Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
28th Apr 2013
Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C
“Now the Son of Man has been glorified”. John 13.31.
In the Sundays following Easter our first reading is taken not from the Old Testament, as is customary, but from The Acts of the Apostles. This underlines that the Resurrection of Jesus is the means by which the Christian Church comes to birth. It involves a communication and becomes a transformation. It is of the kind which allows the apostle Peter to think the previously unthinkable. God speaks to him to establish a new order. In the re-telling of a vivid dream he is able to see that the old religious practices with their animal sacrifices and rigid customs undermine the sense in which God has declared his Creation to be ‘clean’ or in and of itself, good. The old religion had divided and ghettoised the Jewish community. It had separated the believer from his created potential which is to see God’s world and his humanity as one. Now, in Jesus Christ, the Word of God is expressed as inclusive both of Jews, and the whole gentile world. The resurrection hope is the one which calls for a new recognition of our humanity and its possibilities once we recognise that in Christ we are an indelible part of one another.
The witness to Jesus Christ in God is not to be sectarian. What God has made clean, his creation, we are not to lessen or undermine in any way, nor are we to be cynical about its prospects. But the importance for Peter and for the emerging Christian community is that it begins to question and re-examine itself in relation to its Jewish past. The world stage is set for Saul, later Paul to bring Jews and Gentiles together in the one Christian fold. He is to verbalise what for Peter had been apparent in the dream and made manifest in the visit to the believers in Joppa as a message of salvation:
“From now on… There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise”. Galatians 3.26-28
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey was to speak of the Church of God on earth as “A divine society, with Christ as the glory in the midst of it and the Holy Spirit as work within it”. In this new society, an understanding of God’s ways does not proceed merely out of our minds. As Tolstoy once said, ‘It is not the mind which helps us to understand God – it is life’. And this 'divine society' is to be one of radical inclusiveness, where all who have come to God, of whatever kind, are incorporated.
The message of all our three readings this morning is the message of new life. John’s revelation is one of ‘new heavens and a new earth’, John the Gospeller speaks of the glorified Christ, and it is this glory which is the transforming agent.
“The life of man is the vision of God. The glory of God is the living man”.
St Irenaeus, inscribed on Archbishop Ramsey’s gravestone.
The idea of glory is difficult if it is not earthed in the lives of men and women. Michael Ramsey knew this. God’s glory is to be revealed in his Church in lives which have been transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ. And how I wonder is this glory to be manifest here at Holy Cross Church? At this Easter time of renewal and reinvigoration we have just voted in a new parish council and re-elected churchwardens. At one very flat level you might just observe ‘more of the same’ or you might be made aware of the church which needs to be organised and structured as an official body. But something else is there, too. That something else is the Church which is, like the infant Church of Peter’s dream, is continually undergoing change and development, not for its own sake, but in the light of the ancient faith and witness to the Resurrection joy. How can we express here at Holy Cross that we are not a Church merely of traditions and routines and structures, important though these are, but also a Church which is bold and imaginative in establishing new understandings, new partnerships and new ways of belonging to a divine society?
This afternoon, a small group of us will be joining other local parish groups for a childrens’s fun afternoon at the King’s Cross Development, near the granary building. We will be meeting some of the new residents in what is a new community. No church building is as yet planned. Nonetheless Fr John Hawkins and a group of other interested clergy and people are interested in making and building a church presence on the ground. John is walking around the development on Mondays and Thursdays and meeting and praying and establishing some sense of the Church’s presence in what is a bit of a concrete jungle spattered with trees and water. It is rightly called a development. That word ‘development’ may seem a soulless, and unappealing idea, rather like gazing down at a beige coloured architect’s model looking rather dead under Perspex . Or, on the other hand, 'development' might mean something more appealing, something very human and which might itself signify the communal processes of developing and becoming. A group of us feel it to be our Christian duty to go over there and develop a sense of how that empty-ish place might look like with a Christian Church at its heart. Particularly of the way in which a group of faithful and committed people, fired with the joy of the Resurrection, might become agents of social transformation at the one level and the carriers, the bearers and the proclaimers of God’s glory on the other.
