fourth Sunday of Lent? The variety of options experienced on this one Sunday of the churches year, reflect very well the reality and the complexity of the church itself, variegated, different, diverse, sometimes confusing, with as many opposing opinions as Anglican Twitter and as many choices to make as any local coffee shop. Whose corner are you in? What flavour do you like best? It’s sometimes hard to imagine how any of this diversity can be drawn together effectively. If you were trying to tell someone about the church, or indeed sell the concept of church to someone -what would be the USP? As we sit here today, we ourselves in some ways represent the great diversity of humanity, and if we don’t we should.

When we come here what is it that makes this gathering into a community, and what is it that binds us all together not only with one another, but also with every other church in this city, diocese, across this land and across the world? There isn’t time today for a full examination of what Christian community is, we’re just making a start-but maybe it’s something we should all be thinking about?

Of course, there is only one thing that binds the church together beyond all of the flavours, customs, options, opinions and traditions that may exist. That one thing is Christ. Christ alone. Christ on the cross looking down upon the world, embracing the world in his loving arms, with love and compassion, looking down upon the world and binding it together in love.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus said to Mary his mother, this is your Son, pointing to John the disciple.  And pointing to Mary, he said to John, this is your mother. There on the cross, Jesus created a new kind of community not bound by conformity or sameness, not bound by blood, but bound by a love which breaks every barrier down and gathers together the fullness of humanity in all of its diversity and difference. It is only ever Christ that binds us all together. As St Paul says let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.

It may not matter what name we give the fourth Sunday of Lent, as long as we have Christ before us, beside us, below us, above us, between us and that we, for as long as we live, give ourselves to the Lord as our first concern, always through Christ, and with Christ and in Christ.

Disunity, within the church is a sin- it is the devil who tries to divide. There is a difference isn’t there between diversity and division and of course we currently live in a world of deep divisions, divisions between individuals, between families and communities and sadly between nations, perhaps we as the church of Christ, the body of Christ, can help heal those divisions by embodying what unity in diversity is….. if we are brave enough to let ourselves first be bound together as the body of Christ?

The church is one body, we are defined by our community and our unity, we are defined as a church by how we come together in difference and by how we bind together humanity with all of its faults and in all of its fullness.

There is one final tradition for the fourth Sunday of Lent I want to mention – it’s called ‘Clipping the Church’ or embracing the Church, or in modern language ‘hugging the church’, it often happened in the countryside, and the congregation would gather outside all around their church, hand in hand and sing songs, to remember that they were all bound together by the love of God, because sometimes it seems even the church needs reminding that it is called to be one family.

In the late seventies, there was a song that everyone was singing, it was a kind of folk song. It was sung by children in Sunday school and in assemblies, it’s still sung today. It’s the kind of song that is usually banned in Cathedrals, because it’s a bit twee and usually played on a guitar and not to everyone’s tastes, and don’t worry I’m not going to make you sing it, not this year anyway, but I am going finish with its words as a kind of prayer, it’s called Bind us together, you might know it. It might be the spiritual song that we could sing in our hearts today as we pray for our community and our unity as the church of Christ and as we pray for unity and compassion in our world:

Bind us together Lord, Bind us together with cords that cannot be broken,

Bind us together Lord, Bind us together Lord, Bind us together in love.

There is only one God, there is only King, there is only one body, this is why we sing:

Bind us together Lord, Bind us together Lord, bind us together in love.

 

Amen. 

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Suppose a King is about to go to war – Canon Maggie McLean, Missioner

Preacher: Canon Maggie McLean, Missioner

Title of sermon: Suppose a King is about to go to war

Date/time/service: Sunday 13 March 2022, 4pm, Choral Evensong 

 

Our first reading tonight contrast two kings, father and son. The first models the kind of sovereignty God asks of those anointed to be King. It is a reign of service in which the rights of the poor and needy are upheld. In which there is no violence and where innocent blood isn’t shed. Addressing the son, the prophet mocks the attitude that successful kingship amounts to having finer buildings than those of his father. The son has missed the point.

