The Anglican Churches in the Monmouth Area

The Anglican Churches in the Monmouth Area

Lent talks and courses 2019

Lent Course in Mitchel Troy

Lent Course: starting on Tuesday 12th March from 2.30 – 4.00pm

at Swallow Barn, Common Road, Mitchel Troy

“Daring to see God Now” written by Bishop Nick Baines

There will be an Agape meal on Wednesday 17th April at 7.30pm.

 

Lent Talks with Bishop Dominic

 

  THE GOSPEL OF ST LUKE
the Beloved Physician, Painter and Story Teller

Five Thursdays in Lent at St. Thomas’ Church, Monmouth

7.00 p.m. – 7.40 p.m. (40 minutes)

14th March      St Luke, the Evangelist and his Gospel

21st March       The Parables in Luke’s Gospel

28th March       The Holy Spirit in Luke’s Gospel

4th April            Prayer and Praise in Luke’s Gospel

11th April          The Passion & Resurrection in Luke’s Gospel

More than any other evangelist,  Luke has given the world a Jesus to love. (Raymond Brown, New Testament scholar)

Please bring a Bible and a friend – all are welcome.

Notices

Fund-raising at St. Mary’s Church: thank you to all who supported last Saturday’s Summer Fayre, which raised nearly £1,200 for church funds. The Choir Concert was also well supported and raised £620.


Collection for Bishop Richard from the Monmouth Group of Parishes: envelopes are available at the back of the churches if you would like to contribute towards a retirement present for Bishop Richard.


WaterAid Appeal: stickers and collecting jars (not bottles) are available from St. Thomas’ if you would like to collect coins to help provide safe water to poor communities. These are to be returned at Harvest.


Meeting for Theology for Life Course: Wednesday 19th June, 7.30-9.30pm at Tŷ Price. Meeting for anyone interested in following the Theology for Life Course. For further details see Rev’d Catherine.


Faith in Art Talk, ‘Thomas’: Thursday 20th June at 7.30pm at Tŷ Price. Refreshments will be served from 7.00pm.


St. Michael’s churchyard clear -up: Saturday 22nd June 10am – 12noon


Group Eucharist: Sunday 30th June at 10am at St. Wonnow’s


Town Commemorative Service: Sunday 30th June at 6.00pm at St. Mary’s Church


Advance Notices – The Martin Singers Concert: Saturday 20th July, St. Michael’s at 7.00pm


Tŷ Price Garden Party: Saturday 27th July. With stalls. Join us to celebrate our 2nd birthday.


 Saturday 22nd June: Priory Coffee Morning: Flower Guild, 10.00am – 12.00noon. Tŷ Price: Tommy’s Tiddlers Anniversary, 10.00am – 2.30pm. Join us at Tŷ Price for stalls, coffee and lunch to celebrate the 13th Anniversary of Tommy’s Tiddlers.

The Baptism of Christ

Sunday 13th January 2018  The Baptism of Christ :  St Thomas Church, Overmonnow. The Rev’d Janet Bromley.

I love the interconnectedness of all the seasons; for instance if in Advent we are looking forward in expectancy, then at Christmas we are able to look on the Christ child, the child of love and we are filled with joy and hope.  Now we are in Epiphany and what we have seen and experienced begins to take hold of us and change us.  We are bathed in light and maybe God will be revealed to us in such a way that we will discern where he wants us to be and to go in the coming year and beyond.

Epiphany sets before us three great glimpses of God and they don’t appear to have that much in common.  The first is an infancy story which is only found in Matthew’s gospel; the second is a narrative common to all the gospels with overtones of Old Testament theophany and the third is a miraculous sign from the Gospel of John.

The first we celebrated last week when the magi were led to the Christ child by the vision of a star.  Next week we will be reading about the unseen vision of water being changed into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.  This leaves us this week with perhaps, the richest and most complicated theme of Epiphany:  The Baptism of Christ

In each of these themes there is a change that is demands us to keep looking and in the looking we are called to change.

