Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Christ the King 25th November 2012

The purpose of the Church is not to accommodate the demands of secular society; its duty is to a higher power. Nor were those who opposed the measure the zealots or dinosaurs of caricature. The debate was anguished, compassionate and reasoned. Those who voted no knew that they were going against the grain of modernity, and the exhortation of their leaders. But they had scrutinised conscience and Scripture, and could not bring themselves to vote otherwise.

I’m not speaking for myself but reading you the leader many of you’ll have read in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph on General Synod’s rejection of the women bishops’ legislation.

The sentiment fits this feast of Christ the King. I repeat: The purpose of the Church is not to accommodate the demands of secular society; its duty is to a higher power.

The debate on women bishops came right down to our Parochial Church Council. All three views – for, against and undecided – are represented there. As one against relief the measure fell on Tuesday is tempered by sympathy for those I now know will be hurt by that, and regard for those who lament synod’s failure to protect deeply held beliefs, such as my own, through a rather ill thought out and mean-spirited provision.

Over the last year the Parochial Church Council has had a very full agenda. Our wardens James and Jan, secretary Rhoda, treasurer David Colville, Mark Berryman, Marion, Chris, David Lamb, Heidi and Lisa have worked hard with me month by month for us all. Without the PCC there’d have been no prayer ministry training, July vision day, Martindale refurbishment, electrical inspection, stewardship renewal or addressing of our budget deficit let alone the consideration of issues like women bishops required of us by the diocese.

The PCC works hard for us – and they might earn a round of applause!

Since July the PCC’s been looking at our thinking on the vision day and we’ve produced a new mission action plan. You can read it on the notice board and its one line header in the news sheet:  St Giles Church has a mission to grow in faith, love and numbers.

As the old church year ends today with a flourish to Christ our King we’re asking him to stir up grace for a coming year of growth which is why I’ll be speaking on the three aspects of the MAP over the next month, starting today with action to grow in faith.

Our putting mission on the MAP has the same three dimensions we rehearsed two years back – the ABC of attending to God, building Christian community and commending God’s love for the world.

Now the order is different. Before it was looking to God, the church, the world. Now it’s growing in faith towards God, growing in the expression of love to the world and growing the numbers of our Christian fellowship here at St Giles.

So! What action has the PCC got planned, or raised up, to help us grow in faith over the next church year that starts on Advent Sunday?

If you look on the porch flow chart we’ve got various opportunities for you to act. These include
Signing up, as a dozen folk so far have signed up to, the electronic discipleship resource on the church website to obtain bible study, meditation, self-examination and Christian literature resources. These you can follow on the hoof on your iPhone or Blackberry or whatever. We’d like you to sign up and receive a two monthly e news letter from St Giles which has electronic resources useful to the building of faith among church members. I have some parents working with me to identify and commend websites useful to building faith in our children. Do give that site a click, if that’s your gift, and tell me sites you’d like commending in the January edition of electronic discipleship.

Action listed on the MAP that help build our faith at St Giles include: Sunday and weekday Eucharists, Sunday Club and All-Age Eucharist with prayer listening ministry, Westall monthly Eucharists and evening prayer twice monthly, monthly Sunday evening services, Wednesday evening prayer, Thursday life and faith group, Friday School assembly, Saturday prayer group, ministry of healing first Wednesday of each month and confessions before great feasts

Near at hand is next Sunday afternoon’s healing service with Fr Keith McRae. Why not begin the new church year on Advent Sunday by asking for a new beginning spiritually? If your faith feels sickly, let alone your body or your mind, come and welcome prayer for wholeness of body, mind and spirit. This service of evening prayer, sermon and laying on of hands by priests and lay prayer ministers is action to serve  spiritual and other needs. There’ll also be a number of events that will serve to build faith as we take Advent out into 24 venues in the parish this year and I’d like to underline the three meditation sessions at Jamie Large’s, the Rectory and the Miles’ when people of any faith or none will be able to share a 25 minute meditation on one of three themes: breath, light and word.

On the growing faith MAP for January there’s Unbelievable? As you’ve seen in P&P with flying pigs, this is a module on the Apostles’ Creed running the first four Thursday evenings in January. It’ll also serve as first part of confirmation training, as well as being part of the Bishop’s Certificate course that’ll draw a few from outside the village. The PCC is commending this action geared to help people build Christian faith more as the Creed expresses it.

