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Trinity at York Minster – The Rev Canon Dr Jennifer Smith

Title: Trinity at York Minster

Date: 26 May 2024, Trinity Sunday

Preacher: The Rev Canon Dr Jennifer Smith

 

Trinity at York Minster

Let us pray

Holy God, break your Word as bread for the feeding of our souls: and may the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, o Lord our strength, and our Redeemer.  Amen.

So friends, it is Trinity Sunday and we are here – this place where wars and plagues have been outlived, which has stood through how many elections, governments risen and fallen, this is a place where, when God has asked ‘whom shall I send,’ many generations have said ‘here am I send me.’

You heard about Nicodemus visiting Jesus under cover of darkness in our Gospel reading.  I hope you bring with you today as blunt a frustration, as much reality about the perils we face right now, as Nicodemus did when he came to Jesus.  He was living in the shadow of empire, well aware of the perilous future.

Yet unlike Nicodemus, you are here today in the light of day, for all to see.  It is an audacious thing to gather to praise God, still to bring our concerns to God, knowing what we do of the world.  Well done.

Trinity Sunday, today, is a day that clever priests traditionally get in a guest preacher to grapple with the tangle of metaphor and obscurity which is our usual talk, even our best talk, about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

(Perhaps then, this is the moment to thank the Dean for his kind invitation to me, Methodist that I am.)

Friends, just because something is hard to speak of, does not excuse us from the responsibility.  To ask, and to speak, and in the full light of day.

It is particularly because it is hard to speak of Trinity that we must work at it today – never more urgently – unless we wish to let might make right again,  in this generation,  unchallenged.

The boundless, eternal self-giving love of God the Creator embodied in Jesus, and the breath of the Spirit which is God’s revelation – still today God brings order from chaos, still comes alongside us, still gives us the gifts of outrage, and compassion, and enlivens us.

This God in Trinity refuses to stop at what can fit on the slim page of an election manifesto, or what is fair, or practical, or affordable, or convenient when it comes to abundant life for every person.

Salvation is not a life boat for a lucky few, but the promise offered to all.

And salvation is intimately linked to, flows from who God is, in Trinity – this ‘three-one God’ as my predecessor John Wesley called it.

This week we commemorated John and Charles Wesley’s conversion experiences.  Anglican priests, both of them, they went on through the decades of the 18th century to work for revival among the English, the Cornish, the Welsh – even the Scots.

And the missions spread in their name ‘Methodist’ went around our world, and have come back again to these shores, planting schools and hospitals and putting about the radical notion that people can make just society, drawn into the dance of God.

On Friday, several hundred of us walked in the streets of the City of London, ending at St Paul’s Cathedral.  These are the same streets where the Wesley’s worked and taught.  I am certain they would have thought by now, more than 250 years later, there would no longer be anyone sleeping rough.  Or elder folks forgotten, or anyone who couldn’t get medical care.  Their dream is not yet realised.

Some have said the most dangerous word in the Methodist vocabulary is ‘all’ – that is, ‘all may be saved.  All must be saved.  And its ethical corollary – ‘do all the good you can, at all the times you can, in all the ways you can, all as long as ever you can.’

That word ‘all,’ is dangerous only to those who would limit the reach of God’s call, or God’s promise: that ‘whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ And make no mistake, eternal life is not some hazy relief or reward that begins after death.

It is a statement of God’s intention for right now, and the work in which we are already involved, we who dare to say ‘I believe’, let alone ‘here am I, send me.’

Friends, the doctrine of the Trinity was not arrived as an intellectual exercise, but was an attempt of the early church over generations to speak of our experience of the self giving love offered by God.

When Christians are asked ‘who is your God,’ then and now we answer by re-telling together the story of what God has done.

This we call the Creed.

Look at it – it is not a list of doctrinal abstractions, but a record of God’s three-one self poured out in love from the beginning.  First in creation, then in the events of the life, death, resurrection and ascension, and through both in the Spirit, which enlivens the Church and our fragile aging bodies.

When asked ‘who is God?’ we answer with a story.

May I say gently, let us not treat the Creed as if in saying it we are looking at faded holiday pictures from long ago of a time when God was active in our world.  It begins with the ending that puts us squarely as a part of God’s story: we believe.

And God in Trinity moves and draws us by our longing – into the story – and we are indeed born again, fragile, fearful children that we are – and sent in power.

There is no doctrine of the Trinity, no understanding God come among us in Jesus Christ, that can be separated from salvation, which is the ongoing work of justice.  Justice is not condemnation nor making one scapegoat and thinking we can wash our hands and go home, job done.  Jesus was specific – the salvation he speaks of is an implacable truth that whispers to us that it could be different, and not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

And so the seraph can call the prophet Isaiah in that extraordinary passage we heard read, and so any one of us can discover we too are already taken up in this story.

The Trinity, its power and love outpouring and eternal dance is an antidote to the bloodlust of our world.  Eternally drawing folk into the work of rebirth, creating, coming alongside, enlivening.

And you are still here, knowing all you do of the world.  All we do.  Again, it is an audacious thing you do to gather here, to offer praise and thanksgiving to God.

Today, I hope , if you have come with weariness, or with outrage, or despair at any of the things you have seen and heard this week in our news – any of the things you live with – I hope you will leave with the perspective that you are part of the story which reaches back and forwards, and in this place.  And it is not done yet, and the worst day is not the last day, and we are not alone.

For God still loves the world, still calls, still sends, still saves.

In the name of God, womb who bore us word who walked among us, breath that eases in us now, AMEN.

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‘I am the good shepherd’ – The Rt Revd Paul Ferguson, Bishop of Whitby

Title: ‘I am the good shepherd’

Date: 21 April 2024, The Fourth Sunday of Easter

Preacher: The Rt Revd Paul Ferguson, Bishop of Whitby

 

‘I am the good shepherd’ — words that are on Jesus’ lips in John’s gospel.  One of my early childhood memories is of a picture that my parents had put by my bed, of Jesus carrying a lamb.  I loved that picture, even though Jesus looked too north European in his immaculate robes and the lamb as if it had been washed and combed for the Great Yorkshire Show.

But real shepherding resists being sentimentalised.  A little while ago I spent a morning with a shepherd whose farm is near my home in Middlesbrough.  Sheep are messy and smelly and get themselves into trouble.  They need expensive veterinary care — this shepherd had marked the sheep with squirts of paint to show what medications each of them was on.  She knows and is devoted to each one individually, whether their destiny is wool, breeding or meat.  British shepherds may not face the same problems as young David in the Old Testament who told how he had killed lions and bears in defence of lambs:  but animals and equipment can fall prey to rural crime.

