Sermon for Christ the King Sunday

21 11 2015


Someone once said:

It is easy to see a Kingdom marked by a flag; by a border; by force of arms. It is easy to discern who has power in the kingdoms of this world.

It is not easy to see the realm of God. There are no borders, flags, armies or powers. There is only The Realm of God bounded by you and me and God.

Monarchies today are usually tightly constrained institutions –absolute monarchical control is more and more a thing of the past; as is also, it may seem, obedience, self-control and self-discipline: concepts hated by many in our day and age. Few of us like to obey, and we certainly don’t like the idea of anyone having authority over us.

Today is the last Sunday of the old church year….we have one last chance to look back on all that we’ve done and achieved, to celebrate and then, as we enter Advent, to watch, wait and hope for what is to come – looking forward, with Christ, to ever more clear signs of his Kingdom, which is both here – within you and me if we wish to acknowledge it – and yet still to come in its fulness and completeness.

Our reading today from Revelation was written in Greek. The Greek word for revelation is apocalypse, which means ‘unveiling’. So today is all about unveiling who Jesus really is, and unveiling who we really are. Jesus says, I am the Alpha and the Omega. Literally the beginning and the end, the be all and end all, our A-Z, as it were. Is he that to you?

As we come to the end of another Church Year, hopefully having grown just a little, we look back on what has been celebrated: remembering how God became a human being in Jesus, born as a vulnerable little baby, how he grew in holiness, how he called an unlikely band of people to share his work with him, how he taught and challenged (mostly the religiously pious people of his day) and of how he opened up faith to those who did not ‘belong’. And to top it all off, out of his great love for people, people saw only the negative, despite his love, and pinned him to a cross – a most humiliating and disgusting way to die. And we together have celebrated that that hate and destruction did not have the last word. We have listened to Jesus’ teaching through the year and now everything is complete before we begin a new cycle in the Church year.

The real issue behind the church’s teaching today on this Christ the King Sunday is: ‘Do I want someone other than myself to be Lord of my life?

It will of course depend on what sort of image you have of Christ. If he was just a nice man, then his presence in your life may well seem to come to nothing, for you may expect nothing more. If he, as St Thomas declared, is your Lord and your God, he calls you today to enthrone him in your heart and be changed.

If God is a vengeful God, who meets out punishment and pain to those who deserve it, your image of Christ today will be different again.

So who is Christ for you? Who was the Jesus of history; who is the Christ of faith today, for you and me?

What we worship, we become. We worship a God of love and humility, the suffering servant, the God who emptied himself and became like a servant. His values were those of inclusiveness, and true self-emptying service. If this is the God we worship, these are values our daily life will embody.

In the Gospels, Jesus refers to the kingdom of which he is sovereign 176 times. It’s a message he doesn’t want us to miss. This kingdom is not defined by armies, flags, and borders. It is defined by a quality of living – living that allows other people to live and become whole people in God too.

Note, by contrast, Jesus uses the word ‘church’ only twice. The word for church, ekklesia, simply means gathering. Kingdom, however, is more to do with the glory and reign of God – which is, in fact, not always easy to see in the church, where so many other things can crowd the kingdom out.

So when we pray, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven’ we must question ourselves. We must ask ourselves, is Christ King of my life? And if he is, how will I work with Christ to enable his Kingdom to be made real, right here, right now, in these final days of 2015?

I’d like to share a short story with you about a young boy who wanted to meet God. He thought it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his backpack with Jaffa cakes, several cans of juice and set off to meet God.

After a while he saw an elderly lady sitting on a park bench watching pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his backpack. He was about to take a drink of juice when he noticed that the lady looked hungry. So he offered her a Jaffa cake. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so wonderful that he wanted to see it again. So he offered her some juice as well. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted!

They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling without saying a word. As it began to grow dark, the boy realized how tired he was and decided to go home. He got up to leave but before he had gone no more than a few steps, he turned around and ran back to the old lady, giving her a big hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy arrived home his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked, “What has made you so happy today?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” Before his mother could respond he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile in the whole world!”

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face. He asked, “Mother, what has made you so happy today?” She replied, “I shared a picnic in the park with God.” And before her son could reply, she added, “You know, he is much younger than I expected.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring; all of which have the potential to turn a life around, all have the potential to reveal something of the Kingly rule of Christ. Jesus came with the power of loving service, he came without a jewelled crown or elaborate robes, to turn our lives around, so as we come to the end of a year in which there is much to celebrate and much to weep for, we must resolve to hold fast more than ever to the principles which He has shown us….

May Christ our King rule in your hearts, and not only that, may others know that he rules in your hearts too, by the love you show, the compassion with which you speak, and the humility with which you respond. People will have no doubt then who is on the throne of your heart. May your love for the Christ of faith be a seal upon your hearts and a crown upon your heads.

