Sermon for Remembrance Sunday 2021

Isaiah 2:2-5, Ephesians 6: 10-17, John 15:9-17

We will remember them

We give thanks today for the soldiers who served and died and for those who served and survived in the First and Second World Wars and subsequent actions. From this Parish of St Michael and All Angels 83 died in the First World War and their names are recorded on the brass Remembrance Board over there and in the Remembrance book.

Seven years ago there was a wonderful display of 888,246 of these poppies at the Tower of London, called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. Each poppy represented one of the servicemen from Britain and across the Empire who died the First World War. 83 of the ceramic poppies in that wonderful display represented the soldiers from thisParish. I have found out about those brave men, so their names become ‘real people’. I have discovered their addresses and found out about their families. 5 of them were in the Royal Navy and 78 were in the Army. This research is now on the Church website and in Parish Magazine Articles in October and November this year.

Arthur Thomas Batchelor Edwards died on 1st November 1918, aged only 19 years. His great-nephew Neil Edwards comes each year to hear his name and remember him. Last year in Lockdown Neil joined in the ‘lovely Service’ via YouTube on his phone standing outside the Church in the ‘glorious sunshine’ and he sent me this message: ‘I walked back past Arthurs old house, and just reflected on the fact that he walked out of that door, never to ever return. I’ll never know if he had enjoyed a pint of beer, or held a girl’s hand, things we take for granted in life.’ 

In the roll-call of names we hear two soldiers’ initials rather than full names. I will tell you more about them. W.G. Smith is William George Smith who was a Corporal in the Gloucester regiment, serving in the Army for ten years. He was wounded five times in the War and died of wounds on 30th June 1918 aged 27. His wife lived near Maidstone and must have come to this Church.

J.M. Youngman is John Marshall Youngman who lived at Bower Hill House, 104 Tonbridge Road, Maidstone opposite St Michael & All Angels’ Church, where the Osteopathy building is now. John was the eldest son of John Henry and Adelaide Edith Youngman. John had a sister called Nancy, known as Nan and a brother Harold who was later a Doctor in Cambridge and had two children, Jilly and Julian. John, Harold and Nancy’s father Henry was a corn and cake merchant and had premises in Westborough. John was a Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment.

John Marshall Youngman was awarded the Military Cross on 28th December 1914. The Military Cross (M.C.) is the third level military decoration awarded to Officers. This decoration was awarded to John Marshall Youngman for an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy. John was later killed in action on 23rd June 1916 aged 20.  The St Michael’s Parish Magazine of September 1916 has a photograph of Lt Youngman from the South Eastern Gazette.

This tells us about: ‘the late Lieut Youngman, who, it will be remembered, a few months ago gallantly laid down his life in the act of saving a number of his comrades. One of the Chaplains, who knew him well, has since written as follows: ‘His death has left a great blank in the lives of many of us out here – I know it has in mine. I am thankful to have known him. Quite unconsciously he taught us all a lot. His life and passing bid us lift up our hearts for a life so brave, so lovable and unaffected.’ The Vicar, Fr John Best wrote: ‘Surely such a commendation as that should act as an inspiration, an uplifting power, to all our other brave young fellows, who have gone from this parish, prepared, if need be, to surrender everything for the great and righteous cause.’ John’s mother gave a silver Altar breadbox and two silver mounted glass cruets to St Michael’s Church in memory of her son. John is buried near Ypres at the Dranoutre Military Cemetery.

I have done lots of research about those who served King and Country from this Parish of St Michael & All Angels, Maidstone and also those from All Saints Maidenhead, our previous Parish. I was so pleased in April this year to visit the Church in Lincolnshire where my Great Uncle John is remembered on their Remembrance Board. My Great Uncle John Gates was a groom at Irnham House and enlisted for the Army on 10thAugust 1916 aged 36 years. This was after the terrible Battle of the Somme when so many British soldiers died. Conscription was introduced at that stage and being a groom was not a reserved occupation. When he left his son Charles was ten and his daughter Mildred only 4 years old. 

How terrible for my Great Aunt Sarah to see John leave to go so far away to fight in the War. John was a Driver in the Royal Engineers, and his Battalion was 131st Field Company. He was part of the British Salonika Army on the Macedonian front. He was killed in the Battle of Tumbitza Farm on 27th November 1917. His Grave in Lembet Road Military Cemetery has John Gates’ name, his regimental badge and a cross. The Commonwealth War Graves has information about his grave. The family choose a personal inscription to be on the lower part of the grave-stone. The Gates family chose to have the moving words: HE DIED THAT WE MIGHT LIVE.  

All those who served and died for King and Country whom we remember today ‘DIED THAT WE MIGHT LIVE’. 

In our Gospel Bible reading Jesus says ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15: 12-13) Today we give thanks for the Soldiers who laid down their lives for their friends, so that we can live in peace. We give thanks for those who served, ready to lay down their lives, and survived. We are not all called to lay down our lives, but we are called by Jesus to ‘love one another’ and to give love, help and care to those in need. 

There are some members of our Church family who remember the Second World War.

Pamela Waite, who is joining in this Mass via YouTube from Abbeyrose House next door, was 9 years old in 1939. Pamela remembers helping to dig the back garden at home for the Anderson Shelter which had wood to hold up the side. She lived at 16 Upper Fant Road and they had to share an Anderson Shelter with the next door neighbours at 18 Upper Fant Road. They often had to sleep in the Anderson Shelter. At St Michael’s School they had to march to the Shelter on the Playground in a raid or climb under their desks if it was too late to walk outside. Ann Rust lived in Douglas Road and when a bomb fell at Tovil it blew the French Windows of their home. 

Ann Rust lived in Douglas Road and when a bomb fell at Tovil it blew the French Windows of their home. 

Valerie Stickland remembers Battle of Britain Day. They had an air raid shelter at her home in North Croydon with sandbags outside, where they spent lots of time. There was a noisy ack-ack gun in the woods behind their house and Valerie collected shrapnel, which she still has in a box. Here is some shrapnel that Valerie has kept in a tin.

