Wednesday, 27 January 2021

St Wilfrid, Haywards Heath talk on the word of God 27.1.21


Some years back I was representing Chichester Diocese on an interfaith pilgrimage which visited Damascus. As the light streamed through the window of my hotel room at dawn my spirit was drawn to the account in Acts 9 of the conversion of St. Paul. Within an hour or so we were walking where the newly illuminated Saul of Tarsus walked, along Straight Street (v11), visiting the house of Ananias, the Christian instrumental in Paul’s conversion and also the traditional site of Paul’s escape in a basket from the walls of Damascus (v25). As we trod where the key apostle of Christianity trod we became aware of how scripture’s record of God’s workings is rooted in space and time, the very space we inhabited that very day! Even looking at Straight Street – which is barely ‘straight’ - made us aware of the truth in a degree of irony in Luke’s own description in Acts 9v11 of ‘the street called Straight’. Damascus was a place where you could feel and hear the ring of truth about the scriptures.

In today’s parable of the Sower Jesus speaks of the word of God. Like all of his parables they strike us at many levels. You can’t tie down or systematise Christ’s teaching. It reaches beyond human understanding with different layers and levels that open up to us over our lifetimes as we plumb its depth. As I read again Mark’s version of the Parable of the Sower with its interpretation in Chapter 4 of his Gospel I came back to how that passage about St Paul in Acts 9 came alive to me on a visit to Damascus in 2005. As it was only Monday that we kept the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul that experience in Damascus is fresh in my mind and seemed a good illustration of today’s Gospel.

‘The sower sows the word…. those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ (Mark 4:14, 18-20) There is no word of God without power but to gain that empowerment we have to hear God speaking, particularly from scripture, by deliberately putting aside other cares to apply ourselves to attend, as we are doing here at the eucharist. It is always a challenge to embrace the word of God, not least putting aside other concerns to take up our Bibles. Through reading or, as today, listening, to scripture our minds are engaged with the truth of God but that is only the beginning. For the word of God to empower us the words of the Bible need to reach down through our ears and minds into the depths of our being. The Collect for Bible Sunday puts it very well: ‘Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them’.

There is no word of God without power but to gain that empowerment we have to hear God speaking. As we keep silent for a moment let us digest what God has to say to us individually so at this hour our lives may be put freshly into gear.  

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

St Wilfrid, Haywards Heath on mystic Richard Rolle 20.1.21


The church’s lesser saints days are what you make of them but for many Anglicans they are alas a hidden treasure. Today’s optional commemoration of St Richard Rolle is important to me because he’s a rare Yorkshire saint - so no apologies! Rolle died as far as we know in the Black Death of 1349 along with a third of the population, an unimaginable catastrophe we are averting mercifully with our own pandemic. Though most church records were lost from those days the impact of this plain speaking Yorkshire Saint lives on through his writings. In recent years I read his life and writings published by Francis Comper in 1928, an inspirational volume (picture) which picks up on Rolle’s desire to experience Christ. As we begin the eucharist this morning we seek such an experience in word and sacrament and through our online fellowship extended by Zoom afterwards. St Richard Rolle had a craving to feel the love of God in return for the great love he himself felt for God. He did so, as I will touch on later on in the eucharist. Let us prepare for this celebration by calling to mind and confessing our failure to love God with all our heart and our neighbour as ourselves. 


When I served as priest in Doncaster I suffered a faith crisis which led me to pray for a fresh vision of God. The consequence was a sense of filling by the Holy Spirit or charismatic renewal experience. While thankful for the experience I found myself seeking counsel to see how this resonated with the faith of the church through the ages, which is when I first discovered Richard Rolle who had lived so close to my parish. I recall reading this passage from ‘Fire of Love’ recording his own prayer experience: ‘It is said that the nightingale will sing her melody all night long to please him to whom she is united. How much more ought I to sing, and as sweetly as I can, to my Jesus Christ, my soul’s spouse, through the whole of this present life.. Flute-like, I shall pour out melodious, fervent devotion, raising from the heart songs of praise to God Most High’. Michael Fleming reflects on Rolle’s description of his prayer:  ‘The most marked features in his writings are his evocation of the calor, dulcor, and canor (heat, sweetness, and song) he experienced in the rapture of contemplation, and his most persistent theme, the love of God. The word ‘love’ itself appears almost innumerably in Rolle’s writings, and the message is always the same: ‘[we have] no higher calling than utter devotion to God, and the reward to the purest and most ardent lovers is the indescribably sweetness of burning in the soul with the melodies of heaven.’ Could it be that Rolle describes in that burning and those melodies the experience of release of the Holy Spirit common through the Pentecostal movement associated with heart-warming and both speaking and singing in a heavenly language?

