Sunday, 28 June 2020

IN THE PINK Festival of St Peter and St Paul


                                                   Issue 542
Dear friends

COVID-19

Public worship is to be permitted from next Saturday, and so we are planning to resume our services at St Mary Magdalene’s on Sunday 5th July at 11am. The PCCs have agreed that we should do as we usually do for joint services and worship at 11am, so please put that in your diary.

In an emergency, telephone Fr Henry on 07399540530, or email him frhenry@yahoo.co.uk.



You can watch our service on YouTube.

St Peter’s Day Eucharist

SERMON FOR ST PETER & ST PAUL, 2020
Fans of old movies may remember “Quo Vadis” from 1951. It’s the epic with Peter Ustinov as the Emperor Nero, and Deborah Kerr and Robert Taylor, and famously 32,000 costumes. It’s based on a very old novel of the same name, but the novelist was inspired by spending time in a tiny Roman church, out on the Appian Way, which is known as “Domine Quo Vadis” church. It’s supposed to mark the spot where St Peter, running away from Rome at the time of the persecution of Christians under Nero, had a vision of Christ. St Peter saw Christ, carrying his cross, walking up the Appian Way towards the city, and he said to him, “Domine, quo vadis?”, “Lord, where are you going?” to which Jesus replied, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again, in your place.” At which, St Peter turned round and went back to the city to face his inevitable fate, crucifixion upside down on the Vatican Hill.

That story wasn’t invented by the novelist, Sienkiewicz; it dates back to the second century, and it shows if nothing else how much early Christians were thinking about the apostles and their fate. The martyrdom that both St Peter and St Paul suffered in Rome was also the fate that threatened generations of early Christians, under waves of persecution in the Roman Empire, but also in the Persian Empire, and in the barbarian lands at the hands of pagans. And of course Christians have faced persecution and martyrdom for their faith in Christ throughout subsequent centuries, and still do, in countries as various as Nigeria, China, India and Egypt today. Bearing witness to Christ, even to death, has always been part of the deal, and St Peter and St Paul are two great examples to follow. Our first two readings today are full of endurance in the face of persecution, from both of the great apostles. 

The Church traditionally commemorates them together because they have always been seen as complementary, and they’re a nice example of the way in which truth is always liable to be multi-faceted. They didn’t die together in Rome, but St Paul south of the city, where his basilica still stands, and of course St Peter on the Vatican Hill, north of the city centre, where his basilica stands. They probably died around the same time, in the persecution under Nero, but that’s no particular reason to remember them together. It’s because they embody different aspects of the Church’s life. So St Peter was the leader of the apostles, and the undisputed head of the Church’s work among Jewish people like themselves in those earliest decades, while St Paul was the apostle to the gentiles, the non-Jews, people like us. St Paul was the thinker, and St Peter the doer, the impulsive act-first, think-later type. We need both sorts of people, the Marthas and Marys, to use a female example depicted several times in this building. Those who accuse the thinkers of not pulling their weight are wrong, as Jesus makes clear to Martha, but he also affirms what Martha does, because we’re always going to need practical people; in the case of St Peter, people who will get stuck in without fear of embarrassment.


And if you know the Acts of the Apostles you’ll remember that St Peter and St Paul had a major disagreement over how the mission of the Church was to be carried forward. Some people, the Jewish Christians, thought that anyone converting to Christianity should have to become a Jew first, and keep Jewish law, and they convinced St Peter to defend that position, but St Paul had seen the reality of preaching the Gospel among the non-Jews, and how much of an obstacle that would be, and he argued his case convincingly, making the point that the opening of God’s kingdom to all believers is fundamentally a matter of faith in Christ, not of keeping regulations. We are all the beneficiaries of St Paul’s victory, but the point is that they were able to disagree and find a way forward after sensible discussion. Neither side felt the need to throw the others out of the Church, there was a division of responsibility, if you like, and an acceptance that different approaches were needed in different circumstances. The ability to disagree in love, and discuss things maturely, accepting the good faith of the other side, is central to the health of the Church, and frankly hasn’t always been evident in Christian history. Of course, the reason it’s been so difficult for Christians to disagree in a civilized way is because it matters so much. The content of our faith does actually matter, because there are things you might believe which will undoubtedly take you further away from God, not least because what we believe comes out in the way we live, in what we do, and so if we believe crazy things we’re liable to end up doing crazy things. When St Paul explains that they’d agreed that St Peter should preach to the Jews, and he should preach to the non-Jews, he tells us that the only condition they made was that St Paul should remember to take care of the poor, which he says was exactly what he wanted to do anyway. That was all about action, about our faith being lived out. And that’s exactly what has always been central to the life of St Peter’s, Paddington. We show what we believe by how we live, and what we do, and our Christian faith impels us to care for the poor and the hungry. That is an expression of Christian faith that the apostles would recognise, and so today let’s give thanks that we share their faith, and enjoy their prayers and example. 
  

COVID-19

Public worship is to be permitted from next Saturday, and so we are planning to resume our services at St Mary Magdalene’s on Sunday 5th July at 11am. The PCCs have agreed that we should do as we usually do for joint services and worship at 11am, so please put that in your diary.

In an emergency, telephone Fr Henry on 07399540530, or email him frhenry@yahoo.co.uk.



Father Henry Everett’s blog


Sunday, 21 June 2020

IN THE PINK 2nd Sunday after Trinity 2020

Issue 541
Dear friends

Here is the latest news about church openings and a link to our online service. 

