The Lord’s Prayer stations at St Mary’s

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Introduction

We have set up 6 prayer stations in St Mary’s church to help focus on the Lord’s Prayer.

At each station you will find a written reflection and some objects to help you think about this very important prayer

The Lord’s prayer is so called because it is the prayer which Jesus himself taught us.

You can read it in the Gospel of Matthew 6:9-13 and in Luke 11:2-4

 

Action

Look at the prayers in the Bible – how are they different from what we know?

 

Luke 11:2-4 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised)

2 He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.

    Your kingdom come.

3     Give us each day our daily bread.

4     And forgive us our sins,

        for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

              And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

 

Matthew 6:9-13 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised)

9 ‘Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

    hallowed be your name.

10     Your kingdom come.

    Your will be done,

        on earth as it is in heaven.

11     Give us this day our daily bread.

12     And forgive us our debts,

        as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13     And do not bring us to the time of trial,

        but rescue us from the evil one.

 

The version which we use in the Church of England is based on Matthew’s slightly longer version with an extra section (doxology) at the end.

For thine is the Kingdom the Power and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen

 

If you look carefully the prayer consists of 7 separate prayers or petitions

It can be seen to contain each of the following types of prayer

  • Adoration (worship)
  • Confession (saying sorry)
  • Thanksgiving
  • Supplication (requests)

For this and many reasons it is the central prayer of the Christian church.

Another important type of prayer is listening to God, so feel free to listen to the prayer anew and feel free to think your own thoughts

I hope you enjoy praying the prayer with us here today.

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Easter 6B -Let’s talk about love!

Seungri_-_Let's_Talk_About_Love

John 15:9-17

There are lots of events in the Thy Kingdom Come calendar

Lots of opportunities to pray and we read ‘The father will do whatever you ask in his name’

But what do you ask for?

What will you be praying for?

 

Well we might pray for a fulfilment of what Jesus has asked us to do in the passage we have just heard

‘This is my command – that you love one another as I have loved you’

 

What does he mean by love?

There are famously[1] four different Greek words for love.

The one John uses in this passage and most often used in the New Testament is Agape

  • Agape: the love of reciprocal relationships
    • based on the ancient rules of hospitality
    • I will entertain you on the basis that in the future I may need someone to entertain me
    • In the Old Testament we heard this exchange of covenants often repeated as ‘You will be my people and I will be your God’
    • in the New Testament the exchange is taken to another level – am unconditional level
      • God so loved the world, that he gave his only son
      • Greater love hath no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends

Agape is the normal word used for love in the New Testament – but we can see that the commandment to love takes in the other words and their meanings too

  • Philia: The love that comes from a positive disposition towards someone – the love that drives friendship
    • Hence ‘I do not call you slaves any longer – because slaves do not know the master – I call you friends’ – philoi
    • We know God through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ so our love can be Philia

 

  • Storge – the love between a parent and child – the natural, sacrificial, unconditional love which comes from a bond of ultimate intimacy even when not of one’s choosing
    • This was the love between Jesus and God as father and son, between Jesus and Mary.
    • It is the love that we share as Children of God
    • God loves us – is connected with us – because he made us

 

  • Eros – the physical passion which drives us from deep within

There has been lots in the news this week about sex addiction and there is a lot in the Christian tradition which sees physical love as lesser than the other loves – even that these physical acts are inherently bad

Indeed, love is more than sex, and not all sex is born of love

Any addiction is what happens when someone’s personal needs or desires become focused on a particular behaviour which satisfies them – but then it is not reciprocal, afiliative or creative

Eros is the creative love between people who are passionate about something

  • Love that is the life force within us – the desire to create together – the love that comes from being an incarnate, physical being – giving birth to a child or indeed to a project like our Church Extension plan
  • It is the creative drive which God shares with us
    • ‘Let us make human kind in our image’ (Genesis 1)
    • ‘And so God formed man from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ – pretty physical! (Genesis 2)
    • It is the same physical emotion which Jesus felt when he witnessed suffering – ot the blind, the lame, the poor, the bereaved – when his guts were twisted within him and he was moved to heal them.
    • Of course, it is also the divine fire of Pentecost

It can be seen that Love is relationship in all these ways

  • Reciprocal and sacrificial – Agape
  • Intimate – Storge
  • Love for who we are – Philia
  • Love that drives us to create or heal – Eros

The image of the Vine from last week makes the point that all of these loves are about connection – and are strengthened through connection to God through Jesus.

Do you have a problem with Jesus?

It seems odd to say that to Christians, but a lot of contemporary church leaders talk continually about ‘Jesus’ –  ‘meeting Jesus’, ‘knowing Jesus’, letting Jesus into your heart’.  We will hear a lot about that in the TKC Season.  Sometimes that leaves me feeling a little cold.

I have no doubt that some people have a personal relationship with Jesus such that they speak about Him as a personal friend or neighbour.  But if, like me, you struggle a little with that, then this is what I do.

