Homily for S. George’s Day – Jn 15:18-21

Today we celebrate the Patron Saint of this land, George. It should have nothing to do with flags, or nationalism, or dragons. George was a soldier, but one who fought for the army of the Lord, who obeyed not the rulers of the world but God. In his life and his death he bore witness to the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and valued heavenly things above those of the earth.
            We celebrate S. George because he bore witness to his faith during the persecution of the Church by the Roman emperor, Diocletian. Above all else and regardless of the cost he put his trust in the love of God shown to the world in Christ Jesus, and we should do the same. We should do the same because then we are truly following Christ – we are living out our faith in our lives so that the world may believe. The world will not like this, it will prefer us to submit to its ways, to acquiesce, to sell the Gospel short for the sake of a quiet and an easy life.
            We see this in today’s Gospel: Our Lord tells us that the world will hate us because it has hated him first. The world hates, whereas Christians love – we love each other, we love our enemies, but above all else we love Christ and through him God the Father. We love the God who for love of us and all creation opened his arms on the Cross to embrace it with his love. The world’s reaction is to reject the God who created it, to reject his love and to hate all that he is. Thus while we are in the world we cannot be ofthe world – we cannot let who and what we are and what we do come from hatred, but rather from love alone.
            We may face persecution for our faith, we may be mocked or dismissed as irrelevant, outdated or insignificant, we may even lose our lives. But whatever happens we cannot do anything other than be filled with the joy of the Resurrection, the joy of him who overcomes the world, who saves it. We are servants of our heavenly master – we are obedient to him, and to him above all else. Like S. George we are obedient to the one who loves us, so that we may proclaim his saving truth to the world. So we can be like those in the vision of S. John who ‘have conquered by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death’ (Rev 12:11). We can prefer nothing to Christ, and in this we will follow the example of S. George, his life, and his death. The world will hate us for this, dismissing us as zealots, extremists, or religious fanatics; it may even try to ignore us. But through living lives of faith and trust in God and showing that faith and trust in our lives, in loving service of him who died for us, we bear witness to the truth which sets us free. It is a freedom the world cannot understand – it dislikes it and cannot control it – it shows the tyranny of the world for what it is.
            So let us celebrate the glory of bearing witness to Christ in all things, so that the world may believe in the God who loves them and saves them – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right, and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.

Sermon for Evensong of the Second Sunday after Easter: “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Death is an affirmation of the purpose of life in an otherwise meaningless existence. The world could carry on its Godless plan if there were no death. What death is to an individual, that catastrophe is to a civilisation – the end of its wickedness. This is a source of anguish to the modern mind, for not only must human beings die, but the world must die. Death is a negative testimony to God’s power in a meaningless world, for by it God brings meaningless existence to nought. Because God exists, evil cannot carry on its wickedness indefinitely. If there were no catastrophe, such as the Apocalypse reveals, at the end of the world, the universe would then be the triumph of chaos….
            Death proves also that life has meaning, because it reveals that the virtues and goodness practised within time do not find their completion except in eternity.
Fulton J. Sheen The Power of Love
It is always important to remember that even though Lazarus was raised from the dead he would still die. He was raised from the dead so that in him God might be glorified. As someone who believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, he like countless billions through the centuries could have the hope of eternal life in Christ. That is why Our Lord can say ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.’ We can know and trust that death is not the end but rather a beginning, we feel grief at the loss of someone whom we know and love, but have hope that it is not the end of the story.
            The raising of Lazarus from the dead points to Jesus’ resurrection. It shows us that God’s power is beyond our understanding, and the events leading up to Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection are a means for God to be glorified. In all of these we see the Love of God poured out on the world in and through Jesus, true God and true man. Evil has not had the last world; fear and hatred are conquered by love, and that victory is final. This is the source of our joy – this is what we celebrate for 5o days, a week of weeks, a celebration which defines the nature of the church: we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song. We rejoice that through our baptism we too share in Christ’s death and new life. We have the hope of heaven, where we may experience the fullness of love in God’s presence.
We have a foretaste of it here on earth – we are nourished by Word and Sacrament – given food for the journey of faith so that we may be prepared for what lies ahead. We have the Sacraments so that God may pour out his grace upon us, a free and unmerited gift, shared so that his love may abound in our lives. We have the Church and its teaching so that we may truly flourish and live the lives God intends us to, loving and supporting each other – living out our faith in our lives, sharing our love and joy with others, living out the forgiveness and reconciliation which we have received and sharing it with ours, helping in God’s work of healing and reconciling the world. It’s truly wonderful, gifts beyond our comprehension, which we do not deserve, but which we are given so that we may have life in all its abundance in Him. Our God is not an angry old man in the sky, but one who washes the feet of sinners and invites them to the banquet of His Kingdom, forever, having picked up the tab on Calvary.
So let us rejoice that we have been called to so great a feast and let us look forward to that time when we and all creation will sing the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as it most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter (Yr C) ‘Feed my Sheep’

