The Anglican Churches in the Monmouth Area

The Anglican Churches in the Monmouth Area

Harvest Services

St. Thomas’ Family Eucharist and Harvest Festival 9.30am on Sunday 6thOctober, followed by a continental breakfast at Tŷ Price.

 

Harvest produce and donations will be gratefully appreciated.

Please bring along on Saturday 5 October from 10.00am or contact Chris Leddington.

 

St. Mary’s Church Family Eucharist and Harvest Festival 10.00am on Sunday 6thOctober

This will be followed by a Bring and Share Lunch.

Please sign the list at the back of the church.

The Kingdom and Treasure

The Kingdom and Treasure (Luke 12:32-40)

St Thomas, Monmouth, Aug, 2019

  1. I have a friend who has very firm opinions on most subjects. In fact, if I come to think about it most of my friends have very firm opinions but with this particular friend once she has made up her mind that is it, and no amount of argument will change her mind.  I once questioned her opinion and she replied by saying, ‘I have made up my mind, please don’t confuse me with facts’.  I also discovered that every year she buys a book with a religious message and a prayer for each day of the year.  When I asked why as quite a scholarly person she didn’t follow a bible commentary she said, ‘because I like to be told what I want to hear’.  I guess she was saying that the bible doesn’t always tell you what you want to hear.

 

  1. Sometime religion – and perhaps Christianity in particular is seen as a ‘comfort blanket’. It tells you what you want to hear – that God loves you, forgives you and saves you.  Well, today’s Gospel begins with encouraging and comforting words, Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom but then the comfort blanket is thrown off and we are challenged by what it means to live the life of the kingdom – and the life of the kingdom is not something that starts after death, it begins here and now which is why we pray ‘Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’.  We are called as Christians to start living the life of the kingdom and Jesus tells us something of what that means.

 

  1. He tells us that we must seek first the kingdom of God and put that before everything else and work for the things that will last forever. In fact, the Kingdom of God is the central message of the New Testament which is why Jesus taught so much about it. You may recall that Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to yeast rising in bread, to a tiny mustard seed growing into a mighty tree, to a pearl of great price for which it was worth selling everything else, to treasure hidden in a field, to treasures old and new and to a drag net that draws in all the fishes.

 

  1. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that if you want to build the Kingdom then Sell your possessions and give alms, Make purses for yourselves that do not wear outso that you have treasure in heaven which moths and thieves cannot destroy. Two thousand years ago in Palestine people showed their wealth by having costly raiments which could easily be ruined by moths, so we should sit lightly to material possessions.

 

  1. I remember talking to a saintly archdeacon called Reg Bazire who had been a missionary in China and was imprisoned by the Japanese and three times in his life, he and his wife lost all their possessions and only owned the clothes in which they were standing up. When I remarked , ‘How terrible’ he replied that in fact it was tremendously liberating and I remembered the story of the rich young man who couldn’t follow Jesus because he couldn’t get rid of his possession.  He was in fact possessed by his possessions.

 

  1. Jesus said, Where your treasure is there will your heart be also. In the news last week we saw people in Whaley Bridge being evacuated from their homes with the possibility that the dam might burst and that they might not return and all their material possessions would be ruined. What did they take with them – what were their most treasured items?  I was pleased to see that the vicar went back for her hamster. It is worth asking ourselves what we treasure most – what would we take with us if we had just minutes to leave our homes – is the treasure that we possess in our relationship with material things or in our relationships with living people and animals?

 

  1. Jesus tells us that we must be alert if we are to be kingdom-centred. He said we must be like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding.  In those days they would not have had satnav or a bus timetable or any real means of knowing when they might arrive home but the servants had to be ready even staying up all night.  The Greek says, Have your loins girded and your lamps burning.  The long flowing robes of the Middle East have to be girded or tucked into the belt to do work and topping up the oil filled lamps required constant attention. We are being told to be watchful – not like watching paint dry but like a soldier on watch who is alert to what is happening around and ready to jump into action.

