June 2010


An assumption has grown that ‘the government’ carries the responsibility for making our world a better place, and then blaming ‘the government’ when it fails to deliver. This is one of the decadent habits in our society because the public domain is everyone’s responsibility: that is the essence of the polis – a body of citizens. However, the public domain has lost credibility. Even democracy, in the fragmented environment of globalising nations, fails to build social cohesion. As is now often the case, the majority of people are ‘middling’ in terms of resources, but increasingly insecure and without the moral stretch to put the needs of others  above their own, and therefore voting ceases to be an integrative force.

Rather, it becomes the very opposite: it becomes a driver that widens the gap between richer and poorer, as the interests of the poor, although numerically significant, cannot match the political clout of the ‘middling majority. This can in turn trigger a further nasty process, because when the gap between the rich and the poor gets wider, everyone experiences a loss of well-being, including the rich.

 This is the finding made by Richard Wilkinson, an epidemi­ologist and specialist in public health. His extensive cross-cultural research highlights the deep cost of the growing gap between rich and poor across the globe. Wilkinson’s research identifies the mutuality and interconnectedness of our interests and well-being, and suggests that when things are grim the inclination is to become protective and defensive rather than attentive and generous in relation to the needs of others.

Bothered and Bewildered, Enacting Hope in Troubled Times

Ann Morisy, Continuum page 13

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This feast day commemorates the martyrdom of the two great Apostles, assigned by tradition to the same day of June in the year 67. They had been imprisoned in the famous Mamertine Prison of Rome and both had foreseen their approaching death. Saint Peter was crucified; Saint Paul, a Roman citizen, was slain by the sword. Tomorrow the Church commemorates the Apostle of the Gentiles; today is dedicated primarily to Saint Peter.

The Chief of the Apostles was a native of Galilee like Our Lord. As he was fishing on its large lake he was called by Our Lord to be one of His apostles. Peter was poor and unlearned, but candid, eager, and loving. In his heart, first of all, his conviction grew, and then from his lips came the spontaneous confession: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Our Lord chose him and prepared him to be the Rock on which He would build His Church, His Vicar on earth, the Head and Prince of His Apostles, the center and indispensable bond of the Church’s unity, the unique channel of all spiritual powers, the guardian and unerring teacher of His truth.

All Scripture is alive with Saint Peter; his name appears no fewer than 160 times in the New Testament. But it is after Pentecost that he stands out in the full grandeur of his office. He sees to the replacement of the fallen disciple; he admits the Jews by thousands into the fold and in the person of Cornelius, opens it to the Gentiles; he founds and for a time rules the Church at Antioch.

Ten years after the Ascension Saint Peter transferred his apostolic capital to Rome, going in person to the center of the majestic Roman Empire, where were gathered the glories and riches of the earth, along with all the powers of evil. From there he sent Saint Mark, his valued secretary, to establish the Church of Alexandria in Egypt. In Rome Saint Peter’s Chair was placed; there for twenty-five years he labored at building up the great Roman Church. He was crucified by order of Nero and buried on the Vatican Hill, where now the Basilica stands which bears his name.

Almighty God,
whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul
glorified you in their death as in their life:
grant that your Church,
inspired by their teaching and example,
and made one by your Spirit,
may ever stand firm upon the one foundation,
Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

A Sermon preached in St Georges Chapel Windsor Castle 27 June 2010 at Mattins

‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 

 (Luke 9. 51-62)

A glimpse of the nature of discipleship is offered to us this morning in the demanding and seemingly impossible directives of our Lord. What Jesus requires is single minded faithfulness. Here is an unprotected mission and a clear choice about priorities – a clean break with the past. Jesus’ single mindedness paves the way to challenge the disciples that no plausible distractions must deter them. Jesus warns us about compromise and accommodation to the social structures and the divided loyalties that might detract us from our life as disciples. These words challenge, prod and even anger.

I was recently at a long and rather tedious meeting .As my mind wandered I noticed that the clock on the wall wasn’t quite right; the second hand was moving correctly – tick, tick, tick, – counting every tiny section of the time with great regularity and determination – but the hour hand was stuck. Every second was counted, but time had no direction ad was going nowhere. We could have sat there forever if we had relied on that clock.

Unless we put the detail into a bigger picture – allow the seconds to become hours, days, years – then we are stagnant.

In any enterprise, not least the religious one we can be locked up into the small matters which make up most of our lives and miss the bigger picture – the vision and the demand. Jesus asks us to consider our purpose and to make intentional choices for the Gospel so that we can be signs of life and growth. We all know places and people where there is activity and meetings but no conversation and no reflection beyond the immediate and the mundane – tick, tick, tick.

We live in a community – a shared life – and all the more interesting for its partiality and humanness. All human nature comes out to play, for good and sometimes ill. Someone once asked Henry Kissinger why he thought it was academic politics that could be so vicious: ‘because the stakes are so small’ was his reply.

All places become small when they forget about the fostering of life and wisdom and worship and prayer – when they concentrate on the seconds and cannot tell the time. It takes effort to be radical – to get back to the roots of common purpose and to be visionary: to see beyond immediate concerns to recall the greater project of the common good of the Gospel.