COVID-19
The government has allowed churches to open for individual, private prayer, with proper precautions, and so:-
ST MARY MAGDALENE’S IS OPEN for individual, private prayer on 
Sundays from 2pm to 4pm.
Entrance will be from Rowington Close (through the south-west porch).
We cannot all be open constantly, but many local churches are open at some time during the week. You will be very welcome at any of these churches. Here are details.
St Saviour (Warwick Avenue) Sunday 11-1, Wednesday 2-4pm
St Augustine (Kilburn Park Road) Sunday 10.30am-12.30pm
St Matthew (St Petersburgh Place) Saturday 10-5, Sunday 10-5.
St Luke (Fernhead Road) Thursday 10-1, Sunday 2-6pm
St James (Sussex Gardens) Weekdays 10-5pm, Sunday 1-5pm.
St Stephen (Westbourne Park Road) Sunday 2-5pm
St John (Hyde Park Crescent) Weekdays 9.30-2pm, Sunday 10.45am-12 noon
St John, Kensal Green (Kilburn Lane corner) Porch open daily, church usually open.


You can watch our service on YouTube.









SERMON FOR TRINITY 2 (PROPER 7) 2020
I was waiting to take a service at the crematorium the other day, and one of my fellow-clergy came past and made some jocular remark about my flowing locks; I repressed the response that at least I had enough hair to be able to grow it long. But we have become very hair-conscious in lockdown, haven’t we? My friends in France were ridiculously jubilant when they were able to go out and get their hair cut a month ago. Meanwhile, we sit there of an evening remarking on the progress of a newsreader’s fringe, and wondering which celebrities are using guerrilla barbers and undercover stylists, so we’re paying more attention to hair than normal. But look what Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “even the hairs of your head are all counted.” Conscious we may be, but not like that. But that’s how God is, that’s how much attention God pays to each one of us, because he loves us. He has counted the hairs on our head. As Jesus says, God notices each sparrow that falls to the ground, so of course he cares about us, because we are of more value than many sparrows. It’s important to say that, because you are; you are rational, morally-conscious, made in the image of God, and therefore different from the rest of creation, ultimately more valuable, which of course doesn’t mean that the rest of creation is worthless, or that we should exploit it. Rather, we have a responsibility to look after it precisely because we are the crown of God’s creation, and the only part of it able to care for the rest. God cares about all his creation, but he cares especially about all of us, made in his image. And that should be a source of tremendous reassurance for us, especially in this time of pandemic.


People often accuse Christians of being unrealistic, living in some sort of other-worldly fantasy, but our readings today should demonstrate what a false impression that is. Look at them: Jeremiah is mocked and denounced; the Psalmist suffers taunts and is derided; St Paul talks about being crucified with Christ; Jesus talks about losing your life for his sake.  None of them are about having an easy time. Actually, Christians are generally more realistic than other people about life, because we know that Jesus Christ suffered and died, and he was the Son of God. The very best human being that there could be, and people were jealous of him and spiteful towards him, so he became the victim of arbitrary state power and was humiliated, tortured and killed. If that could happen to him, we can’t have too many illusions about human nature and the likelihood of everything in the garden being lovely.
Most of us live most of the time completely insulated from the more unpleasant aspects of life, here in our secure, free, prosperous, healthy, law-abiding country, but for most people, for most of history, life has been precarious, and full of unpleasantness, and so the events of the last few months have come as a nasty wake-up call for us, but actually have brought us face to face with reality. Because what we take for granted is far from normal; most people in history have been much more aware of the fragility of human life than us. Now we have been confronted, in the virus, with what most people have always lived with, and many people in the world today live with routinely.

The most basic human instinct is to keep alive, and to try to save the lives of others, and so, of course our collective response to the virus has rightly been to try to stop people dying from it. Every death is a tragedy for someone, but for the Christian it isn’t the end of the story, because we know that this life is not all there is. But so much of what is said in public today assumes that actually it is, so we as Christians have a duty to speak up. We have the message of salvation, we have the message of eternal life, and it happens to be the message of hope for those in sorrow and despair. It is exactly the message that people want to hear now. That, as St Paul says, we are united with Christ, and death no longer has dominion over him. Jesus suffered horribly, and died, and he was raised to new life, and we can share his resurrection. He tells us today not to fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, and that’s at the heart of it. The gospel is all about freedom from fear; Jesus is constantly telling the apostles not to be afraid. As St Paul reminds us, by our baptism we share in Christ’s death so that we can also share his resurrection. As we are united with Christ, so death has no more power over us, and we need have no fear, because we shall share in the new life of the risen Christ.

God cares for each one of us, however insignificant society may make us feel, and however weak and needy we may feel. He knows every hair on our head. And so he looks after us; as the prophet Jeremiah says, “he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers”. Well, he delivers us from the clutches of an evil virus with the promise of new life, a life in eternity when the weakness of this mortal body is overcome. And what history shows us is that Christians are perfectly capable of living in eternity now, living lives full of love and generosity, caring for others, doing justice, and living without fear. They’re not the stories that mainstream history tells, perhaps, because they’re not mostly the stories of great leaders or inventers or generals or celebrities, but they’re in the records, nonetheless. The lives of the saints and martyrs, some of them famous, others perfectly obscure, but the faithful men and women of every people on earth who have shown us the way to live, and with whom we are bound by our baptism, fellow-sharers in the life of Christ. Living in the presence of God, but here and now, filled with God’s grace, that’s the first phase of our life in Christ which conquers death.
__________________________________________________________

In an emergency, telephone Fr Henry on 07399540530, or email him frhenry@yahoo.co.uk.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”



Father Henry Everett’s blog

      

Sunday, 14 June 2020

IN THE PINK 1st Sunday after Trinity 2020


                                                                             Issue 540

Dear friends
You can watch our service on YouTube.