She says: ‘They were such uncertain times lived from day to day’. Valerie and her sister were evacuated to Northampton in November 1940 when they lived on the first floor of a Manor House at a small boarding school. They came home in the Summer of 1941. 

Peggy Thresh joined the WAAFs as a flight mechanic, servicing all kinds of aero-engines. Today we honour Peggy as a Second World War Veteran in our Church family. 

We pray for peace and long for that time when ‘Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.’ (Isaiah 2: 4) The Epistle reminds us that although we do not fight in physical battles; as Christians we need to be clothed with God’s armour to be spiritually protected and close to Jesus each day; ‘ready to proclaim the gospel of peace’. (Ephesians 6:15) We all need to be ready to explain and talk about our faith; invite people to Church and welcome new people so we share the love and peace of Jesus with people we meet.

Jesus calls us his friends if we follow his commandment to love. (v.14) Let us all grow in friendship with Jesus by turning to Him in troubles and joys; knowing His care and strength and sharing love and kindness with other people. Whatever troubles we face now and in the coming weeks; God wants us to know His love and help, to share His love with others and remember that God is: ‘our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.’ Amen

Sermon for Trinity 14

‘You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8) Comment

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8) This is the theme of our Bible readings this morning and indeed a summary of Jesus’s teaching about how we should live. A lawyer knew that he should love God and love his neighbour but wanted to know ‘who is my neighbour?’ (Luke 10:29) Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 30-37) to answer that question; showing that our neighbour is anyone in need who wants to receive help and care. Jesus said to the lawyer and says to us ‘Go and do likewise.’ (v.37) ‘Go and do likewise.’

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8) James teaches about this in his Epistle making clear that faith by itself is not enough as we need to express our faith through acts of kindness, help and care. James wrote: ‘faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.’ (James 2:17) Jesus calls us to believe and ‘to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ (Ephesians 2: 10)

James was not pleased to see that rich visitors to the Church were given a much better welcome than the poor. He was shocked to see the favouritism and so he is reminding the people: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8). He implored them to stop showing favouritism but rather to treat all visitors from any background with the same welcome and respect.

Isaiah prophesies about a time when God will bring healing to the blind, the deaf, the mute and the lame. This will be a time of refreshment with streams in the desert and springs of water. (Isaiah 35:5-7)

Jesus wonderfully fulfils that prophecy; as we heard in our Gospel reading today. Jesus welcomed all who came to him and astounded the crowd who said: ‘He has done everything well: he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’ (Mark 7:37) Jesus’s conversation with the Syrophoenician woman shows his message of healing love is for all – for Gentiles as well as Jews. In his Commentary on this passage Tom Wright explains ‘the very odd exchange between Jesus and the woman. The tone of voice throughout, though urgent and (on the woman’s part) desperate, is nevertheless that of teasing banter.’ (p.95)

The book The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas shows the excitement of that time when Jesus healed the sick; helping us to imagine the wonder and enjoyment as news of Jesus’s miracles of healing spread and more people brought their sick family and friends to Jesus to receive healing. Jesus was showing God’s love for them reminding us: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

The four Gospels tell us about the wonderful healing ministry of Jesus. The Gospels contain many accounts of Jesus healing the sick, the blind, the lame, lepers and all who came to Him. Jesus shows the compassion and love of God in healing the sick. The book A Time to heal tells us: ‘Jesus comes into the midst of the world and heals with his hands. There are numerous stories to document this part of Jesus’ ministry, so that we have no excuse to miss the important point: in touching people’s lives with power and feeling, Jesus healed them by God’s love. Whether blind or lame, leper or paralytic, Jesus embraced their physical condition totally and without limit.’ Jesus showed God’s love and compassion in healing the sick.

Jesus healed all these suffering men, women and children and he healed many more.

John wrote near the end of his Gospel: ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ (John 20:30-31) Jesus’ healing miracles show us God’s love and power and help us to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. It is good to read through the Gospels in the Bible and discover all the recorded healings of Jesus. How amazing that he healed many more people who are not recorded.

The Church today continues Jesus’s healing ministry – preaching the Gospel and offering prayer for healing through the Sacrament of Anointing the sick; when the outward and visible oil reminds us of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the inner grace of healing given to the sick. Fr Neil can anoint and pray for the sick so they receive the healing love of Jesus in this special way. Would you or someone you know like to receive this ministry?

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (James 2: 8). We are called to show our faith by works – what works can you do?

What are the ‘good works, which God prepared in advance for (you) to do’? (Ephesians 2: 10) Can you sing? Would you like to join the Choir? With the Covid restrictions lifting, would you like to join the serving team? It would be great to have two acolytes serving at every Mass as well as an altar server, thurifer and boat girl. Would you like to help clean the Church? Could you arrange the flowers? Would you like to read at Mass? Would you like to prepare and lead our Prayers and Intercessions at Mass?

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Who would like to come with me into Care Homes in the Parish to talk and listen to the residents and help when I lead Services? Who will continue this ‘good work’ next Summer? Is the Lord calling you to be an Anna Chaplain or an Anna Friend?

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Would you like to prepare and serve coffee and biscuits after Mass? Will you welcome new people who visit our Church?  ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ How will you be actively involved in the Church? Would you like to learn to ring the bells? Would you like to join the Mothers’ Union and with them help people in our local community and further away? Would you like to help with the Street Pastors, the Winter Night Shelter project for the Homeless in Maidstone or help at the Food Bank?

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Will you share your faith with family, friends and people at work who wonder why you come to Church on Sunday? Will you tell them how knowing Jesus gives you peace and sustains and helps you through the sorrows and joys of your life?

In the August Parish Magazine we read in the ‘Quote Corner’ a quotation from St Ignatius of Antioch: ‘The fruit of faith should be evident in our lives, for being a Christian is more than making sound professions of faith. It should reveal itself in practical and visible ways.’