The message of Christ resurrected and glorified, is in every respect a complete one. The charge written into today’s account in the Acts of the Apostles is the one which does not limit the scope of the Christian witness. It is radically inclusive and expressive. Here is the call to bring about that ‘divine society’ which brings us all together, and which has the vision and the courage to achieve these things in ordinary lives and maybe ordinary ways, but which is in fact and in deed transformative:
“The life of man is the vision of God. The glory of God is the living man”.
Let us not be complacent in these things. May God achieve in us those things which transform his Church and may we in turn respond to him with open, joyful and generous hearts and so make real that glory which was his from the beginning.
The time for the Church to realise God's glory is NOW.
Parish Priest's Sermon Review of the Year 2012/2013
21st Apr 2013
HOLY CROSS CHURCH CROMER STREET LONDON WC1H 8JU.
PARISH PRIEST’S REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2012-2013
THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Father, pour out your Spirit upon the people of this parish, and grant us a new vision of your glory;
a new experience of your power; a new faithfulness to your word,
and a new consecration to your service,
that your love may grow among us, and your kingdom come,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Where there is no vision the people perish” Proverbs 29.18
The Season of Easter underlines the fact of The Christian Faith as a visionary faith. The post-Easter Gospels catch up with the disciples as they meet the Risen Christ. They now ‘see’ him in a new way. They see him not only as their old rabbuni, their friend, whose death for a while had devastated and confused and scattered them. Now they see him as the Resurrected Christ, their Lord and God, the One in whom they find new life. To experience Jesus’ resurrection was for them one of spiritual renewal and transformation of life.
As I turn to look at our parish of Holy Cross with St Jude and St Peter in St Pancras, I want to give you one example of the kind of hope and refreshment and renewal of life which this church is already providing. This is an Email which I received only a week ago:
Dear Father Christopher,
Greetings! I've been a visitor to your church several times over my many stays in London, and it is a beautiful and holy place. It is truly special to me; it's difficult to put into words.
I have recently become engaged, and plan to have a civil service in the city of Chicago here is the US, since work and family responsibilities will not allow us to stay in the UK for the required 12 days prior to the wedding.
That being said, London is truly the city we love, and we sincerely want to mark the beginning of a lifetime commitment in a beautiful church, in our favourite place in the world. I read about the Thanksgiving for Marriage services, and thought it would best fit our situation.
I sincerely hope you will consider a service for us. And I look forward to hearing back soon.
Thank you, and have a wonderful day!
A beautiful and holy place…. And it is in this place and at this time that we are all at Holy Cross called, like the first witnesses, to be most surely and most truly the Church which has emerged out of Resurrection joy. Called out of this place, too!
In this seventh of these annual reviews and in this 125th year of church’s existence, I wonder about seven years as a significant period of time. We mark time as Christians as we observe the Church’s seasons and as we receive Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. But in fact we do more than mark time. In the Church’s worship, time itself is blessed and its meaning deepened. To outline the Church’s year is not just to diary events but to recall so many occasions in which ‘little’ Holy Cross Church has reached far and wide, both across the globe and into the lives of those seeking in the hope of finding God.