In this morning’s first reading Saint Peter and the apostles are told not to preach in the name of Jesus. Naturally, it is impossible for them to do this; they have to tell the world about him and his resurrection. They do this so that the gospel may be proclaimed: the gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins through him. To be a Christian is to turn away from the ways of sin, the ways of the world – we are obedient to God, we hear what he is said in Christ and we obey him. The church then must always be on its guard lest it ceases to be obedient to God and turns instead to the ways of the world, the ways of humanity. As St Paul says in his Letter to the Romans ‘be not conformed to this world’. It is a difficult thing to do, it is hard, it takes strength of character and confidence, and it will not be popular. But just as the apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name, and did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus Christ, so the church is always called to do the same: to risk persecution, to speak the uncomfortable truth which the world does not want to hear.
          In this morning’s gospel the risen Lord gives an invitation to his disciples: ‘come and have breakfast’ he feeds his disciples before asking Peter if he loves him and commanding him to feed his lambs. He asks him the same questions three times, something which clearly looks back to Peter’s denial on the night of his arrest. Peter is upset: it’s his conscience at work reminding him of his failure. But Jesus does not condemn him, he simply reminds him so that he may be encouraged in his task: to feedChrist’s sheep, to be a shepherd, a good Shepherd, and to lay down his life for his sheep after the example of his Lord and Master. This is how Peter is to fulfil his command ’Follow me’.
          Peter is fed by the Lord before he is called to go and feed others, and to care for them. We too have come here today to be fed by the Lord, to be fed with the Lord, with his body and blood, under the outward forms of bread and wine, to share in his divine life, so that we may become what he is, and have a foretaste of heaven. We are fed so that we may go out and feed others, so that we may follow the example of the apostles and not cease teaching and preaching Jesus Christ. When we do this we will give honour and worship to God no different from the heavenly worship we have seen described in this morning’s second reading. This is the heavenly glory of which we have a foretaste here on Earth. We are to bear witness to our faith in the world so that it may believe. We are called to be witnesses regardless of the cost. We may not face persecution in this country; we are more likely to be faced with indifference, a coldness of heart, which denies the fact that what we are and what we say is important or has value. Yet we are to live lives which proclaim the fact that our life and death have meaning and value through Jesus Christ, who loves us, who died for us, and rose again so that we might have eternal life in him. It is a gift so precious that we have to share it, we cannot keep it for ourselves. In sharing it, it becomes a greater and more wonderful gift. In sharing it we are preparing for that moment seen by St John when all of creation will sing the praise of God, filled with his love, healed and restored by him.
          We are preparing for that moment here and now preparing to be fed by him, to be fed with him, looking forward to that time when we and all creation will sing the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as it most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.

Sermon for Evensong of the First Sunday after Easter: Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Luke 23:13–35

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread
The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus are astounded when the man to whom they are talking does not know what has been going on: ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ He asks them so that they may tell him. They ‘hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel’, they have been told of the Empty Tomb, but do not yet believe. They need Jesus to explain the Scriptures to them in order to show them that what happened had been foretold in the Law and the Prophets.
        In this evening’s first lesson from the Prophet Isaiah we have the greatest of the prophesies of Our Lord’s Passion and Death. It is read on Good Friday because it shows us how what happened was clearly foretold. In Acts 8, when the apostle Philip meets the Ethiopian eunuch, he is reading this passage. When he is asked if he understands what he is reading he replies ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ Philip shows him how verses 7 & 8 of Isaiah 53 point to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
The Ethiopian needs Philip, the disciples need Jesus, and we need the Church to show us how scripture is to be read: it’s meaning is not necessarily plain and while anyone could read Scripture in any way in which they chose, the Church has never said that all interpretations are ok, or that any one is as good as another. Instead, the proper interpretation of Scripture is rightly the teaching office of the Church, through the Apostolic Tradition: to unfold the mystery of Christ, to proclaim Him, and to save souls.
The Church reads the Old Testament christologically, because it points to Christ, it finds its fulfillment and its fullest and truest meaning in him, who is the Way and the Truth. As Our Lord says, ‘Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ In other words through Our Lord’s suffering, and death, and resurrection we behold God’s glory, the glory of the divine life of love, poured out on the world to heal it and to save it. We see both what God is and how he loves us, to the extent of giving his only Son to die for us, to heal the wound of sin, to restore our humanity, and so that we may share eternal life with him.
As a foretaste of this heavenly joy he takes bread and blesses it and gives it to them. Christ, who as both priest and victim offered himself upon the altar of the Cross, as a willing, spotless pure and sinless victim, now feeds his people with himself so that they may share his risen life – so that they may be given a foretaste of the heavenly glory and the divine life of love. That is why we day by day and week by week we too come to be fed by him, so that we too may share, having first heard the Scriptures explained to us.
We see here in this evening’s second lesson how and why the Church looks and feels like it does, why it understands Scripture in the way that it does, how errors may come about, and how the Church guards against these by deciding what is authentic in terms of Scripture and Tradition. Almost two thousand years after these events took place there is something fresh and current about what we have heard read to us this evening, it doesn’t feel odd, or strange, or backward or outdated, but simply part of how the Church is. It is good that after two thousand years the message has not changed; it shows us that it is authentic: that it is of God, and not of the world.
So let us be like the disciples at Emmaus with warmed hearts, fed by our Lord with word and sacrament, sharing his Easter Joy and his victory over sin and the world and sharing his peace and joy with the world, so that it may believe and give praise to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.

