Festival Eucharist – 10:30am
Festival Eucharist – 10:30am
In response to the call from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to see a “a great wave of prayer across our land, throughout the Church of England and many other Churches”
We are keeping the Novena, the nine Days from Ascension to Pentecost (from 6th-14th May), as a special time of prayer and meditation on our Christian Mission and the building up of the Kingdom of God in our Parish.
You can support this by attending the services being held daily 6th – 14th May:
We will be using the standard form of Common Worship for Morning and Evening Prayer which can be found on the web.
On the website you can also download an app for iPhone or Android so you can follow along yourself even if you cannot get to church
As well as praying for the whole Church of Christ Jesus, we will also be saying these prayers for our Parish:
We give you thanks for the blessings of this Parish – its landscape and scenery, its plants and animals – all the wonders of your creation which are to found here.
We pray for all those who live and work here, for those who pass through to enjoy its beauty and those who stay and call it home.
Through your blessed servants Mary and Andrew many found their way to you through your son Jesus Christ,
help your Church to point the way so that the people of this Parish may find you, and so we may become
Disciples of your truth,
Ambassadors of your love and
Messengers of your salvation to the world.
Lord, bless this Parish
May your hand be over it
May you extend our boundaries
and enhance our ministry
May you keep us from all hurt and harm. Amen
For more information about the Archbishops’ appeal, visit: www.thykingdom.co.uk
Read the Archbishops’ letter here.
The Return of the Prodigal Son (Small Bronze) by Charlie Macksey
This is Luke’s brilliantly concise opening for a story of family strife. ‘A man had two sons’ is a recurring biblical situation that brings to mind Adam with his sons Cain and Abel, Abraham with Isaac and Ishmael, Isaac with Jacob and Esau. Each of these is a story of competition for favour and inheritance. Generally, they do not end well.
It is a situation to which I have always found it easy to relate, as my father had two sons.
I was the older one – the good one – as in the parable – staying at home – I mowed the lawn and helped my father with his DIY projects. One summer I even repainted the house.
Meanwhile my brother, my younger brother, liked to go out and see his ‘friends’ in fact, he was always going out, and seeing his friends.
And as soon as he was old enough, he learned to drive and then asked to borrow the family car. He would then disappear off to see other friends further afield– sometimes all night
And I would stay at home – deeply disgruntled. I was the older one – it should have been me who was off out ‘with friends’. It should have been me driving the family car.
It should have been me worrying my parents: “where is he?” they would say – “surely he should be back by now?”
And when eventually he reappeared much later than he had promised – far from castigating him and punishing him. They smiled and laughed – they were glad to see him. And, of course, glad to see the car!
I wasn’t – I skulked in my room and refused to come down for dinner – claiming to be revising for exams, but actually seething.
It was not until I was a parent myself that I began to understand the realities of a parent’s unconditional love.
It does not matter what your child has done – what pain you are put through – you keep on loving – keep on giving.
That generosity is one of the messages of this parable – the father has been waiting for this day, looking out for his lost son, scanning the horizon and when he sees his son in the distance he runs towards him – pulling up his skirts, in a way most unseemly for an old man – his heart leaping for joy in his chest.
He showers his returning son with hugs and kisses, giving up his own coat, his ring, the sandals from his feet – killing the fatted calf and laying on a party to celebrate.
It’s all about giving: and the abundant, even excessive generosity of the Father is the generous forgiveness of God.
It is not a trivial point that at the heart of forgiveness is the word ‘give’.
But the father had two sons…
We turn then to the older son who remains aloof, unreconciled. When all others are celebrating he refuses to join the feast. Like the Pharisees with whom Jesus has been arguing. He keeps himself apart.
This parable explores ideas about distance. Following on from stories of the lost sheep and lost coin. It shows how you can be lost when you away in a distant land or lost when you are locked in your room at home.
So it ends on a pastoral cliff hanger – with the older son shown the way by the father – the way of sacrifice and love. Will he take it?
What is his problem? Well as the older son I have some sympathy for him. He has done nothing wrong and yet he feels mistreated.