In Old Testament times, Kings were a separate kind of human being. They had a direct relationship with God. As it was said in this era, the king represented ‘the living law’ – with power and responsibility to match. God used the prophets to rein in this power when it was abused, and the King stopped listening to God and ignored the justice and duties that belonged to royal office.

If at times we feel that stories in the Bible are remote or irrelevant, I think we need to think again. We don’t have to look far in our world to see the tragedy of power that has little or no accountability. Where authority brings ‘oppression’; ‘robbery’; ‘violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow’; where ‘innocent blood is shed’.

In the prophet’s oracle God says: ‘Is not this to know me?’ – ‘to judge the cause of the poor and needy’.

In Ukraine we see today the complete disregard for the poor and needy. In a brief period of time, people are living in what have been described as ‘Medieval’ conditions. No electricity, little food and medicine, a lack of heat in a land where snow is falling. I don’t think we need to ponder very long on the question as to what Jeremiah would make of these actions. While I recognise the dilemma for leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church surely there are some words of prophecy that this moment demands? The former Archbishop Rowan Williams wrote a letter to The Times last week expressing people’s amazement that the Church has entered Lent with no criticism of what is happening in Ukraine:

Orthodox Christians engaging, at this season of all seasons, in indiscriminate killing of the innocent, insanely reckless attacks on nuclear facilities… the unashamed breach of ceasefire agreements, and an attack on one of the most significant Holocaust memorials in Europe.

He concludes that it is not too late for the Church to intervene. But will it?

In our second reading Jesus tells his hearers: ‘suppose a King is about to go to war’.

The parable Jesus tells is about repentance. The idea that no one in their right mind would take up arms against an all powerful God. Instead, reflecting on their circumstances, they would send a delegation to meet the King and negotiate a peace. In other words, knowing our own weaknesses and failings, we should repent and seek God’s forgiveness rather than try to oppose this overwhelming force.

But, thinking of Ukraine, we must ask what happens when the price of any peace you might be offered in this life, is simply to surrender? When accepting defeat means the loss of statehood and independence. In reality, as President Zelensky made so clear speaking to the UK Parliament, the choice is either annihilation or resistance. Ukraine is choosing the latter.

Not every King is willing to negotiate terms. Not every authority is reasonable. Not every use of force is ethical, or moral or justified. We should be hopeful – but not naïve. There are ‘kings’ in our world who do not recognise the value of peace or the claims of people who are poor and in need. Leaders unafraid of spilling innocent blood. Heads of State who seem to feel that they have no accountability to God or anyone else.

Jesus tells us that we each have a cross to carry in this life. There is sacrifice in the confusion of this world, and following a God who seeks justice does not come without cost. It may be that the extensive sanctions now in place will demand some sacrifice from all of us. As we play our part in upholding the needs of the poor and the needy there may also be sacrifices to help and support people who have lost their homes and livelihoods. It feels that this year we are all being asked to share in a Lent which, in our prayers for peace and the sacrifices that help others to live, will draw us closer to the justice God seeks for the world.

Along with us, I hope and pray that the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church consider this deeply, and that they will decide to speak prophetically. It is their job and it is their calling.

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Turning aside – Revd Dr Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Preacher: Revd Dr Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Title of sermon: Turning aside, A Homily for the Solemn Eucharist on Ash Wednesday

Readings: Isaiah 58:1-12, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Date/time/service: Wednesday 2 March 2022 

 

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it.

But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now that I must give all that I have
to possess it.  

Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Not my words but those of RS Thomas, from his poem The Bright Field. This poem captures in words the image of the sun breaking through a dull welsh sky, lighting up a lowly field- a sight so enchanting that it calls us to turn aside and look and absorb that moment of glory being revealed. Brown clay and soil and earth and dust is elevated to take on the mantle of a priceless gem, a pearl of great price, a treasure, in a landscape of gilded furrows.

