Sermon and prayers

Trinity Sunday 2020 readings sermon

Isaiah 40.12–17,27–31

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
   and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure,
   and weighed the mountains in scales
   and the hills in a balance? 
13 Who has directed the spirit of the Lord,
   or as his counsellor has instructed him? 
14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment,
   and who taught him the path of justice?
Who taught him knowledge,
   and showed him the way of understanding? 
15 Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
   and are accounted as dust on the scales;
   see, he takes up the isles like fine dust. 
16 Lebanon would not provide fuel enough,
   nor are its animals enough for a burnt-offering. 
17 All the nations are as nothing before him;
   they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. 

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
   and speak, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord,
   and my right is disregarded by my God’? 
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable. 
29 He gives power to the faint,
   and strengthens the powerless. 
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
   and the young will fall exhausted; 
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
   they shall walk and not faint.

Matthew 28.16–20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Trinity Sunday 2020 sermon  Anna Branston

The great commission of Matthew is to go forth and discover what really matters- connecting human lives with the divine source. Mark Oakley

So there I was digging for a few new potatoes. Adam and I had planted them just at the start of the lockdown. There it was out of the mess the dirt were these pearly little potatoes. Out of a trinity of dirt, rain and sun. There’s the sermon I thought.All of these elements are separate and yet somehow the same in that they are all God’s creation and when you combine them good new things are created.

Usually I love Trinity Sunday. My theology is very Trinitarian and I relish finding new ways to explore and illustrate the Trinity. From dancing to marbles. I have been on leave for most of the week and avoiding the news, thinking that a Trinity sermon wouldn’t be a challenge.

How wrong could a person be?

What a week it has been. Scandals from governments both sides of the Atlantic. Lying politicians. People thinking they were above the law. A toxic atmosphere of those in authority disdaining the people. In America George Lloyd was murdered by a policeman – who knelt on his neck. The act was caught on camera.

This case reminded me of the Stephen Lawrence case – which happened around where I grew up. We all knew that racism was rife on the streets and amongst the police. It reminded me of the callous racism I saw in my youth. Of the people who were confident they would get away with it, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

In America the President cleared for a photo shoot the way in front of the church of St John Lafayette, Washington, by teargassing the crowd while holding the Bible  upside down. He did this to try and co-opt Christianity and the church to his cause. I am happy to say clergy roundly condemned this act as unchristian.

My younger son turned 18 this week – we had such plans for parties with family and friends. Rites of passage; going down the pub with his mates, buying his dad a pint. But it wasn’t to be and when I did look at the news and thought back to when he was born. I was so sad.18 years ago, when Adam was born, I thought we had come a long way in expelling racism from our society And I thought this is not the world I hoped my son would come to adulthood in.

So where is God in this – where is the Trinity? How do I point to the corruption, the monumental contempt for the ordinary person, let alone the weak and vulnerable, and say there is a God?  And what does a Trinitarian God mean in these contexts?

There have been growing protests at the racism in America at the number of young black people killed by policemen who are never charged with murder. Out of this came a campaign called Black Lives Matter. In protest at the murder of George Lloyd protestors knelt – this was part of a longer campaign for racial justice in America spearheaded by the football player Colin Kaepernick who knelt during the American national anthem in protest at the killings. At the end of the season the clubs conspired against Kaepernick. Nobody would hire him and he has not played since.

This morning I heard that the NFL has admitted that they were wrong to punish this protest. After 4 years of a dignified and peaceful protest, after such a horrifying murder, after the world started to join the protest, after the imagery has begun to expose the corruption, the wrongs; kneeling on a man’s neck until he is dead, trying to hijack church and bible for your own ends, these actions dragged into the light has shown them for the grievous sins they are.

This fight against institutional racism really matters. That’s where God is in this – the Holy Trinity of creation, prophesy, and self-sacrifice. Pick any three things that bring a new creation and there you have a metaphor for the Trinity. 

This is the Trinitarian God I delight in. The God who brings his Son Jesus Christ to be human alongside us and the Holy Spirit to disturb and empower us to fight against what is manifestly not of God. The Trinity that connects us to the divine source. As I have got older I have worried less about explaining how the Trinity works than rejoicing in the truth that it does.

The great commission of Matthew is to go forth and discover what really matters – connecting human lives with the divine source.

Amen

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God,

you have given us your servants grace,

by the confession of a true faith,

to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:

keep us steadfast in this faith,

that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

“So when did these last two originate? They transcend “whenness,” but if I must give a naive answer—when the Father did. When was that? There has not been a “when” when the Father has not been in existence. This, then, is true of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Put another question and I will answer it. Since when has the Son been begotten? Since as long as the Father has not been begotten.” 
― Gregory of Nyssa, On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius

Morning Prayer

Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday I say Morning prayer at 9.00 am. You are welcome to join in in spirit.         

