Saturday, May 26, 2012

Recognising the Angels.

Sermon preached at St Augustine's Church Canterbury on the occasion of their Patronal Festival 26th May 2012 based on I Thessalonians ii.8
Ebbsfleet station is not a place that one would normally associate with Saints. It sits in a rather remote area amid the urban sprawl of North West Kent, boasting a 17 minute trip to London and a 37 minute trip to Canterbury West. Buses shuttle the traveller into Gravesend or to Bluewater shopping centre. It all looks very modern, very stylish, very clean… and very soulless. It’s not the sort of place where you could imagine a rather nervous, saintly monk and equally twitchy entourage getting off the High Speed Rail Link from Paris onto the wind-swept, grey platform clutching a papal mandate to evangelise the Angels of the British Isles. Indeed, is there anything angelic about Ebbsfleet?


Of course, St Augustine’s Ebbsfleet is nearer Ramsgate than it is London, though history might be very different if he had been able to use the Eurostar. It would also have been very different if there had been the wrong kind of leaf on the line. The mission to the Angels of Angleland would be stranded at Paris Gare de Nord.

Yet, strictly speaking, it is St Augustine who becomes the Angel, after all, the Greek word Angellos means “Messenger” and what a message Augustine brings. This is a great irony about Augustine’s mission: he is an Angel to the Anglish Angels! There are more angles here than a icosidodecagon!
Of course, the area we now know as England was already Christian long before St Gregory saw the Angelic Angles in Rome. There were English Bishops at the Council of Arles nearly 200 years before Augustine and the famous heretic Pelagius was a priest here on these shores. It is the constant raiding and looting by the pagan Vikings and Arian Germans throughout the Roman Empire that have rather put paid to the integrity of Christianity in this country by the sixth century.  Christians have to live in isolated pockets in the West of the country or move to Wales or to Ireland.

Imagine that! Being part of a Church so ravaged by secular and pagan cultures that you’re reduced to worshipping in disparate parishes all around the country!


It does sound familiar doesn’t it?  Our Orthodox English Christianity that has existed from the beginning and which Augustine’s ministry re-invigorated, is now back to where it was, reduced to pockets here and there.

But let’s just hold on here! Is this really where we see ourselves fitting in? Do we really regard ourselves as the remnants of English Orthodoxy and thus sit back and wait for a new Augustine to arrive and reinvigorate us?

It’s tempting to think that way and to make parallels which don’t quite fit. Let’s just review things here. While we are growing, our size does make it difficult to thrive, this is true. However, this really does not mean to say we’re on our last legs unlike the ravaged Christianity of the 6th Century. What we do have is a robust structure already in place; we are just as established as the Church that Pope Gregory intended to found through St Augustine. The evidence for this exists in that we have an Archbishop who visits us and encourages us, that we have brethren all over the world in growing numbers and that we have members here who do commit themselves deeply to the Gospel.

It is clear that we shouldn’t see ourselves as needing the ministry of a new St Augustine: we are already called to emulate our Holy Founder in whose name this parish is dedicated for the greater glory of God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is we who are called to minister to the spiritual needs of this country.  So what do we do? How do we express this calling? With St Paul, we have to be desirous of not only trying to impart our Gospel but our very selves to those to whom God has called us as ministers.

What was St Augustine called to do but to bring the good news to Pope Gregory’s Angels? In those Anglish slaves in the Roman market place, Pope Gregory recognises the Angels who need to hear the word of God. Likewise, there are Anglish angels in our midst who are slaves to the tyranny of this world and its secular values. There are folk around us who want to be free from servitude to a global and spiritual power which is determined to take away their humanity and replace it with some material worth through the lure of material things. We have to be honest, we are affected ourselves by this erosion of our faith by the secular. It is only because we meet together and are committed to Christ and to our Diocese that we are able to fend off the secular. We might be as fragile as St Augustine and his little band who stand on these shores with us albeit separated by the centuries, but all things are fragile compared with the might and the love of the God whom we preach.
The trouble is that very often we tend not to recognise people of Britain as being particularly angelic.  Can we honestly say  we know what Angels really look like? We might be forgiven for the confusion, after all, we only ever attribute the angelic look with some particular style of Gothic and Renaissance Art. Think of all those paintings of winged beings with classically beautiful features, long golden hair, large, liquid, languid eyes, wings that look beautiful but wouldn’t hold up an emaciated budgie and lustrous full lips which are usually employed in the playing of cornett, shawm or slide trumpet. Now think of the folk huddled on the windswept platform at Ebbsfleet, or the empty-eyed shoppers in the supermarket, or those aimless individuals pouring out of the pubs and clubs. Where are Pope Gregory’s angels for us to give the good news?