The First Sunday after Easter (BCP) John 20:19–23

The Disciples are afraid, tempers are still running high – they fear a backlash from the people who put Jesus to death, they have been told by Peter that the tomb was empty; Mary of Magdala has seen Jesus. They are confused – not knowing what to believe, or whom to trust. Into the midst of their fear and confusion comes Jesus, saying ‘Peace be unto you’. The first gift of the Risen Lord to his disciples is peace. He who was prophesied to be the Prince of Peace, who has brought about peace through his suffering and death, speaks what he has enacted in his own body. He shows them his hands and his side, as a sign that it is really him, that he is really alive – the Resurrection is a reality, not a fairy story, not idle gossip, not something which people want to be true but isn’t. It’s real in a flesh and blood way. It too was foretold in Scripture, and Jesus has told his disciples before his death what was to happen. But now having seen they believe.
Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord’ the peace of God leads to Joy, the joy of new life in him. This is where true joy is to be found. It is reinforced by the fact that Jesus repeats the words ‘Peace be unto you’ as it is in Christ alone that our true joy and peace can be found. It is in his death and resurrection that our relationship with God and with each other can have its truest meaning and fullest expression.
Immediately Jesus says to his disciples, ‘As the Father hath sent me, even so I send you’ The disciples are sent, sent to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, sent into the world to continue the saving work. Here we see the birth of the Church: it is thanks to them that we are here, today. Then he breathes on them, he gives them the Holy Ghost, to strengthen them, to encourage them, to equip them to be sent out to share the Good News, and build up his body, the Church. They are also empowered: ‘Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained’. In a moment which looks and feels a lot like ordination, we see men sent out to restore humanity, to restore their relationship with God and each other. It is through Christ’s death that such a restoration can take place, and here we see both ‘power and commandment’ given to men best understood as bishops. It reminds us that the Church is to be a place of healing and restoration. The fact that it is not always should encourage us to strive to follow this example, through the grace, the free gift of God working in us. We are sinners, and by God’s gift of his Son, we can be forgiven, redeemed, healed, and restored.
It is the most wonderful news, the greatest gift we could ever wish to receive. It reminds that, in the words of this morning’s Epistle ‘whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith’. We are regenerate, born again of God in our baptism, our sharing in Christ’s death, which overcomes the world; as we share in his death we also share in his new life. Our faith is in a crucified and risen Saviour, who loves us and who gave himself for us, who comes to us in word and sacrament, to feed us with himself, so that we might have life in all its fulness, life in him. It is the faith which we profess in the words of the Nicene Creed: orthodoxy rather than heresy concerning the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Church must always be reminded that in Christ it has overcome the world; it does not need to be conformed to it – to a liberal spirit of the age which seeks to remake the Church and the faith which it professes in its own image, where clergy are little more than social workers, and bishops little more than managers – how meagre, how small-minded that such a great thing should be reduced to this pitiful and wretched state. As sucessors to the Apostles they need to realise their vocation and live it out, rather than be be conformed to the ways of the world, favouring error over truth. The Church has been here before and no doubt it will again. We need to stay close to Christ, close to his word in Scripture, fed by his body and blood, believeing in the faith which comes to us from his apostles, and in the knowledge that he has overcome the world, and that we know his truth which has set us free rather than to be slaves to the spirit of the age, and sharing his peace and joy with the world, so that it may believe and give praise to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.