O God, help us to work for your kingdom:
help us to pray that we might align our will with yours.
Help us become a people of faithful prayer and humble service,
not to our wills, but to your will.
Come and live in our hearts by faith
– and transform us in all we think and say and do,
and reign in our hearts in Jesus Christ our true King.


Ce soir nous sommes tous Francais

14 11 2015

French flag

Paris attacks

14 11 2015

The atrocities in Paris are shocking and deeply disturbing.

We pray for all those whose lives have been affected by the acts of terror:

French flag

Gracious God, we pray for peace in our communities.
We commit to you all who work for peace and an end to tensions,
and those who seek to uphold law and justice.
We pray for an end to fear, violence, and hatred.
We pray for comfort and support to those who suffer.
For calm in our streets and cities,
that people may go about their lives in peace and safety.
We make our prayer in the name of the Prince of Peace,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Be kind: Proper 14, Year B

8 08 2015

Ephesians 4:25 to 5:2

Kindness Card 1

Kindness Card 2

I suspect we’ve all, at some point or another, lamented a breakdown in basic civility and courtesy. You know what I’m talking about: acting as if others don’t matter. The impatient and aggressive driver. People talking loudly in a restaurant as if they are the only ones there. Taking a mobile phone call in the middle of a movie or a concert. People dropping litter. Not holding a door open for others. Common courtesy. I’ll bet that self-centeredness has spoiled more friendships and destroyed more careers than we know. And, at the same time, probably, more than anything else, the one thing that has endeared people to others is thoughtfulness and simple kindness. We admire people who are smart and competent, but we love those who are kind!

Our reading from Ephesians this morning reminded us to imitate God – and the best example we have at God at work in our world, is God-in-the-flesh: the Jesus of history / the Christ of faith.

Kindness was so important to Jesus, in fact, that he made it the essential mark of authentic discipleship. He said, “This is how people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Not if you believe all the right things. Not if you pray a lot. Not if you pay your dues to the Church. Not if you worship in the right way. Those are all good things, but they are not the most important thing. According to Jesus, the way we show that we belong to Him is that we love one another, and that we act out our love by being kind to one another.

As our text from Ephesians puts it:

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

Clearly, if we do not act with kindness toward others, it is evidence that we have not received God’s kindness toward us.

I want to share with you a true story, I came across recently. It was written by the person who had the experience. He wrote: “Twenty years ago, I drove a taxi for a living. It was a life of freedom, a life for someone who wanted no boss. What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry. Because I drove the night shift, my taxi became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and weep. But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, and then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transport. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. “The passenger might be someone who needs my assistance,” I responded to myself. So, I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. By her side was a small suitcase. The flat looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks on the mantelpiece. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Will you carry my bag out to the car?” she asked. I took the suitcase to the taxi, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.” “O, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got to the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through the city centre?” “It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.” I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked. For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as a receptionist. We drove through the area where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slowdown in front of a particular building or corner and she would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was peering over the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.” We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small care home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two carers came out to the taxi as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the boot and took the small suitcase to the door.

The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. “How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse. “Nothing,” I said. “You have to make a living,” she answered. “There are other passengers,” I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent over and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you”.

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had got an angry driver, or one who was impatient at the end of his shift? What if I had refused to take the job, or had honked once, then driven impatiently away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have ever done anything more important in my life.”

Is that what it’s about? At the end of the day, is it about kindness – first God’s and then ours?

Listen: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

Or, as another poster I saw the other day put it:


Father, help us to love as we have been loved by You.
Help us to reflect Your kindness to us simply by being kind.
In Jesus’ kind name we pray. Amen.

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Chaplaincy job anyone?

30 07 2015


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Application Forms downloadable from the St Leonard’s Hospice Website

Sermon for Easter Day 2015 – John 20:1-18

4 04 2015

stone rolled away

Very early in the morning on that first Easter Day around 2000 years ago, Mary Magdalene went to the garden tomb alone. Why did she go? She couldn’t do much by herself. She would need several men with the right lifting gear to shift the great stone closing the entrance to the tomb. And she’d need the other women to help embalm the body of Jesus. So why go alone? Perhaps, with the stress of the previous week or so, she couldn’t sleep and was just wandering aimlessly, but found herself drawn like a magnet to the grave of the person she loved.

She noticed instantly that the stone had been rolled away. Her first thought in her shock at that discovery, was to tell someone else, to share the horror and the fear. So she ran to Peter, the acknowledged leader of the band of disciples, who was with a friend, and she told them. But Mary didn’t tell them exactly what she’d seen. She made an assumption, and she told the two disciples her interpretation of events: “They’ve taken away the Lord, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” Even in those days it was ‘they’, a sort of nameless, faceless, vague enemy.

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see for themselves. How young they all were! They ran everywhere. The gospel, from beginning to end, is a story of young people. The other disciple ran faster than Peter and got there first. He saw the grave clothes neatly folded, but he didn’t go in. Perhaps he was frightened. It would take courage to walk into a tomb where you’d expect to see and smell a mangled body, especially the body of a dearly loved friend.