A moment ago I used the word theophany – this simply means the manifestation of God and Christ is the supreme theophany and throughout the Epiphany season we are drawn to step back from all our busyness yet again – to turn aside and experience the loving height and depth of God in Jesus Christ.

The Gospel writers have different emphases in their accounts of Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan.  But essentially they are trying to answer the question: why should Jesus, who is believed to be sinless, come to John for a baptism of repentance and cleansing from sin.  It is obvious to the people in the crowds…those fast livers from the cities, religious leaders, soldiers and tax collectors they needed to repent and be cleansed.  But why should Jesus need to be baptised and who was he anyway?

And his baptism does reveal to John the Baptist, to the crowds andto us just who Jesus is and it empowers him for his future mission and ministry and his imminent battle with Satan in the desert. 

Luke always places great emphasis on the prayer life of Jesus and so it is after his baptism, while he is prayingthat the Holy Spirit in the bodily form of a dove descends on him.  The dove was symbolic of the loving character of divine life, so the Holy Spirit coming in this form would say to those present that Jesus was beloved of God and of course, this was emphasised further by the voice from heaven.

It is important that Jesus found it necessary to receive empowerment for ministry, we see this again with his disciples who await their baptism with the Spirit at Pentecost before they can set out on their mission.

If it is true for Jesus and his disciples then how much more do we need to spend time in prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on us before we set about our mission and ministry.

We can also look at Jesus baptism from another angle: it is not Jesus that needs repentance and cleansing from sin.. 

in reality it is the other way around….. it is the river Jordan and thereby the whole of creation that is being restored.  In the baptism of Jesus the harmony between creation and the Incarnate Word becomes clearer.  This is especially so when it is celebrated by the Orthodox Church, which takes place at a river or lake and there is a long prayer of blessing over the water….much longer that the one we use at our baptisms.  It emphasises the themes of light and creation…this is part of the prayer .. it is gloriously evocative:

‘Today the grace of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon the waters.  Today the sun that never sets has risen, and the world is filled with splendour by the light of the Lord.  Today the moon shines upon the world with the brightness of its rays. Today the glittering stars make the earth fair with the radiance of their shining….

Today the blinding mist of the world is dispersed by the Epiphany of our God.  Today things above keep feast with things below and things below commune with things above.  Today earth and sea share in the joy of the world and the world is filled with gladness.’

If we look back to the beginning.. this is like a new Genesis.. remember the spirit brooding over the waters and then the creative word of the Father says: Let there be light?

Now at the Jordan we see the spirit descending and the creative word of the Father saying: This is my Son the beloved.

Here we have Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the glorious Trinity made manifest.

When we were baptised and at every baptism we become a new creation, new children of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus baptism marks the beginning of his ministry, which is restoring the whole of humanity to its vocation as a royal and prophetic priesthood.

Baptism is the root of the royalty, priesthood and pastoral ministry of ALL the baptised..and is symbolised by those gifts brought by the magi which we celebrated last week:

gold for royalty

incense for priesthood

myrrh for pastoral ministry

Do you see yourself in this light?

We cannot abdicate from who we really are as baptised children of God.

Jesus ministry begins then with a commissioning and an empowering..and though there may still be much in his baptism that we don’t understand, we DO know that the experience was real enough for him to embark on his mission AND sustain him in it.

As baptised Christians we take our place within the Church to continue Christ’s ministry.  We too are commissioned and empowered.  Commissioned to serve and empowered by the blessing that we are known and valued by God.

At this time of year the Methodist Church uses a prayer called the Covenant Prayer …. it is about abandoning ourselves to God, to be swept along by the waters of God’s immeasurable grace and the more we do this, the more we will trust ourselves and each other with these precious gifts of ministry and healing.

Let’s finish with the prayer:

I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you;

let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing;

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant now made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven

Amen

Janet’s note: Much of the material in this sermon can be found in Dr Ross Thompson’s book: Spirituality in Season.

Bishop’s Letter – 29th June 2018

Bishop Richard writes…..

29th June 2018

Dear Friends,

With the creation of the new Archdeaconry of the Gwent Valleys, I have been reflecting on the legacy of the mining industry which has shaped the work and culture of the area around us.