That idea of turning aside and of turning, is a pertinent one for us today. Perhaps, as we race through life and we hurry on to our receding futures and hanker after our imagined past, we fail to see Gods’ light breaking through around us and within us.

Far from turning aside we rush onwards at speed, hurrying, hankering, caught up in the pace which the world sets for us, constantly ‘ON’, always doing, running, speeding, sending, self-obsessing, oblivious to small miracles coming to birth all around us, failing to take time for the things that matter, not hearing the voices that need to be heard, not noticing the hungry, the naked, the afflicted.

What if life was about turning aside? What if we made a conscious decision daily to turn, to turn towards Christ, and be faithful?

What if we made some effort to turn away from ourselves, and have eyes and hearts open to noticing, perceiving, taking things in, being observant about the world and its needs? Putting others first, making time to stop, and wait, and seek-out God’s presence and see the light breaking through?

What if life was about turning aside? What if life was about turning away from sin, from all that mars God’s image within us, and turning towards Christ? So that we might be strengthened to re-build, to repair, to heal, to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, so that the fast that we choose goes deeper than a mark on our forehead?

We are offered the chance to turn aside for a while- recognizing our mortality, understanding where we have come from and where we are going, coming to appreciate the preciousness of life itself: from dust we come and to dust we shall return. How then shall we use this gift of life in between? How will we honour this life in those around us? How will we work for this life in a world which constantly tries to diminish it through prejudice, hatred, violence, and now war?

During Lent, day by day we commit ourselves to use the gift of life we have been given, the life between the dust and remember that the dust from which are all made, and the dust to which we will return- is indeed holy ground.

We are called to turn aside and take a moment to pray, so that even in the dust and dirt there may be hope and light, even in the rubble of a building, in food scarce and yet shared, in underground shelters, in the cries of refugees, we pray that there may yet be hope and light. In our weeping world, we pray that the light will break through and we may notice it when it does.

Instead of hurrying on to a receding future, instead of hankering after an imagined past- instead of being oblivious to all that is around us, we are all being called to turn aside and through the brown clay and earth and soil and dust, to notice the treasure before it’s too late.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return, turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Amen.

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Don’t worry – Revd Maggie McLean, Canon Missioner

Preacher: Revd Maggie McLean, Canon Missioner

Title of sermon: Don’t worry

Date/time/service: Sunday 20th February 2022 – 4pm Choral Evensong 

 

I’ve always felt there’s a slight contradiction in our second reading tonight. Jesus tells his hearers not to worry about tomorrow. One example he gives is to consider the grass of the field. Grass which flourishes today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven. I think if I was the grass I might be a little bit worried about tomorrow!

It’s always easy to say ‘don’t worry’, especially when the worry isn’t ours. Sometimes something makes us anxious and we seem to have little choice but to worry. The people of the Ukraine, and the rest of us, understandably worry about what tomorrow might bring. In the past couple of years in our world it seems that there has been no shortages of things to worry about. Shortages of other things – from toilet rolls to petrol – but a never ending supply of anxiety.

For me the sense of our second reading relies on its relationship to the first reading. In Genesis chapter 1 huge things are taking place. A barren and lifeless world is blessed with light. Water appears and then dry land rises out of it. Over the course of time vegetation appears, great beasts of the sea, animals and birds, and then, late in the day, human beings are created. All this activity of creation is crowned on the seventh day with rest. Just when the story feels as though it’s about to begin, with Adam and Eve set in the garden, God stops. Everything stops. There is rest. Shabbat.

It is this rich cast of creation to which Jesus looks when he tells us not to worry. The birds matter – and without worrying about it, they are fed. The flowers of the field have great colour and vibrancy and splendour – but these aren’t things they think about. This is simply what is.

For Jesus worry is what robs us of the moment. Today we live in a world that can appear driven by worries about what to eat; what to drink; what to wear. A whole advertising industry runs on our dissatisfaction with the things we have. Using all the arts of human psychology and appeal, we are encouraged to be unhappy with what we have and to aspire for something new; better; bigger; richer.