But impulsive Peter had no such qualms. He went straight into the tomb, and the other disciple followed. It was this other, less impulsive, more thoughtful disciple who immediately realised the significance of the folded grave clothes. The body couldn’t have been stolen. Grave robbers would have no reason to hang about either to remove the grave clothes, or to fold them if they were removed. So something very strange indeed must have happened.

None of them were expecting anything. They came, like Mary Magdalene, presumably assuming the body had been stolen. Miracles didn’t enter their heads at that stage. But once they saw the linen cloths, we’re told they believed, even though they’d had no idea Jesus would rise from death. When they saw those grave clothes they made a huge leap of faith – and then they went home!

It seems such a mundane thing to do, to go home! You’d have thought they might have rushed excitedly over to their friends, to break the news and discuss animatedly what it might mean. You’d have thought they might have wanted to drag other people back to the garden with them, so that they could all stand there in their astonishment and work out between them what it all meant. But they didn’t. They went home!

They appear to have ignored Mary, who stayed behind, weeping. She sounds quite a solitary character in her grief. She came to the tomb alone, before it was even light, and now she stayed on weeping, when the others had gone home. And she stooped to peer in to the tomb.

But something strange happened. She saw two angels in white, sitting in the exact spot where Jesus’ body had lain. Only a moment before, Peter and his companion had gone right into the tomb, but they hadn’t seen anybody. They’d only seen the grave clothes. They hadn’t noticed any angels.

Perhaps they were in too much of a rush. Perhaps people who want to see angels must be prepared to hang about, to wait around doing nothing much, but loitering. And perhaps they were too insensitive. At any rate, they didn’t seem to have much regard for Mary’s feelings. Although it was Mary who brought them the news, it sounds as though she was pushed aside when they reached the tomb, for she didn’t have the opportunity to look into the tomb until after they’d gone. But Mary was a sensitive soul, experiencing, and allowing herself to feel, great pain over the death of her dear friend. So Mary saw the angels.

The angels asked Mary why she was weeping, which seems an odd question. It must have been obvious why she was weeping, especially to angels. But perhaps they knew Mary needed to articulate her painful feelings as the first stage in dealing with them.

Yet her answer too was unexpected. You’d have thought she might be weeping because Jesus, the man she loved, had been executed after a rigged trial. Or perhaps because of the shock of finding the grave empty on top of all the other traumatic events of the previous couple of days. But Mary ignored all that, and said she was weeping because: “They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.” She was weeping because of her assumption that the body had been stolen. An assumption which was wrong.

So many tears are so often shed over assumptions, which then turn out to be entirely wrong. Assumptions about other people’s thoughts or actions. Assumptions about what might happen in the future. Assumptions about other people’s opinions. Breakdowns in relationships so often occur because of misunderstandings. Because someone has made a false assumption which they regard as the whole truth.

The angels didn’t answer. They didn’t correct Mary. They played no further role in the story. But Mary turned at this point, almost as though she sensed someone watching her. And she made another erroneous assumption. She saw a man, and assumed he was the gardener. Perhaps it’s not such a surprising assumption. Two days previously Jesus had wounds so horrific he died from them. Now, he was fit and well, and walking in the garden without difficulty. Mary would surely have recognised him immediately if he’d been the same Jesus she knew and loved so well.

Mary and Jesus at the tomb

Even his voice must have been different. He asked Mary exactly the same question the angels had asked, and she still failed to recognise him. This time she didn’t answer the question, but countered it with what was almost an accusation: “If you’ve taken away his body, tell me where it is, so that I can go to him.”

He didn’t take offence at the implication of her words, but simply spoke her name in that way he always used to: “Mary!” which enabled her to recognise him. Jesus was clearly living in some different dimension. For his risen body was quite different from that poor, broken and lacerated body which hung from the cross.

As a result of that encounter, Mary changed. Her tears dried, her misery disappeared, and she ceased to be quite such a loner, for she went straight away to all the other disciples. This time she didn’t allow them to push her out of the way. She told them her story, even though she might have expected ridicule and incredulity. She seems to have gained a remarkable new inner strength from her encounter with the risen Christ.

All encounters with the risen Christ change people, even today. Those who are miserable, change. Those who are loners, change. Those who are timid and unsure of themselves and feel they have no self-value, change. Those who think life isn’t worth living, change.

This is our Easter promise. In many different ways resurrection can happen for us too. We too can receive new and vibrant life, full of hope and promise and power. And we can receive it now. All we need is an encounter with the risen Christ. May you meet with the risen Christ this Eastertide. Amen.

God of glory,

by the raising of your Son

you have broken the chains of death and hell:

fill your Church with faith and hope;

for a new day has dawned,

creation is restored,

and the way to life stands open

in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Complete liturgy for Palm Sunday

27 03 2015

Click below for a complete liturgy for Palm Sunday

Palm Cross