We have the wonderful time of Benediction at the end of Mass, when we meet with Jesus in His sacramental presence. In the silence let us worship Jesus and be open for His calling to the practical and visible ways that the Lord is calling us to serve. How is Jesus calling you to love your neighbour?

I end with a prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola:

Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.

Assumption Sermon

Revelation 11:19-12:6, 10 ESV, 1 Corinthians 15:20-26 NLT Luke 1:39-56 JB

Today we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, often shortened to the Assumptionand also known as the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary. ‘This was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. The Catholic Church teaches that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”. This doctrine was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950.’

The Bible does not record the assumption of Mary into heaven, although many connect that to the verse in Revelation that we heard in the 1st reading when: ‘A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crownof twelve stars on her head.’ (Revelation 12: 1) We sang about this in the first hymn. Three men in the Old Testament: Enoch (Gen 5: 18-24), Moses (Deuteronomy 34: 5-6), and Elijah (2 Kings 2: 11), were taken up to heaven at the time of their deaths. That is the wonderful promise for Christians who are alive when Jesus returns (1 Thessalonians 4: 15-18). These Biblical texts give a Scriptural precedent of ‘assumption’ for those who are well-pleasing to God. Mary was very ‘well-pleasing’ to God.

Blessed John Henry Newman writes about Mary’s Assumption: “Is it conceivable that they who had been so reverent and careful of the bodies of the Saints and Martyrs should neglect her— … who was the very Mother of our Lord? It is impossible. Plainly because that sacred body is in heaven, not on earth.” There is no grave for us to visit.

God’s grace and favour gives Mary a place of honour in Heaven as Queen. Mary is seen as a type of the Church so Jacques Bur understands that the Assumption of Mary and her place in Heaven is a pre-shadowing of what will happen to the Church. He writes ‘This glorious assumption of Mary, realised at the end of her earthly life, was a privilege for her… The glorification of the body which will be ours at the end of time was anticipated for Mary at the end of her earthly life.’ This is the glorious hope of Christians. Mary is a type of the Church and we can be encouraged by her Assumption to know that we will be with the Lord in heaven too. We heard in the Epistle: ‘Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when He comes back’ (1 Corinthians 15:23 NLT).

Scott Hahn explains ‘In most Near Eastern cultures…The woman ordinarily honoured as queen was not the wife of the king, but the mother of the king… The office of queen mother was well established among the gentiles by the time the people of Israel began to clamour for a monarchy… David’s first successor, Solomon, reigns with his mother Bathsheba, at his right hand’ (1 Kings 2:19). Some Queens in the Bible were the King’s mother and others were the King’s wife. We can imagine Mary assumed into heaven and crowned as Queen, when we ask her to pray for us in the words of the Hail Mary in our Intercessions this morning and when we have the Angelus at the end of Mass.

We heard Mary’s song the Magnificat in our Gospel today and the Magnificat is said or sung every evening at Evensong. It is easy to become over-familiar with these words; so the radical social impact is not recognised. ‘Mary said: “…. He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants for ever, even as he said to our fathers”’ (Luke 1: 46-55). Mary was being a ‘Prophet’ because this is a prophetic utterance, telling forth God’s word and the Lord’s desire to reach out to those who are poor, lowly and hungry.

Hancock writes: ‘the Magnificat has as its motive the scattering, disappointment, and depression by God’s Son of those classes in every nation… whom Mary calls ‘the proud’, ‘the mighty,’ and ‘the rich’… When the Church, evening after evening, in all her parishes, is saying this hymn, she is unconsciously foretelling… that greatest of all revolutions, which the Blessed Virgin saw to be involved in the birth and work of Him whom she carried in her womb. To Mary … was revealed the stupendous social and political reversal which the birth of the Son of God as the Son of Man, as the son of the poor carpenter’s wife was bound sooner or later to produce in all the world…. He is exalting the humble and meek; that He is filling the hungry with good things and that He is sending the rich empty away …. Her so-called hymn is nothing less than a disguised socialist war-song.’ The Magnificat was considered subversive in the 19th century; as ‘lifting up the lowly’ was certainly counter-cultural then, as some people think it is today.

There are links with Jesus’ manifesto at Nazareth, Jesus read verses from Isaiah 61: ‘“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”’ (Luke 4: 18-21). Jesus said he will bring good news to the poor, freedom to the oppressed and healing to the blind. Jesus announced that he would help the poor and lowly; just as His Mother sang in her Magnificat. Jesus did and does all these works!

For many years I have been growing in appreciation of Mary while I have been researching and studying the Bible to learn about the titles of Mary in the Litany of Loreto. I have written a book about this and much of what I have said this morning is taken from Chapters of my book. I now have a publisher and my book:

Mary’s Titles
Biblical reflections on the titles of
Mary in the Litany of Loreto

will be published soon.

I hope and pray that all those who read my book will grow into a closer relationship with Jesus; that they increase in Biblical knowledge while developing understanding and appreciation of his Mother Mary, through focusing on her given titles.

The Magnificat shows God’s care and concern for the poor and the lowly. How do you show God’s love and care for the poor? Do you give food to a food bank? Do you give money to charities that help the poor? Do you pray for those who are in need? Mary points us to Jesus and says to us as she said long ago in Cana: ‘Do whatever he tells you’. (John 2: 5) What is Jesus telling you to do? …… Mary does not exalt herself, but rather she is honoured by God because she said ‘yes’ when asked if she would be the mother of Jesus. Mary said to Angel Gabriel ‘May it be to me as you have said’. (Luke 1:38) We should say ‘yes’ to what God is calling us to do; so we are well-pleasing to God.

In the Offertory hymn we will sing:

Sing the chiefest joy of Mary when on earth her work was done,
And the Lord of all creation brought her to his heavenly home:
Virgin Mother, Mary blessed, raised on high and crowned with grace,
May your Son, the world’s redeemer, grant us all to see his face. Amen

Queen assumed into Heaven, pray for us.