I believe that Jesus asks us today a question about ultimate purpose and significance – and challenges us to think about whether we are prepared to pay the cost of discipleship. Let me put it another way – he asks us this : ‘ What will make you complete?’

And the answer? Look inside. Be honest. Open about your needs and your wants and see within these lie a great longing for God. A longing, yes in need, but also in love and trust – and the pulse of that longing is within all of us, though we mask it or deafen it or dull in with our tick, tick, tick of secondary concerns. We so often prefer to live on the surface and so miss the deeper pull of our souls towards God.  ‘What will make you complete?’

For those of us who are followers of Jesus, who have seen all the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, then this longing takes shape in a life lived in fellowship with him and in obedience to his way, a fellowship shared by all those who are through his grace drawn together in his mystical body, and sustained by his spirit. This longing for God makes us disciples, a follower, a learner, servants sent in his name. In Christ this longing finds direction and shape. This community is a model, an enactment of what life’s true purpose is all about: a movement of the human soul in individual and society reaching out towards God; the stillness of the soul waiting on God; the hospitality of the human soul welcoming friend and stranger.  ‘What will make you complete?’ becoming more fully as human beings: Gods beloved in Christ. Of course we are imperfect; we get it wrong, we mess up, we are soiled and compromised. Our virtue is not our goodness but the choice we have made for Christ. Our complete dependence on God, making love for others a priority and preferring at all times mutuality and inter- connectedness.  Listening, bearing, working for justice, forgiving, praying. This will make us complete.

The pattern of Jesus’ life is good news for us. His being taken up – upon the cross and through the cross into the resurrection is to present to us and the world a receivable offering to God. His willingness constantly to repay challenge and criticism with mercy and justice is a sign of the wonder of God’s love for us – of taking us up into that love, embracing our lives and constantly renewing and restoring us.

This will make us complete. We respond and we follow. This does not mean that we shall be met with fame or praises or easy resolutions to life’s paradoxes. We shall have to embrace defeat – and failure as we celebrate the ideal, live by the vision.

‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

Faith is not a proud self-consistent f philosophy. It involves maintaining oneself between contradictions that can’t be solved by analysis. It is therefore a living response to the grace of God as revealed in fragile lives. It resembles a collage. Collages are slowly pieced together out of diverse materials in an attempt to present a portrait whose integrity is found in its variety and creativity. A collage of Christian faith will be built out of the Christian traditions and texts, the myriad experiences of human living, imagination, silence and prayer. This is not to deny the concept of revelation. On the contrary, I want to argue here that ‘truth’ for those who journey with God is not to be defined by the rational criteria of verification and falsification. It can instead be understood as meaning ‘manifestation’, letting what shows itself be, by the creative grace of God. No one has ever seen God, says St John. He is made known.

The Collage of God

Mark Oakley

  One of the sheer joys of my home in Windsor is the sense of the vast open space of the sky …..

This is the grass your feet are planted on.
You paint it orange or you sing it green,
But you have never found
A way to make the grass mean what you mean.

A cloud can be whatever you intend:
Ostrich or leaning tower or staring eye.
But you have never found
A cloud sufficient to express the sky.

From Adrienne Rich, Rural reflections.

 

 

‘Only when you make your peace with death,’ said Hamlet,
‘will you understand that everything under the sun is really new…’

From Vladimir Holan, A night with Hamlet

A quiet Saturday has gven me the opportunity to do some thinking and planning for an invitation to preach that has given me a great deal of pride and pleasure. On July 10th I shall travel north to preach in Durham Cathedral for the One hundreth and first Miners Festival Service in Durham Cathedral. A Homecoming and back to my roots ! Gladly I also mark 25 years of ordained life on 29th of June when the Bishop of Durham ordained me in that amazing building.

Here is a little bit more about the day:

On one Saturday each year, though, the usually peaceful city center is transformed by the arrival of thousands of people to watch or take part in the Durham Miners’ Gala. The mining towns and villages of Durham played a huge part in the history of the city, and of County Durham. It’s a proud history, and sometimes a tragic history, and although the last mines in Durham closed in the early 1990s, the Gala still brings tens of thousands of people into the city on the second Saturday in July.

Miners’ Gala History

The Gala developed out of the solidarity the miners felt for each other, and the high regard that the local communities had for these hard-working men, who occasionally gave their lives in order to provide food for their families, and fuel for the whole country. The first Durham mining trade union was formed in 1869, and the first Gala was held two years later.

Banners and Bands

 

Each Durham colliery had its own banner, and many of them also had their own brass bands – a proud northern tradition. The banners would be brought by the miners traveling on foot, all converging on Durham city center. At its peak the Gala would attract 250,000 people, the biggest gathering of its kind in Britain. The leader of the British Labour Party would traditionally address the crowds, and a good time was had by all.

Today, although the crowds are smaller, a good time is still had by all. The day’s proceedings begin at about 9am, when the bands and the miners and ex-miners start to gather to parade through the streets. It can take a couple of hours or more for the whole procession to pass by, as the bands stop to play some rousing tunes. It brings a festive feeling to the city’s streets, as some collieries have pipe bands, and a few bring dancers too.

 

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