SERMON FOR TRINITY 1 2020
When you go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land your time is divided between Jerusalem and Galilee, and that’s fair enough, because Jesus’s career divides pretty cleanly between the two places. And when you’re actually in Galilee you really feel the presence of the twelve apostles. You stand on the shore of the lake where so many of them worked as fishermen, you walk where they walked, and above all you wander the ruins of Capernaum, the little town that was their base. Capernaum has the great advantage that the site was abandoned in the middle ages, and so it didn’t get built on, with the result that a lot has been able to be excavated, including, famously, the synagogue, though that’s fourth century, but it is built on top of earlier foundations. But for me the most interesting spot was what is called the house of Peter. There’s a modern church, built up on stilts above it, with a glass floor so you can look down into what has been excavated, and the reason they call it St Peter’s house is because the archaeologists found that an ordinary house had been significantly altered in the late first century, and then had a Byzantine church built quite deliberately on top of it, clearly marking a spot which was reckoned to be significant. Obviously with layers of building it’s hard to make much sense of it, but you can look down on what early Christians clearly believed was the house where Jesus stayed with his friend, St Peter, the rough and ready fisherman, the impetuous one, who Jesus called his rock and put first among his disciples. And of course we have a particular interest in St Peter, as one of our patrons. Well, there at Capernaum, I felt really close to him.

Now the thing about the apostles, the Twelve, is that in some ways they’re really important, and in other ways they’re not important at all. When you read St Mark’s Gospel, you’re constantly coming up against the apostles’ stupidity; they’re always getting it wrong, and you wonder how St Mark could have written something that was so rude about the Twelve, the great leaders of the early Church. And he’s not alone, because each of the Gospel writers in their own way shows up the dimness of the apostles, of how they failed to understand. So, clearly they weren’t beyond reproach, they weren’t above criticism, they weren’t such a big deal. And you can see just how unimportant they were from the lists of their names, like the one we had in our Gospel today, because the lists aren’t quite identical; nine of the names are the same, but there are variations in three of them, so that demonstrates that they weren’t the be-all and end-all. Even within a couple of generations it really didn’t matter very much what the precise names of the more obscure members of the Twelve were, that truly wasn’t important in itself, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t actually important in some way.

Because the apostles are a really important symbol. They are the Twelve, with a capital “T”. What else was twelve? The tribes of Israel, that’s what. Back in the mythological past of Israel the patriarch Jacob, who’s also called Israel, had twelve sons (by his various wives and servant women) whose descendants were the twelve tribes that comprised the ancient kingdom of Israel. When God says to Moses, in our first reading, “you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” he’s saying that to the twelve tribes; Moses repeats it to the elders of the people, who are the representatives of the tribes. They are the holy nation. Now, Jesus has appointed his own Twelve, new elders to preside over his people, with the crucial difference that this is not a people defined by blood and descent, but by faith. So it doesn’t matter particularly whether Thaddaeus was usually called Lebbaeus, and whether his first name was really Judas, because we don’t have to prove that we are his physical descendants. What we are, is his fellows in faith. Jesus quite consciously set up the Twelve apostles as a sign to everyone that this was a remaking of God’s people; a new covenant was being made, a covenant that would be sealed in his blood, so they are really important, and yet individually not so important at all.

The apostles are really important for us because they are a sign of the continuity of the Church, because it was to them, the personification of the new Israel, that Jesus handed on his mission to build a new priestly kingdom, a new holy people. We claim to hold the faith that they held, we claim that our bishops can trace a historical connection back to the earliest leaders of the Church, because the apostles went out and founded churches in different places, and then ordained their successors, who ordained their successors, and so on, and so on. So, when St Gregory the Great, the sixty-third successor to St Peter as bishop of Rome, ordained St Augustine to be the first bishop of Canterbury, he was extending that succession to England, and we now have the hundred and fourth successor to St Augustine in Archbishop Justin. That’s meant to be a guarantee for us, that we’re not going off the rails. But of course bishops can and do get things wrong, which means we all suffer. And so our hope of sharing the glory of God has to go alongside our sufferings, because as St Paul says, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us”. That’s what apostles and bishops should stand for. That is how the faithful Christian should be, rejoicing in the love of God that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. In spite of human failings, the Holy Spirit is still poured out in God’s Church; Jesus meant us to have a visible fellowship with the Apostles, and that’s why a church was built over what they believed was St Peter’s house at Capernaum. Because, although in a way the persons of the apostles don’t matter at all, yet what they stand for and symbolize matters hugely, that we are part of God’s priestly kingdom.     

COVID-19
A statement from the Diocese of London

The Church continues to be alive and active, but in London our buildings must close.

London is seeing a huge increase in the number of people falling sick with COVID-19. We must physically distance ourselves from one another and prevent the spread of infection in order to save lives.

Therefore, as well as public worship being suspended, all church buildings in the Diocese of London are now closed.
Our worship of God and our care for each other continue but cannot be done in our buildings. Please look at this blog or the website for details of how to join others online for prayer, study, worship and community life.

In an emergency, telephone Fr Henry on 07399540530, or email him frhenry@yahoo.co.uk.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

To protect the vulnerable amongst us, please do not leave your home except for essential trips.