Earlier on in the year, I dedicated a new stained-glass window in Risca to commemorate the mining disaster that took place in 1860 when 146 men and boys lost their lives.  At one level, it is obviously a very long time ago but the original memorial had deteriorated and local people wanted to still remember and there is a great deal to remember. The cost of lives, social deprivation and a scarred landscape still remain.

As many of you know, I served as Vicar in Cwmtillery and Six Bells. Although my ministry was 30 years ago, I can still recall the conversations relating to the accident of 1960 in Six Bells when 45 men lost their lives.  It is a common story across South Wales where it is it estimated that over 6000 miners died in accidents in the 19th and 20th centuries.  We also remember the widows and children whose lives would never be the same.  We also remember those with mining related illnesses whose quality of life was impaired and shortened. It is a national story as many came from across the UK for work.

And we remember in different ways. There are the national museums such as Big Pit and the sculptures like the Guardian. While these are outwards signs of suffering, loss and human cost, we must remember that they are also signs of pride, of human resilience, of companionship and of community strength.

Remembering can be difficult. Many, reflecting after the closing of the mines, said it was a time of exploitation. Idris Davies, the poet, spoke of Monmouthshire as the place ‘greed was born.’  While that is too harsh an assessment, it is true there were many instances of injustice where workers were seen as a commodity. Of course, this was not confined to the South Wales minefield. Factory and mill workers in Northern England also bore the brunt of others prosperity. Business came first.

But all was not bad. The valleys are loved by those who live in them.  There is laughter and great spirit as well.

 

In the places of my boyhood
The pit-wheels turn no more
Nor any furnace lightens
The midnight as of yore.

The slopes of slag and cinder
Are sulking in the rain
And in derelict valleys
The hope of youth is slain.

And yet I love to wander
The early ways I went
And watch from doors and bridges
The hills and skies of Gwent.

In Gwalia, my Gwalia,
The vandals out of hell
Ransacked and marred forever
The wooded hill and dale.

They grabbed and bruised and plundered
Because their greed was great
And slunk away and purchased
The medals of the state.

And yet I love to wander
the early ways I went
And watch from doors and bridges
The hills and skies of Gwent.

Though blighted be the valleys
Where man meets man with pain
The things by boyhood cherished
Stand firm and shall remain.

 

Idris Davies from Rhymney

 

Miners cannot be remembered only as victims. They were men of their age and context but also ordinary men, family men, making a living. It was hard work and they were brave and hardy.  We give thanks for them and for the valley communities they shaped.

Celebration of the new Archdeaconry of the Gwent Valleys and the Installation of the new Archdeacon, Newport Cathedral

Saturday, the 7th July marks the historical creation of the New Archdeaconry and the licensing of the Reverend Canon Sue Pinnington MBE. As this is a ticket-only service, please let us know if you have not received your ticket(s) in the next few days as they have now all been sent out.

Please remember all Diocesan Clergy and Lay Ministers are expected to robe. Please wear cassock, surplice, scarf and hood as appropriate. Please be at the Cathedral by 3:30pm to robe in either the Dean’s Vestry or the Cathedral Hall as your ticket states. We ask that all others arrive by 3:45pm to ensure there is enough time to find your seats so that the service may start promptly at 4:00pm.

Appointments

The Reverend Graeme Carby is retiring from Cyncoed Ministry Area this month.  Graeme has served for over twenty years in Cyncoed and is a well-loved priest. Graeme has played a significant role in St David’s Church in Wales School and was chair of Governors for many years. We worked out that Graeme has had a positive impact on over 5,000 pupils!  He leaves with our blessing and gratitude.

Reverend Sally Ingle-Gillis has been Licensed as Curate in Charge of the Wentwood Ministry Area. Also, two Licensed Minsters (Readers) join the Ministry Team. David Harper was newly Licensed, and June Powell was licensed to the Benefice following her move from Tredegar. We wish them well in their new ministry as well as the Reverend John Waters and Kay Denly (ordinand) who are already part of the team.