Tuesday Morning Prayer 9.00 and Saturday Compline at 7.00 p.m. on Zoom.

Friday Morning 11.00 a.m Celtic prayer on Zoom.

If you would like to join in on the Zoom services please let me know(This is for security purposes) and I will send you an invitation. It is very easy to join a Zoom session.

Janice Moore would like to let everyone know that although Christian Aid Week will not happen this year people can still donate on line orby sending a cheque  payable to Christian Aid to Christian Aid, 35 Lower Marsh, London, SE1 7RL.

 I am planning to live stream the Eucharist on Facebook – please wish me luck this is not something that comes naturally to me!however there has been a certain amount of interest in the sermons I have posted up on Facebook so I will give it a go.

 With my prayers for you all have a good Sunday.

Anna Rev’d Anna BranstonRector of the Arrowvale Group of Parishesabranston2002@gmail.com

Acts 2.42–47

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.


John 10.1–10

10‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Sermon Easter 4

Community – the word is everywhere. We are expressing huge amounts of gratitude and pleasure in a renewed feeling of community. At the same time there have been heated debates as to whether this is a reflection of the early church or not.

The argument is that our new ways of worshipping from home mirror early Christian house churches. Although I think that is partly true I am more interested in how we are forming how we are developing our church as communities amid the Corona virus crisis.

And I believe we have much hope and encouragement to draw from the accounts of the formation of the early church.

The passage from Acts could be likened to our current situation in that

early Christians met at home and worshiped there, as many disciples from near and far came to join the church. In the same way we are adding to our numbers via streamed services on Facebook and Zoom Certainly what is true is that we are being profoundly affected by a renewed sense of the value of community and service to others. Which is a good thing.   Underlying all this is the knowledge that we are changed and when we change the world changes. 

The early church was formed in the immediate drama of the resurrection and the change that flowed from that. We are being changed by this virus but 4 weeks into Easter we should remember that the overarching change in the life of Christians is still the resurrection. This above all is what we have in common with the early church and what brings us hope and encouragement.

The reading from Acts tells us of the formation of this church community. People coming from all over to be fed physically and spiritually and by doing so they find commonality in shared belief and being ministered to by the Apostles, pooling their resources to feed the new disciples and fund evangelists.

Following Jesus’ missionary instruction to take the Gospel to the whole world

the early church began the transformation from an exclusive Jewish sect to the Gospel for all. The early church communities had to be open to newcomers.

My commentary puts it this way,

 ‘They respond to the new face at the table. They learn new scripts and live into new roles. They make room for those that are different, even as they stand “together” (vs. 44) in worship, service, learning and fellowship. They are open to the surprise of the Spirit and to the awe-filled work of God’s.’

Shared identity was formed by the setting of boundaries – establishing what Christians actually believed – otherwise known as doctrine. Many converts were being made while the church established its doctrine. Reports of the early church tell of services of hymns, scripture reading and eucharists. 

Newcomers had to be taught what Christians believe (See the letters of St Paul) and by liturgy. Developing a system of teaching what the belief was is where we get both catechism and the creeds that we still say today.

This carried on for a three hundred odd years until Constantine established Christianity as the state religion setting  firmer boundaries on doctrine and liturgy and liberating Christians from persecution and martyrdom.

In a time of change and turmoil let us learn from the accounts of the earliest Christians how to be church. How to respond with openness to the Holy Spirit.

How do we react to our heightened awareness of the needs of others ?     

If we are truly desirous of bringing the Good News to everyone what can we do ?

If we are to be like that early church we should be properly prepared.

This is still the season of Easter when we rejoice in God’s ultimate act of divine love for the whole world. We will convince people that Christianity is indeed the religion of love by being those communities of love ourselves. The ‘community’ we have been so happy to rediscover is what the church should be.

The community where we are relearning how to value the bonds of eating together and the spiritual labour of praying together.

We  are like the early church if we are open to change, growth, and

learning what it is to be a Christian in the world.

What must we do to nurture it ? What will we have to sacrifice to keep the Church alive? Futher hope and encouragement lies in the knowledge that the early church grew, amidst turmoil and often conflicting and fluid understandings of what Christianity was (Plus ca change), an influx of different tribes and cultures and practises.

The early Christians were establishing the fundamental principles of the faith. The principles that hold good today and forming communities that obey the commandments to love God and our neighbours. In the end for the church to grow everyone had to sit down together and share bread. Emphasising again and again the Christian commonality in the body of Christ.

The early Church did it physically – we are having to learn how to do it remotely. Church may well, in the future, exist more outside our beautiful buildings. In buddy systems, small house churches, On-line, on the phone. It will still be Church and we will through shared scripture, prayer, and liturgy remain in communion with our predecessors on the early church. Because we share in the boundless grace of the Love of God.

