Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost 2018
20th May 2018
Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 2.4.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit marks the Church’s real birthday, though the Church was really begun as the disciples were called at Galilee. Even so, our dramatic first reading from The Acts of the Apostles describes a signal moment among those who had followed Christ. For the moment of Pentecost was singular and devastating. The Holy Spirit had come with power and it had rested upon them. It was the power which declared God to be not only real in the lives of men and women everywhere, but whose presence and Holy Spirit was to lie at the heart of all that might be fulfilled in His Name.
This Pentecost moment had emerged out of their long Eastertide. It had been an Eastertide of waiting and of wondering and of bewilderment. Something might emerge out of all this apparent mess, but what? What is most certain among the loose band of followers was this: The teaching of Christ and the experience of the resurrection had been transformative for their lives. They now knew that what they had been given by Jesus was a living Gospel of unparalleled spiritual power. Pentecost had come to them in the giving of spiritual gifts. And the Giver was the Giver of all things, God himself. And the gift was the gift of himself as seen and known in His Son Jesus Christ and in the giving of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had asked that it be sent and foretold its coming. And so it was. The original spirit of God, which had brooded over the face of the waters before the Creation had now become the life giving spirit mediated in and through the life and death of Christ. And the gift for the disciples was to be both inspirational and practical and future providing.
It is most important to the writer of the Acts of the Apostles that this is a Holy Spirit which is not wil o’ the wisp and elusive. It is a Holy Spirit which takes basic form in the life of the emerging Christian community as a gift from God in Jesus Christ. And the primary fact of this gift is three-fold:
Firstly it is a gift which calls us to think differently about the human family in the breakdown of tribal, national and language barriers. The idea of the proliferation of languages with the one singular understanding burns in our minds as the possibilities that lie inherent in the understanding of different worlds of understanding. We are here called to take on the reality of what lies before us as strange and new and embrace it wholeheartedly, for it is when we meet and greet and accept the new and the hitherto unlearned parts of our experience that we truly grow into God’s likeness.
God’s love must lead us where it wills, for the Holy Spirit and its life and operation must have us acknowledge that as a Church we do not get carried away with our own self-sufficiency. God is ever provident and the existence of the Holy Spirit reminds us that what we do we do in His name, in His Way and in His time.
Little Gidding IV
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire. T S Eliot.
Secondly, the gift of the Holy Spirit is the one which calls the Christian Church to look beyond itself and its own needs and to see the person of Christ in the eyes of the stranger, the visitor, the refugee, the homeless one, the marginalized, the gay person, the drunk, the depressed and the fatalistic. To look also to the perhaps unseen and unheeded suffering and need going on in our own midst. The Holy Spirit is holy and it is a spirit which gives inner nourishment, but its basic life is one which calls us out of ourselves and beyond the level of our normal horizons. God is to be found there : in the other. He is often called ‘The Holy Other’. In this there may come new life, for the Spirit renews us as it draws us out of ourselves, and into the place of illumination and of hope which is the presence of God and the love of God.
Unless the eye catch fire
The God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire
The God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire
The God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire
The God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire
The God will not be known.
From 'Pentecost' by William Blake.
Finally, the Holy Spirit lives among us in the life of God’s Church, which is the power of God and the influence of God. This Church, in what it is and in what it manages to be for so many different kinds of people, is that place where God is known to dwell and a place of peace, the peace of God which passes all understanding and yet one which may be known and shared: that peace which may reach into and beyond the barriers of custom and boundaries set by this or that ingathered community; a tough peace, if you know what I mean… The message of Pentecost is that the Spirit of God has now entered places where doors had formerly been shut and minds closed, and where the windows of our seeing and knowing have grown opaque with wear. In the breaking down of barriers, in the love of the stranger and in the power and influence of God, The Holy Spirit is forever the living flame of God’s love for us, whomever and wherever we may be…It has come to bring all things together in the One Love, the one thing needful.
Sermon for the Feast of the Ascension (Easter 7)
13th May 2018
Sermon for the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven
“The glory of God is the living Man; the life of Man is the Vision of God”.
Archbishop Michael Ramsey.