 Commissioning of Kathryn Stowers

 You may remember that Kathryn Stowers, our previous communications officer, left the diocese to train as a Salvation Army Officer. I am pleased to share that she will be making her covenant vows on Thursday, 5th July. I know Kathryn would dearly love to hear from her colleagues and friends at this particular time. Any words of encouragement and wisdom would be very helpful indeed and gratefully received. Please post these to Bishopstow for the attention of Kathryn and Veronica will ensure Kathryn receives them.

After the commissioning and end-of-term celebrations, Kathryn, Matthew and Menna will be moving on to Eston. Kathryn loved working with us and keeps us all in her prayers.

Bishop Richard

Ten Lepers healed

Sermon by Fr David McGladdery, St Thomas’ Church, 9 October 2016

“Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17. 11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

What do we know about the lepers? We know that leprosy is a terrible, debilitating disease – and that lepers in the Palestine of Jesus’ time were considered totally unclean and totally unacceptable to the point of exclusion. Lepers could not live, worship, eat, walk or talk amongst “normal” people. They were excluded from every part of community life. They were forced to live as best as they could at a distance from everyone else – surviving on what they could, dependent on the leavings and charity of others. They had nothing – and no hope – other than to wait for death watching the rest of the real world, real life happen out of range, just beyond their reach.

Ten of these lepers met Jesus – no doubt they called out from a distance; Jesus with love for them in his heart, healed them and told them to go show themselves to the priests. Only the priests could validate their healing and give them permission to re-join the social world.

They were healed. Clean. Acceptable. A miracle! Now the world lay at their feet once more – a world of hope and possibility. Off they went. Jesus loved them and watched them. Jesus had given them back their lives – made them whole once more – he made no demands, he put no conditions on their healing – Jesus just stood there and watched them with love – nine of the ten went on their way; one remained.

But this is not a Gospel about good manners…it is not a Gospel about why we must say thank you; like a well-brought up child after a party, being sent back down the path to thank friends’ mum… no…think about it – the Gospel message of the healing of the ten lepers is much more profound.

There is no clearer picture of what our culture is like – and what our own lives are like than the one we have in this Gospel passage of Jesus standing there watching the those nine healed, ecstatic people running with all their might – going off to live their lives, make their plans: so much to do, so little time to do it. The issue isn’t lack of gratitude; the issue is that 9 people were so full of the excitement of the gift they had received; they didn’t need the giver anymore. It wasn’t that they were ungrateful, it was that they were busy. That’s all – just very, very busy getting on with the hectic business of living.
But hang on a minute! That’s us. That’s our world. Those of us who have received so much – are so busy running to make use of what we have given – we lose sight of the giver.

Only one, when realised that he was healed, stopped and turned back towards Jesus and saw Him standing there, looking at him and loving him. Only one was drawn towards Jesus by the wonderful gift he had received. But the one who turned round and went back to Jesus – that one knew Jesus had more to give. Nine had been given their lives back, but only one was made whole by the total love received by coming into Jesus’ presence. And that one was a Samaritan – a foreigner. One whose loyalties and allegiances lay elsewhere. Perhaps to stop and turn to Jesus and receive the whole of His love, we have to be foreigners. Perhaps we need to acknowledge that our allegiances and loyalties, by instinct, lie elsewhere. The foreigner didn’t fit into the world quite like the others, he didn’t have as much to run to. So he alone could see beyond the gift to the giver, he alone could see the Lord more clearly – he alone could turn towards the presence of Jesus.

That is the hard message of this Gospel. We have all been long established in the land, we are all very busy indeed, busy running with all our might– it takes courage to step aside from what makes us run so hard and fast. It takes courage to turn and face Jesus and to know that simply to stop and wait in his presence and look at him looking at us with love in His eyes is enough to make us whole. Stop, turn, look – and hear Jesus say: “your faith has made you well.” Amen.