 

  1. So the message of today’s gospel is three-fold. Firstly, to put the Kingdom of God as our aim in life because it is what Jesus came to establish and teach. Secondly, to sit lightly to our material possession and to share them with others, and thirdly, to be watchful and alert to what opportunities God is providing for us to help establish here and now his Kingdom on earth.

Mary and Martha

St Mary’s Monmouth 21 July 2019

  1. The role of women in society is an interesting and sometimes controversial subject. I guess most of us today recognise the equality of men and women and in our own lifetimes will have seen huge changes. When I was ordained in 1972 a woman could not even be a deacon whilst today, 47 years later our next bishop could well be a woman and when I worked in India, it was the custom for the men to eat first waited upon by the women.  After the men had eaten, the women and children would sit and eat together waited upon by the servants and when they had finished the servants sat down in the kitchen and ate what was left over.

 

  1. I tell you this because in order to fully understand today’s gospel we need to know the social context. Jesus had gone to visit his friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha although no mention is made of Lazarus being present so Jesus was already breaking a social rule of an unmarried man being alone in a house with women to whom he was not related. Then Mary breaks a social and religious taboo – she was in the front room sitting at the feet of Jesus like a male disciple would sit at the feet of his rabbi whilst being taught.  Mary’s place (by the conventions of that time) was to be in the kitchen or working out in the back yard. She should have known her place!

 

  1. Now if you think that Martha was doing the cooking and getting a meal ready for Jesus whilst Mary was socialising and not doing any of the work and Mary was rightly feeling ‘hard done by,’ and if you have heard sermons that say the church needs its Marys and its Marthas – people who pray and people who roll up their sleeves and do the work then I think you have been led up the garden path!

 

  1. For a start we are not told that Mary was cooking a meal and the Greek word that is used implies that she was doing various tasks or chores, but the emphasis of the story is not what she was doing but her anxiety and worry which prevented her from being able to be with Jesus and Jesus gently tells her off.Quite what he said we are not sure because different texts record different words although all of them imply that Martha was fretting and troubled and anxious and Jesus tells her that only one thing is needful and Mary has chosen the better part by giving her attention to what he is teaching her rather than rushing around plumping the cushions and sweeping the floor or whatever she was doing.

 

  1. Today’s gospel is set in a Palestinian culture of two thousand years ago and whilst the role of women may have changed since then, human nature remains much the same.So what does this story say to us today?

 

  1. Firstly, we are told of the dangers of worry – the danger of being anxious. I may have told you of a friend of mine who is a born worrier and he worries about things that are never going to happen. Psychologists say it’s a defence mechanism, so if you worry about what may happen and it doesn’t then you feel relieved and if you worry about something and it does happen then you have already prepared yourself.  When my friend hasn’t got anything to worry about, he worries that he might have forgotten something that he should be worried about.

 

  1. The Bible is full of verses that tell us not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough troubles of its own. Jesus tells us not to worry about life and what we eat and drink or what we wear or what we look like.  He says that worrying can’t add a single inch to your height or a single hour to your life. In fact worrying is likely to shorten your life. In the parable of the sower, we are taught that the pressures of life can suffocate faith and people who worry tend to be people who lack trust.  Jesus assures us that God loves us and will look after us. We are told that God cares for every sparrow and so our heavenly Father certainly watches over us.

 

  1. In the Gospel, Martha also reflects another behaviour that we can fall into when under stress. She thinks she knows better than God. Martha tells Jesus what he should do.She says, ‘Don’t you care – tell Mary to help me’ but Jesus showed that his way might not be our way of doing things. When God doesn’t help us in the ways that we want we face a choice – of becoming disillusioned with God or going on trusting him because he knows better than we do what is good and right for us.

 

  1. The message of today’s Gospel is not to worry and be anxious but to trust God and be with him. I remember watching my mother change from being a Martha into a Mary.She was always very house proud and house work and tidiness were her priorities.  She had even trained her dog to pick up his toys and put them neatly in a box.  Then one day when I visited her I commented that there was a layer of dust on the sideboard and she explained that was because it hadn’t rained for a long time. When I asked what that had to do with it she explained that when the weather was fine she went out and enjoyed herself, meeting with friends and exploring God’s world and by the time she got home she just wanted to be quiet and reflect – so she only did housework when it rained. So Marthas can become Marys.