Well:  I’m sure you’ll have come across church using the image of the shepherd in ministry.  The ordination service for priests has these words: [Priests] ‘are to set the example of the Good Shepherd always before them as the pattern of their calling’;  they ‘are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent.’  Part of the bishop’s insignia is the shepherd’s crook.  But please let’s look at a couple of aspects of this where I believe we might not always get it quite right.

The first is the risk of a skewed idea of authority.  When the Archbishop gives that pastoral staff to a new bishop, the words he says are ‘Keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you shepherd.’  There’s a difference from the biblical source of those words, in Acts 20.28, where Paul bids goodbye to the elders (plural) from Ephesus and says ‘Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (plural), to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.’  Authority there is shared, and let’s assume mutually accountable. The biblical source is not a warrant for the bishop as monarch!

The second is that whilst ordination and ministry rightly draw on the imagery of shepherding the people of God, we run into error if we think of it as exclusively belonging to clergy.  We will have constructed a very dangerous clericalism.  Many of us here, whether ordained or not, will in some sense have oversight or influence within the Christian community and beyond.  Hear how the words of Jesus in today’s gospel — ‘The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ — are picked up in the first letter of John, ‘we ought to lay down our lives for one another’.  And just after that stark language arising from danger and persecution, John writes about the ordinary:  ‘How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?’  So we are moving through a web of themes that starts with Christ’s self-giving, his role as the good shepherd, then how that flows into shepherding on his behalf and in his name, and then the responsibility that we owe mutually for one another.

It’s a privilege to be hear this morning, in the cathedral where I worked for six years before leaving to be archdeacon and then ordained here as bishop.  Worshipping communities such as this do take on a kind of corporate personality and identity, alongside those of the individuals for whom it is their spiritual home.  I would hope that the church in every sense and place, could have the example of the Good Shepherd always before it as the pattern of its calling, and that each of us could play our part in making it so — we can either be swept along with the current, or bring good influence to bear.

This goes much further than pastoral (literally shepherding) care, meaning reacting to people’s troubles and serving them with love, important though that will always be.

If, like the elders at Ephesus, we are to watch over ourselves and all the flock, then there will be a range of excellences which we should seek alongside those for which we strive in worship and music and the imaginative care of the built heritage.  We will be the agents and channels of the love of God, and not its gatekeepers.  We will recognise our shortcomings and those of the wider church, and be self-aware without being self-obsessed.  In the almost 40 years since I was ordained, we have made enormous strides in Safeguarding and will do more:  it must not be seen as an irksome burden, for the job of building and operating a safe culture is never complete.  The church may no longer formally restrict women’s leadership and ministry (and congratulations on your anniversary, Maggie) but there are other, sometimes covert, reasons why people of ability struggle to be recognised — if you do not know about Mustard Seed and Stepping Up programmes in the diocese, please look them up to see what we are doing to address that.  In a society that is showing signs of collective irritation, we must be the exemplar of something better.  We will dare to rejoice when God’s activity bursts the limits of our culture and expectations, and we will always point beyond ourselves to the loving and living Jesus himself.

If real shepherding cannot be sentimentalised, then neither can the message in John’s letter, ‘We know love by this, that Christ laid down his life for us.  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.’  Whilst those words sound simple, they call us to something extremely costly.  They are not only our encouragement, but also our individual and corporate challenge.

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‘It was the hardest Lent, I have ever had to endure’ – The Revd Canon Richard Sewell

Title: ‘It was the hardest Lent, I have ever had to endure’

Date: 14 April 2024, The Third Sunday of Easter

Preacher: The Revd Canon Richard Sewell, Dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem

Readings: Luke 16:19-31

 

‘It was the hardest Lent, I have ever had to endure’

It was the hardest Lent, I have ever had to endure. Not because of the suffering of my penitence and Lent disciplines although of course I did those. It was hard because of the unrelenting pain of those in Gaza, suffering real hunger not because of fasting but because  they were being starved to death. It was a hard Holy Week but at least the mood and the seriousness of final days of Jesus matched our own mood of the suffering and violence of all the people of Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. Good Friday’s Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City was the perfect spiritual fit for our own sense of loss and near despair.

The day I was most wary of, most dreading, was Easter Day. How would we raise ourselves with Hallelujahs and Easter joy when on the ground in Gaza nothing had changed? Children, women and men were still dying in their hundreds from missiles, aid was still not getting through in sufficient quantities to prevent extreme hunger. Hostages were still held in underground tunnels. Our hearts were breaking and the celebrations of Easter seemed a far distant cry from that reality.

But when Easter Day dawned, we gained a glimpse of something to turn us around. At our service in St George’s Cathedral, we gathered, Palestinians and foreign nationals together and sang our hearts out. It changed nothing in Gaza, it did not release the hostages, it did not lift the crushing restrictions in the West Bank. It did not stop bombs falling and people dying. But for a couple of hours we proclaimed a truth which is written into nature: God has contended with the power of darkness and evil, and has won. We sang our hearts out because we heard again the story of an empty tomb and the declaration which the angels gave to the women: ‘He is not here. He is risen!’

Now we are two weeks into Easter, the joy is still there but it’s battling with the gathering darkness. Of course, it can be the same for any one of us. There are multiple reasons why the core and essence of our Christian faith is not always the dominant though and prevailing emotion in our hearts. If you are recently bereaved, if your marriage is in deep trouble, if you are living with depression and any number of other reasons, then Easter joy is not easily accessible.

But the gospels and the best teaching of our traditions remind us, over and over that our faith has to be able to endure many challenges of our circumstances; it will be tested by many of our life experiences. Faith must hold firm in the heat of the fire.

The mention of fire brings us to Jesus’s parable and the flames of Hades. It is a dire warning even if we do not take the parable literally, which we should not. Jesus tells the story as a graphic warning that this life is the time in which we are given the opportunity to decide how to live: which lights to follow, where to set our heart. Of course, we are going to keep hold of the truth of the Gospel, that we are saved by grace and not by works but we are also reminded by scripture that we are known by the fruit of our actions.

In the parable the rich man has lived to enjoy the good things of life without any concern for those who are denied such pleasures. Perhaps he has decided that compassion is for losers; that people make their own good fortune and what concern should that be to him? Lazarus positioned himself the gate of the man who lived the high life believing that sooner or later he would be moved to spare some of his excess to benefit a man with nothing. But it never happened. Jesus tells the parable to demonstrate that decisions which may make perfect good sense whilst enjoying the fine things in this life, may look different from the perspective of eternity.

It is certainly a story which resonates strongly for me living in Palestine and Israel in a time of war. I’m fairly certain that it’s a story which resonates here in York today because a war in the Middle East is never only a concern to the people who live in the Middle East. However, I must say that there have been times in these past six months that Palestinian Christians have felt that even their Christian brothers and sisters in the wealthy and comfortable parts of the world have not noticed the suffering of poor Lazarus at their gate. The feeling of neglect and the sense of rejection felt by Palestinians by the words and deeds or the lack of words and the lack of deeds even by Christian leaders has left them feeling utterly abandoned. Balancing the need to condemn Hamas with the desire to support Israel along with the desire to protect innocent victims has usually resulted in the innocent victims feeling as if they are the ones who have been left begging without reward at the Rich Man’s gate.

