Christ the King – Terror and Truth

Christ is the King, O friends rejoice!

Brothers and sisters with one voice.

Let all men know he is your choice.

These words of Bishop George Bell seem an appropriate place to begin this sermon thinking about Christ the King.

And I want to explore a little what that choice might look like for us and its consequences for how we see the world around us. Particularly in these days following those horrific terrorist attacks in Paris nine days ago.

The readings this morning offer us;

Firstly a vision of the Messiah King in the Old Testament as Daniel dreams of the future.

And secondly an encounter with that king who is before Pilate a short time before his death.

In that memorable scene, Pilate is trying to work out who is this man before him. He asks legitimate questions. The answers though are frustrating for Jesus speaks elusively of kingdoms ‘not of this world’ and that he is here to ‘testify to the truth’.

A bewildered Pilate ends the reading by almost inevitably asking ‘what is truth?’

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Holy Hands

Have you ever wondered what Jesus’ hands looked like? I don’t think I had until last week. I was sat in Leeds Station waiting for a train and found myself thinking about this sermon, looking at peoples’ hands.

So as I looked around, I saw children’s hands, holding onto their parent. Hands grasping baggage; holiday or business. Lovers holding hands and there was even a gentleman with a prosthetic hand.   And I had been thinking about hands for three reasons.

Firstly the post communion prayer from last week that had been in my mind since we prayed it last week ‘strengthen for service, Lord, the hands that have taken holy things’.

Secondly because of that demand at the end of the Gospel, when those who have followed Jesus, heard his teaching on the bread of heaven and say to him ‘Give us this bread always.’ The bread Jesus talked about was himself and we when we come here we open our hands to receive him.

And lastly because of that connection between strengthening our hands for service, receiving Christ and the theme of that first reading from St. Paul where he writes of growing up and of ministry used in the service of Christ to build up his body.

Put together, they seem to be telling me that we are invited to see our hands as holy.

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Living the Trinity – Creative Community

Last week in the Gospel for Pentecost Jesus said ‘the spirit will lead you into all truth’. The Holy Trinity, three persons and yet one God which we celebrate today is surely one example of what that means because there is of course no mention of it in the New Testament.

The three persons are there, Father, Son and Holy Spirit but the idea of the Holy Trinity was something that was worked out in the early centuries in the life of the church, in response to differing ideas and truth claims surrounding what we believe about the nature of God.

So there we have it, easy. Well yes and no because if you spend any time reading about the trinity, about “perichoresis” and “ousias” and all that before long your head will start to hurt – in simple terms it’s not easy to get your head round the trinity.

I used to visit a lovely chap as a curate on Walney Island. He never came to church but was widely read and for him the trinity was a great stumbling block “three persons and one God” he would say shaking his head and walking off. I fear my responses weren’t very helpful to him, too many “errms” and “hmmms” but I’ll return to Bill at the end.

I suppose he wanted a neat and tidy answer. Maybe an image like the one on our banner, but though that might be tidy and neat, there is more to the trinity than that.

Instead I’m happier beginning with that great Orthodox Bishop, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. I once heard him speak on the Trinity.

The first thing he did, gazing out to his audience with his wonderfully holy face and a glint in his eye was to say, “the Trinity is a Mystery”.

And for me that is where we begin and end today. A mystery is held before us(1), something we can never fully understand or comprehend and like so many things to do with faith, it’s only when we stand before it; pray it and perhaps most of all live it that it begins, just begins to make sense. Continue reading “Living the Trinity – Creative Community”

References

1 1 Corinthians 15.51

Big and Small – Pentecost is for All

Sometimes I struggle a bit with this great day for I sometimes feel as though I’m celebrating a birthday of someone or rather something I don’t know that well. Yet though that’s where this sermon began, I’m thankful that as my words today will show, it’s not where I end up.

So why the struggle?

It’s something about that feeling of being excluded.

Often we human beings are good at finding ways to divide ourselves. It’s understandable enough I suppose, we’re all different with different gifts and abilities. No use trying to say we’re the same when we are not. Continue reading “Big and Small – Pentecost is for All”

The Brief Encounter Patchwork

The God who draws us here this morning is the God of brief encounters. In that, although God’s presence is constant we are limited to glimpses and hints of his life and love in the world, brief encounters.

And the God of brief encounters is present in the lives we lead and the patchwork of brief encounters that make up our lives. Of course some of these brief encounters turn out to be rather more, the first date that turns into marriage for example.

But sometimes they are just a few minutes and I guess all of us if we think back over our lives we can all recall brief encounters which have shaped our lives. Moments that have enriched our living as we are encouraged or inspired.

Let me share one example from my story. I remember meeting the great jazz and rock drummer Jon Hiseman, who at a concert made eye contact with this young drummer and then spoke with me, made me feel important.

But there are also difficult brief encounters are also often vivid memories. When we receive bad news from a medical professional for example. These few minutes in a life of thousands of minutes, are vivid and often perfectly recalled.

Just this last week I was with someone as they recalled with great clarity some of the most traumatic few days of her life.

Brief Encounters good and bad are etched on our minds. Continue reading “The Brief Encounter Patchwork”

He’s not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy

“He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.” Words from Brian’s Mother in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Maybe the inspiration came in some way from John’s words today ‘I am not the Messiah.’

The Messiah was the one who was going to come and sort things out, restore the Jewish people and assure them of their special status as God’s chosen people. They didn’t quite get what they expected. We’ll be thinking more about that in a few days.

In the meantime however we think about John mistaken identity and being a witness to another who is to come. For there are parallels between us and John.

Maybe we don’t wear the latest range of camel’s hair clothing at least not in public but we are like him in that in our living we are called to point to the one who is to come. It’s challenging work and so it can sometimes feel that we are like voice(s) crying out in the wilderness. Yet God has and does call and use us to be as Isaiah so wonderfully put it ‘oaks of righteousness.’

The oak, such a venerable tree has deep roots. We come here Sunday by Sunday to worship, pray and have our roots nurtured. So that the branches of our lives, the witness that we offer for Christ can be spread far and wide over our city and beyond.

A 16th century mystic and poet, St. John of the Cross, whom the church remembers today offers us some words to ponder as we think of our witness:

‘for each one of us is the midwife and there under the dome of your being does creation come into existence, through your womb dear pilgrim, the womb of your soul and God grasps our arms for help.’

This is an intriguing image, midwives bringing God’s love into this world. And in faith as God grasps our soul John of the Cross helps reminds us that our arms are like the branches of the oak stretched out in love and service to our neighbours wherever they may be.

That love and service takes many forms but I want to think about two.

At the PCC on Tuesday night as we journey to fashion a vision for our parish for the years to come, a recurrent theme was an anxiety about our limited resources in terms of people.

However our churchwarden Shelagh was able to identify a significant number of people on our pastoral roll who are already involved in all kinds of work, serving our neighbours in our community and beyond. There is much to give thanks for.

Continue reading “He’s not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy”