The Anglican Churches in the Monmouth Area

The Anglican Churches in the Monmouth Area

Corpus Christi

Fr David McGladdery’s Sermon for Corpus Christi Sunday

“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

Last week, we celebrated the ministry of our lay ministers of Communion.  Today, on this Corpus Christi Sunday, we give thanks to God for the great gift of Holy Communion.  The Body and Blood of Christ.  The Holy Communion, The Mass, the Eucharist, is why we are here week after week in this holy place to do what Jesus commanded us to do…to break bread; to pour wine and to share his body and blood in memory of Him.  And we haven’t forgotten.

One of the privileges of ministry is bringing Holy Communion to those who are housebound at home or in hospital because of illness or in one of our nursing homes.  There are two main purposes of a communion visit, and which of these purposes is more prominent varies depending on the person and the situation.

 The first purpose is, of course, to bring the Holy Sacrament to people who cannot come to church on Sunday to receive Holy Communion.  It confers blessing, grace and healing.  To receive Holy Communion is to receive God’s Love, and to be transformed within by its power.   On any given Sunday, when we gather in this holy place and present ourselves to the Father – what happens?  God, the Father presents himself to us as the Word made flesh.  But only I know how small and weak and sinful I am…how inadequate is the gift of myself:

“We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table…”

And yet in return for me… I receive into my soul the all holy, all pure, all loving God, before whom the angels veil their faces.

The great theologian, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman said, “it only takes one Holy Communion to make a saint.”

When the Lord comes to you and to me, through the bread and wine – the body and blood of Jesus the Christ of God – he communicates all of his loveliness to us – so we may use it, and become a witness for Him in the darkness of this world.  Our God descends to our level, in order to lift him up to His.  So that we will become what he is – and he is: Love.  So that we are to be changed into Love.

Love is not something vague, something theoretical – St Paul analysed the nature of love when he wrote in the 13th Chapter of 1st Corinthians that “love is patient, love is kind; it feels no envy, it is never perverse or proud; it does not brood over an injury, it takes no pleasure in misfortune, but rejoices in the victory of truth.  It sustains, it hopes, it endures all things.”  This is a description of Jesus, our Lord, who is the very image of God in human shape.  It is a description of you and me.

When the housebound and those in hospital receive Holy Communion, they also enjoy seeing another person, chatting for awhile, feeling connected with the community, feeling cared about and included, and receiving the latest news from church.  After all, sick and old people are often quite lonely.  For some, the grace and blessing is found in fellowship, and it is the community (the holy communion of love) that they miss most when they can’t come to Church.  But often, I feel that the person who I give Holy Communion to, is actually ministering to me – by their patience, their courage, their faith.

  Whatever someone is longing to receive, whether it be the sacramental blessing of the Body and Blood or simply companionship and relationship, the benefit is real and is healing.  Either way, the visit and its “purpose” is Sacramental. Remember “companion” means, “the one who shares bread”.  Either way, the person is receiving love, blessing and strength from the Body of Christ, the People of Christ – that’s you and me – who have become like Christ by being nourished by Christ’s flesh and blood.  We become what we eat.

When we visit someone; when we spend time with one another; when we give of ourselves to one another, we bring the presence of the Body of Christ to one another in the same way as the presence of Christ is infused into our lives when we receive Holy Communion.  And the sacrament of fellowship, of relationship, the sacrament of being part of a community, is no less holy, mysterious, and profound than the sacrament of consecrated bread and wine.  They both transform a person.  They both heal.  They both bring blessing and strength of faith. They are both about the reality of love.  They are both a foretaste of what Heaven is like.

If we gaze at the Lord long enough and lovingly enough, in the eyes and faces of all we meet from day to day; if we gaze upon God’s beauty in each other, we will, without a doubt, come to see the face of the Lord.

May this be our prayer, as we stretch out our hands and raise our lips to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood, given for us, “ let us feed on Him in our hearts, by faith with thanksgiving”… and know, deep down in the very depths of our being –  that we are changed to become like the God, whose name is: Love.  Amen.

Celebration of Ministry

Rev Janet Bromley’s sermon 31 May 2015

Trinity Sunday and commissioning of Eucharistic Ministers

Quite a few years ago now I travelled to Lubeck in Northern Germany on a bit of a nostalgia trip.  Thirty plus years earlier I had worked in that city in a hotel and I had returned with a friend who had been there with me.  Sometimes you shouldn’t go back but on this occasion we had fun, although of course in three decades much had changed.  The rather traditional German bar where we had spent many of our days off was now decked out in rather tawdry and sparkly pink and purple – very 1970’s and the locals were rather bemused by two slightly mature English ladies wanting to drink coffee there.  There are many beautiful churches in Lubeck, perhaps the most famous is the Marienkirche and we would have worshipped there but decided not to as the service that Sunday was specifically advertised for the older generation – and on holiday and a nostalgia trip we were not prepared to admit to that.

 

So that is how I came to be in the Evangelical Lutheran Church at the Ordination of seven new pastors.  At the beginning of the service each of the ordinands, four of whom were women, stood whilst they were personally introduced to the whole congregation.  We were told where each of them would serve their title and how much of their time they would devote to their future ministry, one was to be full time and the others varied between 20% and 80%.  This sounded very strange to me in the context of a Christian ministry, but perhaps it is typical of German efficiency and precision that this time commitment should be agreed and recognised beforehand.