Last Lent saw four inspirational sermons at our Sunday Mass from The Revs. Jim Linthicum, Jennie Hogan, Pippa Turner and then Canon David Whittington, whose message of the crucified Christ establishing relationships of love from the Cross in Mary and John is inspirational. Easter Day last year saw the Confirmation of Tom Smith at St Paul’s Cathedral, and we are looking forward to Tom’s work on a new Mission Action Plan for the parish. On 11th April our ecumenical group visited the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Church in Sydenham with a brief talk by Pastor Ulrich Lincoln of the Lutheran Chaplaincy in Sandwich Street. On 18th April I attended a conference on ‘Tackling Poverty’ at St George’s Church, Leeds, and out of this conference has come good news from The Church Urban Fund of Grants to parishes like ours wishing to offer a distinctive caring ministry to the urban poor. On 19th May a small party of us visited the Sisters of the Cross at Edgware for their commemoration day celebrations, and on 27th May here at Holy Cross our organist John Webster treated us to a recital on the newly refurbished organ, with tea and buns to follow. 2nd June saw the memorial service at Lumen of an old friend of the parish, Sheila Hibbert, with our own Bishop Peter providing reminiscences and prayers. 4th June saw our annual pilgrimage to Walsingham, where the weather kept fine and we enjoyed the usual marvellous day of fine worship and great fellowship and joy of communion. 10th June saw the Feast of Corpus Christi celebrated here with the choir of St Alban’s Holborn and with Maxwell Hutchinson, of Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, architect and media figure, as our preacher. 13th June saw our June ecumenical group meetings at Lumen, appropriately entitled ‘Handing on the Torch’ and these meetings looked at the Christian Church’s spiritual legacy. This allowed us to reflect upon the Olympic Games, which began on 22nd July with the Argyle School Community Games sponsored by Holy Cross Church and providing our local children with a memorable day, apart from the local city foxes who attempted the night before to eat the bouncy castle! During the Olympic Games period this church was open each day, and an Olympic Games diary written. One significant meeting with a seminarian, Daniel Navarro, allowed Fr Christopher to visit the General Catholic Seminary in Madrid in March of 2013 to address the seminarians about The Church of England. We shall be praying for Daniel, who is to be ordained Deacon on 13th June. On 24th July a group of us attended the Induction of Canon Anne Stevens as Rector of St Pancras Church, Euston Road.
On 15th September the renewed parish website went online, and this is now more than serving its purpose, with currently 7,700 hits! 15th September also saw our annual beating of the parish bounds. The next day saw our Solemn Mass with procession for the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross with Bishop Peter as celebrant and The Rev’d Canon Jeremy Davies as preacher. On 28th October our Autumn Bible study course entitled ‘Animate Faith’ gave us Christian faith reflections from various American lay perspectives. On 28th October the Archdeacon of Hampstead, The Ven. Luke Miller came to preach. On Remembrance Sunday, November 11th, we were joined by three military representatives from our local Territorial Army Unit in Hunter Street. This was a very moving and solemn tribute, made all the more encouraging for the youth and dignity of those who came to honour our local war dead. On 1st December we took the tube to Cockfosters for our Annual Quiet day at the Centre for Spirituality with parishoners from St Pancras Church, Euston Road. On 6th December I attended a farewell reception at Lembeth Palace for the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev Rowan Williams with the Headteacher of Argyle School, Jemima Wade. On 10th December we held our Annual Carol Service for local elderly groups from Greatcroft in Cromer Street and the King’s Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Centre. It was a joyous and moving occasion enlivened and enriched by the amazing opera singer Ricardo Panela from Goodenough College, who sang Christmas songs with great panache and musicality.