Our culture of dissatisfaction comes with a cost for all of us, perhaps especially the young. It is impossible to think that there is no connection between image-based social media and the lifestyles and anxieties of younger people. Too often it is believed that ‘image is everything’.  Both directly and indirectly we are encouraging people to be dissatisfied with how they look and to buy the things that claim to improve our appearance. It is true that this has always been a part of life, but there can be no doubt that it is entering into our lives in ever more subtle ways.

Thankfully there is a counter narrative to all this hype. People whose appearance doesn’t fit with the dominant standards of beauty are challenging views and attitudes. However, the pressure to conform to accepted ways of looking continues. In truth we can all feel anxious about fitting in, looking the right way and wearing the right things. It’s part of human nature – but also a part that the advertising industry knows and exploits. You tend not to sell very much if your main message is that people are fine as they are.

Time and again Jesus spent time with people who didn’t fit in. Whether it was healing the servant of an enemy officer or being touched by a woman who was haemorrhaging, Jesus kept company with the outsiders. This welcoming and including is a hallmark of the Gospel and a challenge to the usual ways of doing things.

One of the most exciting things about the Church is that anyone can join. There’s no threshold of beauty or intelligence, skill or ability. All it takes is a response to the invitation of Christ to ‘come and follow me’. All that should make us fit in, is the response to that call – we don’t need to be anything else to claim our place in the Kingdom.

Little wonder that our Gospel carries the assurance that we don’t need to worry. In contrast to all the striving and restlessness of trying to fit in, Jesus tells his hearers to be still and reflect on the beauty of the world in which they live. A world in which birds and flowers are simply ‘themselves’, being what God has created them to be – giving no thought for tomorrow.

In our age, we know that there are things which require preparation and planning. Most of us can’t just get up tomorrow and assume everything will be fine. But I think there’s a difference between preparation and anxiety. We need to commit our plans to God as much as the worries of a particular day. We need to find our ‘sabbath’ in the busyness of life so that we can remember that we are in God’s hands.

As we draw nearer to the start of Lent it might be a good idea to spend some time praying about God’s acceptance of our lives. To be reminded that we are loved and wanted and to reject the idea that there is some further level of acceptability we need to achieve. To be still and know that God never rejects our difference; our uniqueness; our life.

 

Amen. 

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Racial Justice Sunday 2022 – Revd Maggie McLean, Canon Missioner

Preacher: Revd Maggie McLean, Canon Missioner

Title of sermon: Racial Justice Sunday 2022

Date/time/service: Sunday 13th February 2022 – 11am Choral Eucharist

 

“He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.”

Thirty years ago, I was doing my curacy in a church in Bedford. For the people of that city there were very different ways to think about this parish. Depending on your point of view, it was either a) a vibrant multi-cultural community or b) the wrong side of the railway line. For some people an exciting place to live and for others, different; dangerous; unknown.

If we are honest, we can all find the unfamiliar unsettling. There’s a human tendency to seek the familiar and reassuring. Not for everyone, but certainly for many people, both family and friendship circles can look very much the same. Yet when we gravitate towards this familiarity we also deny ourselves rich opportunities to learn and to grow. In Bedford I made friendships that have lasted over the decades and given me insight into the experiences of people with backgrounds very different from my own. Friends whose parents came in the Windrush generation, answering the UK’s request for workers.

Most churches did not make welcome the devout Anglicans who answered this call. It was suggested to people that they would be more ‘comfortable’ somewhere else. Congregations that would have been energised with new life chose instead to close the door on difference. To understand this I cannot commend enough the book ‘Ghost Ship’ published in 2020. Written by a parish priest, A D A France-Williams, it tells the often harrowing, frightening and true accounts of what it means to be black in the Church of England.

Our Gospel reading this morning begins with a seemingly innocuous detail. Having spent the night up a mountain in prayer, ‘He came down with them and stood on a level place’.