But I am here to tell you, Palestinians, Christians and Muslims alike are not sitting passively waiting for the world to come to its senses. Inevitably people are taking many different courses of action in the face of dangers they face, some of them not so wise. But my experience in many different contexts across the Land is that they will not let fear and hatred rule their actions. I clearly see a determination to pull together, to strengthen the bonds of community so that none are left to suffer alone. I am continually impressed and moved by those who are literally binding up the wounded, comforting the bereaved, feeding the hungry and visiting those imprisoned. They are not just siting around waiting for the rich countries of the world to come to their senses. They are They are using the forces of light to contend with the darkness which threatens to engulf them. I believe with all my heart and soul that we are all called to play our part too.

On Easter Day, the Anglican Christians of Jerusalem gathered together in the Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr for the high point of the whole Christian year. We may not have been all that many but it felt as if being together we amounted to a great deal.

I am pretty sure that I was not alone in wondering if Easter could be made to feel anything like Easter when our hearts were breaking and we were grieving and also angry. I need not have worried: The Holy Spirit moved among us. Two of our teenagers sang and encouraged us:

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until You come and sit awhile with me. You raise me up.

We received the Eucharist as a sacrament of the presence of Christ with us. And in the final hymn we sang together in Arabic and English simultaneously:

Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

In singing it, for a while at least, we knew that victory over the dark domain and Easter joy lifted our hearts. We walked blinking, out into the bright sunshine and the world still had not changed. But we were changed, as I hope you were too in your own Easter celebrations. As we continue through this season of Easter may we live in that resurrection light and commit to doing the deeds of the light, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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Eighth Sunday of Trinity – The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel Assisting Bishop of SE Florida, TEC

Preacher: The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel Assisting Bishop of SE Florida, TEC

Date: 30 July 2023,  Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Good morning I bring you all greetings from the Episcopal Church which comprises
the United States, as well as many countries and places outside of it. We rejoice in our
connections in this, our Anglican family. I bring you particular greetings from the Diocese of Southeast Florida where I serve as Assisting Bishop and from our Bishop Diocesan Bishop Peter Eaton.
Now, I realize, many of you have already picked up that I am not from around here, I have a rather peculiar and funny way of speaking, and indeed it might have been helpful to have an interpreter this morning, to interpret my Southern USA drawl, but alas we do not have that so I promise I will try to do my very best. As I do that I also wish to thank Dean Barrington, a true mentor and friend, for the invitation and blessing of standing here in this amazingly beautiful and
sacred place.
Today I would like to focus on “heart.” Both the word, but mostly the concept. The heart
is of course a real thing and yet also a theme well beyond that reality. This is what our
collect for the day points to so well when we prayed.
We beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws
and the works of your commandments;

Paul points to it in his letter to the Romans today when he speaks of our God, who
searches our heart.
Most of us understand body, it is pretty clear, and we can see it and know it. Heart, however, is both physical and real, and yet far more than that. Here, when heart is used, it is, of course, not suggesting our actual beating heart, that organ we all have right about here. Of course, that organ is real, and also real important to each of us, but that is not what heart here means.

No, in these words, from Jesus, “heart,” refers to those things we cannot, for the most part, see at all.
If you think about it, none of us absolutely know we have a heart right here, except that we can feel it beating, we can feel it when it is hurting, but in the end it is a matter of faith to a degree, that one is right here, and is working to keep us alive. Most of us intellectually know that we cannot live without it working, day in, day out, minute to minute, literally as they say, and
hopefully for each us, not missing a beat.
Most often, if we are truly fortunate, we don’t think about it at all, but it keeps always, doing its work. It’s consistency, its persistence, is absolutely crucial to our continued survival. We can live without many other things, but not without a heart.
So we can say it is absolutely central, crucial, primary to life.
With that idea, and understanding, Jesus and so many others use this image, heart, meaning everything that makes you you, me me, anybody anybody.
That is what makes this image so mysterious and yet so powerful. It is one reason Jesus,
and so many others, use the image so often.
In fact, in Scripture we find the word “heart” used in just this manner, over 1000 times,
making it therefore, one of, if not the most common anthropological theme in Scripture.

Love God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind…
Luke 10:27

Where your treasure is, there your heart will
be also. Matthew 6:21

Heart as it is used here, means all those things that fall outside our physical reality. It
is, you might say, the air that we breath, the feelings that we have, the love that we share,
or that we don’t. You might even say it is how we navigate the world, and interact with our community, and our planet. We hear sayings every day that pick up on this.

His or her heart is just not in it. Home is where the heart is. The heart of the story. Getting to the heart of the matter.

And it is far from just Jesus or religion that believes this. Carl Jung once said, Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside it, dreams; who looks inside it, awakens. Jesus is saying much the same. In a sense, he is telling a truth, we all know, and also asking us a question and that is a simple and yet
deeply challenging one: What is primary in your life? What is central to your being?
What is the heart of your life? What is it in your life, that like our physical real heart,
beating inside us, drives you, motivates you, moves you, causes you to act.
It is summed up for me in a much paraphrased comment by GK Chesterton, who basically said “it’s not that Christianity is all that bad, its just that no one has ever really tried it yet!”
Because it is not always easy, and Jesus didn’t promise it would be, but he did promise a God of Love, that would be with us in every beat of our heart, in every step we ever take, and God, in turn, asks us to essentially love others, just as God Loved us, which I would say is to love completely,
recklessly, wastefully, not something this world encourages of us, and not something our mind tells us is reasonable, and that is why heart is so important. That is why heart is what Jesus asks us to give completely. Because heart is everything, mind, soul, body.
What is primary in your life? What is your heart?