On 11th December a small group of us visited Joan Maw in Doncaster. During Advent, acts of worship took place each week in different worshipping locations and allowed us to journey through the Advent season in a recollected state of mind. 5th January saw our usual New Year Concert by the London Motet and Madrigal Group and 13th January saw a bring and share lunch at the Vicarage, which, owing to the weather was less well attended but which allowed us all to get around one table. From 18th – 25th January prayers around local churches were held for The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and on 27th January Fr Christopher addressed members of the partially sighted Torch Group at St Paul’s Church, Rossmore Road. This was also the first of three Sundays during the cold weather period for our own team of breakfast cooks on behalf of the Camden Cold Weather Nightshelter. On 1st February, Sister Cesariana of the Consolata Missionary Community bade farewell to our Friday morning open group and to London as she now takes up new responsibilities in Rome. We miss her great wisdom and care and joyfulness. Tom Smith and Fr Christopher addressed the South Camden Deanery Synod on 7th February on ‘Enabling the Church’s Ministry’ and on 10th February Fr Christopher and Charles Evans visited Euston Church, a church ‘plant’ from St Helen’s Bishopsgate at the Institute of Education. 18th February saw a day of filming at Holy Cross of 'Law and Order' and this is the second time that the TV media have come to us in recent years. Our Lenten Course was a very thought provoking series of reflections by the renowned theologian Stanley Hauerwas entitled ‘Living with Death’. On 28th February some of us visited St Alban’s Church, Holborn for a series of seminar presentations on the Oxford Movement and its legacy. 16th March saw Fr Robert Norwood’s 75th birthday and 10th Anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, with a Mass at one of the city churches and a fabulous reception and concert to follow. 19th March saw some of us visit St Paul’s Cathedral for a prayer vigil for the people of Syria and on 20th March, Fr Christopher attended the Induction of Fr Paul Baggot as Vicar of St Cuthbert’s Church, Philbeach Gardens in Earl’s Court.
The work of the parish continues and deepens and grows, with many visits to Holy Cross Church made by our schoolchildren from Argyle School, and with the reception of many visitors during the week from home and abroad, especially during our Friday morning opening time. We have received an astonishing number of visitors to the Parish Sunday Mass from across the globe. Currently Naomi Johnson has sent greetings from Accra, Ghana. I have written to the Bishop of Accra and suggested a parish link with Naomi’s Garrison Church through her parish priest Father Appiah. He is very keen to follow this up. Our plans for the present and future include the refurbishment of our Walsingham Chapel for a great service to commemorate our 125th Anniversary of consecration in November. I am currently in touch with the Bishop’s Missioner for the King’s Cross development area, Fr John Hawkins, and he is directing local residents to our website and for pastoral care and Christian worship here at Holy Cross. My thanks for all who work very hard to maintain, sustain and build up Holy Cross Church in these challenging times. Thanks to churchwardens, Stephen and Peter, our parish councillors and our treasurer, Charles Evans, who has spent much time getting us ready to receive gift aid on our financial giving and contributions. This will allow us to steward our resources in an effective manner, and we thank him or what is always an unenviable task! Thanks to Malika, Joyce, Lena and Beryl for their commitment to the teaching and nurture of our children, and for the way in which their Sunday School teaching harmonises so well with our worship Sunday by Sunday. Thanks to all those who maintain our worship, whether as servers or as those 'behind the scenes’ who maintain this church building in all its beauty and loveliness and for Wendy and Prudence in cleaning and providing flowers and for Aurora in listening and serving at all the Masses at all times. Thanks be to God for you, the worshipping and committed body of women, women and children who make Holy Cross a strong Church, grounded in the faith of Christ, and ready to serve the people of King’s Cross through thick and thin and for at least the next 125 years!
It is fortuitous that we come to review our church’s year and put in place a new electoral roll and come to appoint a new Parish Council during the holy season of Easter. Easter is above all a time of renewal of hopes and intentions. May the joy which the resurrection offers the Church be ours in abundance. May the Christian vision, kept alive in this place for 125 years, remain as clear as it was when they first saw the risen Lord as when they first praised God in this place 125 years ago in the London fog on a wet November morning in the year 1888.
Now is eternal life,
If risen with Christ we stand
In him to life reborn
And holden in his hand;
No more we fear death’s ancient dread,
In Christ arisen from the dead.
Fr Christopher Cawrse.
Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter
14th Apr 2013
The Third Sunday of Easter
The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” John 21.10.
Living in a Vicarage in Argyle Square I occupy one of the very few houses which are inhabited by one family or one owner. I am surrounded by a host of small hotels and live among a constant and ever changing stream of hotel guests. It’s common to hear the rumbling noise of suitcases on wheels and the small groups of people that gather outside the Vicarage smoking, chatting in a foreign language or gazing quizzically at a London or the underground map. The part of this ‘hotel life’ which visits me every morning is the more than faint odour of cooked breakfasts. Next door at 7 am they are in full flow and the smell wafts through my window and into the house as though someone were cooking downstairs.