‘He came down with them and stood on a level place’.

Getting to be with Jesus isn’t supposed to be difficult. When you read what France-Williams describes you certainly don’t get a sense of the Church as a level place. Instead, it feels like an optical illusion, where things that appear level accelerate advancement for some while sinking others into an abyss. A game of snakes and ladders where only some people know the rules and control the dice. The many accounts, actions and experiences the book describes show how deeply wired into the church’s life are the assumptions and attitudes that sustain white privilege.

When Jesus stood on a level place people came from everywhere to be near him. ‘A great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon’. They came to this great teacher in a level place to be healed. To confess their sins and be put right. To hear how they needed to be, in order to enter the Kingdom of God. It was a place without privilege or hierarchy – a place where need and love were all that mattered.

‘Ghost Ship’ concludes with a call for change. Racism in the church cannot only be a concern or an issue when people from BAME communities are present. Too often in the church that’s the reality and it needs to stop. Simply saying that our bit of ground is level fails to see the bigger landscape of which York Minster is a part.

France-Williams ends by quoting a South African author who reported on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Antjie Krog:

“Reconciliation will only take place… the day whites feel offended by racism instead of feeling sorry for the blacks”

We can all be part of that change. We can do more, far more, to make sure that all those God calls into the church find it to be a level place. A place where hidden rules and unspoken barriers are set aside. But it will only happen if we are all committed to making a change.

 

Amen. 

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Accession Day 2022 – Revd Dr Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Preacher: Revd Dr Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Title of sermon: Accession Day 2022

Readings: Psalms 20, 101,121. Joshua 1:1-9, Romans 13:1-10

Date/time/service: Sunday 6th February 2022 – 4pm Choral Evensong

 

Imagine the jubilation, walking into Westminster Abbey to the music we have just heard. The words from Psalm 122 describe the joy and delight of entering into the courts of the Lord in procession for solemn assembly, to worship God. It was sung at the Coronation Service of Queen Elizabeth on the second on 2nd June 1953, and much of the music we have heard today, references that triumphant ceremony. But let’s rewind just a little to the anniversary we mark today, the moment when a lifelong vocation was born from the pains of death, when the mantle of service was passed on from one generation to another.

In the year previous, on the 6th February 1952, Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya with her husband Prince Phillip on a royal tour, in place of her father King George the Sixth who was ill. It was here that she received the news of her father’s death and her own Accession to the throne.  In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, she ceased to be Princess Elizabeth and became Queen Elizabeth II. She was just 25.

On that day her life changed forever, and she had to handle the grief of losing a beloved father and the incomparable weight of the duty which was being thrust upon her. We can only imagine her sorrow, and we can only imagine her fear and trepidation in taking on this responsibility and embracing what we in the church might describe as an ontological change- a change in her very being and in her life’s purpose.

When God ordained Joshua as leader of the people of Israel after Moses death, God said to Joshua, ‘As I was with Moses, so I shall be with you, I will not fail or forsake you, be strong and courageous, neither frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you everywhere you go.’

It is worth reflecting on how a young woman of 25, in a patriarchal society where her age as well as her gender would have been a stumbling block to many, it’s worth reflecting on how she would ever have the strength and courage to take on the mantle of being Queen of England. But Elizabeth, with dignity, with incredible humility and courage, made a vow to God in her own heart: to love and serve her people for as long as she lived. And so she has done.

But this fortitude, courage and strength has come from somewhere and our own Queen credits her ministry, (for I think we in the church can recognise this as a ministry), she credits her ministry to her unwavering faith in God and her trust that God will be with her everywhere she goes , just as God was with Joshua, just as God is with us. The words of Psalm 121 seem pertinent: I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help, my help cometh even from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

Her unique vow to serve as Queen, came in the line of other Christian vows she had already made: the vows made at her baptism, confirmation and marriage. At every stage of her life, she kept faith in God.