I think: what is Jesus?  Jesus is the physical embodiment of the love of God for humanity.  Jesus is God and God is love

  • Reciprocal and sacrificial
  • Genuine and knowable
  • Intimate and incarnate
  • Creative and healing

And so when I hear someone talk about Jesus in this way:

  • Do you know Jesus
  • Have you met Jesus?
  • Have you let Jesus into your heart

Then I think – oh, you mean, ‘Do I know the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ?’.

So I able to answer, yes I do know the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.  Yes I have met that in life!

Yes.  I have acknowledged that deep within me and it drives me, it motivates and sustains me

So – yes – I do know Jesus and so yes, I am a Christian (thank heavens for that!)

So what should we be praying for?  Thy Kingdom Come?

We should indeed be praying for people to meet Jesus and build up the kingdom in the way that I have described – through a relationship with the source of all love

More than this, I believe that we should all be praying for all our relationships

  • That they be:
    • Reciprocal and sacrificial – agape
    • Genuine and knowing- philia
    • Intimate and incarnate – storge
    • Creative and healing – eros

So that they bear fruit

There are lots of events in the Thy Kingdom Come calendar in the Parish:

  • Ascension Day service at the Lookout on Box Hill on Thursday
  • Beating the Bounds on 12th May
  • Prayer Event / Beacon Lighting on 19th
  • Pentecost event in Guildford on Sunday 20th
  • Daily Prayers – morning and evening each day of the Novena – the 9 days between Ascension and Pentecost

All of these are opportunities to deepen our relationships with God and one another

  • Beating the Bounds – we literally embrace the parish by walking around it – meeting people we don’t see in Church
  • The Ascension Day service – with our friends from the Benefice and our neighbours in the church of England from Dorking and Leatherhead
  • The Pentecost event in Guildford – our diocese – our bishops – our Cathedral
  • Our benefice Prayer Event / Beacon Lighting at St Mary’s – linking up with Christians throughout the UK and the world – also linking up with those first Christians in Jerusalem and the fire of Pentecost

 

  • Most importantly: in Daily Prayers:
    • Our time with God – together or alone
    • An opportunity to take the time to think about our relationships – especially the difficult ones – and how we can improve them

‘One commandment I give to you – as I have loved you, love one another.’

‘I chose you and appointed you that you bear Fruit’

Let us pray to the one who is the True Vine to help our relationships bear fruit.

Amen

[1] See “The Four Loves” by CS Lewis

Sermon given by Rev Christopher Hancock at St Mary’s Headley, 6th May, 2018.

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Giving thanks for the fish: We are all witnesses to the resurrection

Ichthus.svg

Luke 24:36-48

Acts 3:12-19

1 John 3:1-7

There is something unusual about an encounter with someone when they have had an operation

They have a special quality – It seems a miracle that they alive

Somehow having gone down into the depths of anaesthesia they seem more alive than ever before

Then we are fascinated by their scars

We are interested to see the wounds that have been made in the body – where it has been pierced but not destroyed – how it is healing

I think there is something of this in the encounter between the disciples and Jesus in Jerusalem

Luke, by tradition a physician, is at pains to present Jesus as physically real, a body with flesh and bones

Jesus even has an appetite:  again like someone coming around from an operation – he is suddenly very alive and very hungry.

He asks for food and is given a portion of cooked fish

But the disciples cannot believe that it is him – they have seen him killed

They dare not believe it – in the Greek “their joy keeps them from believing” (are we sometimes like this – does the enormity of the resurrection story and all it’s implications stop us from believing?)

But it is him – ‘Touch me – this is really me!’ he says

Then he explains it all to them – it is as was foretold in the prophets

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,

Everything in the past has led up to this – gives it context and helps us to understand it.

and so repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Those who see and hear and touch and understand have their minds changed – the word for repentance is metanoia which literally means change of mind

And You are witnesses of these things

You here today are witnesses of these things

We are all witnesses to these things

 

Luke’s telling of this encounter used the same structure as he uses in our story from Acts

There is the miraculous event – Peter heals a cripple

There is an explanation of Jesus Christ in the context of scripture and a call to repentance

you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses

In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer.   Peter then called on them to change their lives in light of the new evidence for God’s relationship with mankind

Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out

So how does this affect us?

We have our own resurrection experience

Right here and now

This weekend, spring has sprung

New life is everywhere

Here in church we are living in the light of the dawn of the resurrection

And the green shoots are all around us

We have children in church

We had 66 people here on Easter Sunday

We have the Bishop of Dorking coming to us on 29th April

We have plans for the extension

We have plans for a parent and toddle group on Box Hill

We have plans for growth in numbers

We have plans for growth in mission

We have plans for growth in discipleship

“See what love has given us that we should be called Children of God” (1 John 3)

 

So if this is the contemporary evidence for the resurrection and the hope which it brings – what is our response? What is our response to this miraculous resurrection and appearance.  What is our Response to the miracle of new life?  What is our metanoia?