Sermon for the 7th Sunday of Trinity

Jeremiah 23: 1-6, Ephesians 2: 11-22, Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56

‘Come away and rest a while’ (Mark 6: 31)

The apostles returned from their mission to share the good news, telling Jesus about when they ‘went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.’ (Mark 6: 12-13) Jesus knew that after that busy time of ministry the apostles needed time to ‘Come away and rest a while’ (Mark 6: 31).

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. (John 10) Jesus cares for the sheep having compassion for them; giving rest, food and healing. We heard today that Jesus ‘saw a great crowd and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things (v.34). Jesus the Good Shepherd healed the sick, just as a good shepherd tended the wounds of the sheep. There is such a sense of excitement at the end of our Gospel reading with people bringing the sick for Jesus to heal. How amazing that ‘wherever he went, into villages, cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed’ (Mark 6:56). All those people received the healing love of Jesus.

Jesus fulfils the prophecy of Jeremiah as He is ‘the righteous Branch’; ‘The Lord our righteousness’ and the Good Shepherd. Jeremiah prophesied that the Lord will ‘gather the remnant of his flock and bring them back to their fold and they shall be fruitful and multiply.’ This reminds us of the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15: 1-7) showing the Good Shepherd searching for the lost sheep and bringing them back to the fold. We can be thankful for the people in our lives who helped us come to know, love and follow Jesus. We can continue to show ‘shepherding’ kindness to members of our Church family by praying for them and phoning them to assure them we care and value them. When going through times of suffering it is good to know others are praying for us.

The Epistle explains that ‘now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ…. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near’ (Ephesians 2: 12, 17). Gentiles as well the Jews can be sheep together in the fold of the Church because God’s plan was that Christ ‘might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross… for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father (v.16, 18). How wonderful that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7) so we can all draw near to God.

On my walks in the countryside I sometimes walk by fields of sheep. Sheep are almost always feeding on the grass. We need to keep feeding spiritually by reading the Bible and by receiving Holy Communion. Do you read the Bible every day? What has the Lord shown you recently when you have read the Bible? It is good to talk to family and friends about how the Lord has spoken to us through our Bible reading.

The Psalm set for today is Psalm 23 reminding us that: ‘The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.’ (Psalm 23: 1-6)

For those of us who are now in ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ we can know the Lord is with us, giving comfort to us in our sorrow, sadness and loss. Sheep need time to rest ‘in green pastures’. Jesus our Good Shepherd calls us to ‘Come away and rest a while’ in green pastures beside quiet waters and He restores our souls by feeding us through the Bible, at Holy Communion and this morning with Benediction.

In Benediction we can ‘Come away and rest a while’ in the sacramental presence of Jesus. This morning we have the spiritual treat of Benediction, when we can draw close to our risen and ascended Lord while we meet Him in this holy moment when we are blessed with the sacramental presence of Jesus. The Walsingham Manual (p.67) explains that ‘having recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread in the Eucharist, we recognise again his presence with us in the bread which is his body… Here we are blessed with Jesus, the bread of life.’ Benediction is a wonderful time to be still in the Lord’s presence and meet with Him in a special way. In Benediction we meet with Jesus in the peace, because we are blessed with ‘the bread which is his body.’ We come to draw near to the Lord and be strengthened and refreshed by this special Service of Blessing. We can linger in the presence of Jesus when we ‘Come away and rest a while’.

Then all of us, children and adults leave ready and equipped to go out and share the love of Jesus with family and friends and people we meet. Jesus wants us to help more people come to believe, know, love and follow Jesus. Jeremiah prophesied that the Lord’s sheep ‘shall be fruitful and multiply’ (v.3). Our Church needs to continue to be a growing congregation as more people come to know, love and follow Jesus and want to become a part of our Church family. We should continue to pray for people we know, who do not yet believe, so they come to know Jesus. Let us be ready to talk to them about how our faith in Jesus sustains and helps us.

Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy,
The praises of my God shall still my heart and tongue employ. Amen

Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Trinity

Ezekiel 2: 1-5, 2 Corinthians 12: 2-10, Mark 6: 1-13

How are you feeling? How are you feeling? Do you feel peaceful and calm? Are you filled with joy this morning? Do you feel overwhelmed with sorrow and grief? Are you feeling worried and anxious?  Do you feel disappointed and upset about something that has happened? Our Bible readings today remind us that however we are feeling Jesus loves us, understands and will help us. Today Jesus wants to meet you where you are and however you are feeling; and not where you think you should be. In this Mass you are invited to encounter the Lord Jesus in the Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

In our Old Testament reading, Ezekiel is given a hard task to do. God called him to speak words of prophecy to the Israelite people; even though they would not want to hear the messages from God. God was asking Ezekiel to be faithful to his calling as a prophet; even if he was ignored and rejected by the people.

In the Epistle we hear about St Paul suffering ‘weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ’ (v.10). Following Jesus’s calling to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles was not always easy for Paul. Nevertheless he experienced the wonder of God’s grace as the Lord told him: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’ (v.9). St Paul was faithful and he experienced God’s faithfulness as he continued to preach and lead people to know, love and follow Jesus. 

Jesus suffered rejection at Nazareth. The people in his home town knew him as ‘the carpenter, the son of Mary’ (v.3); and they were not able to accept that Jesus is the Son of God. However even in Nazareth ‘he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them’ (v.5). If you are suffering feelings of rejection; then you can know that Jesus understands how you feel. Jesus invites you to tell him how you feel and then receive his comfort, help and love. Jesus wants to give you ‘bright hope for tomorrow.’ Jesus the Son of God is able to sympathise with our weaknesses as He ‘has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.’ (Hebrews 4:15)

How exciting that Jesus sent out the twelve to preach that people should repent and turn to God. How wonderful that ‘they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them’ (v.12). The twelve disciples went out trusting that God would help them.

The Church today continues that ministry – preaching the Gospel and offering prayer for healing through the Sacrament of Anointing the sick; when the outward and visible oil reminds us of the presence of the Holy Spirit and inner grace of healing given to the sick. Fr Neil can anoint and pray for the sick so they receive the healing love of Jesus in this special way. Would you or someone you know like to receive this ministry?