Over most of the seventy years of her reign the queen has practised her faith quietly and persistently, but it has been noted that since the turn of the millennium, in her words and in her speeches, particularly at Christmas, she has become more open about her faith, and how it has sustained her and shaped her, less private and more public about what lies at the heart of her reign. What can we learn from her example of Christian discipleship?

Our Queen often talks her own accountability before God, she recognises that in spite of her position she is simply a creature standing before the creator, a sinner in need of forgiveness, a disciple of Christ seeking to love him more dearly, see him more clearly and follow him more nearly day by day.

What can we learn from her lived example of Christian leadership, as individuals, as a church, as a nation?

Throughout her reign she has quietly shown her solidarity with the people she has been called to serve, when she was just twenty one, with an understanding of her future destiny she said this: ‘We must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves,’ she said, “I declare before you, all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”

And so we saw when she offered her service in the army during the second world and so we saw only last year, when our queen in solidarity with her people in the midst of a global pandemic, sat alone at the funeral of her beloved husband.

In her speech on Christmas Day, two thousand years after Christ’s birth, she referenced the central teaching of the Christian faith: love God and love thy neighbour as thyself.

Is this simple commandment the answer to the questions we all ask:  how do we live a good life? How do we bear the responsibilities we have been given? How do we honour one another as children of God? And for those with power and authority in our world, how do we exercise that power with humility and with justice? Love God and love thy neighbour as thyself.

St Paul in his letter to the Romans offers that there is no authority except from God, and perhaps those who take that truth seriously, are more likely to be the kind of rulers and leaders our world really needs. Leaders who bear their power not with arrogance but with humility before God.

We can probably find examples of leadership where those with power think they are Gods, beyond reproach, beyond interrogation and beyond integrity, where their needs come before anyone elses.

But not so with our Queen, who throughout her life, in an astonishingly quiet and steadfast way, has been a living example of all those virtues which we hope are still part of the fabric of this great nation: Steadfastness, forbearance, fortitude, integrity, sacrifice, compassion, courage, hope, love and faith.

We have in our Queen an example of Christian Leadership at its most humble and human, and Christian discipleship at its most obedient.

Whatever your take on monarchy in the modern world, we cannot deny that here is a woman of faith who has lived out that faith in word and deed as both as Head of State, as supreme Governor of our Church of England, but most importantly, as a faithful disciple of Christ.

God save the Queen.

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Is your all on the altar? – Revd Dr Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Preacher: Revd Dr Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Title of sermon: Is your all on the altar?

Readings: Ezekiel 43:27-44.4, I Corinthians 13, Luke 2:22-40

Date/time/service: Sunday 30th January 2022 – 11am Choral Eucharist

 

You have longed for sweet peace,

And for faith to increase,

And have earnestly, fervently prayed.

But you cannot have rest,

Or be perfectly blest,

Until all on the altar is laid.

 

Refrain:

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?

Your heart does the Spirit control?

You can only be blest,

And have peace and sweet rest,

As you yield Him your body and soul.

 

These words are from the once well know hymn, Is your all on the altar? Written in 1900 by Elisha Hoffman, the hymn questions how much we are really prepared to give of ourselves in and through worship, how much of ourselves we are really prepared to give to God.  Evelyn Underhill, the 20th century Anglican theologian, in her reflections on worship, said that Christian worship can never be divorced from sacrifice. Worship is not a form of entertainment, though occasionally the sermon can be funny. It’s not a ‘show’ that we watch passively, and it’s not something we are forced to do. For the Christian, this is a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. But what does that mean?

Martin Luther suggested that when we hear the word of God with all our heart, we offer a sacrifice. When we pray and when we give in charity to our neighbour, this is sacrifice. When we receive the sacrament, we offer a sacrifice. This is the place where we are transformed and made new. This is the place when we give of ourselves that we might therefore live.

It’s the basic message of the gospels give your life to God to save your life. Love God with all of your heart and mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. Worship is a sign of all of these things, and the place where we learn them. It’s a school for the soul.