Father Henry Everett’s blog


Sunday, 7 June 2020

IN THE PINK Trinity Sunday 2020


                                                                                              Issue 539
Dear friends
You can watch our service on YouTube. 







SERMON FOR TRINITY SUNDAY 2020
One of the favourite accusations of the Dan Brown school of Christian history is that the early Fathers of the Church were bullied into subscribing to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by the Emperor Constantine, who had made it up, because it suited his politics. Well, this is obviously nonsense, but we have to spell that out, because it seems that if you show people something on a screen they automatically believe it, whereas reading books and listening to people who actually do know what they’re talking about is too boring, apparently. The internet is wonderful in many ways (obviously) but one of its worst features is that it gives space to idiots with conspiracy theories and encourages cynicism.

So, to be clear, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was not made up at the Council of Nicaea in the year 325, by Constantine or by anyone else. It was defined at Nicaea, but that’s a very different thing indeed. The belief that God is one, but also three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was not something new in the fourth century. Christians had spent the previous three centuries working out the implications of the apostles’ belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he sent the Holy Spirit to those apostles, as he had promised. The command to his followers in the Gospel that we just heard, to baptize people everywhere in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit uses the language of the Holy Trinity already, but doesn’t work out what that means, or still less how the three persons of God relate to one another. St Paul, as we saw in our second reading, uses Trinitarian language as well, but he doesn’t spell out the doctrine of the Trinity either. Clearly, before the time of Christ, we only see Trinitarian ideas implicit in the Old Testament, but if you look for them, you can find them, despite the fierce, one might almost say aggressive, monotheism of ancient Israel. So when people say the doctrine of the Holy Trinity isn’t in the Bible, well, that’s strictly true, but nor are most developed doctrines, because the Bible isn’t mostly a handbook of theological dogmas. But the point is that the experience of God as Trinity is certainly there in the Bible, and it took time for Christians to work out a formulation of that idea that was coherent, and true to the biblical witness, and philosophically watertight. That’s how Christians have always proceeded, because doctrine has always developed; new insights have been found, and they have been tested by the consensus of the faithful, and found to be in keeping with the deposit of faith. Things which were never explicit in the Bible have been found to be important with passing centuries, and have been judged to be entirely in keeping with the teaching of Christ and the witness of the Church, and so have become established doctrine. So, doctrine develops, bringing out what is implicit in the Gospel.

The experience of the disciples was that Jesus was truly God among them, and St John in his Gospel tries to work through the implications of that. Each of the Gospel writers wrestles with it in some way, but St John tries hardest, telling us that Jesus is the Word made flesh, God’s creating Word, who existed before time began, and who dwelt among us. And once you have got your head around Jesus being divine, then the Holy Spirit is the logical follow on from that, and there’s Trinity. I’ve always said that just about the only theological insight I’ve ever had was when it dawned on me that the doctrine of the Trinity must be true, because it would have been crazy for the early Church to make it up. Think about it; Christianity was one of several contending religious systems in the Roman Empire, competing in a very active market. I have no doubt that they had their equivalent of PR advisers and marketing gurus who will have told them what would sell, how to present the product in such a way that people would greet it with enthusiasm, so, in that situation, who in their right minds is going to invent something as complicated as the Blessed Trinity? Three persons in one God. Consubstantial, co-eternal, coinherent. Who’s going to put that forward as a catchy sales pitch? No, if you were trying to sell something, you’d have gone for the simple message, something you could put in a soundbite, something that was always easy for people to understand. But they didn’t. Christianity was always a challenge, and that’s because they didn’t make it up, it was revealed to them as true, they just tried to put it into words in the most coherent and logical way.

So why does this matter? Because believing God is Trinity makes a difference to us. If Jesus is truly God, then in everything he does, we see God; not just a good man, but God. So he doesn’t just teach us about God, he shows us what God is like. So, not only is Jesus God, but that means we can know what God is like. He isn’t a complete mystery, utterly other and unknowable, because he can know him in Jesus. Doctrine matters because it shapes how we live, and the fact of relationships being at the heart of God makes relationships of sacred importance to us. God, the Trinity, enshrines relationships of love between Father, Son and Spirit, which means that there is a dynamic of love at the heart of God. That means that we see God not just as an unchanging, unmoving individual, but as lover and beloved, bound together in love which is God himself. Seeing God that way shapes the way we live.     

Corpus Christi Day
Thursday was the feast of Corpus Christi, the Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion, so instead of the Mass at noon, there was a special Mass at 6.30pm in the evening, which was streamed.   
Corpus Christi Mass


SERMON FOR CORPUS CHRISTI 2020
Jesus says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them...The one who eats this bread will live for ever.” The Lord makes it absolutely clear, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
So, as much as I may tell you that spiritual communion is a great and wonderful thing, the inescapable fact is that it’s a substitute, the spiritual is essentially secondary to the physical which is the norm. Jesus tells his disciples that they are to share bread and wine which will be his body and his blood; St Paul hands this on, as he says; “Do this in remembrance of me” he quotes the Lord as saying. It’s all inescapably physical, carnal even. Jesus took bread in his hands, a loaf of bread, and gave thanks and broke it, and took a cup of wine in his hands and spoke of eating and drinking. It’s all very solid and real; he is emphatically saying, “Do this”, and that those who do it will have eternal life. Sacraments are what we call these physical things that put us in contact with the divine; ordinary, earthly things that are transformed into something blessed and holy, just as the ordinary, earthly humanity that he got from Mary was transformed in Jesus. This is something central to being a Christian, the fact that in Jesus God was seen in human form, that the divine and the earthly have come together, that the eternal has broken in on the world of time. God is not infinitely distant from us, but has taken on our humanity and experienced everything we experience, in Jesus Christ. And just as humanity is transformed in Jesus, so bread and wine are transformed at his command, into his body and blood, to be the channels of his grace. So ordinary things of this world are transformed into ways we come into contact with God, diamonds glittering among the commonplace.