I don’t believe following Christ means you must live an oppressive life, or somehow live removed from this world. I don’t believe that following Christ means you have to leave everything you own on the street corner and walk away. I do believe it means realigning how you see all of those things, what the priority of all those things are in your life. I do believe we have to let go of them, in the sense that they are no longer things we own, be it money, or possessions, or even those we
love, to let go of them, in the sense that they are not our heart, they are not the central reason for our being, or for our actions in this world, and instead care and love all those
things for God, and as God loves us, fully, completely, abundantly, recklessly, wastefully. When Jesus spoke of freedom, that is what he was talking about. When he spoke of heart, I believe this was what he was speaking of.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That is God’s wish for this world, and for each and every one of us. That is the heart of this faith. That is the heart of Jesus’s way, and it is a free gift, available to each and every one of us. We
must only accept it, follow it, and live it, from our heart.
My beloved I have said these words to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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Trinity Sunday – Revd Matthew Porter, Vicar of St Michael le Belfrey and Bishop Designate of Bolton

Title: A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Preacher: The Reverend Matthew Porter, Vicar of St Michael le Belfrey and Bishop Designate of Bolton

Date: 4 June 2023  Trinity Sunday 11.00am

Readings: Is. 40:12-17, 27-end; 2 Cor. 13:11-end; Mt. 28:16-end

Last words. Last words are important, especially when you’re dying. It’s said that famed musician Billie Holiday’s were: ‘Don’t be in such a hurry.’ The last words of footballer George Best, who struggled with alcohol, were: ‘don’t die like I did.’ And Bob Marley the celebrated singer, said to his son as he died, ‘Money can’t buy life.’ So often it’s the final words that people remember.

When Jesus gives his last speech to his disciples, his Great Commission, what (according to Matthew) does he say? ‘Go’ – don’t keep the good news to yourself; go and make more disciples. ‘Teach’- pass on what I told you. ‘Baptise’ – immerse people. In what? In God. What kind of God?

‘In the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ Immerse them in the God who is three and yet One. That’s what I was doing last Sunday, next door in St Michael le Belfrey Church. I got wet, immersing five young adults in water in our baptistery, declaring: ‘I baptise you, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ It marked the end of their old life, as they now chose to follow Jesus for the rest of their days.

While we need to take seriously the rise of atheism, especially in the contemporary West, most people in the world today, and across human history, believe and have believed, in God. The question is: what kind of God is he? Let me highlight three things we can confidently say about the nature of God from our readings.

First God is Trinity. We’ve been seeing this already, for today is Trinity Sunday.

This three-in-one way of understanding God has sometimes been seen as an embarrassing problem which the ancient church has passed down to us. Passed like a hospital pass in rugby, that’s difficult to receive! Or passed on like inheriting an old house, that comes with a lingering fusty smell that’s annoying and we just can’t get rid of it! Over the last two to three hundred years, ultra-rational people have often thought like this about the Trinity, finding it awkward: how can God be three and yet one? They find it goes against their neat categories, being untidy and even contradictory. But, think about it, we live in a world that rightly celebrates both unity and diversity; they don’t have to contradict. Also most of us can live holding two things in tension; it doesn’t phase us. We call this paradox – living with apparent contradiction. For example: throw things in the sky and they normally fall. And yet people travel daily on planes in the sky, trusting they’re not going to fall to the ground. Also, people normally do all they can to avoid pain, yet across our planet every day women are giving birth, knowing full well it’s going to hurt! Those are just two examples showing that we humans can live with a bit of paradox in our lives! So, observing that’s there’s paradox in the Trinity doesn’t mean it’s not true. In fact for some, it makes things more reasonable, with Oxford theologian and scientist Alastair McGrath describing our faith as ‘shaped by a rich and coherent Trinitarian logic of faith.’

And of course the testimony of our Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, is that God is Trinity. Even in our first reading today, from Isaiah, it’s possible to see the interconnected and beautiful work of God the Creator, God the Lord and God the Spirit. So rather than being something to apologise for, I want us to celebrate the Trinity today! We gladly worship this wonderful, relational God, who’s revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I hope you know this trinitarian God. We know him through Jesus Christ, who through his cross and resurrection has opened the way to the Father, and to the experience of the Spirit. It’s all through Jesus Christ. If you don’t know this God, come in prayer to Jesus Christ today, and enter into the joy and wonder of worshipping our Trinitarian God.

Here’s a second thing we see in our readings: he is a giving God. All three persons of the Trinity are like this: giving and giving and giving. They give love to each other. And to us. They just can’t help it! It’s in their nature. The close of 2 Corinthians (in our New Testament reading) speaks so simply, but profoundly of this, of the gracious work of Jesus: self-giving of himself with great love. Forgiving and freeing us. So unconditional, undeserved and unending! All overflowing to us. The deep love of God the Father: so strong, protective and creative, which he wants us to experience. The rich loving fellowship of the Holy Spirit: life-giving and empowering; pulling together and bringing unity, that he wants us to enjoy.

Notice that Jesus says: ‘All authority in heaven on earth has been given me,’ and then he passes it on. He gives it away, for our God is a giving God. This is why Isaiah, having told us that God doesn’t get tired or weary, then says that if we hope in him, expectantly putting our trust in him, we can have our strength renewed. Some of us here today, are tired and weary: worn out with life, with work, with politics, with our relationships, even sometimes with church. If that’s you, again come to our giving God and ask for him to give you his strength. For he loves to give to us all we need for life.

Ann Voskamp, a mother with young children, one day felt dared. She dared to write a list of a thousand things for which she was thankful. Not of gifts she wanted, but of gifts she already had. So she made a start:

As she thought about these things, they made her smile, so she wrote them down in a journal. They were common things she was grateful for.  Here’s what she said about it: ‘I didn’t even know they were gifts really, until I wrote them down, and that is really what they look like: Gifts which God bestows. This writing it down – it is sort of like … unwrapping love.’ And that was the start of a joyful journey into thankfulness, eventually written up in her best-selling book One Thousand Gifts, a book which has helped many not only journal their thanksgivings, but more importantly live lives of gratitude to the trinitarian God who keeps on giving. This is our trinitarian God. He gives.

A third and final thing we discover about our God, is that he gives to us, not just for own benefit, but for others. He’s a going God – who sends us out to serve. That’s why Jesus said, in the Great Commission of Mt 28: ‘Go and make disciples.’ He wants us to give away our faith: pointing others to Jesus Christ, so they too follow him. To give away our money: generously giving to church, and to the poor and those who are struggling. To give away our time: investing in people and projects in our locality and beyond that make a difference. To give away our love: trusting that God will give more, so we can give again. This is our mission, with the Father being the sender, Jesus being the One sent, and the Spirit being the sending power.

The purpose is transformation. Starting in us. And then spilling out, well beyond ourselves. John, one of those baptised last week in St Michael le Belfrey Church, gets this. Although he’s only been a believer a few weeks, here’s what he said in a short interview before his baptism last week: “I moved to York but didn’t expect to find Jesus or church. But Jesus found me. That’s how it feels. I want to be baptised to start a new life with Jesus. I want to live better. And I also want to make a difference in the world.” How right he was! As disciples, we are baptised people: immersed into the Trinity, to live a new life. Yes, to live better. But also to make a difference in the world. Eighteenth century pioneering missionary Henry Venn grasped this. On arriving in India, knowing that was the place he was called to serve, he famously said: ‘Until now I have not been very useful. Let me now burn for God.’

So on this Trinity Sunday, may you experience the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, as he gives his love to you, and sends you out, with heart on fire, to transform the world.

