Easter Sunday

April 6th, 2010

Easter Sunday 2010 He must rise from the dead
John 20:1-18, Psalm 118, Acts, 1 Corinthians 15:9-28 St George the Martyr Holborn

Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed. Mary stood weeping. Bending to look in, she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been. They said to her, Why are you crying? They have taken my Lord away, she said. Then, turning round, she saw the Lord standing there. But she was unable to recognise that it was him. Then he said Mary! and she said, Master?
Jesus greets Mary. This scene from the Gospel of John is portrayed in the window above the altar in my Church, St Mary Stoke Newington. Since Jesus is dressed in bright gold and red, glory and passion, it is the first image that catches your eye when you come in and look down the nave. Mary has come to the tomb to anoint his body. By coming to do this last God for him, of preparing his corpse she, like all of us, can only acknowledge the power of death. But Mary is startled by this absence, and the two figures who pose the question of where Jesus is. Then the Lord calls her name and she is face to face with the living person. Until he does so, she is completely unable to see who he is. She and the disciples are looking towards the Lord, but cannot yet make him out. So are we. Christ is first not visible, and then, as concession to us, visible, yet still, by faith. They must be called by name to recognise him, and to recognise that he has mastered death and so is the master of all creation, the Lord of life.
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Christ the King

December 15th, 2009

Here we are at Christ the King. Every Sunday the Church reads a piece from the gospel. A very large part of the worldwide church reads the same portion of Scripture on the same day, so Christians across the world and across denominations are on this same page with us. Together we travel through one gospel in a year. All this year we have read from the Gospel of Mark, augmented as this week, with John. This is the last Sunday of the church year, the climax of the year, on which we celebrate Christ our king. The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty; he is girded with strength (Psalm 93) This king is on his way. The gospel of Mark tells us Keep awake for you do not know when the master of the house will come… so he does not find you asleep, I say Keep Awake! We Christians have been made sentries. We are on duty here on the ramparts, looking out for our king. We also have to keep a look out for all threats represented by all the various pretend-kings who make their claims on us. We have to give warning to the nation when it takes their claims too seriously. This is why we Christians are here.

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Christ our Ransom

December 15th, 2009

Our gospel is from Mark. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10.45).
Week by week we have been walking through the gospel of Mark, following the disciples and peering over their shoulders to see the Lord and catch his words. This Mark’s word for us this week. Of course you are not limited to this little piece of the gospel that we have just heard. As soon as you get home you can read on. Pick up this Gospel of Mark for yourself and see here he comes lowly, riding on a donkey. What was it last week? All these commandments have I kept from my youth. Then go and sell all you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and anyone who has left home and family for me will receive a hundred times again. The week before that it was: Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will have no part of it. You cannot take your own bit of the kingdom by force. You to receive meekly and gladly that bit of the kingdom that you are given. What is the gospel going to be next week? Bartimaeus – Teacher, teach me to see again. Amen, Lord teach us to see again. Week by week we walk through the bible, learning to see again. We follow the disciples and apostles, and they follow the Lord. Through this gospel we can watch the Lord coming to his people to release them from all the kings of this world. We can watch the passion of the Lord, which is our passion, that he has taken for us, through trial and flogging and crucifixion through battle to victory and triumph. The ‘kings’ of this world want us to insist that we serve them and we work for them. But the true king is coming, back to his own vineyard, because he has heard the prayers and appeals of those long in captivity. But He shall call me and I shall answer him… I will rescue him and show him my salvation – that is this week’s psalm, psalm 91. So the Lord returns to judge the wicked masters who had grabbed control of the vineyard and so long been exploiting the little ones in it.

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Naming the powers – Christians and the challenge to our culture

August 5th, 2009

Why is our economy in trouble?
Could it be that our economy is in trouble because our culture is in trouble? One reason that our culture might be in trouble because it has adopted a dramatically reduced account of the human person. It has adopted this reduced account of the person because it does not care to hear the Christian gospel which tells us that man is made for love and freedom in relationship with God and his fellow human beings. Because it does not care to hear about this love, or this freedom, our culture is no longer confident of the value and significance of human beings. Our economic crisis reflects a crisis of cultural confidence that reflects a crisis of faith. Man is not convinced that he has a future, and this loss of confidence has eroded his long-term perspective and is stalling our economy. Let us take a look at some of the connections between gospel, culture and economy that are at the root of our economic situation.