In this morning’s Gospel Jesus issues the disciples a delightful invitation to breakfast with him. This is the third of his appearances following the Resurrection. We must note that there are six Easter Sundays which follow Easter Day and all of them are taken up with two distinct pictures of the Resurrection. The first are the appearances of Jesus, which serve to deepen and extend and certify his risen life. The second is the effect upon the disciples and of the way in which, by no small miracle, the Resurrection proves transforming for those who now believe. Above all this is a resurrection of close fellowship and of joy in believing.
But back to the breakfast. Or rather Jesus’ invitation to the disciples to eat a breakfast on the sea shore. It really is a kind of Eucharist and and placed in the Gospel to remind us that the Christian community is a Eucharistic community. All these post-Easter appearances and this little breakfast are brought to our notice as re-reminders of what Christ is and what Christ is to become for the Church which is founded ‘in remembrance of Him’. We must remember that the disciples were simple, poor, uneducated men accustomed not to high-flown theology but to hard, physical labour. Their understanding is direct and basic. Jesus couches much of his message in ‘broad brush strokes’, and in large and graphic gestures. Hence the breakfast. Hence the command he gives the disciples to ‘cast their nets to starboard’. Jesus knows that what matters for these men is their livelihood – what they do rather than what they think they know. He has always drawn his teaching from nature and from a kind of practical common sense and from the things that lie all around.
The Easter message of new life and of its transformation in the likeness of Christ issues forth to us down the centuries. And we are being asked to awaken to the prospect for a life which has a broader vision, a deeper sense of the things, and of the need to love and to give of ourselves to one another and to our world. The Church too, is to hear the words of the risen Christ and to ‘cast our nets to starboard’ and to find the miraculous draught of fish, that increase which is granted to those who have faith in Him?
At this particular time, Easter 2013, I believe that Holy Cross Church lies at a crossroads. It has been our good fortune and God’s will to see an increase and a broadening in our Sunday attendance. This causes us to reflect upon those who come to church from this locality and further away. It brings us to see Holy Cross as a local church and also as part of the global community of Faith. We have 16 different nationalities represented in our small membership. Next Sunday sees our Annual General meeting, and it is now necessary to invite those of you who have been attending church for some time to step forward. In the words of this morning’s Gospel we are being asked to ‘cast our nets to starboard’ and to deepen and extend our existing commitment to this church. There are some who have been doing this at Holy Cross for many years, but now is the time to ask those of you who can to commit time for the maintenance and the mission of this church and to take part in its decision making and upkeep. We are a Christian Church in King’s Cross and our duty under God is like the disciples, to proclaim the Christian Faith of which we are the present embodiment, into the future.
It is important to sound this note of appeal on behalf of Holy Cross Church to secure its strong and lasting future and to help it to grow and develop. This is a distinctly Easter appeal. Jesus comes to invite the disciples to breakfast on the shore to encourage them to reinforce their loyalty and to look joyfully to the future. The Resurrection carries them and it carries us ever forward, refreshed and nourished; giving new strength and hope in what Jesus offers us. We must, out of our joy in believing, and in the spirit of true discipleship, commit ourselves readily and thoughtfully and passionately to the Church of which Our Lord Jesus Christ is the very heart and soul.
1. Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath,
such a truth as ends all strife,
such a life as killeth death.
2. Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast,
such a feast as mends in length,
such a strength as makes his guest.
3. Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move,
such a love as none can part,
such a heart as joys in love.
George Herbert, 1633.
Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
7th Apr 2013
Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
Then (Jesus) said to him “Do not doubt but believe”.
Thomas answered him “My Lord and my God!” John 20.27b,28.