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Grown men don’t cry – Revd Dr Ian McIntosh

Preacher: Revd Dr Ian McIntosh

Title of sermon: Grown men don’t cry

Date/time/service: Sunday 13 March, 11am, Choral Eucharist

 

“Grown men don’t cry”.  This popular proverb has shaped many a male upbringing speaking as it does of an expectation of a masculinity which displays no emotion or weakness.  When the Tsunami hit Indonesia on Boxing Day 2004, the BBC reporter, Ben Brown, broadcast a live interview with a lady who had lost everything.  They stood amongst the rubble of a former home, surrounded by debris as she told the world of her pain.  It was heart rending.  And his response was to offer her an arm around the shoulder, with tears in his eyes.  A rare public display of compassion seen on live TV.

“Grown men don’t cry”.  Yes they do.  And they do at the moment in the Ukraine where a broadcast last week showed a distraught man able to do nothing but weep uncontrollably as his home burnt.  Tears stream down the faces of those husbands and fathers who have to say what they hope is a temporary farewell to their wives and children fleeing from railway stations in Kyiv to become refugees.

“Grown men don’t cry”.  This one does when I see the suffering of others and can do little to help.  When those I love are upset and I can do nothing about it.  When I feel overwhelmed with expectations. And in a world where the rates of males taking their own lives is alarmingly high, it is important that we all debunk these popular myths which can be so damaging.

The shortest verse in the Bible is in John’s gospel – Jesus wept.  Grown men do cry.  Jesus cried.  He cried at the tomb of his friend Lazarus who had died before Jesus could reach him.  Jesus also cried as he approached Jerusalem in the days before he was crucified distressed at how that city would turn down the offer of peace and settle instead for an option of war and conflict.  And in our gospel reading this morning we read of what is essentially part one of that visit to Jerusalem.  Here Jesus laments over Jerusalem.

Lament is a very powerful expression of emotion.  It is a deep being moved over the plight of others, in this case of Jesus knowing that his life, his values, his care and compassion of others will not be recognised in Jerusalem.  In the very place where they most needed it, those who he loves will refuse it.   At the very centre of the faith which nourished Jesus, his love would be spurned.

Jesus’ lament is also a raging.  A raging at the despotic family of Herod whose forebears had already caused Jesus’ family to flee as refugees to Egypt when he was young. And now a new Herod who Jesus names openly as a fox seeks to do him more harm. And yet in the midst of rage, Jesus is determined that his mission of love to the world, to the Herod’s of this world, will not be curtailed, even if it will end up in his own death.

Jesus’ lament comes from the depths of his compassion – that deep place of being moved in the bowels that leads to wanting to gather up others into safety but can’t.  That is where his compassion always comes from.  It is expressed here by a Jesus who is deeply in touch with his femininity as he employs a beautiful image from wider creation of a mother hen gathering her chicks.  Laments allow this man Jesus to describe his longing in an image drawn from the world of mothering and women.

Laments are part of a language of compassion.  In the Bible and especially in the psalms, they allow impossible questions to be posed without answers.  They are vehicles to express feelings that need to be expressed.  They cry out to a God who often feels a long way off and who seems powerless. Laments enable a language of tears, a primal language without words, one that is greater than words.

So grow men do cry and they do rage.  And today as we worship this morning in the midst of war in the Ukraine, we too cry and rage.  We cry with the women, men and children of the Ukraine who are battered, scarred and so fearful.  We long with the many people in Russia and around the world for an end to this outrageous war.  We name that fox Putin and pray that he will have the decency to seek a withdrawal of his troops and to ensure ceasefires that truly allow people to be safe. We weep and God weeps too as God does in Jesus Christ.  God weeps to show the depths of compassion and solidarity with a broken and fractured world.  God rages against injustice and calls us to rage too – to be angry and to channel that into acts of mercy and compassion. God calls us to work for a healed world where such tyranny will no longer be.

It is very hard to be powerless, to have little to say in the face of such trauma. However, we have a God who is as God is in Jesus – a loving, merciful, compassionate God who weeps and rages and laments and loves.  And if that is what God does when life gets unbearably tough, then that is what we are called to do this morning and this Lent – to weep, to rage, to lament and to love.

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Returning to meet with Jesus – Revd Daniel Jones, Honorary Minor Canon

May the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure. Luke 9.31

When living in exile just before the 1917 revolution, Lenin is said to have written that, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.” What I think he was referring to, was the tendency for a society to remain apparently stable for long periods of time, during which time ideas and beliefs bubble under the surface and eventually, for good or ill, pour out in the events that we then read about and see in the news.

Both on a societal and on an individual level, what we see going on on the surface is an indication of what’s happening underneath. Our actions betray our thoughts. Every time I sit and listen to a sermon preached, every time I read a Christian book of any kind and, dare I say it,
every time I stand in a pulpit, I’m aware of how we are called to live out our beliefs. The whole point of preaching is that you and I are invited to read our lives and our Bibles together in the hope that each might help us to make sense of the other. And yet, there are weeks when so much darkness happens in our world that it feels difficult to see the promise of peace which is reflected in the pages of our Bibles being equally obvious in the text of our newspapers. That’s a rather longwinded way of saying, how might you and I hold onto the stories about Moses, Jesus and the transfiguration that we have heard this morning and use them to reflect on the unsettling realities of what’s happening in Ukraine.

To try to do so risks seeming to trivialise the current political situation and yet to shy away from doing so would be to fail in our responsibility as Christians to see the world and its history as belonging wholly to God. I don’t have any easy answers to that, actually I’m not sure I have any answers at all, and so, as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s, and just in case you are feeling a little lost or sad or frightened by it all, I hope you’ll permit me to share some thoughts in the hope that God and the safety of all God’s people might be for a few moments in the meditations of all our hearts.

Writing about a hundred years before Jesus, Marcus Varro wrote “Antiquities of Human and Divine Things.” The work is long since lost but Augustine preserved Varro’s thinking for us in one of his books. Augustine seems to have liked Varro’s distinction between three different versions of theology: mythical; political and natural. Mythical theology is the accounts of the actions of God told by the storytellers and written in the pages of the Bible. Natural theology is the works of God glimpsed in the beauty and order of our world. And political theology is how human beings make their own, let’s be honest often faltering attempt, to reflect divine beauty and order in our own social structures – including this one. The distinction between these three things is, I think, a good one but only if you remember that they can’t actually be separated. The job of every human being, as God’s pilgrim people, is to live out the story of God: that means looking for God’s truth in our world and living out God’s values in our relationships.

