I must congratulate Rev Jackie for her excellent and brave sermon on Sunday. The Gospel passage in question was from St Mark, chapter 10 and it was Jesus teaching on divorce, followed by Jesus inviting the children to come to him. The temptation of course, is to preach about Jesus’ teaching on the importance of children and ignore the rather more difficult teaching on divorce. One of the reasons I appreciate the three year lectionary which we use at St Nicholas is the fact that it mirrors life. It would be wonderful to think that we could choose what life throws at us, selecting only the good and conveniently avoiding the bad or the challenging. That of course is impossible and we have to make sense of where we are and what we experience It’s similar with our readings on Sunday, each year we work through a whole gospel, the good bits and the bad bits and in our preaching we have to make Christian sense of it, there’s no opportunity to duck the difficult passages, we have to confront them and work out what they might be saying to us in our time and in our context. That mirrors life; Christianity is not about inoculating ourselves from the real world, nor is it a convenient opiate, but it is about being given the tools to make sense of the world and our place in it, wherever we are and whatever we experience, it’s all deeply real.
I find this challenging and exciting. It means that there is no part of my life that is separate from God and it means that I must look at myself and my relationships with a maturity which forces my to confront my mistakes and be honest about my motives. ‘For God so loved the world…’ is my foundation and guide, but that does not make God a divine wonder worker, spreading the magic fairy dust to make all things well, God meets us where we are and accompanies us on our journey, he does not wrap us up in cotton wool. To do so would be to deny us our potential and prevent us from growing to the full maturity of the children of God.
I’m going to do something rather radical for an Anglo-Catholic priest this week and talk about the bible ! Our evangelical brothers and sisters are much more wedded to the bible or “the Word” than we are and we tend to be nourished more through the sacraments. On Tuesday this week the church marked the martyrdom of William Tyndale, one of the great scholars who translated the first English Bible from Hebrew and Greek. He fell out with Henry VIII and met a grisly end being first strangled and then burnt at the stake. His translation subsequently went on to make up the majority of the King James Bible of 1611. He has had a major hand in the spread of the Christian faith in the English speaking world.
I wonder when was the last time you opened a bible at home? Should we at St Nicholas be doing more to encourage all of us to soak up and learn from some of the great wisdom and beauty and poetry and history and theology that is to be found within its pages? What parts of the bible do you turn to? What parts do you struggle with? How literally or otherwise should we take the bible? All of us will have different answers. I think reading the bible is a bit like prayer; none of us do enough but doing something – however small or seeming innocuous – is better than nothing. It’s important, as we wrestle with the paths that God lays out in front of us, to hear and to read his Word. For the more we soak up scripture, the deeper and the closer we walk with God.
This morning brought the terrible news of the policeman run over, well let’s be blunt here, murdered in Merseyside. This grim news reminds us of the terrible fragility of life. A wife and two children are now distraught and bereft. PC David Phillip’s set off for work yesterday as normal, never to return. Against this awful news I offer two modest thoughts. Firstly, never go off – to work, or school, or bed after a row. Try and resolve things. Secondly, never miss the opportunity to tell your spouses, partners and family how much you love them. One day, you will say it for the last time.
With every blessing,