Sunday, 27 November 2011

Advent medicine.

Advent Sunday was nearly a wash out as I went to bed the night before feeling poorly.  A poorly priest on the eve of a Sunday is a very bad thing. Next morning - that really difficult decision - do I struggle out of bed, feel worse and start the working week on the back foot (tricky as loads of important things brewing up this week) or be sensible, stay in bed, let other people use their gifts and learn the very difficult lesson of being dispensable...? A strange thing occurred liturgically at that point. I had a real Psalm 137 moment - 'How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?' i.e. the thought of missing Advent Sunday, the candles, the wreath, the purple, the Collect (give us grace to cast away the works of darkness') the singing ('O Come, O come, Emmanuel') was unbearable. I couldn't bear to be left out of the worshipping action, like those Israelites weeping by the rivers of Babylon. It 's the beginning of the church's year. I'm an Anglican priest. I have to be there! Being in church actually made me feel physically better. Never mind paracetamol, give me the first Sunday of Advent any day.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Some King

Feast of Christ the King - and I thought maybe this Sunday could be the first time I reused a sermon - last year we had Jesus and the penitent thief - 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom' and Jesus promising 'today you will be with me in Paradise'. Then I realised (liturgical ingĂ©nue that I am) there was a different reading set for Christ the King this year, that of the separation of the nations at the end of all things, into sheep and goats - righteous and unrighteous. The Son of Man, sitting in kingly glory, meets out a seemingly final judgement, but by what criteria? - how well we preached, prayed or read the bible? No, it' s about practical action. Those poor goats, they had no idea that every time they turned a blind eye to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick and the prisoner, they ignored Jesus, incurring judgement upon themselves. The sheep, by contrast, had no idea that whenever they ministered to these ones they ministered to the king. Some king. There's no escaping the discomfort you feel in the story. With this king, forgiveness and judgement seem both to be part of the package.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Of all the services I have presided over and preached at, Remembrance Sunday filled me with the most disquiet. Something to do, perhaps, with being young (ish) (who am I kidding, but it's all relative...); being female (?) and having come from a long line of Wesleyan pacifists. 

Then I was conscious that Remembrance is one of those unique confluences of civic, religious and local life which, if done well can bless many and enhance the gospel; and if not...Well, we prepared for possibly 50 attending the local War Memorial - perched precariously on a hill which is also the busy main road between two village settlements. Cars ground to a halt and all around, people could be seen walking down the hill and up the hill to converge at the Cross. We ran out of service sheets and still they came. In this tenth anniversary of Afghanistan, perhaps we were even more conscious of the need to honour those who are dying there every week, as well as those lost in the two World Wars. 

The theological and liturgical challenge was to be a Minister presiding over a community-owned Act of Remembrance, whilst also being a Minister of the Gospel. Not all decisions about war can be uncritically baptised by anyone wearing a cassock and surplice. But pacifism and politics aside, people clearly still wish to honour the memory of the fallen, and 'it is meet and right so to do'. And so we made the most of this annual propitious mingling of church and state; gospel and harsh reality of war.