How do you see the experience of God? Do you seek it? Saint Richard Rolle confirms that inasmuch as we open our hearts to God and welcome the Holy Spirit we can receive a felt return for our love for God which brings encouragement. Though some people speaking of their experience of God ring false, many more ring true and the saints are among them. Not that we live for religious experience, just God who loves us knows our need of encouragement, and provides periodic reassurance. Richard Rolle was kept going spiritually through the pandemic of the Black Death and we should expect the same encouragement as we live through a similar trial.  

What I find so attractive in Richard Rolle is how the mystic in him makes servant of his intellect. He went down to Oxford from Yorkshire to return learned yet devout with determination to seek Christ more fully and make Christ more fully loved. It appears he reacted against the dryness of the theology school at Oxford whilst falling there under the influence of the Franciscans. In her ‘Life and Lyrics of Richard Rolle’ Frances Comper notes that while at Oxford, he ‘was imbued with their love for God, and their delight in poverty and simplicity; and was instrumental in spreading the doctrines of St. Francis in the north, since he became the most widely read of all religious writers.’ 

Rolle’s spiritual teachings endure though his tomb is lost. Here is advice given to a nun that captures the heart of his counsel: ‘The Commandment of God is that we love Our Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our thought. With all our heart, that is with all our understanding, without erring. With all our soul, that is with all our will, without gain saying. With all our thought, that is that we think on Him, without forgetting. In this manner is very love and true, that is the work of man‘s will. For love is a deliberate stirring of our thought towards God, so that it receive nothing that is against the love of Jesus Christ, and that thereby it is enduring in sweetness of devotion’. The mystic’s devotion to Jesus is evident in many poems which centre on the crucifixion as graphic evidence of God’s love for each one of us. We owe much to him the resurgence of devotion to the name of Jesus in the 14th and 15th century which links in with the age old practice of the Jesus Prayer in the eastern church. 

Today we commemorate a Yorkshireman, straight-talking about Jesus Christ, whose inspiration, teaching and prayer remains with us, part of the faith and worship of the church through the ages. If you want to find out more about Richard Rolle, and also the Jesus Prayer, you can find it on my personal website referred to in the Churchwardens’ weekly briefing. May his prayers surround us and help us feel God’s presence in the trial of this pandemic. May the love Rolle wrote about be in our hearts as, to quote today’s saint, ‘[we have] no higher calling than utter devotion to God, and the reward to the purest and most ardent lovers is the indescribably sweetness of burning in the soul with the melodies of heaven.’ 

Sunday, 17 January 2021

St Wilfrid & Presentation Epiphany 2 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 17.1.21


Introduction to online Parish Eucharist

Welcome to the parish of St Wilfrid and The Presentation, Haywards Heath for our celebration of the Holy Eucharist mindful in prayer of all affected by the pandemic. Haywards Heath began with the railway. Its Church began in January 1856 when a Curate of Cuckfield, James Cooper led worship in the loft above a carpenter’s shop sited in what is now Great Heathmead near the station. As you sit on your sofa for today’s online service think of those first 14 people climbing the loft ladder. St Wilfrid’s pioneers had to be fit! 

As we offer the eucharist 165 years later at the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we remember nine other Christian bodies now in our town besides our sister parishes of St Richard and The Ascension: Christ Church, Grace Church, Jireh Strict Baptist Chapel, Kents Road Church, Ruwach Church, The Baptist Church, The Methodist Church, The Roman Catholic Church and The United Reformed Church.

We pray God’s blessing on Haywards Heath and all its churches this morning. Sadly Christian witness is divided. Individually we take some responsibility for this, through complacency at least, for a divided church is weaker in its witness. As we prepare to join in the general confession we might also think of sins of thought, word and deed against Christian unity.


On Christmas Day on a family walk through Western Road Cemetery one of my sons spotted the grave of the second Vicar of St Wilfrid’s which I’ve been looking out for on occasional visits. Fr Thomas Wyatt, did so much to help growth at St Wilfrid’s besides planting two new town churches, St Richard’s and The Presentation. He also saw to the rebuilding of St John’s as the first Ascension Church (now our Mosque). Fr Wyatt succeeded his father Robert, Vicar of St Wilfrid’s from 1865, serving from 1891 to 1918 after which he enjoyed a fruitful retirement until his passing on 19 May 1939. He is buried beside his wife in Western Road and as a one who retired as a parish priest a century later, continuing to assist in this parish and St Richard’s I identify with him, his passion for Christ and his Church and for Haywards Heath.