He is weighing the actions of his father and trying to measure the ‘love’ which he is receiving against the love which is being shown to his brother. He feels he is receiving less love than he deserves.
But you cannot measure love – you cannot weigh it on a scales, attach it to a meter, or measure it with a ruler. A physicist will tell you, there are no SI units for Love.
Nor does it have a monetary value – you cannot make a love deposit in a bank, trade it for goods, or sell it on a market. You cannot buy love and you cannot sell it.
[NB It does not matter how much you have spent on your mother’s day flowers – it genuinely is the thought that counts!]
Love, the love that comes from God, is infinite and indivisible.
And so the father tells the elder son – “All that I have is yours”. My love for you is unlimited.
The challenge for the older son is to respond to the love which he has received from his father and show it in turn to his brother.
Sometimes that can be difficult when we feel we are in the right.
I saw an example of this during the week. I was travelling down the M25 late at night and they were closing some of the lanes for roadworks
You know the scenario. Over the space of a mile, four lanes had to become one.
There is lots of warning and some people immediately start slowing down and moving over to the indicated lane. These are the good citizens, the dutiful older sons. (I bet they mowed the lawn for their parents and helped with the DIY!)
There are others, however, who want to keep moving quickly – their lives are clearly more important, their time is more precious, rules are not made for them – and they leave it to the very last minute to cut in.
They get right up against the cones and then start indicating. They look out of their side windows trying then to catch the eye of the people in the continuing lane. Pleading to be let in.
These are the younger sons begging for forgiveness at the eleventh hour.
Those in the correct lane, meanwhile, hold the wheel firmly and look straight ahead using all their driving skill to stay as close as possible to the car in front in order to avoid having to let them in.
And so what happens? Everyone gets stressed and it takes ages to jockey through the narrowing gap.
This is a process of reconciliation – of two different positions being harmonised
In these situations, full reconciliation only occurs when someone gives way – someone has to make the first move. Someone has to give up a position, write off the debt – something they care about or feel strongly about. Someone has to make a sacrificial act for the good of all.
To be forgiven is an easy thing; to forgive – to be like God – turns out to be much harder.
This is what is meant by the costly grace of which Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his great work on Christian discipleship. The easy bit is to repent and to receive God’s generous grace. The hard bit is to be like God and to forgive in return. The Cost of discipleship is to follow God in forgiving.
A man had two sons – a manager had two employees
I have direct experience of this in my working life – I was made redundant by a manager who fired me to save the position of one of his long term friends. I found another role but could not bear the sight of the manager after that.
I would try to avoid him – turn around in corridors – get out of lifts at the wrong floor. He in turn would avoid my eye. He knew that he had done wrong.
Then one day several years later, I saw him in the street. I crossed the road to meet him. I walked towards him and shook his hand. I don’t know if he ever knew what that took for me, what it meant for me – but only then was I at peace. And I think perhaps he was too.
Desmond Tutu, who knows a thing or two about reconciliation, speaks of forgiveness becoming a habit, a way of life: a life changing way of life. He writes:
‘When I develop a mindset of forgiveness rather than a mindset of grievance, I don’t just forgive a particular act. I become a more forgiving person. … When I have a forgiveness mindset I start to see the world not through grievance but through gratitude. In other words, I look at the world and start to see what is right. …. What was once a grave affront, melts into nothing more than a careless word or thoughtless act. What was once a cause of rupture and alienation, becomes an opportunity for repair and intimacy’ – even for love.
Wendy spoke two weeks ago about the benefits of living in community – living in relationships brings with it the need to be reconciled with others when inevitably relationships go wrong – whether in families, in church, at work or in the world at large.
Sue talked last week about finding a rule of life, well one such rule might be to focus on our relationships and strive to be reconciled to all.
In this we become true disciples and follow God who, as St Paul reminds us ‘has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation’.
When we follow him and are reconciled to others then we become true disciples, even in Paul’s words, ‘ambassadors for Christ’
God has made the first move in his self-incarnation and self-sacrifice in Christ so that all can be reconciled to him.