After the six Sundays of Easter, in which we have encountered the risen Lord with the disciples in so many ways, our observance of this Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord takes us in another direction. Actually, it takes us to another dimension – heavenward. And for The Church this heavenly dimension is a quite natural way of regarding the life of God the Creator in relation to us his creatures. This dimension is expressed most fully in John’s Gospel where Jesus’ life is the one which has come from God and goes back to God. And again for the Church, to speak of Christ is to speak of the holiness and the glory of that freedom of movement he has brought about between the heavenly and the earthly places. We have, over past weeks witnessed the trial, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. In the weeks following Easter we have witnessed the Christ who comes to the disciples to reassure them and point their lives and their faltering faith every forward. He provides hope in the present and the promise of glory for the future. He promises the gift of the Holy Spirit. And now he goes back to the Father as he ascends into heaven. One of the Psalms express this poetically and joyfully – (Psalm 19.1-4):
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun…
In this meeting and mixing of the heavenly and the earthly there is the hope that is held out for us in Christ. Why is a belief in heaven so much a part of Christian Faith? How are we to believe in heaven in a way that is not as has been said cynically “pie in the sky when you die”? To speak of the Ascension of Jesus is to speak of the glory which emerges out of his own self offering, which is one of humility and self-giving, even unto death. It is best expressed in the 1662 Prayer Book’s Eucharistic Rite:
O God our Heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption, who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world, and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death, until his coming again…
We are reminded in Ephesians 4.6 that Jesus “ascended on high and led captivity captive”. And we, who are on this earth as captives, are also as Christians those who follow where Jesus Christ has gone before. And we are promised that what emerges out of the pattern of his and our own struggle and in his life is the glory which is the hope of heaven to come. Like him we come from God and go back to God. Christianity is above all else a hopeful and heaven directed faith. Our living out of this life in the pattern and likeness of Christ is a kind of suffering unto self, but again, after the pattern of Christ’s own being, the promise made to us is to the glory which is yet to be revealed to us:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18.
Archbishop Michael Ramsey was one who constantly proclaimed the Christian glory in terms of the life of Man to its fullest potential. He wishes that these words, from Irenaeus, a Second Century Theologian and Saint be placed on his gravestone:
The glory of God is the living Man; the life of Man is the Vision of God.
Some time ago I was in Salisbury Cathedral. It is perhaps the finest example of a complete Medieval Gothic Cathedral that we have, with its spire rising to over 400’ the tallest spire in England, and the inside the vaulting which carries you mind and heart heavenward. Heavenward not just because the vaults are high and beautiful but because they speak to the heart and the souI. The architecture is spiritual architecture. I attended Evensong at which Psalm 18 was sung “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” and I began to see the cathedral around me in a new light and even a new dimension. It was no longer just a glorious great church building but a piece of living sculpture, full of space and light, and arches and shapes which took the eye in this or that direction. And then, too, the music and the choir themselves declared further this glory of which the psalmist wrote and of the many ways in which the Glory of God may be expressed in the lives of us all. The glory of God lies all around us and the Christian is the one who has open eyes to express this same glory in all we are and in all we do for God’s sake…
And this is where we come down from heaven and into this earth. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, his coming to birth as both Man and Son of God is one complete action. It is one which gifts the glory of God to each one of us in our own lives. It is the promise of his presence and of the potential in our own existences in the promise of glory gifted to us by the One Lord Jesus Christ who has ascended to that place where God is. This is the place where we are headed, too, and there is glory in that, too.
As we give our lives more fully to God, and as we dedicate ourselves in the service of Christ, let us then declare not only in our lips but with our hearts:
“The glory of God is the living Man; the life of Man is the Vision of God”.
Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter
6th May 2018
6th Sunday of Easter Year B Sermon
As we come to the end of the Easter Season our readings draw us to the final outcome of the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead. It was for the Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to proclaim their risen Lord not just as a phenomenon but in an understanding of what constituted ‘human being’. And for the Church this was straightforward. God, the God of the Old Testament, the God of history, the ‘abba’; the Father of Jesus was love. The outworking of human love was the defining characteristic of the Christian Church as it emerged like a butterfly out of its chrysalis. But this was to be a love that was expressive and timeless.