The fact is, Biblically speaking, angels are not readily recognised except through the eyes of faith. Even then, as in the case of St Raphael and his dealings with Tobias and Tobit, it is only when they reveal themselves or God reveals them to us. It is our job to maintain our prayers to God in our own personal life, not just in our corporate worship, for eyes to see Gregory’s Angels around us and for ears to hear the voice of their calling. It is our job to meet with Our Lord and to listen for His mandate which will bring us near those desperate to hear the Good News. They won’t necessarily hear it by what we say, but rather by what we do. The closer we are to God, the more he will reveal us to be the Angels for those who need the Love of God in their lives.

So who are the angels really? Is it those to whom we have been sent? Or is it we ourselves? Do you know?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Congratulations to a new Bishop

It is with much happiness that I've learned of an old friend's consecration as Bishop. The gentleman I first met on the old Anglo-Catholic Central message board as Fr Jerome Lloyd was consecrated Bishop in the Old Roman Catholic Church, Latin Rite in Canada yesterday. Bishop Lloyd has been a much welcome presence as a representative of Old Catholic views on the Anglican Diaspora and was very much a help during my sojourn in the wilderness of the CofE.

Please join me in praying for his work.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Gifts that will change your life.

My first sermon within the Anglican Catholic Church. It's been a long time since I have posted something under "Sermons" rather than "Homilies". I look forward to publishing more.

Text: St John xvi.5-15
Is there something special that you’d like for your next birthday? Is it something particular that you’ve been dropping hints to your family that you might like? A nice chocolate cake? A new mobile phone? A DVD of All Gas and Gaiters? No? Perhaps you’d looking for a new car, a 48” plasma television, a mansion in the Dales, or perhaps, perhaps you’d like a little peace and quiet… on a luxury cruise to the Algarve? Your family are more likely to be thinking along the lines of the first set of presents, aren’t they?

Suppose, however,  on your next birthday, there’s a knock at the door. It’s Geraldine the post lady and she’s got a package for you. After thanking her, you take your parcel into your house and read the label. “Happy Birthday,” it says, “This gift is going to change your life!”
This gift is going to change your life. How do you feel about that? You might think, “How on earth did they manage to pack my mansion in the Dales into that box?” Would you be a little afraid though? This gift is going to change your life. What might it be?
Surely, your main concern is going to be just how this gift is going to change your life. It’s okay if it changes it by making life a bit easier – a vacuum cleaner that sucks up the dirt rather than blow it all over the carpet – but what if it’s a gift that is going to play around with your very personality. What if it’s a gift that is going to change who you are? Does it worry you that you might not be the same person that you are now just by opening this present?

If you think way back to Septugesima Sunday, the third Sunday before Lent, we read the first chapters of Genesis and in them we read of the Creation of the world by God.  In all of these, we focus on what the Lord God does for us and the gifts that he gives us. In the beginning, we are given the gifts of existence, form, personality, reason and emotion and all the other aspects that make us who we really are. Everything comes from God the Father who forms the Source of all things. God looks at all He has created and it is very good. You cannot get a more life-changing gift than the gift of Life itself!

In little over three months, we have celebrated together two of the great festivals in the Church’s year. The celebration of the Lord’s Birth and the Holy Triduum of Easter. On both feasts we reflect on the gifts that God gives us. We are always encouraged to see this as God the Son giving us His gift.  And what is this gift? Nothing less than His very self. His life, death and resurrection have given us the gifts of health and salvation to return us to the fullness of the life that we lose because of our wrong  and sinful choices. Again, this is a profoundly life-changing gift. This gift of Christ’s new life is what we Christians call Grace.

Now, after His Resurrection, Our Lord Jesus is pointing us to a new gift from Heaven, another gift that will profoundly alter who we are. How will this gift change our lives?


“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”
Would you open a gift if it was going to reprove you of sin, righteousness and judgment?
Well, of course you would! You’re here in Church which means you are well aware of the worth of being shown sin and righteousness and judgement. We are in no different a situation from that of the disciples who, although they may not fully understand what’s going on, still want to open a gift that is going to make them aware of their sin, of the righteousness of Our Lord Jesus and their judgment at His hands.
The same is true for us. We are here to worship our God for the gifts He has given us. All things come from Him and of His own do we give Him. The Holy Ghost gives us the gift of sight, the ability to see God’s gifts for ourselves in our lives.
He convinces us of our sin. This is painful but, in recognising our sin, we become aware of our need for God. He convinces us of Our Lord’s righteousness, that His death and resurrection are absolutely adequate for removing that Sin. Finally the Holy Ghost convinces us of the return of Our Lord Jesus as our Judge, the One who will know how to stamp out injustice completely and rectify every evil committed.
However, the gift still needs to be received. In the midst of our busy lives and with all the cares of the world that are forced upon our attention, it is important that we continue to turn back to this gift anew. With Whitsun around the corner, we have to make the decision again this year. Do we really want our lives changed? Do we really want to be aware of how we stand with God? Do we really want to receive this gift that the Lord Jesus will send us after He ascends into Heaven? Well, do we?