Let us look again at the story and see if the answer may be found there.

Is there more to this resurrection appearance than meets the eye?

Are there some things which perhaps resonate with us and the things we do here each week?

Jesus stands among them and offers him his Peace – as we shall do in a few minutes

He expounds the scriptures –

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

As I am trying to do now

This rehearsal of Christ’s divinity, his backstory in the old testament prophets, his death for others and resurrection  reminds us of the creed which we shall say in a moment.

And then the fish –does the fish stand out for you in this passage?

The fish is the symbol of the fishermen who were the first disciples who were fished for at Galilee

It is a reminder of the feeding of the 5,000 – which was shared as we shall share our Eucharist

Finally, the fish is the symbol of Christ, himself – the first two letters Chi Rho can be put together to make the shape of a fish

CHi Rho                           Ichthus.svg

Moreover, in Greek the letters of Ichthus (ΧΘΥΣform a mnemonic – an early and very basic form of the creed

ησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ” (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr; which translates into English as “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour

As part of Thy Kingdom Come season we shall be organising an Ichthus trail through Box Hill – leaving Ichthus pictures for people to find and follow to St Andrew’s.

We will be setting up prayer stations here in St Mary’s – offering a journey of prayer inside the church

We shall be beating the bounds of the parish (Saturday 19th May) as a witness to the people of the Parish

In all of these things we shall be witnesses to the new life, the new hope that comes into the world through Jesus Christ and offer fellowship to others

As the First Epistle of John begins:

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life … the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us

we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.  (1 John 1:1-4)

We are all witnesses

We are offering what we have seen, what we have heard and what we have touched in our lives

We are offering to share that with other people

So that they in turn may become witnesses

‘so that their joy may be complete’. Amen.

Sermon Preached by Christopher Hancock at St Mary’s Headley, 15th April, 2018

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The love that never dies: A sermon for Easter

Good Friday 2018 detail

Excuse me if I sneeze during the sermon

I have recovered the use of my fingers but seem to have acquired a cold as a result of my experience on Headley Heath on Good Friday

I had hoped that we would have a great act of witness – with people dressed up: soldiers in uniform, high priests, disciples and women followers, even horses

I ended up with a crown of thorns steeped in tomato ketchup, a soaked woolen jumper, a filthy robe and sandals full of mud

I fell over in the mire – fortunately only once not three times

If I slowed down a young girl stuck a plastic sword in my back and said – ‘at the end of this I am going to kill you’

Why do this?

Because Jesus did this?

Because former Rector David Wotton did this?

Because the walk of witness is a tradition in our Parish – it is who we are and what we do

Witness?  There were no witnesses – it rained solidly all afternoon – there was not even a Cadbury Easter hunt on the heath as in previous years

We got a couple of waves and a lot of looks of complete incredulity.  A teenage girl opened her car door and shouted ironically “Praise Jesus”.  One motorist honked his horn and made obscene hand gestures

What was the point? I found myself asking

Did Jesus ask himself the same thing – what am I doing?  What is the point?

He believed that by offering himself he could save others

This was an idea with a good heritage in the Old Testament

The scapegoat[1] sent into the desert carrying the sins of the people of Israel – the prophesy of the suffering servant in Isaiah[2] – the whole concept of substitutionary sacrifice of an animal on behalf of others which was prevalent at the time

But even if Jesus believed that of himself and his followers believed that of him – how does that make any sense for us?

What is the point in this apparently senseless waste of a life?

But then we have the recent example of 44 year old French Policmeman, Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame, who stepped into the place of a hostage at a siege near Carcassone a week ago

What made this especially poignant was that the gendarme was acting as the negotiator in the siege and offered himself in exchange for a hostage – that the gendarme was a recent convert to Christianity – that the gendarme was about to get married and had a whole new life ahead of him

This tells us that the idea of sacrificing oneself to help others is very real – very relevant – very contemporary

That it continues to inform and inspire our actions as human beings

Especially for those of us who to dare to try to follow the example of Jesus Christ

For us, it is who we are and what we do

Love like this never dies – indeed it gives life.

These same self-sacrificial acts are required on a smaller level to advance all human relationships – whether it is letting someone into a queue when two lanes merge in traffic or having the heart to say you are sorry to save a relationship even when you don’t think you are wrong

Love like this never dies – indeed it gives life.

Theresa May said of Beltrame that the “sacrifice and courage” of the police officer would not be forgotten.