In his unpublished history of St Wilfrid’s Fr Ray mentions Wyatt’s involvement in the Church Defence Institution committed, I quote our former Rector, ‘to resisting attacks on the Church of England from a number of different sources. Firstly there were the secularists and atheists who wished to remove the Church of England from public influence, from its place in education and its Bishops from the House of Lords.   Another popular cause was the debate around the disestablishment of the Church in Wales… Then there were those from Roman Catholic Church who were seeking to exclude the Church of England from its history and its roots in the English and Celtic Church, and who were denying the validity of Anglican Orders, and claiming that it was a Reformation Church which only began at the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Thus the Church Defence meetings sought to show the integrity and continuity of the English Church across the Reformation period and the Catholic and Apostolic nature of the Church and its Bishops. Lectures on the history of the church were to the forefront of this task and this was very much a Catholic movement in its broadest sense’.

As we look with the Bishop for a new parish priest for St Wilfrid and The Presentation our tradition is in harmony with some of that thinking. As the 1961 Catechism states we are part of ‘the ancient church of this land, catholic and reformed’ and that still ends arguing, now though in the warmest fashion, for a distinctive position over against both Roman Catholic and Free Church thinking. The Church of England, this parish Church, nowadays sits uncomfortably with that title. First a lot of England doesn’t want us. Second, we are more properly part of the Church in England in mission partnership with the other nine bodies in our town in the face of the secularism and atheism referred to earlier which has not abated over the last century. I believe the job specification for our new parish priest mentions their readiness to be involved in Churches Together. Talking of which the Churchwardens received a letter this week from Rev Will Fletcher, minister of the Methodist Church on Perrymount Road inviting us to join a short . lunchtime prayer and reflection Monday to Friday 1230pm for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity inspired by the ecumenical Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. Anne and I will be looking in on this to pray for a stronger partnership in mission across our twelve town churches.

Today’s scripture celebrates the calling of Christians. In the Old Testament passage we heard of the boy Samuel’s readiness to hear God’s voice, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9). The Gospel reading tells of the apostles being called by Our Lord one by one, Philip, then Nathanael, also known as Bartholomew. In the passage from the book of Revelation we have a prophecy of the outcome of Christian calling in the gathering of ‘God’s saints from every tribe and language and people and nation… to be a kingdom and priests serving our God [who] will reign in earth’ (Revelation 5:10). That gathering has begun in the twelve churches of Haywards Heath mirroring the twelve foundations of the universal church chosen by Christ in Galilee. We at St Wilfrid’s, though most visible as a building and rich with the legacy of Thomas Wyatt and his like, are part of something bigger in our town which is growing across the world towards the gathering of all things and all people in Christ. May our own prayer and action and the appointment of a new parish priest serve to advance the visible unity and more effective mission of the Church in our town. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Talk on the divinity of Christ at St Wilfrid, Haywards Heath eucharist 13.1.21

I want to share something about the divinity of Christ picking up on our readings and our saint for today, St Hilary of Poitier who lived in the 4th century. 

In his day there was widespread denial of the divinity of Christ. Bishop Hilary’s contending with great grace against this error is celebrated in the collect or prayer for today: ‘Everlasting God, whose servant Hilary steadfastly confessed your Son Jesus Christ to be both human and divine: grant us his gentle courtesy to bring to all the message of redemption in the incarnate Christ’.

How do people see Jesus? In today’s Gospel from Mark 1:29-39 we heard of Our Lord preaching and healing in Galilee. The healings and miracles are seen as pointers to his divinity. We also heard from the letter to the Hebrews of his humanity, of how ‘he [became] completely like (us) so that he could… atone for human sins…’ (Hebrews 2:17)

How do we see Jesus? The Church sees him as truly God and truly human. Without his divinity the Cross would be emptied of power to save. Without his humanity, Our Lord’s becoming like us, the saving work of his dying and rising would not reach into our lives as it has into the lives of half the world’s population today.

How do people see Jesus? Muslims have their answer - Jesus, Isa, peace be upon him, is the human prophet waiting with Allah to judge the world on the last day. Hindus see Jesus as a god among the many gods they honour. Buddhists honour Jesus as a teacher. The question 'who do you think Jesus is?' has many answers but it's worth encouraging people to ask it and helping them attain the full picture.

