The Queen and the Woman

As a child it didn’t seem fair. Why should the Queen have two birthdays? I like to think that on the day she was born she celebrates with her family and on her official birthday she celebrates with her people.

So we at St. Mary’s together with so many others are celebrating the Queen’s 90th Birthday. Yesterday we feasted and sang just as you should at any party and at 12 noon today the sound of bells shall be heard from the tower.

It is for her majesty another milestone marked amongst so many others, she is a remarkable woman and amongst us will be our own memories of her, those glimpses from a distance to close encounters.

Over the years she will have met so many people both here and overseas. Seen a good number of prime ministers and Archbishops come and go. In times of change she has been that constant figure in our lives.

There are many stories of her. Stories of how lives have been touched by a simple gesture or kindness.   In a moment I shall I read one taken from the book ‘The Servant Queen, A tribute for Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday’ published by the Bible Society.

It’s a story which draws together something of why we celebrate our Queen and also the Gospel passage for today and was told by the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

‘Punctuality, said Louis 18th of France, is the politeness of kings. Royalty arrives on time and leaves on time. So it is with Her Majesty the Queen, with one memorable exception.

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The Spirit of Truth will lead you into all Truth

In a few minutes we shall say the Nicene Creed. In these carefully fashioned words from the fourth century we, together with millions around the world express something of what we believe.

They are words which witness to something Jesus said in our Gospel ‘I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.’

The creed, unlike the Ten Commandments, was not dictated to Mr Nicene up a mountain to be written on tablets of stone.

Instead in the centuries following Christ’s life and death, resurrection and ascension his followers strive to articulate what they believe about him and how that shaped their understanding of the nature of God.

So for hundreds of years there was discussion and dialogue, discernment and dissent. The truth was tested, some ideas and concepts discussed and then disregarded. Then in 325 in Turkey, at the city of Nicaea, Bishops, theologians and leaders gathered.

What emerged from their time together was a creed that bears the name of where it was formulated, a creed which has become the touchstone of our faith. A creed we say almost every week, part of that creed describes that which we believe and celebrate today, the Holy Trinity.

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Grace Abounds!

The crowds gathered. Will there be enough seats? Will there be enough service sheets? Can everyone see? These are some of the questions around when we host our monthly baptism service at 12 noon. Hundreds of people come, a moment to celebrate, except that if I’m honest they’re hard work.

Its hard keeping that many people engaged and trying to be serious alongside the celebration.

Consequently, I can often go home disheartened and drained in a way it feels as though the sacrament is being abused. And yet there is more, as an email I received last week reminded me.

Prior to last month’s service, an enthusiastic photographer spoke to me before the service asking for some guidance about what was and was not appropriate. We had a chat and I asked if he could email me some of the photos because they would be useful to us for publicity and so on.

I’d forgotten about the request until an email came with some photos attached, one of which is one of my favourite ever photos. In the foreground I’m holding the Riley-James. In the background is a row of smiling joyful faces, beaming at the child and maybe even me.

That photo has served as a little reminder to me that though I might sometimes feel a bit indifferent about baptisms, God’s grace is still at work and that that grace will be revealed to us in all sorts of people and events.

It’s a photo I shall treasure for the rest of my days and is certainly one to turn too if I feel a bit grumpy and thinking it’s a waste of time.

Perhaps Jesus needed moments like that too. We might like to think of Jesus being meek and mild, all calm and collected but the reality I suspect was rather different. It must have been frustrating to be surrounded by followers who for much of the time just don’t get it.

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Purveyors of Hope

Every so often when it’s a sunny day and incense has been part of our Eucharist, as it was this time last week, a wonderful things happens.

As the smoke of the incense is met with the bright light of the day, mediated through the windows around us, then shafts of light magically appear. These shafts or beams of light are beautiful and in some way speak to us of the life of faith.

For though we know there are times when this life can seem harsh and difficult, something young Jacob, his parents Matthew and Katie together with the rest of the family have been reminded these last few weeks and months.

Amidst these difficult times, I know there have also been shafts or beams of light, glimpses of hope, little clues that there is more. Something I want to return to a bit later.

Mary whom we encounter in our Gospel this morning knew well the harshness of life. On Friday she had seen Jesus die. The power of evil and the darkness that surrounds it seems to have won.

We find her next ‘Early on the first day of the week’ at Jesus’ tomb, bewildered and distraught for ‘the stone had been removed from the tomb’. A kind man talks to her and it’s when he mentions her name, she knows. She has ‘seen the Lord’.

As darkness fell last night at our Easter Vigil though the wind blew Bishop Paul lit the paschal candle from a small fire. He then brought that light into the church proclaiming ‘The Light of Christ’.

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