So it’s not surprising that we’re all having problems with the way things are at the moment, because being prevented from worshipping together, and above all from receiving the Sacrament, is deeply problematic for us. Because Christianity is a faith that embraces the physical, the real; the very fact of Christ’s incarnation, his being born as one of us, tells us that much. Christianity is not just a cerebral faith, it’s not just theoretical, it’s not just in the mind, it involves belief being put into action, and it involves the whole of our lives, body and soul, being redeemed in Christ. So actions are important to us, “Do this,” said Jesus. And he took, and broke, and shared. And fundamentally that is how we come as close as we possibly can to him, because he says, “This is my body, this is my blood” and we believe him.



And he says to us, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I, in the midst of them”. So; we are all learning to understand that virtually, which is great, up to a point, but it can never feel quite the same, can it. But this is actually how it is with the Church all the time; when we talk about “the Church” we might mean those people we worship with on a Sunday, so the local congregation, but we might mean the universal Church, all baptized Christians. We know that we are, in some sense, one with the worldwide Church (and there might be intermediate levels as well, with the diocese of London, or the Church of England), but the concrete reality for us is what we actually experience, what is local. It’s one of the points of having bishops, that a bishop is a link for us with the universal Church, a sign of our being part of a larger reality. We need that symbolic link, because what feels meaningful to us is what we actually experience day by day, which is our communion with our fellow-Christians in our own congregation. So at the moment we’re being challenged to imagine the people who normally sit alongside us in St Peter’s or St Mary Mags, just as we imagine our fellow Christians in Jerusalem or Delhi or Tunbridge Wells, and that’s tough, because actually fellowship, our relationship with our fellow-Christians, is something really important for us, because it’s an expression of being the Body of Christ. So today, above all, when we thank God for Jesus’s gift of his Body and Blood in the forms of bread and wine, let’s pray fervently for the resumption of our fellowship, the fellowship which gives concrete sense to the reality of the Church for us. The Church continues Christ’s work on earth, making him present among us in the Blessed Sacrament, so let’s pray that we may very soon enjoy his presence once again, and eat his flesh and drink his blood. 

COVID-19
A statement from the Diocese of London

The Church continues to be alive and active, but in London our buildings must close.

London is seeing a huge increase in the number of people falling sick with COVID-19. We must physically distance ourselves from one another and prevent the spread of infection in order to save lives.

Therefore, as well as public worship being suspended, all church buildings in the Diocese of London are now closed.
Our worship of God and our care for each other continue but cannot be done in our buildings. Please look at this blog or the website for details of how to join others online for prayer, study, worship and community life.

In an emergency, telephone Fr Henry on 07399540530, or email him frhenry@yahoo.co.uk

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

To protect the vulnerable amongst us, please do not leave your home except for essential trips.



Father Henry Everett’s blog


Sunday, 31 May 2020

IN THE PINK Whitsuntide 2020


                                                                             Issue 538

Dear friends
You can watch our service on YouTube.



Whitsunday Parish Mass



SERMON FOR WHITSUNDAY 2020
It’s one of my favourite readings, that one from Acts, the Pentecost reading. There’s so much to enjoy in there: “Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” for instance; that’s really important to hang onto, especially now. There’s the wonderful joke of the apostles being assumed to be drunk, but St Peter saying that they’re not filled with new wine, but with the Holy Spirit, though I smile at St Peter’s argument, because he says, “These are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning”; well, St Peter, it just shows that you don’t go along the Harrow Road very often. And then there’s the description of the coming of the Spirit, “the rush of a violent wind” and “divided tongues, as of fire”; when you see images, paintings or windows or whatever, depicting Pentecost (we’ve got one in the chancel here at St Mary Mags) you see the power of words and the difficulty of depicting something which is so full of movement. When they’re depicted, the apostles almost always look very static, standing still, each with a little flame on their head, which is fine, but doesn’t convey what the words do, that rushing, ecstatic life and power, breaking in on them. And then of course there’s the list of nationalities, which people with my sort of mentality adore. Lots of exoticism, ancient history, and it’s a list! Some of the place names are just great to roll around on your tongue, like Phrygia and Pamphylia. When I was at school we had a boy whose surname was Pamphilion, which sadly has nothing to do with Pamphylia in reality, but is a local Essex surname, which was originally Pamplin or something like that, I believe, but which got poshed-up at some point in the past precisely by reference to this passage. I just love all the place names.

And of course the place names are important, because they emphasize the diversity of the gathering, people from all over the world, well, Europe, Asia and Africa, and not just Jews, but converts as well, they are all able to hear the message of God. That’s tremendously important, because it’s the refutation of the story of the Tower of Babel. You remember the Tower of Babel, in the book of Genesis, the very ancient myth of the arrogant people building their tower up towards heaven to make a name for themselves, in the days when mankind had only one language and lived in one place. God sees what they’ve done and thinks, “Nothing that they now propose will be impossible for them,” and so he puts an end to their potential for arrogance by confusing their language, so that they don’t understand one another, and scattering them all over the globe. It’s a “just so” story, if you like, a parable offering an explanation of how things came to be the way they are, but the interesting thing is that it’s a story of humanity being punished; different languages (and by implication, cultures) are regarded as a curse, obviously a bad thing.

Now, on the day of Pentecost, that’s turned upside down. Now, in the book of Acts, in the light of Christ, human diversity is seen as no bad thing at all. We can accept that different cultures are a blessing, not a curse, and languages are a part of that. We don’t all have to live in the same way, and that doesn’t have to be a disaster. People who wanted us to stay in the EU often talked as though it was absurd to have different systems and approaches, but that was always a weak argument, because in reality uniformity is extremely unusual among humanity, and there is no reason to suppose that it is even desirable. Convenient for administrators, undoubtedly, but life-enhancing, probably not.

We are, as a human race, very diverse. But Jesus Christ somehow embodies all our humanity; we can describe him in a particular way, he was a young, Palestinian Jewish man who lived 2000 years ago, but those particulars are not the most important things; his humanity is shared with us all, that’s what’s most important. He opens the way to God for all of us; instead of God dealing with a particular group, defined by identity, now God’s kingdom is open to all who trust in him. The veil of the Temple is torn in two as the Gospel symbolically puts it; access to God is opened up to the whole of humanity in Jesus. We can come to God thanks to our simple shared humanity, and the diversity of mankind is no obstacle to that, in fact St Paul emphasizes the variety in our approaches to God. We are all different, and that’s not a problem. We can all confess that Jesus is Lord, and God will pour out his Holy Spirit on us all, “on all flesh” as St Peter quotes the book of Joel.


So today, as we thank God for the marvellous gift of the Holy Spirit, who transforms ordinary things so that we may encounter eternity, let’s thank him also for our God-given diversity, and pray that we may all be transformed by the life-giving Spirit, like the apostles, into the people he wants us to be, the messengers of his grace wherever we may happen to be. Because whatever the culture or language, the message of Jesus Christ is the most important thing in the world, and he’s given us the Holy Spirit so that, like the apostles, we can share that message of grace and love.

COVID-19
A statement from the Diocese of London

The Church continues to be alive and active, but in London our buildings must close.

London is seeing a huge increase in the number of people falling sick with COVID-19. We must physically distance ourselves from one another and prevent the spread of infection in order to save lives.

Therefore, as well as public worship being suspended, all church buildings in the Diocese of London are now closed.
Our worship of God and our care for each other continue but cannot be done in our buildings. Please look at this blog or the website for details of how to join others online for prayer, study, worship and community life.

In an emergency, telephone Fr Henry on 07399540530, or email him frhenry@yahoo.co.uk.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

To protect the vulnerable amongst us, please do not leave your home except for essential trips.



Father Henry Everett’s blog


Sunday, 24 May 2020

IN THE PINK 7th Sunday of Easter 2020


                                                                   Issue 537

Dear friends
You can watch our service on YouTube.



Sunday  May 24th Service    



SERMON FOR EASTER 7 2020
“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem” we heard in the first reading. On Thursday, in the Gospel of the Ascension, we heard Jesus tell his disciples, “Stay in the city”. Let’s think about those words. Jesus asks God to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples, who are to be his witnesses, continuing his work in the world, and most specifically in the city of Jerusalem and they are to stay in the city for that to happen. Being told to “stay in the city” is really important, because that wasn’t obvious to the apostles, and it’s not always obvious to the Church today.

The specific instruction was for the apostles to stay in the city of Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit, and we hear that they did that, staying in the Cenacle, on Mount Zion, where they’d met for the Last Supper, along with Mary, and other women, including (we can be sure) Mary Magdalene, where they spent their time in constant prayer. It would have been easy, though, to leave the city, if Jesus hadn’t said anything; it would have been more comfortable to go back to their homes in Galilee. And anyone who’s been to the Holy Land can tell you how much more restful a place Galilee is compared to Jerusalem; it would probably have been easier to pray there, they’d have felt calmer, and have had the benefit of peace and quiet, as opposed to the noise and bustle of the city. It would certainly have made sense to withdraw to Galilee to get their breath back after the excitements of the past few weeks rather than hanging around in the city where they really weren’t wanted. Preparation for the coming of the Spirit would really have been much easier under the conditions of Galilee. It would surely have been a temptation if Jesus hadn’t said that.

Just the same, the contemporary Church of England is constantly tempted to withdraw to the suburbs, where there are plenty of big congregations with conventional lives. The inner city is noisy and difficult, and doesn’t raise much income, and although the bishops are happy to take credit for what parishes like ours do in terms of social action, like St Peter’s Support Services feeding the vulnerable, they don’t actually want to acknowledge that this is the Church. You see, the Church is not organisation and bureaucracy and central planning, but the local congregation, of whatever size, witnessing to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ wherever they are. It is a besetting heresy of the Church of England to imagine that the diocese is the basic unit of Church; not so. It’s the congregation. Yes, we should have a bishop with a diocese, but the ones we have now are an accident of history, and it’s very revealing that the Church of England likes episcopal areas to line up with units of local government. A monarchical episcopate went hand in hand with a state church, what we call the Establishment, a concept that nowadays looks pretty odd to most of the world. The result of the establishment is what we’ve had in the last few weeks, when the Anglican bishops have been falling over each other to go the extra mile and set a good example on behalf of the government, and sending out panicky and unlawful instructions to local churches. Falling in step with contemporary society is what our bishops are good at, and that has become sadly evident. Witnessing to Jesus Christ in the situation in which we find ourselves has not been high on their list, and hence you got the bishops issuing that perverse instruction not to stream, or indeed say our prayers at all in church. The idea that actually the Church of God has a distinctive contribution to make, which is not as just another institution contributing to social cohesion, is one that does not seem to have occurred to our bishops. We have missed the distinctiveness of Christian witness. Bearing witness to Jesus Christ does not mean breaking the law or singing hymns at innocent bystanders, but it does mean being alongside people where they are and praying, celebrating the sacraments, and speaking of God.