And that’s why, even when the news is difficult, we begin by returning to the Galilean countryside to meet with Jesus. And this morning, you’ve just heard Jesus and his disciples having what can only be referred to as the greatest of all mountaintop experiences. Just for a moment, Jesus disciples are surrounded by “light inaccessible, hid from our eyes” as we will sing in a few minutes time. They are lost in very presence of God. Is it any wonder that they ask to make dwellings for Moses and Elijah and one for Jesus himself. In other words, let’s stay here forever. Let’s just get lost in our beliefs. Let’s just tell the stories of our faith. Let’s just look for God in God’s divine light. Let’s be mystical and natural theologians without having to do the uncomfortable job of being political ones too. You can’t do that, says Jesus, and he sends them back out again. What follows the transfiguration is a story of how they come down from the mountain, and into a crowd where Jesus heals a sick child. Is Jesus making the point, I wonder, that mountaintop experiences are great but the more open we are to the presence of God, the more willing we have to be to return to really engaging with the sufferings of our world.

NT Wright puts it like this: we have to remember that “it was that the glory which they had glimpsed on the mountain, the glory of God’s chosen son, the Servant who was carrying in himself the promise of redemption, would finally be unveiled on a very different hill, an ugly little hill outside Jerusalem.” Jesus’ hope for a better future always means engaging with the lived reality of his world, even if it hurts to do so. I wonder whether that’s what he meant to teach those disciples that day: that it’s good to be lost in worship but it’s only truly worship if God’s redemption promises somehow play out in their lives, and ours. Being people who live out the story of crucifixion and resurrection means that we are at the same time willing to stand alongside others in the sufferings of our world and also alive to the hope that God will bring and end to suffering. We are called to be people who are changed by the divine promise of a future hope. This week, I wonder what that means for you? For me, it means that Jesus reminds me that violence is never an answer, that the suffering of the innocent is never right and that injustice has to be faced down even if to do so is costly. Our lives too must be transformed by our beliefs. It also means that, while the peoples of Russia and Ukraine may feel a long way away, you are I are called to somehow come down from the mountain, to somehow engage with issue, even in the midst of our confusion and sadness, even not knowing what we might actually do. If nothing else, we are called to pray for those who suffer and for those who work for their freedom, as we continue to tell the story of God’s future hope to a world that longs to hear it.

Amen.

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Accession Day 2022 – Rt Revd Richard Frith, former Bishop of Hereford.

Preacher: Rt Revd Richard Frith, former Bishop of Hereford.

Title of sermon: Accession Day 2022

Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8, 1 Cor 15: 1-11, Luke 5: 1-11

Date/time/service: Sunday 6th January 2022 – 11am Choral Eucharist

 

There’s one word that kept coming back to me after I looked at today’s readings.

An OT reading with a vision of God.

An epistle reading with the basis of our Christian faith.

A Gospel reading with Jesus calling his disciples to follow him.

Readings set ages in advance, that come round every three years – but used today, two years on from the start of an extraordinary time for all of us.

That one word for today is Confidence. Confidence.

There are many signs of a lack of confidence, not least, as far as I can tell, in the Church. The disappointing reality is that we do tend to show just the same human weakness, insecurity, lack of confidence and consequent tendency to point our fingers at others as everyone else.

By confidence, I don’t mean wishful thinking or false bravado, where the more lacking in confidence we are, the less we listen and the more loudly we shout. Rather, taking a dictionary definition of it as “the belief that we can have faith in or rely on someone or something” – in Christian terms, confidence in our faith and how it can sustain and motivate us: that it is good news.

So, in our OT reading we have a confident vision of God. “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple…”

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

That’s where we start. It is horribly easy to ignore God – for the Church to be just another organisation. Isaiah’s vision gives a sense of wonder, a vision of God present not only in heaven but also very much on earth; a vision of God leading to worship that can provide perspective and engender hope; and the ministry that flows from it.

It is that confident vision of God that enables Isaiah to hear the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” and to respond, “Here am I, send me!”

Then in our Epistle reading we have from St. Paul a confident statement of faith, thought to be the oldest of all testimonies to Jesus’ resurrection: St. Paul handing on the faith as he has received it.

 

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Advent Sermon – Peter Collier QC, Vicar General of the Province of York and Cathedral Reader

Preacher: Peter Collier QC, Vicar General of the Province of York and Cathedral Reader

Title of sermon: Advent Sunday 2021

Date/time/service: Sunday 28th November 2021 – 1st Sunday of Advent 

Passage of scripture: Luke 21.25-36

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing to you, O lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen

Well, Storm Arwen has swept through, the days are shortening, and last week my garden was covered with a glorious carpet of leaves. As I get up each morning and look out on the world I know that Christmas is getting closer.

Perhaps if Jesus had spoken to the disciples in November rather than the spring he would have talked about falling leaves rather than sprouting ones. But his point would have been the same – look around you, see what is happening, take notice of the signs.

He told them about the signs he particularly wanted them to look out for, not what was happening in the garden, but what was happening in the world around them.

He spoke about cosmic changes that would make people afraid, he spoke about the powers of heaven being shaken. These words could be taken literally, but they could equally be seen as referring to some convulsion shaking the world whether political or something else. And, he says, it will make everyone fearful and worried, and some will even pass out because they will be so affected by it.

Then, says Jesus, then, when all that is happening, people will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Last Sunday, the Archbishop announced a royal visit which he said was going to take place. Perhaps like me it took you a little while before you realised what he was talking about. He told us that the royal visit was going to happen but in one sense had already happened. The kingdom of God which is going to come is already here among those of us who follow Jesus Christ and who are living his story.

Luke also has overlapping time frames in this chapter – some of the things Jesus speaks about he says will happen in the lifetime of those who are listening. He had spoken earlier in the chapter about the fall of Jerusalem, which some of his readers would witness. But some things will be at the end of time as we know it. Those first disciples would not see those things happen in their lifetimes. But we might, or we might not.

So Jesus said to them and this morning says to us – look around you – are there things that make you worried? – wars, famine, floods and other disasters? The pandemic which has had an unprecedented impact on the whole known world? And now there is the omicron variant. Will we ever see an end to it and to the huge impact it has had on the emotional and mental health and wellbeing of all of us. Anxiety and fear and that closely related emotion of anger have taken hold of us perhaps as never before. And we could add climate change into the mix with seemingly so little resolve on the part of key word leaders to do anything about it.

Jesus says that all these things that disturb us are signs – signs that he is coming soon.

So what? What response is he looking for?

Raise your heads! Be on guard! Be alert! Pray for strength! Is what he says

A few verses earlier Luke not only records Jesus talking about the fall of Jerusalem, but also saying that some of those listening to him will be persecuted, imprisoned, brought before kings and governors, betrayed by family and some will be put to death. In his follow up volume (Acts) Luke describes all those things happening to those who followed Jesus Christ.

And it was to prepare them for that that Jesus told them to Raise their heads! Be on guard! Be alert! Pray for strength!