 

  1. We can all be worried or distracted by so many things and we all know what a struggle it can be not to be anxious but to trust in God, but Martha’s story is a reminder that no matter how busy we are, we need to choose the better part and find time to be with God and to listen to him.

The woman bent double

The woman bent double Luke 13:10-17 – Bishop Dominic

 

  1. St Luke wrote more of the NT than any other writer – even more than St Paul because he wrote the Gospel of St Luke and also the Acts of the Apostles but what is extraordinary is that he is a Greek – a Gentile and not a Jew. By tradition he was a physician and he sets out to proclaim Jesus as the divine physician who brings healing to the whole world and he has good news for all people, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, Jews and Gentiles.

 

  1. St Luke balances stories of men with stories about women and this morning we heard the story of the woman who was bent double and had been like that for 18 years.It is balanced with a story about a man with dropsy in the. following chapter and the two stories have much in common.  They both take place on the Sabbath; they both involve a clash with the religious leaders and in both, Jesus contrasts the care of an ox with the treatment of a person in effect telling them that they treat their domestic animals better than their fellow humans.

 

  1. It’s a wonderful story. We are not told why the women is stooped – it was likely to be a curvature of the spine and the Greek word pantalesimplies that it was a permanent condition. It may be that she was stooped because she was poor and had had an inadequate diet or that she felt that she had been cursed or that she had a broken heart and was depressed but what is important is that she doesn’t ask for healing but Jesus notices her and heals her.

 

  1. But there is much that lies behind this story. When Jews prayed they looked up to heaven and often raised their outstretched hands but this poor woman was unable to do that even though she went to the synagogue to pray so the other Jews would have looked down upon her because she could not lift her eyes to God.  She had lost status and dignity and was someone whom today we might describe as marginalised, but Jesus cures her and she immediately praises God and presumably looked up to heaven once again and Jesus restores her dignity by calling her ‘a daughter of Abraham’ and he chastises the religious leaders for their legalistic attitude.

 

  1. So what does this have to say to us today? Well, firstly there is a place for looking down when we pray because we come to God in penitence and humility as unworthy servants and so we kneel or look down but then God raises us up as he did the women in today’s gospel. The correct position for prayer is to stand or sit upright as people with dignity because God loves us, calls us and saves us.  In some churches they are very cunning and don’t give people prayer books or hymn books but put the words on an overhead screen so that people have to look up to worship and it makes a huge difference. Sadly, most Anglicans are ‘book bound’ which means they have to look down rather than look up to pray.

 

  1. There is one part in the Eucharist when the priests says, ‘Lift up your hearts’ and as he says it, he or she gives an upward movement of his or her arms to encourage people to look up – but most of them are looking down and stay looking down. We are invited to lift our hearts to God and not just our hearts but our whole selves to God so lifting up our heads and our eyes is needed to see the Eucharistic action. As I get older and tetchier I am half tempted to say instead of ‘Lift up your hearts’ ‘Put your books down because you know the words – and look at what is happening – or I might as well have my back to you and face the wall’, look up so that you can see what God is doing for you as the Holy Spirit is invoked over the bread and wine to become the bread of life and our spiritual drink. This is the liturgical action which is intended to be seen so look up.

 

  1. And what lies behind this is that you come to know that you are people with dignity who can stand or sit up straight with heads held high because God has raised you up. Like the women Jesus described as a daughter of Abraham, you are sons and daughters of a king.  You don’t need to be a miserable sinner because you have been forgiven, you don’t need to humble grumble because you have been redeemed. You don’t need to feel bad about yourself because God loves you unconditionally. Even if you are a bit stooped on the outside you can feel tall on the inside because God has raised you with Christ to seek the things that are above.

 

  1. So, shall I do it? Shall I tell you at the start of the Eucharistic Prayer to put your books down and look at the action?  Probably not, but when I say, ‘Lift up your hearts’ that is what I shall be thinking and I might even be pleasantly surprised!