The trouble with bearing witness is that it can be demanding; I’m sorry but it’s true. If you’ve ever been a witness to a crime, you’ll know how tiresome and long-winded and time-consuming that can be (to say nothing of what happens if you have to go into witness protection). Well, witnessing to Jesus can be hard work too. Because it isn’t enough to just make a statement; simply saying, “I believe in Jesus,” really isn’t enough, because for the Christian belief is not an abstract intellectual thing, but something that issues in action. Belief leads to a change in how we live. What we have seen and heard about Jesus should be visible from how we live our lives. We are all different, and in different situations, so it’s always a mistake to try to prescribe how people should live out their faith, but the Church should equip people to make moral choices and trust them when they do. That’s all more effectively done at a local level than by pronouncements from on high. It was one of the features of Jesus’s career that he spent his time with ordinary people, bringing the presence of God into their lives; well that should be a model for us of what witnessing to him might mean. We should be proud to stay where God has set us and bear witness to Jesus by our lives of love and service no matter how noisy and distracting and perverse our city seems, simply being the people of God, here.    


COVID-19
A statement from the Diocese of London

The Church continues to be alive and active, but in London our buildings must close.

London is seeing a huge increase in the number of people falling sick with COVID-19. We must physically distance ourselves from one another and prevent the spread of infection in order to save lives.

Therefore, as well as public worship being suspended, all church buildings in the Diocese of London are now closed.
Our worship of God and our care for each other continue but cannot be done in our buildings. Please look at this blog or the website for details of how to join others online for prayer, study, worship and community life.

In an emergency, telephone Fr Henry on 07399540530, or email him frhenry@yahoo.co.uk

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

To protect the vulnerable amongst us, please do not leave your home except for essential trips.



Father Henry Everett’s blog


Sunday, 17 May 2020

IN THE PINK 6th Sunday of Easter 2020


                                                                                        Issue 536

Dear friends
You can watch our service on YouTube.

Sunday  May 17th Service  


  




SERMON FOR EASTER 6 2020
 Sometimes, when you’re looking around one of the great medieval churches of Europe, you’ll see illustrations of Old Testament scenes paralleling New Testament ones. You often see it in the stained glass. It’s something the Victorians sometimes imitated, as at Keble College Chapel, in Oxford for instance, where the mosaics of Old Testament scenes are along one wall, and their New Testament parallels facing them. And that’s something which for the average church visitor is quite hard going. You can appreciate the attractive scenes, but most of us want to know what they mean, and trying to identify some of the Old Testament stories can be quite hard. But even if you’ve identified the scenes, you haven’t necessarily cracked the code; you haven’t necessarily spotted why those stories are there, what it all means. Because when the scenes are actually parallels, the reason the Old Testament scene is there is because it’s what we call a “type” of something in the New Testament or the Church, which is then an “antitype”. This way of understanding the Old Testament, which we call typology, was hugely popular for most of Christian history, and it is also biblical, because the New Testament authors themselves used typology. St Paul does it, and in today’s second reading the author of 1 Peter does it, he even uses the vocabulary.

The early Christians used this way of understanding the Old Testament a lot, because for them it gave value to the study of the ancient text. It was worth looking at the Old Testament because events there were the types of things to come, in the life of Jesus our Saviour. There was a man called Marcion, who was one of the earliest and most prominent heretics, who was thrown out of the mainstream church in the year 144 and started his own church, and Marcion totally rejected the Old Testament. He had no time for typology, or any allegorical reading of scripture, he read the Old Testament literally, and saw it as completely disconnected from the religion of Jesus. For Marcion, the God revealed by the Old Testament is different from God the Father of Jesus. Now it’s not uncommon for people to make that criticism today, and occasionally you’ll hear people talk about “the Old Testament God”, but one of the things we can be clear about is that we are monotheists, we believe that there is only one God. Logically, that has to be true; if what we believe about God is true, then there can be only one God. The God who is revealed in the Old Testament is God, the Father of our Lord, because it is of the nature of God that there can be only one God. Just so, Muslims worship God; they are quite clear that we, the Jews and they all worship the one God.  And where other people recognise God, it’s the one true God whom they recognise and worship; they may not have the way to him in Jesus Christ, but he is God, nonetheless. St Paul, in our first reading, demonstrates the power of this insight, when he comes upon the altar to an unknown god in Athens, and promptly tells the Athenians that this is great because it means they’ve been worshipping the true God all along. There is only one God, and he is at the base of all mankind’s search for life and meaning. We answer Marcion today by saying, “No, they’re not different gods, because God is God, but humankind’s understanding of God changes over time. So the Old Testament has in itself a range of different pictures of God, which change over the centuries, and it’s a record for us of the development in the human understanding of God.