And what of us at the start of this Advent season?

When Jesus spoke about the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory, those listening would have immediately thought of the prophet Daniel, and of Daniel’s vision of one like a son of man being given an everlasting kingship that would never be destroyed and of that time when all peoples, nations and languages would serve him.

Jesus is saying to his disciples that at the very end when God’s court of judgment is ready to proceed to final verdict and sentence, he will come with great power and glory and fully establish his kingdom, a kingdom for which there is real evidence and something of a foretaste now when we feed the poor, care for the sick, visit the prisoners and live Christ’s story.

So he says:

Raise your heads, lift them up, don’t be ashamed or afraid of being someone who is known as a follower of Jesus; Jesus the king, your king is coming and coming soon.

Be on guard, watch out, so that your hearts are not weighed down. When the anxiety or panic comes on us this week let us remember these words of Jesus.

Be alert, always be ready. It might be today; there might be no Advent Procession this year, because the King will have come. If I knew that that would be the case should I do anything different in the rest of today; no – In everything I do I am to live Christ’s story and that is all I need to do.

Pray for strength – we don’t know what lies ahead of us, but we do know that Jesus promised that he would be with us to the very end. Each day this week as each day every week he is with us alongside and by his spirit equipping and strengthening us to live for him. Prayer is simply us opening our lives to live in dialogue with him and draw on that strength.

So this week, we don’t know what the news will bring? But whatever may come our way, Jesus says to us – read the signs – because they will tell us that the King is coming, the royal visit is at hand – So – Raise your heads! Be on guard! Be alert! Pray for strength.

Amen.

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Peter Collier QC, Vicar General of the Province of York and Cathedral Reader

Sermon Preached for Evensong.

York Minster, Sunday 7 November 2021 by The Reverend Peter Collier.

 

May the  words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing to you , O lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen

I wonder if you picked up the thread running through the scriptures that we have heard read and sung this afternoon

The Psalmist speaks of the nations being in uproar and the kingdoms tottering, but he introduces us to a God who makes wars cease.

The prophet Isaiah speaks those well-known words about a time when the wolf and the lamb will live at peace with each other. A far cry from those Attenborough documentaries with their dramatic footage of nature red in tooth and claw. Just for a moment imagine them without the drama of the chase and the kill?

The Psalmist and the Prophet are looking at the big picture, and to the end times. The Christian gospel proclaims that that there will be an end time and it will be a time when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God. It will be an age of peace and harmony and there will be an absence of so much that dominates our world – human conflict and natural disaster with their ensuing hunger, disease, and death.

But that age is not now and the Christian gospel is not just about a distant hope, it is about hope for the here and now.

It is in the now that Jesus promises to those of us who love him that he and his father will come to us and make their home with us

As we begin to make plans for Christmas, I am already looking forward to hearing the ABY read the prologue to John’s gospel with those wonderful words – the word became flesh and lived among us – or as the Message translation says – The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood. The Revised English Version has it as – the word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.

That is wonderful news – God, the Word – came and for a period lived here in the neighbourhood, pitched his tent among us. He became one of us, he experienced life on this earth with all its ups and downs, joys and heartaches. But that was then. And we know that he died, and as we said in the creed, on the third day he rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven.

So the prophets might have looked ahead to the future and the story of Jesus takes us back 2000 years. But reading what happened when he was here can emphasise our aloneness now. We can feel very much on our own in a world that is not only hostile to us but also where there is so much destructive hostility at work across the globe.

But what of now? Well Jesus says he will come with his father and make their home with us.

Make their home with us?

Can we try and visualise that for a moment or two.

Imagine someone else coming to make their home with you. It happens in some families – they take in another family member, perhaps a grandchild. Some go further and take in a stranger, perhaps a foster child or a refugee. In a moment of crisis we once took in my wife’s brother. What I thought might be 2 weeks turned into 2 years. Whoever you take in, the act of taking them in has a huge impact on your life – they are there, at all times of day and night; they take part in everything – we are talking not about a lodger with a key to their room but someone who has come to share your home in every sense.

The result is that we have to adapt; it is disruptive to the pattern of life we had grown used to. It will mean making changes.

There are theological and philosophical mysteries aplenty here as Jesus talks about himself, the father, and the holy spirit; but in fact, in our experience we discover these mysteries and so come to understand their meaning.

We have the experience of remembering what Jesus said. And the more we read what he said the more we will be reminded. That is what the Spirit does.

Jesus went on to say that it was good that he was going away because he was going to be reunited with the Father who is even greater than him. This is where my understanding and my ability to put it into words fails. But we are grasping after something on a bigger and different scale than just Jesus here on earth. When he was on the earth he could only be with those he was physically present with. But when he had gone and rejoined the father, they can send the spirit to each and every one of his disciples in the same way at the same time.

And so they will come to live with each one of us, sharing our homes, our lives, our work, our recreation, our joys and our sorrows.

And they will bring not only disruption but true peace. Not like the world’s peace which so often is just a truce, a halting of hostility for now, a patching up, but deep down the cause of the hostility continues.

The peace Jesus brings is peace within, peace with myself, peace with others.

In a few minutes we shall sing together:

Peace in our hearts our evil thoughts assuaging,

Peace in thy church where brothers are engaging;

Peace when the world its busy war is waging;

This week wherever we are and whatever we are doing we have that promise, that assurance – Jesus and the Father have moved in to live with us – and that will bring disruption and change in our lives as we adjust to their living with us, but also they will bring us peace.

It is a foretaste of what the prophets spoke about. They looked to the day when the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord

This week, day by day we can each know that foretaste for ourselves.

 

Amen

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The Widow’s Offering – The Reverend Dr Catherine Reid

Sermon Preached on the Third Sunday before Advent

York Minster, Sunday 7 November 2021 by Canon Victoria Johnson

The Widow’s Offering

Our Gospel passage begins with Jesus’ ultimate criticism of the religious leaders of the day – the Pharisees and Scribes – that they were hypocrites. That is, they said they followed the will of God but, in fact, did otherwise. Jesus uses the image of the actor to say they were not who they appeared to be. Yet, the Pharisees were serious about God and the Torah, enough to kill, but their hypocrisy was that even while they claimed to be experts of the Torah, they violated it. This matter of hypocrisy is significant, as we shall see. Something of this too connects with the reading from Hebrews; ‘For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.’ Jesus cuts through any pretence or play and goes to the real place as he truly is.

We are meant to notice that our Gospel passage begins with this criticism and then tells of a widow putting in all the money she has into the alms box at the Temple. Widows were supposed be given particular care in the Jewish community and yet are the victims of the hypocrisy in the religious leaders Jesus is so critical of; ‘they devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.’ Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees and Scribes is serious indeed. It is no coincidence that our Gospel passage today begins with Jesus’ criticism and proclamation of judgement on these groups, as he then relates the action of a widow in sharp contrast to the actions of those who are said to prey upon her.  Jesus’ telling of the widow’s offering is connected to his condemnation of the Pharisees and Scribes.