Christmas Hope

Fr David’s sermon Christmas 2016

“Do not be afraid! For, see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.” (Luke 2:1-14) – Midnight Mass

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1-14) – Day Mass

Two stories:
As Christmas time approached, plans were made for the annual infants’ school nativity play. Children were being assigned their parts: angels, shepherds, wise men, Mary, and Joseph. And then there was Ben. Ben was a rather naughty boy; one of those lads never in the right place at the right time; always with an excuse for work not done; always the one without the right kit when it came to PE. Not the most reliable lad. He waited – then, his joy knew no bounds; as he heard the teacher say, “Ben, I want you to be the Innkeeper.” (Not many lines to learn; only one scene – he would be able to do that.)
The rehearsals got underway with the manger, beards, crowns, and a stage full of squeaky voices. Ben would stand in the wings, watching the performance with fascination. His teacher had to make sure he did not wander on-stage before his cue. Then came the long-awaited night. Ben stood holding a lantern by the door of the Inn, watching as the children who portrayed Mary and Joseph came near him.
“What do you want?” Ben called.

“We seek a room for the night. My wife, Mary is about to give birth to our child. We need a rest and you are our last hope.”
“There is no room in this inn for you!” said Ben on cue.
“Sorry, you will have to go!” the prompter whispered from the side of the stage.
“Sorry, you will have to go!” Ben repeated automatically.
Joseph sadly placed his arms around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband’s shoulder, and the two of them started to move away.

Innkeeper, Ben, stood there, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open; his brow creased with concern; his eyes began to fill with tears.
“Don’t go, Joseph!” Ben called. “Bring Mary back! You can have my room!”

Well, they didn’t really need to do the rest of the play. Ben had delivered the best Xmas sermon ever.

A friend of mine who teaches sat James Maddison University in Virginia told me of a nativity play (or pageant) that he saw in the university junior school. Mary and Joseph and all the animals were in place…all carefully rehearsed and dressed in perfectly improvised costumes. They acted their parts with utmost seriousness – looking as pious as they possibly could. And then it came time for the shepherds to enter. In they came in flannel bathrobes and towelled head gear, one carrying a fluffy lamb tucked under his arm; they solemnly approached the platform steps upon which sat Mary and Joseph looking adoringly at the manger full of straw which contained a single light-bulb that was playing the part of the radiant new-born Jesus.
Then quite unexpectedly, one of the shepherds turned to Joseph and said in a loud voice: “Well, Joe, when you gonna pass round them cigars?”

The solemnity of the occasion was blown apart by this ad-libbed remark. Mary and Joseph burst into fits of giggles; the audience couldn’t contain themselves and the chief angel – standing on a stool in the background fell off her stool she was laughing so much, and as she fell she pulled the starry night back drop with her and fell in a heap on the floor. The manger tipped over. But that light bulb in the manger – it never stopped shining!

The light, indeed shines in the darkness. And the nativity of Jesus is more about challenge than charm. Christmas is about an invisible God making himself seen and known to us in vulnerability and love. God gives himself to us in that stable amidst the chaos of poverty and weakness – no power and triumph…just a shivering baby lying amidst the hay and the dung: and there he is for all to see. The all powerful God in human shape.

This is how God is: he acts by giving away all we might expect to find… no strength or success as the world understands those things. The mess of the world is redeemed by a love that refuses to take control… to force us or bully us into belief: it is the love of the cradle and the cross. When you are hurting and suffering the pain and cruelty of the world… it is only then, that you can recognise the hurt and suffering of others… it is only then you can hold hands with the vulnerable and walk with them through this world.

So yes… the Christmas story is about chaos and mess – but it is also a story about the need to recognise hope in humility. Humility is a different road to that of the haughtiness of the corrupt which has led to so much hardship in our world. Humility is a different road to that of the arrogance and aggression, which has given rise to a horrible cycle of violence and brutality, which has wounded our cities; our politics; the nations of our this past year. Humility is a different road to that of the indifference and lack of caring which leads to hopelessness.

Having seen the Christ (the chosen one of God), shining as a dependable, defenceless, vulnerable baby in a manger, there is hope for us all. No matter how dark and violent this world may be at times – we know that because of the birth of Jesus; God made flesh and blood for you and me – there will always be hope if we can make room for each other in our own hearts. Do not be afraid – there will always be hope, because there will always be love to give; there will always be love to receive.