Nowhere is this more clear than in Christ’s celebratory feast of reconciliation when we share not the fatted calf, but one bread and one cup.
Our mission, our discipleship is to take that reconciliation received through Christ at the altar and lead in sharing it with others in our lives outside this place.
We must be irrationally generous in the giving of our forgiveness
We must be prepared for it to hurt, for it to be sacrificial.
We must be prepared to seek out reconciliation not to avoid it.
To smile at those who cut across our path
To scan the horizon for the lost and cross the road to meet those who have done us wrong.
Drawing all of these thoughts together, Common Worship offers this as an alternative post Communion prayer
Father of all, we give you thanks and praise, that when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home. Dying and living, he declared your love, gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory. May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us, so we and all your children shall be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Notes from a Sermon given at St. Mary’s Ewell, 6th March, 2016
 Bonhoeffer, D.,1948. The Cost of Discipleship. London: SCM Press
 Tutu, D. and Tutu, M., 2014. The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. New York: HarperOne
 2 Cor 5:18
 2 Cor 5:20
I am currently serving my Parish placement as part of my training for ordination in July and will be based at St Mary’s Ewell until after Easter this year.
It doesn’t seem right to post to the Word on the Hill during this time of exile – though I may put up the one sermon that I will be preaching during my placement (on Mothering Sunday, 6th March).
Until then I wish everyone a thoughtful, restorative and blessed Lent.
Sermon preached St Mary’s Headley, Christmas Day 2015
Text: Luke 2:1-19 (Year C)
In our lectionary, this is the year of Luke- the great story teller
But if you are anything like me then you struggle a bit with the Christmas story
It’s all very ‘nice’ – Mary and Joseph, shepherds and angels, a baby lying in a manger – but it’s all a bit well childish isn’t it? After all it’s for the kids not adults the sort of thing you grow out of…
Or is it?
Because this story seems to be endlessly compelling – drawing us back to it year after year
As such it deserves analysis, not least because there seem to be some details which are included which don’t make sense but must be there for reason
To help us understand a story in the bible we can look to see where we find ourselves in that story, to identify with one of the characters. I believe that Luke is weaving together at least three different stories in this passage that tell us a lot about our own Christian experience
So let us look from the perspective of some of the protagonists …
First there is the story of Joseph and the journey to Bethlehem.
Luke uses the story of the census (a real thing by the way, happening in 6AD and very unpopular with the Jews) to bring the birth of Jesus to Bethlehem in fulfilment of various prophesies of the Messiah
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Because Bethlehem is the city of David and the Messiah, God’s anointed, who would come to save Israel, was to be born of Jesse’s line, from the House of David, to sit on the throne of David As we heard in our Old Testament lesson
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and for ever.
So this is the story of Jesus, the Davidic King – the saviour, the Messiah, part of the great narrative of the history of Israel, the son of Joseph, as the angels sang
Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord
And so Joseph is important – rooted in history and prophesy and promise – our link to the history of Jewish spirituality – of the patriarchs Abraham and Isaac, of Moses and David of Isaiah and the prophets
But what about the perspective of the shepherds and the angels – our second story?
In fact, why shepherds at all? There is nothing in the other Gospels about them.
First of all Luke has a particular interest in the lowly in society – the downtrodden and oppressed. Being a shepherd in New Testament times must have been the equivalent of being a modern day security guard. A job which involved anti-social hours, lots of time alone, not well-paid but full of responsibility. Not perhaps the lowest of the low but not too far off.
Yet it is to the shepherds that the angels come to be the first hearers of the good news – angels meaning messengers
The shepherds hear the euangellion – the good message or good news – our Gospel.
They leave what they are doing and they come and worship Jesus – and then having seen the promised sign they go and tell others
The story of the shepherds is therefore the story of the first Christians – often from the margins of society, they heard the Gospel, came to worship and found Christ – not only that but they took the story away with them and spread it to others ‘glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.’
And so their actions and reactions are like our actions.
We have heard the word in our homes and places of work – have left these behind to come together – to stop in the midst of the busy story of our lives to stop and behold the wonder of God – to give thanks, and to join together as one – in songs of everlasting praise.