Jesus calls all of us to pray for people we know who do not yet know Jesus, and sends us out to be ready to talk about how knowing Jesus helps us now; as well as being ready to tell them how we first came to know Jesus. Sometimes the Lord surprises us. On Friday morning I talked about my faith to someone as I walked on the Medway Valley Path! We can be encouraged that God will give us grace and strength to share our faith so that more people come to know, love and follow Jesus. The Lord calls us to be faithful to that calling remembering that God is faithful. However we are feeling today we can trust in the love and faithfulness of the Lord. ‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy find grace to help us in our time of need.’ (Hebrews 4: 16)

I close with words from a hymn about God’s faithfulness:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Chorus:
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided-
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!  

Hymns Old & New, New Anglican Edition, Kevin Mayhew, 1996, hymn number 186,

May we all grow to know and share more of God’s love and faithfulness. Amen

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Today is Trinity Sunday, when we reflect on how God is three Persons: the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.‘Trinity’ can be seen as God’s proper name, ‘the triune name’ – ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. The prefix tri- means 3, used in the words triangle, triathlon, triceratops and tricycle as well as in Trinity.

In the Gospel we heard the words of Jesus’ great commission that the disciples were to: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. (Matthew 28:19) In the Sacrament of Baptism the outward and visible water reminds us of the inward grace of cleansing and refreshment. This morning Fr Neil will baptise Isaac and Poppy ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Fr Neil will tip the baptismal water from this shell, which is an ancient symbol of Christian pilgrimage; as today Isaac and Poppy begin their Christian pilgrimage. Jesus asks us all to ‘go and make disciples’ by telling our family and friends about the love of Jesus and helping them come to know Jesus. How wonderful that Jesus tells us: ‘I am with you always’. (Matthew 28:20)

The Creeds were written to clarify beliefs and to be statements of faith to oppose heresy; thus protecting the Church from wrong teaching. People who were preparing for baptism in the early centuries of the Christian Church learned a short summary of what Christians believe. One version became accepted as the Apostles’ Creed, because it was thought to include the essential teaching of the 12 apostles, Jesus’ earliest followers. It was into that faith of the apostles that Christians were, and are, baptised. It is a great joy to welcome Isaac and Poppy this morning when we say The Apostles’ Creed at their Baptism Service in this Mass.

The reading from Isaiah is chosen for today because of the threefold ‘holy’: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts’, in the worship of heaven. God asks ‘who will go for us? This signposts the Triune God known by Christians as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Epistle reminds us that we are children of God and we can call God ‘Abba! Father!’ Today God receives Isaac and Poppy into his Church through baptism and the Holy Spirit will come upon them when they are anointed with the oil of Baptism and the oil of Chrism. They will receive the light of Christ when they are given their baptismal candles and challenged with us all to: ‘Shine as a light in the world.’ How can you shine with the light of Jesus and share his love?

The doctrine of the Trinity is best understood by experiencing that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God in three Persons. God is calling us to know Him by experiencing a living relationship with God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. May Isaac, Poppy and all of us keep growing to know, love and follow God more; by praying more to the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Sermon for Easter 6

Acts 10: 44-48, 1 John 5:1-6, John 15: 9-17

We are so pleased to welcome Thabo Jaden Kwalombota, his family, friends and Godparents to Church today when we celebrate Thabo’s Baptism in this Mass. Baby Thabo starred as Baby Jesus at Christmas in our pre-recorded Crib Service shown on YouTube when his sister Eta was Mary and his brother Zangi was Joseph. 

In our reading from Acts today Peter was speaking at the house of Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, his family and friends, when the Holy Spirit came upon all those listening to him speak about Jesus and they were baptised. The Holy Spirit will come upon Thabo this morning at his baptism. The oil of Baptism and the oil of Chrism are outward signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The water in this Sacrament of Holy Baptism is an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace of cleansing and refreshment; following the decision to repent and turn to Christ. 

Easter Day was five weeks ago and for the disciples the time after Easter was a time of growing in spiritual understanding. The disciples knew that Jesus is alive! They came to understand why Jesus died – so that we can be forgiven and come to know God.  The Epistle reminds us that Jesus is the Son of God and that we should ‘love God and obey his commandments.’ (v.20)

The Gospel continues on with the theme of abiding from last week when Jesus tells us: ‘If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love’. (v.10) The command is ‘love one another’. (v.12)  Jesus said ‘you are my friends if you do what I command you.’ (v.14)Jesus tells his friends to ‘bear fruit’. After his baptism, when he is given his baptismal candle, we will all say to Thabo: Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father. The light of Christ is passed onto baby Thabo from the Paschal candle. 

This is a challenge for all of us who have been baptised…. How are you being a light in the world? How can you bear fruit for Jesus by showing love and care? Are you ready to talk about your faith if people ask you? The fruit of the Holy Spirit is ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Galatians 5: 22-23) Are these growing in your life? 

It is wonderful that today in baptism Thabo begins his journey of faith and becomes a member of the Church and a friend of Jesus. Fr Neil will tip the holy water from this golden shell; because the shell is an ancient symbol of pilgrimage. We rejoice that today is the beginning of Thabo Jaden’s Christian pilgrimage. May baby Thabo and all of us ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’.  Amen (2 Peter 3:18)

Sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Easter

Peace be with you.’ (Luke 24: 36b)

The disciples were in Lockdown! They were in Lockdown for fear of the Jews; while for more than a year we have been in Lockdown for fear of Coronavirus. Last Eastertide I shared this ‘Lockdown’ thought with residents in Care Homes in my Telephone and Skype Services. I am sure that none of us imagined that we would still be in or just be emerging from Lockdown a whole year later. Jesus appeared to his friends when they were in Lockdown on Easter Sunday evening and he said: ‘Peace be with you’. (Luke 24: 36b) Jesus comes to us this morning and says: ‘Peace be with you’. This past year has been a time of suffering, grief, loneliness, disappointment and anxiety. The sadness felt by many people this week, following the death of HRH Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh; has also reminded many people of the loss of their own departed loved ones. Jesus comes to meet us where we are saying: ‘Peace be with you.’

Peace’ ereine ϵιρήνϵ is the New Testament Greek word meaning 1Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible, Robert Young, United Society for Christian Literature, Lutterworth Press London, 1973, p. 736‘peace, unity, concord’ and ‘peaceable’ means 2Analytical Greek Lexicon, Samuel Bagster & Sons Ltd, London, 1973, p. 119‘peace, tranquillity, concord, a salutation expressive of good wishes, a blessing, to be at peace, to cultivate peace and peaceable.’ In our Gospel today when Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’, this is a usual greeting, a salutation; but this greeting is transformed by Jesus on that evening because now the disciples know that Jesus is alive!  They were in Lockdown following Jesus’ crucifixion, fearing that as Jesus’ followers they would soon be arrested. How wonderful and amazing for them to see that Jesus is alive! Jesus has been raised from the dead. Jesus ate fish so they knew that he really is alive. Jesus talked to them and ‘opened their minds to understand the scriptures’;  explaining that the scriptures said ‘that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.’ (Luke 24: 46-47)

We are reassured and can receive the peace and the love of Jesus through the words of the Epistle, about the amazing love the Father has for us. ‘See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.’ (1 John 3:1) We are called to turn from sin so we can abide in him and grow in purity and holiness; knowing the peace and presence of Jesus with us. 

The reading from Acts is when Peter talked to the people after the lame man had been healed. The man had been lame from birth and after he was healed in the name of Jesus he jumped up with great joy and entered the Temple ‘walking and leaping and praising God.’ (Acts 3:8) He received physical healing and peace. Peter explained that the lame man was healed by Jesus as Peter tells us: ‘by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.’(Acts 3: 16) Peter proclaims a call to repentance: ‘Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.’ (Acts 3: 19) When we say ‘sorry’ to God we can receive the peace and assurance of God’s forgiveness. God forgives us because ‘the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin’. (1 John 1:7)  Through Jesus’ death on the Cross we can receive peace. (Isaiah 53:5, Colossians 1:20) We should confess our sins to God and repent so we can receive forgiveness and peace.

How wonderful that in the days of the early Church the disciples continued Jesus’s healing ministry to show the love of God. The Church continues that ministry today. In 2000 the book 3‘A time to Heal – A contribution towards the Ministry of Healing , Church House Publishing 2000, p. xviii and p.23A Time to Heal encouraged the Church of England to reach out in mission with the ‘‘full gospel’ – that is the gospel preached with the hope of healing.’ We read there: ‘The mission of the Church, therefore, is nothing less than to continue Jesus’ own mission, the proclamation of the kingdom, the good news that suffering may end, that health may be freely given’. (p.23) The Church offers the ministry of anointing for healing, which is one of the seven sacraments. The holy oil is ‘the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace’ of receiving the healing love of Jesus. Sometimes people ask for prayer for healing with anointing before going into hospital or when they are unwell. Some of us have received the ministry of anointing for healing at Walsingham. The Lord gives peaceand healing through those prayers. In these days of the Coronavirus Pandemic Fr Neil can still anoint the sick using a cotton-bud, rather than touching the person, and pray.

We pray for the sick in the Intercessions at Mass. I know that you pray for the sick in your prayers at home. Prayers for healing are answered! Some people are no longer on our Church list because they have recovered and received healing. 

Peace is Jesus’ gift to us as Jesus said: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (John 14: 27)  Jesus wants us to know and live in His peace. (John 16:33) Jesus calmed the storm when he said to the waves, ‘”Quiet! Be still!”’ (Mark 4:39) This past year with the coronavirus pandemic has felt like a storm for many people. Jesus greets you this morning saying: ‘Peace be with you’. 

We need to follow the teachings of the Lord as: ‘Great peace have they who love your law.’ (Psalm 119:65) Letting Jesus rule in our lives will give increasing peace. (Colossians 3:15) We should let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and guide us to do, say and think those things that please the Lord. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers(Matthew 5:9) We need to live as peacemakers by making peace in the different situations we meet; by seeing the good in others. ‘If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

We should pray about all our worries and anxieties and then trust that the Lord will help in all those situations. We can receive peace in physical and emotional storms. (Mark 4:39)  Then peace will replace fear and anxiety as we trust that the Lord in His love and mercy will help in all those situations in the best ways. (Philippians 4: 6-7) 

On the evening of Easter Sunday, when they were in Lockdown, Jesus told the disciples that they were to be ‘witnesses’. God calls us to be witnesses by sharing the good news that Jesus is alive, Jesus loves us and that we can live in his peace because Jesus says: ‘Peace be with you.’ In the coming weeks as we come out of Lockdown let us be good witnesses to our family and friends, ready to talk to them about ‘the reason for the hope that you have’ in Jesus. (1 Peter 3:15)

I close with words from a hymn:

Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ our Lord.
Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ our Lord.
Thus, says the Lord will the world know my friends.
Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ our Lord.

Celebration Hymnal for Everyone, hymn 597

Sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Romans 4: 13-end, Mark 8:31-end 

Our Bible readings today encourage us to grow in our relationship with God – to growin faith, belief and trust in God and have assurance of God’s great love, shown to us in Jesus. 

Hyacinths grow because their roots draw up water and food so the plant can grow the stem, leaves and a beautiful flower. 

Our Bible readings today remind us that God calls us all to make an individual response, just as each hyacinth grows from its separate bulb. We will grow in our relationship with the Lord by feeding on the Word of the Lord in the Bible, which I hope many of you are doing this Lent. We feed on Jesus and are spiritually refreshed when we receive Communion. At Mass as we receive the body and blood of Christ so 1Common Worship Services and Prayers for the Church of England, Church House Publishing, London, 2000 p. 181 that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Those of you at home can receive Jesus when you make an act of spiritual communion.