‘The name of Jesus is not so much written as ploughed into the history of the world’ wrote philosopher Ralph Emerson.

William Lecky the Irish historian of rationalism wrote: ‘Christ has exerted so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists’

To get a perspective on the universality of Jesus we can follow endless tributes from people far from the Christian fold who cannot begrudge the universal significance of Jesus. Napoleon Bonaparte in Elba, after much study of the life and character of Jesus, wrote ‘From first to last, Jesus is the same; always the same - majestic and simple, infinitely severe and infinitely gentle..... I know men; and I tell you that Jesus is not a man. Everything in Him amazes me… He is truly a being by Himself...great with a greatness that crushes me. I defy you to cite another life like that of Christ’.

In the words of Victor Hugo ‘Pythagoras, Epicurus, Socrates, Plato, these are the torches of the world; Christ is the light of day.’

With the coming of Jesus the world has experienced something unique that twenty centuries have yet to plumb the depths of.

‘It would take a Jesus to forge a Jesus’ as someone put it, reflecting that in measuring this Man we find ourselves lost for a standard in human terms.

The atheist Rousseau admitted that ‘It would have been a greater miracle to invent such a life as Christ's than to be it’.

‘Christ is not valued at all unless he is valued above all’ wrote St. Augustine of Hippo echoing his 4th century contemporary, today’s Saint Hilary of Poitiers, who reflecting on the person of Christ wrote: ‘The One who comes from the perfect, is perfect because he has all, he has given all’.

The novelist Dostoyevsky wrote ‘there has never been anyone lovelier, deeper or more sympathetic than Jesus’. The unique warmth, simplicity and humanity of Jesus challenge anyone who picks up a Bible. Is there any figure in history to rival Jesus?  Even the atheist Rousseau said: ‘it would have been a greater miracle to invent such a life as Christ’s than to be it’.

In his book 'What the Bible teaches' R.A.Torrey gives this summary: ‘Jesus Christ is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present. He is from all eternity, always the same, in the form of God. In Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in a bodily way. Jesus is linked to our creation, preservation, the forgiveness of sin, the raising of the dead, judgement and the bestowal of eternal life. Jesus Christ is a person to be worshipped by angels and mortals, even as God the Father is worshipped.’

As we offer the eucharist on this feast of St Hilary we pray for the Holy Spirit to confirm this faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man in us and use us as the collect prayed ‘to bring to all the message of redemption in the incarnate Christ’.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ John 3:16

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

St Wilfrid & Presentation, Haywards Heath Epiphany 2020


God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6b)

The radiance of Jesus lightens the mind, warms the heart and energises the will.

Just as dynamite contains within itself potential energy that can be released to give light, heat and a surge of momentum so it is with Jesus Our Lord.

Epiphany is the origin of this forward movement in the church calendar which today commemorates the first manifestation of Christ to the nations in the person of the Gentile kings.

Christianity goes forward today by radiant energy as we come again and again before Jesus in word and sacrament and in the hearts of his faithful to see minds and hearts and wills irradiated.

As Fr. Bull, one of the great Mirfield Fathers put it, the glad tidings of Christianity are in what Jesus Christ did for men and in the abiding energy of that work.

We gather at the eucharist this morning to be caught up afresh into the radiant energy of Jesus which so shines from today’s scripture. Arise, shine for your light has come says Isaiah you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice. 

As we start a New Year this great Feast of the Epiphany invites us to seek a fresh illumination from the truth that is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:21), a fresh warming of our hearts by the Sacred Heart and a fresh energising for active service from the working of his great power (Ephesians 1:19b).

All of this will flow from the radiance of Jesus, what the Apostle calls the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6b). 

As dynamite is ignited to release its potential energy into light, heat and momentum so our faith ignites the radiance of Jesus to light up our lives and through us light up a world desperately in need of that irradiation.

I want to suggest that this ignition process has three dimensions – intellectual, devotional and practical. 

As we start a New Year there is an intellectual challenge to lay hold afresh on Christian basics so we better answer for our faith. I wonder when you last read a book about the Christian Faith.  Or even the Bible itself? If someone asked you why you thought Christianity was true would you be able to argue for the truth of the resurrection? 

Just a few questions to get us thinking about what’s called apologetics - not apologising but working at thinking through our faith so as to be able to give a better ‘apologia’ or reasonable defence for believing as Christians.

The radiance of Jesus lightens the mind. It also warms the heart to an overflow of love.