Thankfully when we come to worship, we do not have to offer a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons, a donation as you leave would be wonderful though! We are simply called to offer ourselves in love to God, and that is a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.

In the lifetimes of Elisha Hoffman, Evelyn Underhill or Martin Luther, sacrifice might have been an easier word to understand, but for us today the concept seems rather challenging.  Why would anyone give up anything for someone else? Or give of themselves for another? Hasn’t our culture has become a culture of taking rather than giving- a culture all about ‘me’ and my views, my needs, my rights above the views, needs, and rights of everyone else?

To put all this in another more straightforward way how might this act of worship help us look at the world in a new way? What is worship teaching us to be and to do and how is it shaping the life of the Christian community and the world in which we live?

In faith, Joseph and Mary went to the temple to present their new born in thanksgiving and praise. Their response to the living God was their duty and their joy. Their thank-offering represented all that they were- they were putting their all on the altar in the form of their new born baby.

Their love for God had drawn them to the temple, as it had drawn Simeon. He had also given his long life, living in the hope of seeing the salvation of God. And what about Anna, the prophet, who had given her life to the Lord, praying and fasting in the temple until, upon seeing this child, her fasting turned to celebration and her prayer was transformed into praise.

Every one of the characters in our Gospel reading put their all on the altar and of course, as Simeon looked at this tiny new life in front of him, he said to Mary ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’- a premonition of the sacrifice of Christ himself upon the cross, the sacrifice above every sacrifice, God giving a beloved son for the life of the world.

This pattern we are called to follow, is one where we give of ourselves, for God and for our neighbour, putting our all on the altar. Throughout the gospels, Jesus calls his disciples to follow him with a whole heart not at their own convenience.

Another name for this ‘giving of our all’– this ‘sacrifice’ might in fact be love.

St Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, gives us a definition of divine love and in that definition, love always gives of itself: to love is to give yourself away for the sake of another. Love is patient, kind, not envious, boastful arrogant or rude, love does not insist on its own way. In the vows made at a wedding, loved and beloved say to each other- all that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you, within the love of God. Of course, that formulation only works if both people say it, and this formulation is meant to be a reminder of the complete love of God for each one of us, and hopefully our love in return.

This is the love we are called to give to God and our neighbour- love given as a sacrifice of praise. Christina Rossetti captures this perfectly in her carol, In the Bleak Midwinter: ‘What can I give him, poor as I am?’ she asks. In the end she realises that she doesn’t need to offer a lamb like the shepherds, or a gift of great price like the wise men- all she is asked to do is to give her heart.

This is all we are asked to give: all that we have and all that we are. This is the kind of love which could transform the corrupt and unjust structures of our society into the kind of communities which reflect humanity at its best, where the forgotten are drawn in, the excluded gathered to the centre, the victims of tyranny, poverty and oppression released from their captivity. It can all start here, if we are prepared to put our all on the altar.

Perhaps Sacrifice is a good word for us to use after all? Because it suggests that none of this is easy. If we think beyond our circles of comfort, what are we prepared to give for the good and the flourishing of another, not just those with whom we share our lives, or those like us, but a brother or sister who lives on the other side of the world, who lives on the streets of our city, who is excluded and persecuted for who they are?

Might we want to break down, just a little, the injustices of our world? The corruption, the sense of entitlement, the selfishness? As we read the news and reflect on the world around us this week, might we want to build a different kind of kingdom, with more loving values, with more sacrificial values?

‘Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle’, so said, Martin Luther King. What are we really prepared to give or give up for this Kingdom cause? What individual inconveniences are we willing to accommodate for love in its truest and broadest definition?

Well, it all starts here.  If we really take our worship seriously, if we give our heart, if we give our all, if we see ourselves as a living sacrifice, and are ready and open to being transformed by love, we can really change the world through our worship and all we have to do, is put our all on the altar, in the name and to the glory of the one and only living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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