This hypocrisy in the religious leaders gets to a serious spiritual matter for all of us, for every Christian. There’s a reason why repentance, of turning back to God, is at the heart of our journey with God. We die to sin and rise to new life with Jesus. We can be very serious about God and believe we are doing his will, and yet, if we do not make a daily offering of our heart to God, we very easily devise rules of our own, and like the Pharisees, can actually go against the will the God. We can end up play-acting. Being a disciple of Jesus is tricky and not always straightforward, it involves all of us, and every bit of our lives. There has to be a continual openness to God and a desire for a deeper listening and noticing.

I wonder what you think being a Christian is all about… Do you think it’s about being a good person? Well, you might find yourself making more ethically-based decisions [of sorts] as you seek to live faithfully, but being of faith for the sake of being good is not what it’s all about. In fact, if we do think this, we’re likely to be rightly accused of living under a guise of hedonism.

We are, first and foremost, above and before all else, to love God. In the same chapter as our Gospel passage this morning, it’s significant that we hear the first commandment, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ And the second, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Mark 12.30) There is a hierarchy here. God first, and we see this in the widow’s offering. In loving God, she wants to give all she has. She is wholehearted in her response to the generosity of God.

We are to notice the contrast of amounts in the account of the widow in the Temple. Many rich people put in large sums and the widow two small copper coins. They give out of their wealth, out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, out of her need, out of her scarcity. When giving from poverty, you have to really think about it as you are personally on the line, your very security; but when giving from wealth, your very self and security are not in jeopardy or at any particular risk.  Yet, in one way, all of this is not about amounts of money, it’s about making an unreserved response to God’s generosity, which also isn’t about amounts, but rather that he has made us a new creation in Christ and has set his seal upon us; that he has given us a new heart.  God’s outflow is from his love, ours – an outflow of our worship.  The words often used at the Offertory in the eucharistic liturgy, All things come from thee O Lord and of thine own do we give thee, have particular meaning here.

What we see in the widow’s offering is her wholehearted response to God’s faithfulness, to his generosity, and we can reflect on this ourselves in how we respond to God, in all areas of our lives.  In the widow’s offering, we see an expression of the first commandment, to love your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  We are to love God and in this we want to give everything we have. What does this look like? And who is this like? [Jesus]

As we are drawn daily to make this wholehearted response to God’s generosity in Christ, we can find our prayer to God each morning and throughout each day in the words of the psalmist,

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51.10)

 

Amen.

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Climate Sunday – The Reverend Johannes Nobel

Sermon Preached on Climate Sunday

York Minster, Sunday 3 October 2021 by Revd Johannes Nobel (Green Ambassador for the Diocese of York)

Readings: 2 Corinthians 9.6-15, Luke 12.16-30.

Climate Sunday. 

Our Gospel reading for today is a strong favourite of mine. ‘Consider the Ravens’, Jesus says. You see, I am keen birdwatcher. I promise you, there aren’t many ravens in Yorkshire, so this verse gives me ample excuse to spent long days in the field, searching for ravens. After all, that’s what Jesus told us to do: ‘Consider the Ravens.’

It’s easy to take Jesus’ words out of context and apply them in such a way that they suit our own desires.

Take, for instance, that other well-known phrase from today’s Gospel reading: ‘Do not worry.’

We have so many things to worry about. Some of us worry about running out of petrol. We worry about our job security or about our pension. We worry about our family. We worry about Covid – a lot. We worry about the future. And an increasing number of us worry about the fate of our planet. We worry about Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss. About rising sea levels, about air pollution, about climate refugees, about extinctions, about what may be to come.

Last month, the University of Bath published research into climate anxiety among young people. They surveyed 10,000 young people aged 16-25 years in ten countries. They found that 84% of respondents were worried about climate change. Indeed, 59% of respondents indicated that they were very or extremely worried. Another finding of the report was that over 50% of young people felt sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty.

‘Do not worry’, Jesus says.

What do those words mean in our context? Is this about ‘letting go of things we cannot change’? Is it about ‘hoping for the best’?

Neither of these. We can change, and in the words of Greta Thunberg: “Instead of looking for hope, look for action – then, and only then, hope will come.”

I have some issues with that statement, and if you want to know why, you need to come to my lecture at St Thomas church tomorrow at 7pm, about ‘How to talk to Greta Thunberg about God’. But let’s say she has a point. “Instead of looking for hope, look for action.”

Because action is what we need. When last month at the University of York, archbishop Stephen was asked why now is the time to take climate action, he responded with a story. He said: Imagine that a plane would crash, and all 150 passengers would be killed. It would be terrible news. Now imagine that the very next day it would happen again. And again. Two planes on one day. Over 300 casualties. And the next day it would happen again. And again. No doubt it would take less than a week for all air traffic to grind to a halt. All planes would be grounded. It would be the highest priority: People are dying. All else would have to wait.

The inconvenient truth is that the World Health Organisation estimates that in the next 30 years, on average, over 700 people will lose their lives due to climate change, each day. And that’s not counting the millions who die of air pollution each year. But 700 casualties is the equivalent of 4-5 planes, each day. And we know the cause. We even know the solution. Why are we so slow to act? It doesn’t make sense to Greta Thunberg and the young people who follow her.

‘Do not worry’, Jesus says.

Oh, really? How can you even say that, Lord?

In fact, Jesus says: ‘therefore, do not worry.’ His words are spoken in the context of that parable about the rich man, that wealthy fool, who thought he was safe and comfortable because he had ample goods stored up for years. Good management had brought him some great returns and a very nice pension. But his life was demanded of him. I imagine it happened in a flash flood, or freak storm, or a devastating wildfire. The man lost everything. And at that point he realised that he had not been rich toward God. He had not considered his Creator.

Don’t follow his example, Jesus says. Live simply, so that others may simply live.

‘Do not worry… For life is more than food.’ You don’t to eat meat every day. ‘Do not worry… for the body is more than clothing.’ You don’t need to buy new clothes every season. ‘Do not worry.’ You don’t need that foreign holiday. ‘Do not worry.’ You don’t need the latest gadget.

Don’t store up plastic treasures on earth. Learn to store up ‘enough’, and do not forget to be rich toward your Creator.

Being rich toward your Creator means this: Spend your resources, your time, your energy, your love, on caring for what God has made, be it human or non-human. This is how we praise and bless our Creator. This is how we are rich. Rich in thanks and rich in praise. Rich in faith, hope and love. Rich in action.

‘And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.’ (2 Cor 9.8)

Amen.

 

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