In the Old Testament reading and the Epistle today, Abraham is honoured because he had faith and trusted that what God said would really happen. We can learn from the life of Abraham. Abraham was a man of faith. He heard from God, trusted the Lord and left his home to go to the land the Lord showed him. This can inspire us to listen to the Lord and be open for God’s direction and guidance. Abraham grew in an individual relationship with God and we all need to grow individually and together into a closer living relationship with Jesus. 2 http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-175/QueenPatriarchs.htm 7th April 2017 ‘The whole lesson of Abraham to the Jews, to the Apostles and Evangelists and to the Church, was that he believed God.’ Abraham believed and trusted God and had a growing relationship with Him. 

We heard today that God said: ‘”As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.  I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you’.(Genesis 17:4-7) God called Abraham to trust and walk in God’s perfect loving plan. Abraham’s response to hearing God was to believe. 

God calls all of us to respond individually to His invitation to believe and follow Him. The Epistle tells us about faith. 3‘The Ministry of the Word – handbook for preachers’, BRF 2000, p.108-9 The Revd Alan Garrow‘Paul seems to be arguing that the righteousness of faith is the righteousness that we act because we believe the promise of salvation given through Jesus. It is therefore a consequence of God’s gift and a product of our relationship with him.’ The good news is that through Jesus’s death on the Cross we can be made righteous and be justified before God. How wonderful that ‘since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 5:1) Through believing and accepting that Jesus died on the Cross so we can be forgiven; we are restored into a right relationship with God.

Through Jesus all peoples can receive God’s blessings, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. The New Covenant enables us all to receive forgiveness and to know the Lord as individuals.  The Book of Hebrews tells us about the New Covenant, when God says: ‘I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8: 8, 10 – 12)

How wonderful that God puts his laws in our minds and on our hearts; so that we can be led by the Holy Spirit and ‘let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,’ (Colossians 3: 15) by responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We will then grow into a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel Jesus warns us that following Him will have times of difficulty. Indeed all our lives go through times of suffering, trouble and stress. Paul realised that to ‘know Christ’ would mean ‘sharing in his sufferings’. (Philippians 3:10-11) Suffering was the experience of Christians in the past. When we go through times of suffering and difficulty we should pray and ask the Lord to help us. Those times can be when we grow in our relationship with Jesus to ‘know Christ’ in a deeper way. 

This past year with the coronavirus pandemic and Lockdowns has been a time of great suffering and difficulty but also, I hope, this has been a time of growing to know that Jesus loves you and is with you. Jesus loves us all and Jesus said ‘I am with you always’. (Matthew 28:20) We can trust that whatever difficulties and troubles may happen in our lives; that Jesus will be there with us, helping and giving His loving peace and presence. So we should not fear what may lie ahead; rather we should trust the loveand faithfulness of God. We can grow into a closer relationship with Jesus through times of sorrow and times of joy.

We are called to come to Jesus as individuals and so, as we sometimes sing we come:

Just as I am, without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come. 

NEH 294

This lovely hymn will be our Communion hymn this morning when you can pray the words to make this your prayer.

Let us use this time of Lent to grow closer to Jesus. Just like the hyacinth taking in nourishment through the roots; so let us feed on Jesus through the written Word of the Bible and through the sacrament of Holy Communion at Mass. Let us pray more through the day and know that Jesus is with us. 

It will help us grow in our relationship with Jesus if we talk about how the Lord is meeting us and helping us in our daily lives. In the 4 https://talkingjesus.org/resources/  https://hopetogether.org.uk/Shop/  7th January 2020 Talking Jesus Course last Lent we were encouraged to tell the story of how we came to faith and to talk about how Jesus has helped us recently. This is encouraged by the Our Canterbury Diocesan strategy 5 https://www.canterburydiocese.org/mission/changing-lives-conversations/ 10th February 2021 Changed Lives → Changing Lives which focusses us on the life-changing love of Christ which we have experienced, and points us outward to consider how we can make that love real for others. Some of us from St Michael & All Angels went to a Zoom Meeting with 80 people in the Diocese about this. We were asked ‘How is knowing Jesus changing your life now?’ In these days of Lockdown you could encourage faith in others by talking about how Jesus has met and helped you recently; talking on the telephone if you live alone. I hope that each day in Lent you are praying for 5 people who do not yet know Jesus. The Talking Jesus booklet tells us: ‘Our role is to pray and to speak up when God gives us an opportunity to talk about his story in our lives.’ (p.31) It is good to be ready to encourage others about ways that Jesus has met and helped you. May be the Lord spoke and encouraged you through your Bible reading, may be you were full of thanks and joy to see spring flowers growing or you prayed about an anxiety and Jesus gave you peace. Sharing these stories from our daily faith journeys encourages other people and helps us grow spiritually.

The hyacinth receives nourishment and grows a beautiful flower. Through Lent let us grow individually and together to know more of the love of Jesus so we can share the good news of the love of Jesus with others. Children in the Church building and at home: Jesus loves you and Jesus wants you to grow to know and love Him more. Just as the hyacinth grows through the roots taking in nourishment; we can grow to know more of the love of Jesus through praying, reading the Bible, Church Services in the building or on YouTube & talking about Jesus. 

Let us pray: ‘Thanks be to thee, our Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given us, for all the pains and insults you have borne for us. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly. Amen

Sermon for the Sunday next before Lent

2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6, Mark 9: 2-9                                                          

From the cloud there came a voice: ‘This is my Son, the Belovedlisten to him.’ (V.7)  

On the Mount of Transfiguration the voice of God the Father said: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him.’’ (V.7)  The disciples were told to listen to Jesus. The New Testament Greek word here is akouete. 1The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Samuel Bagster and Sons Ltd, London, 1975, p. 176 (Άκούετε)  This means 2Analytical Greek Lexicon, Samuel Bagster and Sons Ltd, London, 1973, p..13 to hear, hearken to, listen to, to heed. God the Father was asking Jesus’s disciples to listen attentively to Jesus and do what he says. This is the message for us all today: ‘‘listen to him.’’