 

In five weeks time, Bishop Richard will ordain six new priests and five new deacons at St Woolos Cathedral and I have no doubt that the passage we have just read about King Uzziah will be read just as it was at my own ordination way back in 1994.  They read it in Lubeck too, which came as a relief to me, because on hearing the name I knew that they were reading the familiar story about the call of Isaiah.  Isaiah’s positive response to God’s call comes only after he had spoken of his complete unworthiness to stand before God and after one of the seraphs had touched his lips with a burning coal and told him that his guilt had departed and his sin was blotted out.  So it was that Isaiah was able to step out in faith and carry out the work to which God had called him – he could not have done it through his own effort but only when he depended entirely on God’s grace.

 

You may be wondering why I am focussing on ordination – but if you think back to our confirmation service last week you will remember that Bishop Richard spoke about the candidates being ordained as members of the Christian Church.  Ordination is about being set apart for a special purpose – it is about recognising that God calls each and every one of us to ministry and mission in his church today.  And today we celebrate and give thanks for the work of our Eucharistic Ministers.

 

John Powell writes: ‘there is an old Christian tradition that God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special love to bestow.  No one else can speak my message, or sing my song or offer my act of love.  These are entrusted only to me.’

 

Each of us is called by God to spend our lives discovering and giving our innermost treasure and when we are able to do this we will find the most profound fulfilment.  Throughout our lives we must never stop being open to learning and the wisdom of others but at the same time we need to discover who we are and remain true to ourselves and trust in our own dreams and visions.

 

And if we look at the different characters that God has called throughout history we can find ourselves encouraged in our own callings- there was Abraham who laughed at God’s promise of a son, Matthew the tax collector, who was less than honest in his dealings at work, Peter who denied his Lord, Paul who persecuted Christian disciples – and despite of all their shortcomings and protestations God blessed them with the gifts and courage to do his work – however enormous the task might have seemed to them.

 

And every time we think that the task is too great – overwhelming – impossible – we would do well to listen to the words of Oscar Romero – the Archbishop who was martyred in El Salvador and beatified very recently by Pope Francis:

It helps now and then to step back and take the long view.

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No programme accomplishes the church’s mission.  No set goals and objectives include everything.

The True Vine

Sermon by Bishop Dominic, 3 May 2015

Well this week is going to be an interesting week – or maybe, you wish you could just go away and come back and find it all over. We shall hear politicians trying to entice the yet undecided with promises of what will happen if they are elected and telling us why they are right and all the others are wrong. They will all be telling us of the importance of building a better society and healthy communities – and then there will be Thursday night when some of us may sit up watching the TV and waiting for the votes to come in. Maybe by this time next week we shall have a new government or maybe the various parties will still be wheeling and dealing to see what kind of coalition or alliances they can manage.

Well, this morning in the gospel we have shades of an election speech. Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine, my father is the vine dresser – and you are the branches’. Jesus says something like, ‘If you vote for me then great things will happen – together we shall bear much fruit, but if you don’t vote for me nothing good will happen’. And of course, he uses imagery which would have been familiar to them – the image of the vine.

They would all have known that when you grow a vine you have to cut off the branches that do not bear fruit and only drain the vine of its goodness – those branches you throw away and after they have withered and died you put them on a bonfire.

But what is significant is that Jesus does NOT say, ‘I am the stem; you are the branches’. He says, ‘I am the vine (I am the complete plant); you are the branches’ – in other words he is saying that we are part of him.

And he expresses this relationship by saying ‘Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit’…’If you abide in me and I in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you’. That word ‘abide’ is sometimes translated as ‘remain’ or ‘dwell’ – abide in me, remain in me,dwell in me.

A branch that is cut off from a tree cannot survive very long – it soon withers and dies because it is not being fed from the roots and stems of the plant, so as Christians we can only survive if we remain, abide and dwell in Jesus. Like a healthy plant we need to be fed and watered – we need to be nourished and supported. You can of course take the imagery even further – a vine needs to be trained and supported by a trellis of some kind and we also need to be trained and supported and St John alone uses a word for the Holy Spirit – parakletos – meaning someone who comforts and supports and who leads us into all truth.

Now when the Jews heard this teaching, it may have raised their heckles and they may have felt a bit uncomfortable because the imagery of the vine had another meaning – because the people of Israel were referred to as the vine – in fact, it was their national symbol. They wore it on their tee shirts – or they would have done if they had had tee shirts. Psalm 80 refers the Jews as the vine brought out of Egypt – but now Jesus is saying that he himself is the true vine. The prophet Jeremiah had warned the people of Israel that they had become a degenerate vine and here is Jesus agreeing with them by saying that he is the true vine. If they want to be God’s people they need to follow him and abide in him.

So what does this all say to us today? Well, three things come to mind. Firstly, it teaches us that we need to abide, dwell and remain in Christ if we are to flourish and grow rather than wither and die. That means we need to be fed by word and sacrament and to find time to be with God in prayer each day.

Secondly, it means that we should ‘chillax’. I think that is the modern word! We should be able to relax and enjoy being in the love and care of Jesus – to know that we are grafted in him through baptism and as St Paul says – ‘nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus’. So don’t get stressed and fret – relax, rejoice for you abide in him.

And thirdly, we need to recognise how we partake of the vine today and every Sunday – ‘Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink’ – the fruit of the vine is transformed into the our spiritual drink so that we may be transformed into Christ – that we may live in him and he in us – abiding in his love, for if we abide in his love, we shall bear much fruit’ – and amid all the promises that we shall hear this week, that is one that deserves our vote. Amen.