This teaching on love, though, was not just ‘pie in the sky’. It was forged in the life of the Gospel writer John in relation to the early history of the Church from 90-110 AD. It was at this time that the Christian Church had begun to identify itself quite distinctly from its Jewish inheritance. This identity emerged out of the wisdom on the part of the great Apostles Peter and Paul that Baptism be offered to those known as gentiles - the general population; the great mass of people ‘out there’, ‘the great unwashed’. This radical decision was acted upon out of a sense of Christ and of the radical demands of the love of Christ. There was to be no partiality shown. The Christian community was no longer a slave to religious convention, but now a community of love whose members held a relationship in common. Jesus had called them ‘friends’ and this embrace of friendship cut across and undermined the old religions and the claim to many so many little exclusivenesses. It cut across the cultural norms and the weight of rank and privilege set against the Christian claim to an interrelated society with a common and shared destiny. It gained ground and lasted because its vision was realistic and expansive. It spoke about what was real, and what is real in us. Jesus had come not to proclaim a religiosity for its own sake but to speak for the truth of our human condition at its very heart. John reminds us of Jesus’ words ‘This is my commandment, ‘love one another as I have loved you’. Another John, John Lennon was to say, nineteen hundred and sixty years later,
Love is the answer, and you know that for sure; Love is a flower, you've got to let it grow.
You're just left with yourself all the time, whatever you do anyway. You've got to get down to your own God in your own temple. It's all down to you, mate.
John Lennon is all very well… but he was mistaken. The Church was and does never speak of ‘your own God in your own temple’. Lennon’s idea of love was a love without God. That’s not what we know to be true. Our three readings this morning tell us differently. They assume before anything else that the sole referent for the showing of human love is the existence of God, who has loved us before time began and who sent his Son to show us that love. Through our Baptism we have been provided with the patterning for that love. John is sure as he waits upon God that God is saying ’You did not choose me, I chose you’. This expression is written into an icon at my old theological college, Westcott House in Cambridge.
Rowan Williams, in his book, "The Dwelling of Light: Praying with Icons of Christ" (Canterbury Press, 2003) bases his chapter on the Westcott icon, writing, "the icon of the Christ Pantocrator in the chapel of Westcott House, Cambridge, was and is for me and many others a profoundly significant image." Of its meaning he writes,
"The point is simple: face to face with Jesus, there and only there, do we find who we are. We have been created to mirror his life, the eternal life of the one turned always toward the overflowing love of the Father; but our human existence constantly turns away. When we look at Jesus, we see in some measure what he sees, and are drawn to where his eyes lead us... we look at him looking at us, and try to understand that as he looks at us he looks at the Father. In other words, when he looks at us, he sees the love that is his own source and life, despite all we have done to obscure it in ourselves. When we look at him looking at us, we see both what we were made to be, bearers of the divine image and likeness, and what we have made of ourselves."
If love is to be anything at all it must speak for our human condition as it is found. This Eastertide stands for the proclamation of that love not just for its own sake but for the life of the world and the fulfilment of human destiny. Anything else is fake. It is in this sense, and only in this sense that St Augustine’s order has been understood:
Love, and do what you will…
End of Year Report by Fr Christopher for AGM
22nd Apr 2018
HOLY CROSS CHURCH CROMER STREET LONDON WC1H 8JU.
PARISH PRIEST’S REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2017-2018
Our Annual General Meeting always takes place within the season of Easter, and as we look back on the past year, we do so in the light of the Resurrection, which grants profound affirmation of our life in Christ, and of the promise of its continual refreshment and of the ‘green shoots’ of new life for the future. There is plenty of this at Holy Cross and we pray that God will bless our Mission.
REACHING OUT TO ARGYLE SCHOOL Fr Christopher regular visits the school and takes assemblies and is now increasingly involved working with individual classes. There are school visits to Holy cross Church at intervals during the year, with teaching on the Seasons of Advent, Christmas and Lent and Easter as well as classes on the symbolism of the Cross and the Holy Eucharist, as well as introductions to the church’s building and history. Each month, the school maintains discussion and class work around human values, and Fr Christopher is able to aid discussion and responses from the Christian point of view. Meditation classes take place for the final year six classes and there are informal sessions which prepare the final year children for moving on to ‘big’ school.