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Worship 6 The Whole People of God

October 1st, 2008

Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory

In these talks we have seen that the Christian people is gathered and that it hears the Word of God. It asks for judgment and it receives it, and it receives mercy and it asks for it. It sings and it prays. This particular community is, for our sake, part of the communion of God. It is given this identity and the task that come with it, by God. It is that part of the communion of God that is visible to the world, and which is therefore witness to God for the world. This is a huge claim. It does not make us comfortable to make it, but we cannot not make it. If this community does not make it, this claim does not go away but hangs around with destructive consequences for our society.

1. Unbroken procession
Let us take another look at the service as a whole. The people arrived and were greeted by the gospel. They were brought up the aisle of the Church to the altar where they received Christ from God. They were led by Christ down the aisle and out into the world to travel through the world.

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Worship 1 Gathering

October 1st, 2008

The Lord be with you
Every Sunday morning Christians gather together in worship. What are they doing in these worship services? What is this meeting and praying and singing all about? I am going to look at what is going on in Church in six talks. I am calling them ‘Gathering’, ‘Hearing’, ‘Singing’, ‘Praying’, and then ‘Eucharist’ and ‘The People of God’. These titles loosely correspond to the stages in any service, and allow us to talk about the Church and the Christian life.

1. The Church gathers
I think the best way to talk about the Church is by talking about one particular church, so I have chosen one – mine. My church is St Mary’s, Stoke Newington, here in London.

We leave our homes and offices to gather as this church. Every week we are roused out of our everyday existence, dragged away from our computer or our sofa, to join these many other people. On Sunday morning we leave the house, and cross the borough of Hackney, to join all the others at St Mary’s. And we once we get up the steps and into the church we go down the aisle and take our places next to each other. We are called together, so we come together.

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Worship 2 Hearing

October 1st, 2008

This second talk on Christian worship is about what Christians hear when they worship. Last time we said that the Church is this people gathered together, and that they are the people gathered by God. We ourselves confess that we are this people gathered by God, and we confess that we are surprised to find ourselves here and saying this. Now we have to say that we have been summoned together in order to hear the Word of God.

1. Scripture as address
When we are together in Church the bible is read out, loud and clear so we all hear it. God has promised to speak to us through Holy Scripture, so the Scriptures are read. As often as we meet, the bible is opened, and read out loud and so the gospel is heard by those who have gathered to receive it, and what we hear we receive as the speech of God to us.

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Worship 3 Singing

October 1st, 2008

In my first talk I said that that the Christian community is gathered. The Lord God brings us here before all these other people and holds us together, making us one. This community is an entity of love, and our identity is hidden somewhere in it. In the second talk I said that this community is brought into being as it reads Scripture and hears the Word of God. This community may hear God as God. In this, the third of these talks, I am going to talk about Christian worship and in particular why Christians sing.

1. Singing
Christians sing. We sing because we can. We have been freed to do so. We may address God because he has addressed us and so opened the lines of communication. Like calves let out of their stalls after a long winter’s confinement we kick up and frolic about, enjoying our new freedom. The whole body feels it.

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Worship 4 Praying

October 1st, 2008

We have been looking at the Christian service of worship. So far we have said that Christians gather, that they hear the readings from Scripture and they sing.

The next thing is that they also pray and intercede. The Church comes together in order to pray. This gathering of people has been spoken to and the result is that it may now speak, and purposefully. God is expecting us to say something. We may say what we like and ask for what we want. The Church gives thanks, it acknowledges its neediness and it discovers how to intercede on behalf of others. Christian worship makes us an articulate people, who pray and speak up for one another.

1. Jesus prays
Jesus prays.
He ‘withdrew to deserted places to pray’ (Luke 5). His disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.’ (Luke 11.1-2)

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Worship 5 Eucharist

October 1st, 2008

Christians are gathered together, they hear God’s Word, they pray, and they worship God. These four elements are part of every Christian service.

Traditionally, each service has two parts to it – the ministry of the Word and of the Sacrament. Each service has the Word, since Scripture is always read, but we tend to refer to some services, ‘worship services’ or ‘healing services’. But not every service is a eucharist. But in another sense, every service in which Christians gather and worship God, is part of the one eucharist of God for man, so every Christian service is eucharistic from beginning to end, even when we don’t get as far as the bread and cup.

1. Thanksgiving
He took bread and gave you thanks
Eucharist means thanksgiving. God is with man, and from him we receive our life, and when we are able to acknowledge this we give thanks.

The eucharist is the whole Christian worship service with nothing left out. Every part of this service is a giving thanks. In Christ we are able to see that God is our God. But every act of worship is Christ’s act for us: in each service Christ ministers to us, so we express our surprise and our delight at finding ourselves served by him. And the eucharist is fellowship with the Lord, and so it is a holy communion. It is the fellowship in particular for those who found no room in any other fellowship.

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