 I am trying to say that the church is changing and so it should and if we are to be more community, more outward facing then we have to ask ourselves what are prepared to sacrifice to make this happen

Easter 2 sermon and prayers. April 2020


Easter Greetings to you all! Hallelujah!
One of the prescribed readings for this Sunday [Second Sunday of Easter; 19th April] is in the New
Testament from the first letter of Peter, chapter 1 verses 3-9.
When I was reading over it, I was struck by the words in verse 6 in particular; ‘In this, you rejoice,
even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials’.
Biblical scholars have worked out that this letter was written between AD 62 and 64. Who was
Peter writing to? Well, unlike many of the other letters in the New Testament, Peter was not
writing to any one person or even any one Church specifically, but it was a letter intended to be
passed on to anyone or any community who were facing, or who were about to face, ‘suffering’.
The ‘suffering’ could be anything; physical [like persecution or illness], spiritual [like loss of faith] or
even economic [like famine or monetary hardship]. In addition, Peter was wanting to reach out to
those Christians who were being persecuted for their faith.
The purpose of the letter was to encourage the reader[s].
And furthermore, to address the question of how his Christian readers should respond to their
‘suffering’.
Life in the Middle East in the First Century was not easy. Most people never had enough money
because the Romans forced high taxation on everyone. Most people hated being under the rule of
the Romans and longed to be free. Most people were unskilled and made a living as best they
could. Many were farmers and were therefore subject to the vagaries of the weather. Healthcare
was virtually non-existent and most people, women in particular, died before they were ‘middleaged’.
And, if you dared to believe in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, you would be persecuted and
probably killed.
So, life in Peter’s day was not easy. …………….. And yet, he tells his readers to ‘rejoice’.
Our house is on Bearwood Lane, leading out of Pembridge village which is a mile away down it.
Since the lock down enforced on us because of the corona virus, and the accompanying suggestion
that we can [should?] go out once a day to take exercise, the lane has never seen so much activity.
Everyday, we must see between 10 and 20 people walking, running or cycling past; some we know
by name, some we know by sight [now] and others we have never seen before.
And without exception, everyone is surprisingly jolly and upbeat. ‘How are you?’ … ‘Are you
keeping well?’ …. ‘Lovely weather, isn’t it?’ ……… ‘Keep safe’.
This positivity continues even when the conversation is more in-depth. Yes, there are a few
grumbles about having to queue outside Morrisons, or not being able to buy everything that one
might want [or need], not being able to go out as one might want or the effect the dry weather is
having on the fields and crops, …… but …….
Overall, people seem to be looking for the positives rather than the negatives.
I find this both heartening and remarkable. Night after night, morning after morning, the radio and
television news seems to be more and more doom-laden. Everyday, we are told how many more
people have died from the corona virus, how our mental health is deteriorating, how the economy
is suffering, how the police are having to fine people for not keeping to the lock-down rules, that
medical and care staff are not receiving enough P.P.E. And so on and so forth.
Then, once in a while, a little bit of light shines through. The windows emblazoned with rainbow
motifs, the Thursday night round of applause for the NHS, Captain Tom Moore and his exceptional
fund-raising zimmer-frame walk, the fact that we are celebrating Easter.
Isn’t it all about seeing the Light amidst the darkness?
Peter exhorted his readers, whoever they were and whatever their trials and tribulations might be,
to rejoice. Why? Well, there are at least two answers to that question. One is, that the time of trial
and tribulation will come to an end, and secondly, because Christians of all people need to be
emphasising Resurrection over despair.
It is definitely the case that Light shines out of Darkness, Good comes out of Evil. These are not
platitudes; they are Truths. Furthermore, we are loved, unconditionally, by God, our Maker and
Creator, for which we cannot help but Rejoice. We also believe that there is more to Life than that
which we currently experience and that that future Life will be perfect and eternal.
In verse 3 of Peter’s letter, he reminds his readers of one of the central beliefs of our faith; that
Jesus has given us a new birth into a living hope, through His Resurrection from the dead.
The Resurrection has happened, the Resurrection is happening. Succoured by our Christian faith,
let us all look forward, with a living hope, to a new birth, a new, transformed Life for Easter is
happening and nothing can stop it. Hallelujah!
Amen
Prayer for the Second Sunday of Easter
Loving God,
we praise you again for this season
and the assurance it brings
that nothing can ever finally overcome your love.
You confronted the forces of evil,
allowing them to throw everything
they could muster against you,
and when they had done their worst
you emerged victorious,
no power able to hold you down.
Teach us always to hold on to that truth,
and so to live each moment in the knowledge
that, whatever we may face,
your love will see us through.
In the name of the risen Christ we pray.
Amen.
St Thomas Malcolm Guite
“We do not know… how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
Oh doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after Him and find Him in the flesh.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
Oh place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.