In all of these ways we can take action to grow in our faith which is a key part of our purpose here at St Giles.

My former bishop Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, once issued a clarion call to his growing diocese: are you consumers or citizens?

Are you in church to consume word and sacrament for spiritual solace or are you here to grow as responsible citizens of Christ’s kingdom?

I’d re-iterate that challenge on the Feast of Christ the King. I realise it’s both/and not either/or but preaching uses phrases to waken us up by their directness.

Are you here to build God’s kingdom, to work for world transformation through the spread of faith beyond these walls, or are you settled in something of a consumerist mentality whereby going to St Giles fits alongside going to Sainsbury’s or to the Theatre?

The PCC of St Giles are lead citizens working for the kingdom here. They head up and bless others in work for the school, the hall renovation, the churchyard, the Sunday Club and Toddler Plus, the optimising of our finances, fabric and churchyard with the Friends, the music, the welcoming ministry, the serving and so on. They’re lead citizens and there are people here we need to take a place on this continually refreshed body when PCC elections occur in April.

Your kingdom come, your will be done is the motto for Christ the King, and for St Giles, as we seek to grow in faith, love and numbers in service of the kingdom without walls not accommodated to the demands of secular society but with duty towards a higher power.

May that power, the power of Christ the King, with the Father and the  Spirit be made present among us at this eucharist. Amen

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday 8am

It’s the intention that really matters.

Oh, yes, the road to hell is often paved with them, but the combination of good actions with good intentions is what the worship of God and the building of His Kingdom is all about.

This morning later on we will be standing before our Cenotaph with thousands of other congregations led by Her Majesty the Queen at Whitehall as we pay tribute to the war dead of this and every nation.

On Remembrance Sunday we recall the sacrifice of the few for the good of all.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. It is a good and sweet thing to die for one’s country.

But is it? Reading the poetry of Wilfrid Owen might lead us to question such a sentiment.

Once again it is the intention that really matters, the heart’s intent.

 When we look at the names on a Cenotaph, under such an epitaph as I quoted, there are awkward considerations to be made. Many of those men and women, considerations of self-preservation apart, had no intention of laying down their lives for the cause of their country at all

At the same time, if we are talking about those who sacrifice in war time, there will be many whose names are not among the dead who had an intention to offer themselves for their country but whose sacrifice was incomplete.

But was it incomplete and non-sacrificial because they lived on?

In Balcombe their cenotaph recognizing what I’m saying lists all who served placing a cross besides those who died.

Sacrifice is about love before it is about death.

It is the intention that counts.

Here at the Holy Eucharist we commemorate a sacrifice which is a death and very much more. Here day by day we recall the intention, the willing obedience of Our Blessed Lord offered in the garden secretly and on the Cross on high.

Our Lord gave Himself by intention at the Last Supper Table and in Gethsemane to interpret and fill with the richest meaning His agony the next day upon the Cross.

For us who celebrate the Eucharist Sunday by Sunday it is also our intention that matters. It is not the whole of the matter, of course, for we also receive grace, but what we put into this worship, not least our desire to offer ourselves, our time, talents and treasure to the praise and service of God, is pivotal.

Among Mother Teresa’s most powerful sayings is one that surely gets to the heart of her many good works: it is not how much you do that matters but how much love you put into the action.

 For us the challenge of Remembrance Sunday is one of the purification of our intentions, the cleansing of the thoughts of our hearts.

As we offer this Eucharist of Requiem for the war dead is there a desire to consecrate your energies to God’s praise and service or are their  realms within you that lie unconsecrated, broken off from the wholeness of your discipleship, to be handed over to God?

Our prayer today is one of dedication. Here am I, Lord we are saying, with all my mixed motives.

Here am I with my energies and with so many possibilities before me for good or ill.

Here am I, Lord ready to do your will, ready to be generous with you in this Eucharist and with those you lead me to serve in the week ahead.

It is the intention that really matters – at the Eucharist, in War, in Life…

So pray my brothers and sisters brethren that this my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father. Amen.