Such events do indeed resonate with us as human beings and are remembered

  • Like Captain Oats in Antarctica
  • Or Maximillian Kolbe the Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz,

But this morning we celebrate something more wonderful still – the archetype in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth

Whose actions resonated with the creator of the universe in such a way that the idea of love not only conquered the idea of death, but that he who had died continued to appear and inspire others long afterwards, even to this very Easter today

Not only the people who had known him alive – the disciples who would see him again in Galilee – but those who had never known him in life and even opposed him in death like St Paul on the road to Damascus

And then many millions, indeed billions of others, would follow

So now it comes to us – now the baton has been passed to us to know Christ afresh this Easter morn

To see him reflected in the actions of a polar explorer, a German monk or a French policeman

To witness to that revelation to the next generation

That this is how life is best lived – for others

That real life is sacrifice

When asked why did Arnaud do what he did, his brother replied – if you had known him you would not ask – he would not think to do anything else.

It is who he was, it was what he did

That is the message which perhaps I gave to an angry man in a car and to a young girl with a toy sword

Might someone ask them one day, walking across a blasted heath in the pouring rain, “why are you doing this?”

And might they reply:  “this is who we are, this is what we do”.  Amen

[1] Leviticus 16:8

[2] The Servant songs of Isaiah

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Sing Hosanna – a sermon for Palm Sunday

palm-sunday-2.jpg

 

Readings: 

Psalm 118

Mt 21:1-17

Palm Sunday – what is that all about then?

What are the key elements?

First there are Palms – obviously.  Why do we have Palms?

Were there palms in the reading which we have just heard?

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

No mention of Palms there – but there is of making a carpet of cloaks and branches – perhaps it reminds of the highway in the desert that God will make for his anointed – certainly it reminds us of the red carpet which is used for celebrities and in particular for royalty.

This cutting of branches specifically is probably a reference to the Old testament – the instructions for the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), which are prescribed in Leviticus 23:40 state:

On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.

Sukkot – the feast of the harvest also known as tabernacles was associated with Moses and the escape Exodus – it meant to the Israelites salvation, a new beginning

This is probably the feast which is referred to and commemorated in Psalm 118

27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar.

The people in Matthew’s Gospel make this link as they sing other words from Psalm 118

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Matthew describes how cloaks were used to make a carpet for Jesus

And cloaks – this represented obeisance – it symbolised the people putting themselves under the feet of the king

The Donkey is also, perhaps surprisingly, a symbol of Kingship.  Explicit reference is made to this in the prophesy of Zechariah

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
    triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

But the Donkey is also associated with Moses – a favourite point of comparison for Matthew.

 So Moses took his wife and his sons, put them on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt; and Moses carried the staff of God in his hand. (Ex 4:20)

The word for palm in Greek (phoenix) also means red

So a carpet of palms would also translate as a red carpet

Or indeed a red sea – another link with Moses

And the people shout Hosanna – which means “salvation” – they believe that salvation is coming – just as under Moses salvation came from Pharaoh

But in fact it is only John’s Gospel which actually says palm

John’s is the most Greek of the Gospels and to the Greeks the palm was the symbol of victory –we still have that at the Cannes film festival the winning film wins the Palme D’or – the golden palm

This scene has also connotation of the roman triumph in which a successful general was greeted with a procession and people waved palms

Our bibles speak of the Triumphal Entry and Paul spoke to the Corinthians of Christ’s triumphal procession

 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved (2 Cor 2:14-15)

An interesting note that the Roman word triumph is derived from a hymn to Bacchus the Roman God of wine – the god with which Jesus was often associated or even confused (the wedding at Cena, the use of wine in the eucharist, the fact that Bacchus famously made a descent and return from Hades are all a part of this conflation.

It came to be the symbol of martyrs – those who were victorious over death – so in Revelation 7:9, the white-clad multitude stand before the throne and Lamb holding palm branches.

Look at these palms – they look a little like grass

All flesh is as grass – earth to earth, ashes to ashes

These Palms are the grass that was burned and became ash for Ash Wednesday – that has grown again

The actual word in Greek is phoenix – the same as the mythical bird which is born from the ashes of its parent

To the Egyptians the palm meant immortality – the palms look forward to Easter and the promise of immortality

So these palms – which have grown from the ashes of Ash Wednesday are literally phoenixes!

Matthew’s Gospel makes the point that this marks a new beginning

Jesus cleanses the temple and receives their the blind and the lame – those who had been excluded under the law

So these palms hold all of that meaning for us

The new start that Christianity promises

The immortal triumph of Jesus over death

The promise of salvation -Hosanna

And this week we have the chance to witness to that story of salvation before the people of our parish – today at Box Hill and then on Good Friday here at Walton and then again at Box Hill for the walk of witness from 12:00 to 15:00 across Headley Heath

These days have the Shape of a Tragedy[1] – the dramatic events of holy week – the passion story

Jesus who today was received as a king, a messiah, a man who would change the world

Ends the week with an undignified death on a cross – it looks like the end of a dream

But it is not the end –

The story of Easter – the experience of the risen Christ – first to Mary then to the Apostles and now to us

Like all drama – the more you put yourselves into it the more you will get out of it

I encourage you to mmerse yourselves in it

Live it – be the crowd shouting Hosanna today at our procession on Box Hill

Pray with Jesus and the disciples this week in our times of prayer

Be with them as they share in a special meal together and have their feet washed on Maundy Thursday

And then on Friday, be a witness to our Good Friday events

Be Peter in the courtyard – when our faith, our courage is tested

Be Pilate who does not have the courage to do the right thing

Be the Roman soldiers who execute Jesus – just obeying orders

Be Mary the mother of Jesus at the crucifixion  – laying all our grief, all our frailty at the foot of the cross

and then

Be Mary in the Garden on Easter morning and find God risen, alive and transforming our lives and making them new.