In the painting ‘The Incredulity of Thomas’ by Caravaggio, Thomas is a gnarled old peasant, who, with furrowed brow and inquisitive and amazed eyes, has placed his bloodied index finger into a wound in Christ’s side. Two other disciples look down at the implanted finger as though medical students at an examination in a teaching hospital. But they are not young medical students but rough old peasants with dirty finger nails. In a fascinating detail, Jesus guides Thomas’ finger into the wound. The scene is spine tingling. You are a witness to a startling scene, and you feel its effect viscerally, with your nerve endings, and it makes you want to shudder!
The painting takes the dialogue between Jesus and Thomas and involves us to the extent that it is WE who are made to feel the finger going into the Christ’s wound ourselves. The spiritual reality of the resurrection is to be experienced in the flesh more than the mind. This is because The Resurrection of Jesus presents for the mind alone a difficult or even impossible level of understanding. In this context Thomas becomes the hero of the piece, for he echoes that all too human incredulity which befalls the one for whom faith and wonder exist alongside one another. Jesus is the abiding reality, and for Caravaggio he is bathed in light. He is the one who with guiding hand, allows us to see that the spiritual and the physical, the past and the present, have become one in him. As the hymn says ‘Only believe and thou shalt see, that Christ is all in all to thee’. But belief is not a simple business.
In the eastern orthodox churches, Thomas is known not as a doubter but as ‘Thomas the Believer’. Many of our well-known hymns express his kind of faith, in which God is seen in and through and not apart from his hiddenness and inaccessibility. ‘Immortal Invisible God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes’, we sing. And in the hymn ‘Jerusalem the Golden’ comes a ringing endorsement of the existence of heaven with the admission that ‘I know not, O I know not, what solid joys lie there…’ Thomas sets before us the existence of faith and doubt as part of the one offering to God. This is echoed in the poetry of another Thomas, the poet R S Thomas as he describes the idea of faith as an experience of presence and an absence, confounding the desire to make him in our own image.
Why no! I never thought other than
That God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within, the place where we go
Seeking, not in hope to
Arrive or find. He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Via Negativa R.S. Thomas (1913–2000)
The Resurrection of Jesus was after all only slowly and gradually realised by the disciples. The disciples are not learned men. They often misunderstand. They struggle with their own partial understanding. But the Gospel writer is able in this way to make a larger point about the nature of faith as always growing and developing: it unfolds…
Faith is never for us the finished article or the final statement. It grows and develops and may in the right circumstances grow deeper and more mature. More vision and trust may be granted. It takes a while for us to come to that fuller realisation and understanding. The fact of the resurrection is not just a romantic adjunct to the life and death of Jesus. It is the arrival at an understanding of the identity of Jesus in all its fullness. The brief and pithy dialogue between Jesus and Thomas tells us that Jesus is a truth that can only be apprehended by faith. After all, the new relationship which the Resurrection has founded is the one in which Jesus of Nazareth, the rabbi and teacher, the healer, the worker of miracles, the one who died that shameful death on the cross is now risen from the dead! He has become for Thomas and for Christians for all time, “Lord and God!” We remember that Thomas was not before this incident a witness to the Resurrection. John tells us that he believed only on outward evidence, the witness of his own eyes; but my understanding is that this was witness to something he had known all along. It was only through the passage of God’s time that he could acclaim Jesus as his Lord and God.
An understanding of the Christian faith does not rest on belief and doubt in a theory. It is not about supposition but about deep truth. It is about us and what we are and why we are alive and what we are doing with our lives and whether we are becoming what we were made to be and whether we acknowledge that we are chosen and cherished by a loving Maker, who has sent his son to live among us, to die for us and to raise us to new life. This is the belief that the Christian risks, what one theologian has called ‘the foolishness of the truth’.
“Long before any human being saw us, we are seen by God's loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love.” Claiming and reclaiming our chosenness is the great spiritual battle of our lives, for in a competitive, power-hungry and manipulative world, it is all too easy to forget that God has always known us, and God has chosen us – even when we slide into self-doubt and self-rejection. Knowing that we have been and are known by God, and that we have been chosen, is the first thing we need to claim as we behold what we are and become what we receive in Him.