A radiant Christian is more than someone buzzing with ideas about Christ. There’s something out of this world streaming through them. To gain the radiance of Jesus we need to be exposed to his radiant love. Christian friends, holy priests all of these help – but nothing can replace our own individual business with God. Welcoming the radiance of Jesus into our hearts is a life-long struggle because of our fallen nature. We need a regular time of prayer, a discipline of self-examination and confession, a resolve to intercede for others, to give a proportion of our income to God’s work and so on. You have a chance to review and renew your devotion as a New Year unfolds. Going on a retreat once the COVID restrictions lift – ask one of our priests if you want to know how you can arrange one. 

The radiance of Jesus lightens the mind, warms the heart and then, lastly, it energises the will.

Where would our study and prayer be if it never led us into action, to be part of what Fr. Bull called the abiding energy of the once-for-all work of Jesus Christ?  We are here at the eucharist to gain that energy. 

To go back to the physics analogy, just as the potential energy in an explosive is released to give light, heat and a surge of momentum so all Jesus attained through his life, death and resurrection is given to be celebrated and released so as to give power and direction to our lives. Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise.

How have we acted to transform our environment to be more as Christ would want it since last we met at the altar? How have we acted in recent weeks to change the world around us for Christ? Inasmuch as the radiant energy of Jesus is in us, we find ourselves raiding the kingdom of fear with love, encouraging those who are down, forgiving those who come against us harshly and providing for those in need from our own resources. This energy carries our lives forward to work for the kingdom of this world (to) become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ (Rev 11:15). 

For such energising of will, warming of heart and illumination of mind we lift our hearts to the Father in this Epiphany Eucharist. 

Sunday, 3 January 2021

St Wilfrid & Presentation, Haywards Heath 3.1.20

The Son of God became the Son of Man so children of men could become children of God.

The second Sunday in Christmastide captures that consequence for us of the incarnation through choice of Ephesians 1 to parallel John 1

In Jesus Christ, we are told, God has granted us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We are chosen, destined..for adoption as his children…

We have redemption…forgiveness…grace…lavished on us…an inheritance…of glory…the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.

With the whole creation redeemed human beings, both Jews and Gentiles, are to be gathered up (with) all things in Christ

We are God's children - God has seen to that - and we must not forget what God has made us.

The writer to the Ephesians thrills with the dignity he sees Christ granting to a believer.  Indeed scholars feel the passage traditionally attributed to St. Paul is actually a baptismal hymn slotted in at the beginning of the letter. The give away is the reference to the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.

This glorious passage celebrates the dignity we bear through our baptism into what Christ has done for us.

It announces the Good News, the whole Gospel of God and defines it for individuals and for the Church and the cosmos as no less than gather(ing) up (of) all things in Christ.

It's wonderful stuff - Ephesians 1:3-14 - and this week it resonated for me as former scientist with a humble reflection made years back by Francis Collins who directed the Human Genome Project and traced the 3000 million elements that determine the makeup of human beings.  

Dr. Collins said: I experience a sense of awe at the realisation that humanity now knows something only God knew before.  It is a deeply moving sensation that helps me appreciate the spiritual side of life.

To draw an analogy just as 20 years ago what had always been the case for human make up was made known so 2000 years ago we had made known the wonder of redemption through Christ who made known to us the mystery of (God's) will.

What had never been known to other than God himself came out in Jesus - that all things are to be ultimately gathered up in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.

The genetic makeup of human beings known to God for all ages was revealed 20 years ago and has been profitably shared since bringing knowledge of the wonder of our nature.

When Ephesians was written almost 2000 years ago Jesus Christ had just lived, died and been raised.  

The Good News of what God has in store for human beings was always in the heart and mind of God. One April morning it burst upon the world.

What God knew already became our knowledge through faith in the Lord's resurrection - redemption… forgiveness… a gathering together of all things… grace… lavished on us… an inheritance… of glory… the seal of the promised Holy Spirit… every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

As science uncovers more and more of the awesome nature of a human being 

Christianity rejoices at knowledge revealed at the start of the Christian era which thrills through the New Testament - it concerns truth and grace - what grace !- the grace of a God who stoops down to our level to be heart to heart with us.

Science can write the footnote to the poem C.S. Lewis used to say but Christianity is the poem itself

To note the 3000 million elements in our genetic code is something of a 'footnote' to a greater 'poem' or story of the One who contains all knowledge - and of his love for our rebel race:

You knew my soul and my bones were not hidden from you: when I was formed in secret and woven in the depths of the earth… wrote the Psalmist (139:14-18) How deep are your thoughts to me O God: and how great is the sum of them!  Were I to count them they are more in number than the sand..