Above all be faithful witnesses to these events

And thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord – Hosanna in the Highest.  Amen

 

Sermon given by Rev Christopher Hancock, St Andrew’s, Box Hill, Palm Sunday 2018

[1] This is another resonance with Dionysus / Bacchus as , according to Aristotle, ‘tragedy’ began as a form of worship at the festival of Dionysus.

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Sermon on the Feast of the Epiphany – Earth to Heaven replies

Magi

 

Reading Matthew 2:1-12

We are all familiar with the kings of Matthew’s Christmas story – just as a check that you were listening to the Gospel: how many kings were there?

3?

4? (3 Kings  + Herod)

2? (Herod + Jesus. NB The wise men are Magi and not Kings according to Matthew)

We think there are three kings because of their three gifts – gold and frankincense and myrrh

Why does Matthew speak of these gifts?

These are indeed gifts for a king – for a king as great as Solomon

In the book of Kings we read how the Queen of Sheba ‘came to Jerusalem [to see Solomon] with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold’ (1 Kings 10:2);

So when Isaiah looked forward to a return to the former glories for Israel he remembered this visit

“A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.”  (Isaiah 60)

Gold and spices and tell us that we are returning to the golden age of a king in Israel

These are gifts for a king – but not an ordinary king

Gold for sure – the metal of crowns and coins

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.

But frankincense is the holy perfume of the sanctuary- of sacrifice

We read in Leviticus 2:1 regarding Offerings: When anyone presents a grain-offering to the Lord, the offering shall be of choice flour; the worshipper shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it,

Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense
 owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer
 and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him God
 Most High.

 

What about myrrh?  What is myrrh – other than difficult to spell?

It is associated with frankincense the perfume of the sanctuary

But it’s a rarer resin – with healing properties, famous for being bitter

It is the oil of healing, of anointing

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

“Sealed in a stone cold tomb” – suddenly Easter is over and we are in Passiontide – the tomb speaks of Good Friday.  It is predictive: in the words of another Epiphany hymn: “mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness”

 

So how are we are to understand these gifts?

I offer some interpretations:

First they they are the gifts of a king (gold) who is holy (incense) and yet mortal – he can suffer and die (myrrh)

As such, they are a representation of Jesus’s trinitarian nature

He is God the creator from whom all the riches of the earth are received (Gold)

He is God the son – the healer, the one who will himself die (Myrrh)

He is God the spirit – the thing which being seen and unseen links all things. Have you all caught a whiff of the incense here this morning – even though you can not see it?

 

Secondly, these gifts can be seen in the light of our own offerings. WE are the wise men

“Gold I bring” – we offer our wealth, our time and our talents to the service of God

This is a good time of year to think about thr offerings which we make – fiancial and otherwise

To which end, we are looking for people to help as sidemen, servers, sacristans – could that be you?

 

 

“Frankincense to offer have I” – we bring our worship, our songs of praise and our prayers – we strive to make ourselves God’s holy people

We can think abut our prayer life and our bible reading – we are about to enter Lent – if you want advice on a book for Lent see me afterwards

 

“Myrrh is mine” – we follow Christ in healing, in helping the sick and distressed.

We need pastoral assistants – could that be you?

Finally, we follow Christ to certain death by the way of the cross.

But we do so confident in the destiny which awaits us like him, to join with God in heaven

Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia
!, Alleluia!,
Earth to Heaven replies.

 

So what will be your reply from Earth to the gift that you have received from heaven?

Perhaps the most important thing is to be like the wise men – as seekers after Jesus, as revealers of Jesus to others .

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain, (Clearly a reference to Headley Heath) 
Following yonder star

Our most important role is to follow the star and to lead others to the find the gift of the baby – that very special baby, who was born King of the Jews

Amen

MagiSermon Preached by Revd Christopher Hancock, at St Mary’s Headley on the Feast of the Epiphany, 7th January, 2018

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Posada 2017 – Box Hill and Headley

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Throughout Advent, wooden figures of the Holy family (Joseph and a pregnant Mary seated on a donkey), are making their way through our parish from Box Hill to Headley and are due to arrive to at St Mary’s in time for the crib service at 3pm on Christmas Eve.

Learn more about the Posada here Posada guide 2017

You can follow their adventures on the Facebook pages of the two churches

https://www.facebook.com/standrewsboxhill/

https://www.facebook.com/StMarysHeadley/

Hosts so far …

1/12/2017  Martin and Sarra

2/12/17  Celia and Keith

3/12/2017 Karen’s light of the world

 

4/12/2017 Today our Posada figures observed our Meditation Group at 3pm as Karen passed them to Margaret

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4/12/2017 Margaret and Bill – We enjoyed saying the suggested prayers, including the one for the family – we surrounded the figures with pictures of our grandchildren.

Donnelly family pcis

5/12/2017  In Michelle’s shrine (not watching TV!)

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6th December: Barrie Fox  – lots of bedtime reading here!

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8th December – Chez Brodie

 

[Lost in the wilderness!]

18th – with Peter in Surrey Hills

19th December – arriving in Headley – Headley Grove

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20th December – Tothill

21st December – the Spinney in Headley – Getting close!

Chez Bell

 

 

 

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Be prepared, be very prepared!

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So are you prepared for the coming of the Lord?

The Gospel that we have just heard makes it sound rather frightening:

But in those days, following that distress,
the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

What happened to the tinsel and the ho-ho-ho?

Mark is quoting from Isaiah 13 which told of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians

9 See, the day of the Lord is coming
   – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger –
to make the land desolate
    and destroy the sinners within it.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
    will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
    and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
    the wicked for their sins.

It sounds like the end of the world and it is – Mark is referring to the second destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and the death of many of his listeners

And people were and indeed are very frightened of death.

And that does not seem unreasonable to me.

Life is a great gift but it is fragile

Our Gospel warns us to be ready – to mount a watch

But what can we do to be prepared?

Paul says that through the teaching of Jesus we have all that we need:

 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way – with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge – 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

So what is this teaching about the Grace of God?

Christmas is all about story and the run up to Christmas is a crescendo of excitement as much in Church as outside and the crescendo in the story of the Grace of God will be told in these four Sundays of Advent

Represented by the four candles on our advent crown – as we light each candle we move from darkness into light

We trace the story of God’s involvement with mankind – or perhaps the story of man’s understanding of God

Advent 1 – the Patriarchs – Moses meeting God in the burning bush – God in the violence of the natural world

Advent 2 – The prophets – those who reminded us of the law – like Isaiah in our reading – who are disappointed that God does not appear to be so active in the world
 that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence

But we learn from another prophet, Elijah, that God is in the stillness more than in the earthquake, wind and fire (1 Kings 19)

Advent 3. John the Baptist – God is with us if only we would notice – John teaches us to repent and be saved – repent in Greek is metanoia – literally to change your mind – wake up and smell the coffee.   Just as John pointed out Jesus to the disciples Andrew, Peter, James and John, so we should notice Christ in the world today.

Advent 4 – the pink candle for our Patron, the virgin Mary – the God bearer.  She teaches us that God is with us as one of us – a human being – that our sufferings can not be avoided but are shared with God who is not distant but with us.  The word we often use at Christmastime, Emmanuel – literally means God with us

Can you see the ascending scale of intimacy?

We become increasingly aware that God is actually with us, living as one of us, is in us

A thing which we will remember and celebrate at our Eucharist this morning

But if God is already here what is the point of all this waiting in Advent?

First we wait while we look back to remember what it was like before Christ

Second we wait while we look forward expectantly to the fulfillment of the kingdom of God at some time and in some way still to be revealed.

Thirdly we wait, patiently and take note that we are at peace reconciled with God in heaven right now.  For right now, we ask God to be with us today in our Holy Communion – ‘by the power of the Holy spirit these gifts of bread and wine may be to us the body and blood of our lord Jesus Christ’

So how are we going to prepare this Advent, in this time of waiting?

Personally, I suggest we watch the story – go to every nativity and carol service (I have to!) and observe – let it sink in.

Learn the story – work out what it means to you – that God is not distant but at hand – ‘at the very gates’

Tell the story – like St Paul – who had an experience of God being with us –  that Jesus is Emmanuel – that God is truly with us

And not a God of destruction and fire and earthquakes

But a God of grace, of mercy and of peace.  Amen

Sermon preached by Revd Christopher Hancock
at St Mary’s Headley, 3rd December 2017, (Advent Sunday) 

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I died in hell. They called it Passchendaele

Memorial Tablet  (GREAT WAR)
by Siegfried Sassoon

SQUIRE nagged and bullied till I went to fight,         
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—          
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,       
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell     
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light. 

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,  
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;        
‘In proud and glorious memory’ … that’s my due.   
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:  
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.  

Once I came home on leave: and then went west…           
What greater glory could a man desire?

 

mud soldier

May I speak In the name of the living and loving God whom we know as + Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen

The Third battle of Ypres, commonly known as the battle of Passchendaele, began on 31st July, 1917.  When it petered out at the end of the year, half a million men – 300,00 British and 200,000 German – had been killed or wounded.

It was planned as the first stage of a rapid advance along the coast to liberate the Belgian ports and was to build on the relative success of the battle of Arras in April and May at which the British had achieved the biggest advance of the war to date.   (It was at Arras that two of our Box Hill fallen – William Collins and Francis Bartle – were killed.)

However, further north in Flanders, against a well prepared and dug-in enemy, with artillery, machine guns, gas and now aircraft, the gains were minimal – at best just a few thousand yards from the original front line to capture the elevated land at Passchendaele.

Meanwhile a combination of long term intense shelling and appalling weather turned the battlefield in a quagmire leading to the loss of many men without trace in the way which we have just heard.

The conditions were so bad that one senior officer, Sir Lancelot Kiggell is reported to have said on seeing the battlefield – ‘Good God, did we send men to fight in that?’

Indeed they did.   Men were literally lost in it as in the famous picture of the Canadian machine gunners at Passchendaele

Second_Battle_of_Passchendaele_-_16th_Canadian_Machine_Gun_Company

A recent art installation in Trafalgar Square took this image further and showed a soldier sculpted from the Flanders earth sitting under a dripping pipe – slowly being reduced back to mud.

It is impossible not to think of the words from the book of Genesis used at funeral services –  earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, ‘for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Gen 3:19).

We emerge from dust to have form and features and a name.  In war, the form and the features and the names were lost.

That process of drowning in mud, of being lost is exactly what we are trying to reverse at remembrance.

This week I attended a service in Westminster Abbey.  As I left, I took a moment to stand in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior – that represents all of those who are lost into the mire of Flanders.

Unknown warrior

In response, I wrote these lines

Leaving in the dead of night
The clanging floor opens suddenly
Upon a gory brimming well
Into which I figure had been poured
The blood of a million men.
Shocked still, I bow my head and pray
That this dark slab might form a way
By which their many scattered souls should climb
To the one perpetual light

 

We remember the names

Dragging them out of the mud

And we tell their stories and bring them to life in the present.

We have the remarkable story of Leonard Arthur Morley whose body was lost for almost 100 years when he was killed in an action on the 18th of October 1914 in a field close to the village of Beaucamps-Ligney in Northern France.  Here it remained unmarked until its discovery in 2009.

Archaeologists, military historians and geneticists combined to literally and figuratively re-member him.  Using regimental records and DNA evidence to identify him. Putting back together his body and his identity. And so we have added him to our memorial here as he was born on Box Hill.

I am indebted to Lenka Cathersides and her work with the Dorking Museum for this and the next story.

Francis Bartle never lived here in box Hill but in Bermondsey in London.  It was his widow Elsie who moved here after she re-married widower Herbert Mitchell on the 22nd of November 1922 at St Michael’s church in Betchworth. Herbert was a gamekeeper and the couple came to live at Keepers Cottage, Box Hill Road, Tadwood, Surrey.

That we have Francis’s name here is a result of Elsie wanting to remember him.

Francis is in our present because of the continuing love that Elsie had for him.

This is in striking parallel to the re-membering of Jesus which we do at every Eucharist when we combine as the body of Christ to remember Jesus as he commanded us to do and so bring him to life in the present.

This work that we do researching these lives and bringing them back to life is important

It reminds us that behind each one of these names was a real person – loved and loving – with a family and friends.

It reminds us that these lives were all important.

That every life is important, that every life makes a difference

So we make an effort to remember them lest they be forgotten

We remember lest we forget the importance of what we do for others

We remember lest we forget the barbarous savagery which we human beings can meet out to one another

As we know from recent experiences in the Ukraine and in Yugoslavia, that only a few angry words separate the peace which we now enjoy from the atrocities of which we have heard.

We remember lest we forget the lessons that they learned, and learned the hard way

–       The unending folly of man

–       The futility of war

–       The importance of sacrifice to our way of life

–       The joy of peace

And so today we pray that they may rest in peace – but never be forgotten.

Amen

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It’s not the end of the world!

Catafalque

Proper 26 Year A

READINGS

Micah 3:5-12

1 Thess 2:9-13

Matthew 4:1-14

 

SERMON

May my words be in the name of the living and loving God whom we know as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

It’s good to be back!  Almost two years have passed since I last stood in this pulpit

A lot seems familiar; a lot seems to have changed

Frankly, I have been filled with a degree of trepidation about coming back

What will be people’s expectations of me?

Will I live up to them?

You have a new Rector – taller than me, thinner than me, a better golfer, a better singer – he even plays guitar!

What is going to be my role here in the new United Benefice – how is it all going to work?

You will see that I have gained a Miss World sash – my priestly stole

But I am here today as a Deacon – Harry is the presiding priest.  A Deacon stands to the right of the celebrant and that seems appropriate as I shall try to be Harry’s right-hand man, as indeed Peter was to Jesus.