So that’s how we dismiss Marcion, but typology was one way of combatting Marcion and his like for the early Christians. The Old Testament isn’t just the holy book of those annoying people who’ve thrown us out of the synagogues, but it’s a book of types where you can see all sorts of things pointing forward to the life and death of Jesus Christ and our salvation in him. The event or person in the Old Testament was a type for a New Testament antitype. So Moses is a type of Christ, but so is Jonah. And New Testament events can be types as well. The manna in the wilderness is a type of the Eucharist, which Jesus gives to his disciples, but so is the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It’s important to see that nobody ever thought that this was all the Old Testament stories meant; they weren’t only about our salvation, but they look forward to our salvation as well as being stories of God’s ancient people. Because that’s a profound truth about scripture, that it always means many things, it always has rich depths of meaning, through resonance and parallel, through echo and poetry. And in today’s readings, the author of 1 Peter says quite explicitly that Noah’s flood is the type for baptism. What’s rendered in our translation as “which this prefigured” is actually “which is the antitype of this”. We are saved by baptism, he says, just as the family of Noah were saved by his ark in the Flood. He has to explain that he doesn’t mean that you are saved by the water washing dirt away from your body, but that baptism saves you through the resurrection of Christ. The water of the Flood is the type of the water of baptism, and that’s really interesting because the Flood was obviously destructive, whereas we regard the water as positive, clean and refreshing, but the point is that water can kill you; the connection is with the death and resurrection of Christ. In baptism we participate symbolically in Christ’s death and resurrection, dying and rising to new life with him, and Noah’s experience is a type of that; the destruction of the Flood is a type of the death of Christ, the escape of those on the ark to dry land is the type of the resurrection. Just so, we are saved by our baptism into the ark of the Church. As 1 Peter has it, “baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Service for Ascension Day Thursday 21st May 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfQQI-ZtdK8&feature=youtu.be

SERMON FOR ASCENSION 2020
When I was at primary school, a church school in an Essex village, we always had a half-holiday on Ascension Day. We used to go to the parish church and have a little service (I don’t remember what it consisted of, but I know we sat in pews and sang hymns) and then we would get on a coach (C& R Coaches) and go off to the seaside, either to Dovercourt or to Walton-on-the-Naze. And the thing I remember best about going to those (frankly rather dull) seaside towns, was that the day would end with a brief visit to Woolworths before we got the coach home. So, Ascension Day was a big deal; that’s the sort of thing you remember from childhood. And then at university, Ascension Day was prominent again, because it’s the only major Christian festival that’s guaranteed to fall during full term, and so the College Chapel always makes a fuss of it. But out here in the big wide world, it’s a Thursday, when it’s difficult to get people to come to church, and so actually most parish churches nowadays don’t make much of a fuss. So much so that the Roman Catholics in England transfer it to Sunday. You can see that it’s really a day that’s observed more in college chapels and cathedrals rather than parish churches from the music, because there are plenty of lovely choral motets and anthems for Ascension, (some of which I sent you) but hardly any congregational hymns that anyone knows.

So it’s a major festival, but one which it doesn’t seem to matter very much about us missing it. It’s like, when we were in Jerusalem, one place we didn’t visit was the site of the Ascension. It’s okay to miss it out, no-one will mind much. So why is that? Why is it not a big deal?

Well, it’s because the event in itself isn’t important. The death and resurrection of Jesus are important in a way that his ascension simply is not. It’s just the end of the resurrection appearances, the point at which the apostles realise that they should be expecting the coming of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus had told them he would send, so it’s a transition, rather than an event in itself. So, we shall still be in Eastertide tomorrow, it’s still Easter until Whitsun, Pentecost Sunday, in ten days’ time, when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, which really is important in itself. Because Ascension Day looks like an ending, the end for the apostles of the time of having the risen Jesus with them, but if we were marking an end there would be some sense of loss, and that’s not it at all. There is no sense of loss, instead we follow the apostles in looking forward expectantly. That’s what this day particularly points us to; the need to wait patiently and expectantly. That’s not just about waiting ten days for Whitsunday to come round, that’s the least of it, it’s much more about the whole of our lives.

Because Jesus’s ascension points us forward to our own destiny; that we shall one day join him in heaven, that our bodies, our whole humanity, will be transformed as his was, and share in the eternal life of God. And that’s something that requires a state of waiting, of expectation, for our union with God. Waiting is never easy, and our society conditions us not to wait, with the opportunity of getting everything with one click, but wait we must, though actually for us Christians it’s not quite as simple as that. Because of course Jesus tells his apostles “I am with you always” so through his Spirit we are already united with him; through sharing his body and blood we already share his life, and so we are always in a state of here-and-not-here. Waiting and yet on the move. In exile from our true home. That’s a bit of a challenge if you like things to be cut and dried, but it’s profoundly true. Eternity has already begun, and by our life in Christ we inhabit eternity here and now, but we have to wait for the fullness of our life in God to be realised. We have glimpses of God now in love and beauty, but we know we shall come at the last to the blinding glory of his presence, when we shall see him as he is and be united with him. For that we have to wait expectantly; not just in hope, but in confidence, that as Jesus has taken the humanity which he shares with us to the throne of God in heaven, so we too can share his life in glory.     



COVID-19
A statement from the Diocese of London

The Church continues to be alive and active, but in London our buildings must close.

London is seeing a huge increase in the number of people falling sick with COVID-19. We must physically distance ourselves from one another and prevent the spread of infection in order to save lives.

Therefore, as well as public worship being suspended, all church buildings in the Diocese of London are now closed.
Our worship of God and our care for each other continue but cannot be done in our buildings. Please look at this blog or the website for details of how to join others online for prayer, study, worship and community life.

In an emergency, telephone Fr Henry on 07399540530, or email him frhenry@yahoo.co.uk

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

To protect the vulnerable amongst us, please do not leave your home except for essential trips.



Father Henry Everett’s blog