REACHING OUT TO THE HOMELESS We have once more sent groups of volunteers to support the Camden Cold Weather Night Shelter to cook breakfasts during the cold Winter months at St George’s Church, Bloomsbury. This year we undertook a sponsored walk around the churches of the South Camden Deanery ad raise £775 for the Camden Night Shelter (C4WS).
REACHING OUT TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY Fr Christopher is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the King’s Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association (KCB). The group advises and supports the organisation in its vital and committed work among local children and young people and also alongside our elderly residents. There is a multiplicity of activities and the Church is being seen to be taking on an influential lead in these matters, especially as KCBNA takes a lead in tackling conflict issues and knife crime and drug issues among our challenged young people. At Holy Cross, we run our own lunch club on the first Saturday of each month, and this brings together both church and local community members around the one table.
ECUMENICAL INVOLVEMENT Holy Cross Church forms part of a network of Christian churches representing all the denominations, with each community offering a distinctive ministry to this part of King’s Cross. We come together for The Good Friday Walk of Witness. We have regular ecumenical minister’s meetings and share our good news and maintain close links and friendships. This April saw the
THE HOLY CROSS CENTRE TRUST This year is the final year of Holy Cross Centre Trust as we at Holy Cross market the crypt premises. Their drop in and other groups have all found new homes and this marks the end of a 35 year relationship. We are now marketing the crypt premises and hope to achieve a balance around the commercial and charitable use for its future use. HCCT had been given responsibility of management of the Peace Garden (owned by Camden Council) at the east end of the church and we have contacted Camden, and, through the service of Camden Green Gym and their team of local volunteers, have held two gardening days, the next of which takes place on Thursday 3rd May. It is already looking heaps better!
INTERFAITH INVOLVEMENT Fr Christopher attends the meetings of The Camden Interfaith Communities Partnership throughout the year. This provides an invaluable means of maintaining a strong solidarity among the religious groups and their leaders Camden-wide. This year we were able to go to Sandfield Mosque in Cromer Street to join our Muslim friends for prayers.
ON THE HOME FRONT We celebrated the Confirmation of Richard Nicholl, Carl Wratten, Thomas Olowade and Jonathon Kitson on our Patronal Feast Day, Sunday 17th September, in the presence of the Bishop of Edmonton. We continue to witness the often very significant number of visitors who come to Sunday Mass from their travels around the world. We rejoiced in the award to our own Margaret Holness of the Canterbury Cross for her services to the Church of England as ‘The Church Times’ education correspondent.
AND FOR FUTURE PLANS….The Louis Lewis Bequest has beern granted for the provision of Holy Cross. Our claim with Ecclesiastical Insurance is now in the hands of the Archdeacon of Hampstead, and, with our churchwardens, our structural surveyor, Ken Amblin, and our architect Jonathan Louth we are continuing to press on. We have carried out a ‘Spring Clean’ of old and worn items from the church and have put the gift of tables and chairs from the Royal Physiological Society to good use. We are currently marketing the crypt premises and have welcomed the Huaxia Chinese Church to use our church premises each Sunday afternoon. We hope now to find a new tenant for the crypt premises and to ‘take back’ roughly a third of the crypt – the current TV an Parish rooms for our own use and will in due course erect a stud wall and occupy this space for our own social and missional use. We are hoping for a church ’turned inside out’ and turned toward the community it is called to serve and begin to fulfil our Mission prmises which we have put together on our Mission and Vision Days.
The Resurrection is for the Christian community and for our world a sign of hope and of future glory and we at Holy Cross live and work for the promise it offers to us in our own amazing community here in King's Cross, London.
Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter
15th Apr 2018
EASTER 3 YEAR B
“They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it in their presence” Luke 24.40
We are still in the season of Easter, and will remain so for some weeks. This is The Church’s deliberate intention. We experience and re-experience the Resurrection and its aftermath so that we may come to realise its profound meaning for ourselves. The Resurrection is never to be seen as the simple end-point of the life of the Jesus. It exists dynamically in time. It is for the Christian Church its own past, present and future life. It exists for the changing and the maturing of lives. It is deeply relational. The apostles had already shown the emotional freedom and courage to set aside their existing attachments and follow Jesus, and they now had to grasp the far more unsettling message that their lives, and the life of the whole world, would now be utterly changed.