My feelings of unease have been exacerbated as I have been physically disconnected from the Parish – working and worshiping first in St Mary’s Ewell and then in Epsom and Langley Vale

The diaconate year which I had intended to use to get to know our community better has seen me getting to know you less and others more

But as I look around I see lots of familiar faces (good) and some new people (even better)

I am very aware that there are a number of missing faces – a few important people have died in the last year

This is the season of Remembrance – when we remember those whom we have lost

I have been away for a few days and I attended a requiem mass for All Souls during the week at the Anglican church of St Mark in Florence – when you are abroad on holiday it is a great thing to seek out the local Anglican church and go along.

Despite being Anglican, this service was more Catholic than the Pope’s slippers and the highlight of the liturgy was the censing of a symbolic catafalque (a coffin draped in a black pall) while the choir sang in paradisum from Faure’s requiem – it was deeply moving and as the priest read the list of names from his community I added my own – Bob Ellison, Anne Banks, Ethel Jobber, Joyce Hulf, Robert Hunter, Tessa Bridges and most recently Derek Smith, from my own family, my uncle John Jefferies Stratton, my former boss, Georges van Erck

As the incense rose I was in no doubt that they were indeed in paradise

So I had rather assumed that we would be celebrating the lives of the saints this Sunday and I would be preaching about the three great saints of this benefice – St Andrew the first called, his brother Simon Peter, the rock upon whom the church is built and the Blessed Virgin Mary – the mother of God and a constant presence in Jesus’s life.

That this would be a festival occasion

But instead we have the lectionary for the end of the world

I began to wonder is there in this some subliminal message in this – about me being a false prophet – a phoney messiah

How are we to interpret this talk of wars and rumours of wars?   Are Harry and I not to get along?

This didn’t make it any easier to think about coming back!

As usual in preparing some words in the Gospel jumped out at me.

Jesus is asked by his disciples ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’

He answers: ‘this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’

The Gospel will be preached to the whole world – in Greek, hole te oikounmene – the whole of the inhabited world – before the end of the world will come.

Two things: first that is quite a tall order – ‘the whole of the inhabited world’ means absolutely everybody must hear the Gospel.  That is still a long way from happening now.  (How many Chinese have heard the Gospel?).  So Matthew is not saying the end of the world is around the corner – there is a lot of work to do before the kingdom of heaven can be established in all the world.

Secondly, he is saying it is through spreading the Good News of Christ that the new messianic age is brought in.

Indeed, these words echo the words from the Great Commission in Chapter 28 at the end of Matthew’s Gospel where he sends his disciples out

‘Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Mt 28:19-20)

‘Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age’

So Jesus is actually saying: ‘I am already here.  I will remain with you.  There is no need to wait for a second coming.  Focus instead on the Gospel and letting people know the Good News that I have brought.

Well this may be a bit surprising but I think we can take some very positive things out of it.

Yes, we are all going to die and the world will at some point end – but not yet!

Instead there is work to be done now – we do not know when we will die or when the world will end which means that we should always be prepared for it.  Live each day as if it is our last – treat everyone as if it the last time that we will see them.

I was told in training that we should treat each Eucharist as if it was our first, our last and our only and I think that is a great lesson for life more generally.

Secondly, we must work to spread the Gospel of Christ – just like Paul working night and day to preach the gospel of God.  But before we can do that we need to work out what the Gospel is for us.

For me, the Gospel is the love of God as revealed in the teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The teaching is centred on the great commandments of love that you will have heard in church last week – to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all soul your and all your strength and secondly to love your neighbour as yourself

The death of Christ is the example of self-denying self-sacrifice which is at the heart of Christian discipleship it is also a sign of the intimate relationship between the creator of the universe and us – who sent his son ‘to be born of a woman and to die upon a cross’

Finally, the resurrection is the story of the love which never dies – that there is life and hope to be found from God even in the darkest places and above all that we should not fear death but look forward to the singing of the angels in Paradise.

‘For I am with you always to the very end of the age.’

And so my hope is that I can serve you and serve Christ by making his Gospel and his presence known in these three communities which we serve.

You will note that it is three communities.  One of the things they teach you in a Curacy is how to appear to be in two places at once but no one can do three (except perhaps a Bishop?).

So not only does Harry need me but we need you – to be a Christian presence in the communities in which you live.

I will strive to be a Rock to Harry and to you as Peter was to Christ in building the church in these villages.

I will call upon you as Andrew called others and expect you in turn to invite and call the members of your communities to hear and live the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps above all I will strive to make the presence of Christ known in the world through his Holy Word and in the celebration of His Holy Eucharist – where we meet together sharing one bread and one cup in the name of our crucified Lord, who is with us always, ‘to the very end of the age’.

Amen

Sermon delivered by Revd Christopher Hancock at St. Mary’s Headley, 5th November, 2017 on the occasion of his licensing to the Benefice. 

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