The light will always shine in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.
Amen.

Who is Mary?

Fr David’s Sermon, 4th Sunday of Advent 2016

“Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah)

I imagine that you have received a large number of Christmas cards by now. It struck me, looking around at the cards we have received, that there were two cards right next to each other each depicting Mary and Jesus, but in totally different ways.

The first card shows a soft, pale-skinned, blonde Mary, with her hair wound around her head in an elaborate plait – she was gazing lovingly into the eyes of a chubby-cheeked, blue-eyed pale boy. She is elegantly draped in white and blue.

The second card shows Mary as a sharp featured dark-skinned woman, whose eyes looked out beyond the viewer of the picture in an intense gaze: half anxious, half resolved. The Christ child in this picture is also dark-skinned, looking up at his mother with perplexed eyes: “Do you not know I must be about my father’s business?” they seem to say. This Mary wears a coarse dark robe with matching headdress.

If we think how Mary is usually described in our Western world – on most of our Christmas cards, and in our Christmas carols, we see her in blue and white all meek and mild. And that seems to be how we see Mary. She is quiet. She does not make a fuss. She is all gentle smiles and loving and white and blue and blonde (which would have been its own little miracle for a Palestinian Jewish peasant girl of that era!).

There is nothing wrong with meekness and mildness, they are wonderful attributes to have. But we get into trouble if we restrict Mary to the blonde, pale Christmas card image. Because Mary is so important to our faith, because she gets a crucial role in the Gospel narrative; in fact the gospel cannot happen without Mary’s “yes” to God, because Mary is so important, if we restrict her to a quiet – in the corner, pale-ish girl, then that does dangerous things to our faith. Because that is a fairly narrow category to fit into with fairly rigid expectations. While we need people around us who are quiet, who sit in the corner meek and mild, holding up all people of faith to that narrow way of being, ends up excluding a lot of people. It makes Mary seem remote and perhaps unreal.

Most of us are not good at sitting in the corner and being quiet and assenting to things – so what does the pale, blonde blue and white image of Mary tell us we should do? It can make us feel guilty or unworthy, because we are not like that – and yet Mary is held up as the pattern of faithfulness.

It matters how we depict people associated with our faith story. It matters how we depict Mary, and Jesus and Joseph. Because in depicting them we are saying what we think our faith ought to look like. We look up to Mary, because Mary had faith. Mary had faith when she agreed with that outlandish story an angel was telling her. It matters how we see Joseph, who was prepared to go along with that story, because he believed in the importance of doing God’s work over saving his own reputation.

That is why the card depicting the dark-skinned Mary with a resolute, but anguished look in her eyes is, for me, a better depiction of the young woman of faith we call the Mother of God. In that image of Mary, I see the woman who, although she says nothing out loud, in our Gospel reading today – her determination and courage is reflected by Joseph’s response. A young Palestinian woman, of those times, could have been taken and stoned to death on suspicion of adultery. This is the Mary, who said “behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me as you have said.” These are the words of Mary the prophet. Mary has backbone; Mary has courage; Mary has faith! This is the Mary we meet in the Magnificat, the one whose faith speaks of a world where the hungry are fed, the rich sent empty away, the proud scattered, the lowly lifted up. This is the Mary who tells those who don’t believe in miracles to “do as he tells you!” This is the Mary, who stands at the foot of the Cross watching her son die in silence, who said “yes” to God, even though she knew a sword would pierce her heart.

Mary has strength, Mary has courage. And that is important. Mary is an icon of our faith and for real faith to make a difference – there has to be strength.

Such faith proclaims that even though the world is broken and unjust now, God is working out a better way. In Mary, we see God calling the unexpected to work with him. And that work is still going on. To answer that call, to be part of God’s plan, to remake the world in a way that is just and reveals God’s love in action – we have to be like Mary. Whether meek and mild; determined and resilient – we have to be brave, we have to be fearless – we have to be prepared to go out into this broken and dangerous world and give God our hands and our feet, our flesh for his use. That is the faith we need; in Mary, that is the example of faith we have. ​Amen.