We can’t avoid the fact that the gospel writers found the resurrection of Jesus quite puzzling. Except, that is, in one point: in different ways, all the gospels labour the point that Jesus was no ghostly apparition. He appeared to them after his own resurrection from the dead. The tomb was empty; but Jesus had gone on ahead and had appeared to Mary Magdalen and spoken to her. The risen Christ ate, broke bread, spoke, and even allowed Thomas and others to put their fingers in his wounds. He was very much an embodied presence. Jesus was actual and present to the disciples. On the road to Emmaus we are told that Jesus’ friends walked along in conversation with him for several miles without recognising him. He appeared to them and he entered locked rooms, and then suddenly disappeared from their sight – all things which sound much more like the ways we think of disembodied ghosts. But it is not Jesus as ghost but Jesus as physically present that is emphasized. And his presence is one which challenges the disciples and their perception of him, and who challenges them to ‘move on’ from this.
The focus is on the reality of Jesus. His being very present. Why, at this moment of resurrection vision, do we come to the frankly mundane sounding sentence: ‘They gave him a piece of broiled fish’?
One of the real dangers for people of faith is that we fail to recognise the importance of the physical, tangible world of which we are part – that we make our faith ‘other worldly’. This has always been a danger – right back in the early centuries of the church when Gnostics denied that God had made the physical world, believed that it was evil, and taught that we had to be saved out of it. But Christians have always believed that the physical world of everything is in fact and deed, God’s creation, and that it is to be loved. We, like him, are both of the body and of the spirit; the resurrection tells us that the true life is one which does not oppose the physical, but reaches beyond it. With our whole hearts and minds and bodies, we are called to behold and proclaim God’s glory in the very real present, in the very cold light of day, and to proclaim ourselves as a church which is for human flourishing:
The grave clothes of winter
are still here, but the sepulchre
is empty. A messenger
from the tomb tells us
how a stone has been rolled
from the mind, and a tree lightens
the darkness with its blossom.
There are travellers upon the road
who have heard music blown
from a bare bough, and a child
tells us how the accident
of last year, a machine stranded
beside the way for lack
of petrol, is crowned with flowers.
R S Thomas
The Resurrection brings the Church into new birth as the wellspring of its life. It is not isolated in history but an ever-present fact for the Church and its present and forward momentum. We can’t ‘do’ the resurrection on Easter day and then get on with the rest of life: The Church is called to stay in the resurrection so as to be able to live as Jesus lived. The French word for ‘resurrection’ is resussité, resuscitation, which powerfully asserts the grace of life giving refreshment renewal in the Christian life.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.
The Resurrection stands in contrast to life that is fossilised and atomised and turned in on itself. It is the perpetual declaration if new life in the immediate present. It is also RS Thomas’ “…stone being rolled from the mind”.
A Resurrection church is one which, like ours, has understood our Diocesan command to become one more caring, creative and compassionate, and it is most recently that we as a church must make decisions, following the departure of the Holy Cross Centre Trust. We are pledged to continue as a church offering broad and warm welcome and care to those in need at the local level and at the point of need. We must set the need to maintain a building (which costs money) alongside the overriding need to be most fully a Church. The Church which emerged out of the Resurrection was a people resuscitated, given new life from its source. A Church which continued to be oxygenated by the Holy Spirit and whose influence powerfully and prayerfully informed the church’s every move. A church too, not only understood through sound bites and mission statements but actually found in the authentic lives of men Christian men women and children who have dedicated their lives to Christ.
Pope Francis’ March Encyclical ‘Gaudete et Exsultate’:
I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”.
Let us be spurred on by the signs of holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest members of that people which “shares also in Christ’s prophetic office, spreading abroad a living witness to him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity”.
When the resurrected Jesus ‘eats the bread in their presence’ he is calling us all to make him and to make his Church more real as we embrace more fully and activate more passionately His call holiness.