But there is more – another story in the very midst of the action here – of a child laid in a manger – why does Luke choose shepherds?
Shepherds are associated with kingship and in particular with David
But in Christian tradition Jesus is not only the shepherd of the sheep but also the lamb – the sacrificial lamb of Passover
In John’s Gospel when we first meet Jesus he is greeted by John the Baptist saying, ”Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
And so in Luke’s Gospel we first meet Jesus in a stable as Mary lays him in a manger – the manger where animals are fed, where food is found.
The symbolism is dramatic
Jesus is already – even as an infant – the lamb of God – the sacrificial lamb –our Passover feast –the means of our atonement and our spiritual food
If you were not convinced that Luke is presenting us with a prefiguring of the Eucharist at the nativity then remember the story of the recapitulation of the Eucharist on the road to Emmaus (they knew him in the breaking of bread)
Then note that that the word which is used for the inn in Bethlehem (kataluma) occurs only one other time in the new testament – it is used by Mark and Luke of the upper room, the guest room where the last supper was eaten.
The first noel is actually also the first Eucharist – the first sharing in the presence of God on earth in Christ
Bethlehem meanwhile – if you still needed convincing – in Hebrew means house of bread
So Luke presents us with our own Christmas story in the very heart of his nativity narrative.
Like the shepherds we stop what we are doing, we come together, we give thanks and praise God for the blessings of our lives
We even sing the song of the angels in our Gloria –
– Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth
We stop the story of our lives to live for while in the presence of Christ – the one who calls all, in whom all meet and who reconciles all
But there is a third person in the story whom we need to consider, Mary herself
Mary our patron and our inspiration who understood all this – paused in her life – allowed God to change its direction and as she saw the impact of what she had done – she ‘treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart’
The call of God changes us forever
We ‘ponder these things in our hearts’ and feel them transforming how we see the world and our position in it for ever more
So we find Jesus in the story of our lives as an historical figure who fulfilled ancient Jewish legends but who continually calls us into his presence today and transforms us – if we let him.
As we leave here today we take with us the peace and reconciliation which are to be found in God through Jesus Christ. We take that peace and that ‘good news’ back to our families to our Christmas lunches and we continue to ponder these things in our hearts
And wherever you find yourself in this Christmas story
I pray that the wisdom of Joseph
And the courage of Mary
The goods news of the angels
The joy of the shepherds
But above all the peace of Christ
Will be with you all, this day and always
Chris Hancock, Christmas Day, 2015
 Mt 2:3 quoting Micah 5:2
 Isa 9:7
 Lk 2:11
 Lk 2:20
 Ex 12:1
 Luke 24
There seems no better paradigm for the waiting time of Advent than pregnancy.
There is no rushing it. It is a time of hope and expectation, of growth and transformation, of excitement and awe. Hope necessarily blended with a certain trepidation and uncertainty as to what the future may bring.
Advent takes its tone and theme from the oracles of the the Messiah in the Old Testament – from the Patriarchs and the Prophets who looked forward to better times ahead – but also, and especially in this the year of Luke’s Gospel, from the stories of Mary and Elizabeth.
For Elizabeth, hope comes after a time of hopelessness – the waiting of pregnancy comes after a long, barren period of waiting in vain.
For Mary, the miracle of life is a surprise. Hope is now incarnate within her. Her anxious waiting is to behold the child growing within her, to discover what it means to be the Theotokos, to give birth to God and gaze upon the divine.
Both become paradigms of waiting for the gift of Christ: they teach us to look for life when all is barren, to find hope in the midst of hopelessness, above all, they encourage us to expect the unexpected and to look forward to the certain uncertainties of the future with faith.
Join us for our joint ‘Adult Nativity’ , 10:30 at St Mary’s Headley where we will look at the advent stories of Mary and Elizabeth – with some familiar characters in leading roles …
As the Christian year draws to a close we look forward to coming of Christ’s kingdom and the end of time – we celebrate this at the Festival of Christ the King (22nd November).
Join us on Sunday at 10:30