We are challenged to listen attentively and then do what Jesus is telling us. On this Sunday before Lent we always have the Gospel of the Transfiguration. This encourages us to take time in Lent to draw close to God, have time to listen to Jesus and receive Jesus’s love afresh. We can pray and read the Bible; use the Lent resources recommended by Fr Neil and take time to ‘‘listen to him.’’ In Lockdown we can all take time to ‘‘listen to him.’’ 

On the Mountain the disciples were amazed to see Jesus ‘transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white’. (v.2-3) They saw the glory of the Lord and were terrified. They saw Moses and Elijah appearing with Jesus on the mountain, representing the Law and the Prophets. They heard the voice of God the Father say: ‘This is my Son, the Belovedlisten to him.’ (V.7)  The New International Version has: ‘This is my Son, whom I loveListen to him’. At his Baptism the affirming voice of God the Father said: ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased.’ (Matthew 3:17)On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus received the assurance of His Father’s love and the disciples knew that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Six days earlier at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked: ‘Who do people say I am?’ (Mark8: 27) Peter answered: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’. (Mark 8: 29, Matthew 16:16)

The disciples must have been amazed to see Moses and Elijah! Moses led the people out of Egypt across the desert to the Promised Land. He gave and taught them God’s laws. They reached Moab and ‘Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab… but to this day no-one knows where his grave is.’ (Deuteronomy 34: 5-6) As Moses’s grave was not found; the people thought the Lord buried him. Others assumed that God had taken him into heaven.

Elijah was a great Prophet who served God and turned people back to the Lord.  Later, as we heard in our Old Testament reading today, Elisha was with Elijah and: ‘a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared … and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.’ (2 Kings 2: 11) Elisha saw God’s glory in the fire when Elijah was taken to heaven. 3Glo Computer Commentary for 2 Kings 2:11 ‘Elijah was taken up to heaven bodily without experiencing death; like Moses, Elijah was outside the Promised   Land when he was taken away.’ Later, as we hear today, Moses and Elijah met with Jesus in the Promised Land on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Mark 9: 2-9) 4Glo Computer Commentary ‘Moses appears as the representative of the old covenant and the promise of salvation, which was soon to be fulfilled in the death of Jesus. Elijah appears as the appointed restorer of all things’, whom the prophet Malachi said would return.  (Malachi 4:5-6)  

Three weeks ago when reflecting on the Wedding at Cana my message was: Do whatever he tells you. (John 2:5)  We need to listen so we know what Jesus is telling us to do. We all need to have moments of revelation so we come to know and love the Lord more. I hope that you can remember times when you have felt especially close to the Lord. During our Worship at Mass this morning we can have a revelation through the words of the Bible, the prayers, the hymns and when we receive Communion or make an act of spiritual communion at home. These times are transforming and spiritually refreshing. Where and when do you have times when you ‘‘listen to him.’’? What is the Lord telling you to do? 

In these days of Lockdown we cannot travel far but I have been enjoying many walks from home down to the River Medway to walk along the Medway path. This week I have enjoyed snowy walks around Gatland Park. These walks are times when I pray and feel the loving presence of Jesus with me. I am open to hear the Lord and ‘‘listen to him.’’ I plan to have more Medway path walks in Lent, to pray, ‘‘listen to him’’ and beside the quiet or fast-flowing water to know ‘He restores my soul.’ (Psalm 23:2-3)

When we read through the Gospels we read the spoken words of Jesus that have been written down so that we can ‘‘listen to him.’’ It is important that we do not just listen, but that we listen attentively to Jesus and do what he says. Jesus said: ‘everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ (Matthew 7:24) Jesus said: ‘This is my command: Love each other’. (John 15: 12)After telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus said: ‘Go and do likewise’. (Luke 10:37) Jesus tells us to show love, care and kindness. How can you do that? Jesus told his followers to share the good news. (Mark 16:15) We can share the love of Jesus through acts of kindness.

‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3: 16) The Epistle talks about the veil that is over the hearts of people who do not yet believe. Those of us who believe have experienced ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ (v.6) By God’s grace our minds and hearts have recognised that Jesus is the Son of God; we have come to believe, trust and follow Him. The veil has been lifted. We should pray that the veil will be lifted from people who do not yet believe so they come to know, loveand follow Jesus. Last Lent some of us began the 5https://talkingjesus.org/resources/  https://hopetogether.org.uk/Shop/  7th January 2020 Talking Jesus Course when we were encouraged to pray daily in Lent for 5 people we know who do not yet know Jesus. This would be an excellent way for us all to pray this Lent, including in our daily prayers 5 people we know who do not believe, praying that the veil will be lifted so they experience ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ (v.6) Through our prayers and being ready to talk about what faith means for us we can help those who do not yet know the Lord come to experience the love of Jesus. We can be ready to talk about how we came to faith and talk about how Jesus is helping us now.

Jesus said: ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’ (John 14:23) When we ‘‘listen to him’’ we realise the Christian good news is all about receiving and sharing the love of Jesus, knowing that God is with us, giving us peace and helping us. Have you chosen to follow Jesus, committed your life to Jesus and asked Jesus to come into your heart and life? You can pray now and at Communion: 6The New English Hymnal, The Canterbury Press, Norwich, 1987, p. 461, hymn 465 chorus O Come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee……. 

The theme of my Care Home Services last week was love. We gave thanks for the people we love, people who love us and for God’s love shown to us in Jesus. On this St Valentine’s Day as we remember the Transfiguration let us receive afresh the love of Jesus and listen to ways that we can share his love with others. Let us ‘‘listen to him.’’ 

    We are pilgrims on the Christian journey and ask for the guidance of the Lord as we heard or sang in the first hymn: 7NEH hymn number 368Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land.’ Let us ‘listen to him’ and know the loving presence of Jesus being our ‘strength and shield’ as we pray: ‘Lead me all my journey through’. Amen