Advent Sunday

Sermon by Fr David McGladdery 27 Nov 2016

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways, that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:1-5)
Take a moment to pause and think: how are you feeling? Seriously – how are you feeling? Deep down, underneath the routine of everyday life: how *are* you? And what do you need? What do you want? What has God given you? What do you want God to give you?

We tend, as human beings, constantly to be striving for some ultimate goal – that state of perfection, which will give us total fulfilment. And as life rolls on, and we grow ever older, we may begin to think that we will never reach where we ought to have reached; there’s no hope; it’s all too late. I guess we are really human “doings” not “human beings” – if only we could *strive* less and simply *be* more. And I don’t mean simply material success or status, but, also, what we might consider to be our spiritual achievements – let’s be honest, the closer we get to following Christ, the greater our awareness of our own imperfections. How can we ever be Christ-like?
But, wait! And waiting is what the church calls us to do in Advent. Wait – consider the readings from Holy Scripture this Sunday. They speak to us of a vision, that in a world filled with impossible and incredible things there still exists the possibility of a good life, a life filled with justice, peace, goodness, wholesomeness, beauty and the things of God. Godliness is possible in a world where it seems to be almost impossible. Jesus urges us to get ready for it.
The prophet Isaiah tells of a vision of God’s kingdom, where effort is expended seeking to grow a world of justice and fairness, where nurture and harvest replaces the struggle for control and supremacy.

Paul says to the fledgling church: “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day.” Let’s be attentive – let’s get ready.

But to be attentive, to get ready, is to wait. The gift of Advent gives us the gift of waiting. Not waiting as at a bus stop; but more like a waiter in a restaurant, waiting attentively – watching the tables to see when to attend to the needs of the customers.

A few years ago, there was a reality TV programme with a difference. Five men went to a monastery and five women to a convent for a silent retreat. They came from the busy, professional world of schedules, deadlines, time management… a silent retreat at an enclosed convent and monastery was something they had never ever experienced. After the first few days – after the novelty had worn off – they each found it hard. Hard to sit with themselves in silence, with nothing to distract or divert them. They each found that they had to confront their own selves. No longer could they run away from or ignore who they were. They had to discover themselves for who they really were. They each had a monk or nun to reflect with them, how it was going. One man explained that after a period of frustration and self-criticism, he found himself relaxing; something was growing deep inside him; he felt a freedom; a release. He said: “I can’t explain it.” The monk said to him – “Do you think it could be …God?”

There is a story about a woman from an African village who had to walk many miles each day to collect water for her family. She carried two large buckets on a wooden bar across her shoulders. When she reached the well, she filled up her buckets with water from the well and set off back along the hot dusty road. The journey back always began with difficulty as the buckets were so heavy, filled to the brim with water, but the journey home got easier – simply because the buckets got lighter. They each had cracks in and the water leaked out as she walked home. Her friends who walked with her used to say: “why don’t you get new buckets? you lose half the water you collect every day!” And the woman replied: “Perhaps, one day. But don’t you see what has happened – along the route home, where the water leaks from my buckets, there are lines of grass which has stayed green and even a few flowers appear; that gives me hope; it makes me happy on my journey each day!”

That is the Advent message. We are just like those buckets, imperfect and cracked. But God loves us for who we are. God loves us with all our cracks and imperfections, for all our faults and failings. The cracks, those points of vulnerability, the mistakes we have made, the pain and suffering we may have endured: they are all part of who we are – and because of this, we are beautiful in God’s eyes. We are called to stop; to wait; to be attentive who God has made us to be. To pause and to love who God has made us to be. To wait and to stop being anxious and simply turn and face God, and allow God’s goodness to shine upon us and bathe us in Love. And so with the glory of God’s love shining upon us, we can turn to each other and reflect that love in each other faces. If we can accept each other as God accepts us – in love – then all striving and worrying will cease. Then, we can say with the prophet Isaiah: ‘…come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Amen.