What must he be like who made us and knows us through and through as the work of his hands?

What must he be like who made all things?  The  All-knowing, All-powerful Lord?  Yet the One who knows us and loves us through and through?

What must he be like?  Do you ever think of that?  We should think it for we are destined to be with him forever and we need to be prepared.

Scripture says by his word we were made - so we are like his thoughts, his words expressed outwardly.

More poetically, if he is the singer, we are the song.  Imagine yourselves as a song created by God - and could you, as a song, imagine the one who sings you?

Such is the difference between God and us - and yet there is an affinity, a sameness in Jesus.

The love I have for you, my Lord, is only a shadow of your love for me wrote Carey Landry.

My own belief in you, my Lord, is only a shadow of your faith in me.

The dream I have today, my Lord, is only a shadow of your dreams for me.

The joy I feel today, my Lord, is only a shadow of your joys for me; when we meet face to face.

We have gathered to celebrate the Eucharist. Our Scripture passage is an early 'eucharistic prayer' in that it gives thanks for our salvation. Into our eucharistic prayer week by week we weave our own personal thanksgiving for our life and health and strength, for our families and communities into the Church's prayer of thanksgiving.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!

Into that rich tapestry we call the 'Eucharistic Prayer' or prayer of thanksgiving let us weave also thanks for the awesome design we now know we bear with all its 3000 million components!

God knows every one of those components - and he knows more - he knows our hearts and - more than that even - quite without reason or beyond reason or science - he loves what he knows.

God knows us through and through and he loves us through and through - and no scientist will tell me that but Jesus Christ alone - to whom be glory in this Eucharist, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Talk on praying help and guidance in the pandemic at St Wilfrid, Haywards Heath streamed eucharist on Wednesday in Christmas Octave 30.12.20

As a pensioner I take a good interest in the Christmastide readings which featured elderly Simeon yesterday and 84 year old Anna today engaging with the Lord. 

Anna ‘never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day’. As Jesus was presented and blessed by Simeon ‘she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem’. 

This elderly lady was immersed in prayer. She was therefore open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. There she was as our Lord and Saviour comes to his Temple with Mary his mother and Saint Joseph.

As we read Luke’s Gospel Chapter 2 we sense afresh what it means to be open to the Holy Spirit. It means being available to God in worship and prayer, attentive to the scriptures and to the service of others. Anna is called a prophetess which underlines her openness to the Holy Spirit. On that day, like Simeon, she was led to recognise the unique event of the coming of the Child Jesus to the Temple. Anna goes on to ‘[speak] of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem’.

I don’t know if like me you have had similar experiences of being in the right place at the right time with unique consequences. You and I may not be prophets in the sense of Anna and Simeon but through our baptism we share in a prophetic gifting. By our immersion in prayer we make ourselves open to the Holy Spirit’s leading and this can have remarkable consequences in our daily lives. May this be so for us especially today as so many in our circle are impacted by COVID-19.

I think of many lost opportunities to serve the Lord through my lack of watchfulness, day by day, hour by hour, for doors he has opened for me to enter. Yes, there are days when I am especially prayerful and watchful and have a sense of being used by God. Other days, when I slip my discipline of prayer and attentiveness to others, I look back in the evening with less satisfaction.

The Christmas stories remind us how eternity intersects with time in Jesus Christ and his followers. By the Holy Spirit the eternal God entered time through Our Lady. By the same Spirit he intersects with us, as at this eucharist through the scriptures and the breaking of the Bread. 

Just as prayerful Anna was in the right place at the right time, so, by the discipline of worship and prayer, we too position ourselves in life to enter possibilities of God beyond our imagining. 

It is a matter of devotion to God as God of the world and Lord of time and expectancy upon him to use us as he wishes. 

Wherever we are the Holy Spirit is present and when we meet others he is especially present. In this season of lockdown old and young are primarily in one place yet we retain a variety of means to engage with others. 

Like Anna let us look up generously to God, immersing ourselves in prayer and praise, expecting the Holy Spirit to make us his instruments. 

It’s a privilege and a responsibility to live close to Jesus Emmanuel, God with us. 

God take us and use us through this eucharist making us responsive to the Holy Spirit as we leave worship to live life with the eternal perspective Christmas opens up for us. May the Lord use our prayer, listening to and action on behalf of others today as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates.