Sunday, May 31, 2015

Collect for Trinity Sunday

Prayer book and Breviary

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of thy Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

Words are often taken for granted. There are times when we send an email to someone in all innocence only to find out that it's been the cause of some offence: there has been more than one meaning and the other meaning is not intentional. Yet often we want words to mean precisely what we expect them to mean. This is not always possible.

We confess the True Faith, namely our belief in a supremely real God in perfect Trinity and perfect Unity. Three persons, One God. Each person is fully God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God. We struggle with this because we think we know what a person is. Do we really know what we mean by a person? What if it is not a human person?

Our collect reminds us that we do not pray to understand what is incomprehensible, but to do what we can by acknowledging the glory of the Trinity, the impact that God has in creation and in our lives. We acknowledge our relationship with each person of the Trinity and pray for the power to worship the One God properly. That power can only come from a Divine source.

It is only through drawing from that Divine power that we do not wander off and find ourselves separated from the Great Mystery of God.

Believing how many beans make five (or three)

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Trinity Sunday 2015

It's a nightmare for the trainee teacher. You enter the classroom for the first time. You see in front of you sixty little eyes gazing at you, sizing you up and wondering what you're going to say. Then you realise you're going to have to teach them something. What do you do?

How about the twelve times table? That's fine if they know how it goes. If they understand the process of adding twelve each time, then it's not too difficult. If they know their six times table then they could double that. No matter what, a trainee teacher needs to learn that you must always start from what the children know.

So where should the Christian begin when discussing the Trinity?


We must start from what we know. We know that there is a God and there can only be one God because there can only be one Creator. We know, from His own lips, that God is a Father, that God is a Son and that God is a Holy Ghost. We know that each of these three is different from the others. We know that each is God in full.

And yet there is only one God. So one equals three. And bang goes your maths homework!

Try as we might, we simply cannot get our heads around this. Does that trouble you? Does that cause you to question your faith?


For some people, the doctrine of the Trinity is too difficult to believe. It goes against what we know to be true. We know that one apple is not the same as three apples. Either our numbering system is wrong, or the Trinity is wrong.

That sounds like that's it. Christianity's all wrong. Let's pack all this up and have a game of Snakes and Ladders instead.

However, before we do, we need to think. We're presented with either our numbering being wrong, or the doctrine of the Trinity being wrong. Can't there be another possibility? Our numbering system must apply to apples. Must our numbering system apply to God?


This is crucial. God is the Creator. He creates everything including apples and numbers. He is absolutely unique because He is not part of the Universe. If our numbering system applies to Him then it only does so at the most basic level. It doesn't touch Who He is.

It is impossible for what has been created to understand the Creator fully. If we did understand the Trinity, then God simply could not be God: He would be just something else in the Universe. Believing is not the same thing as understanding. We might be able to understand all kinds of earthly things like Economics, Mathematics and Quantum mechanics, perhaps even perfectly, but we cannot understand things Heavenly without God revealing Himself to us. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is comforting because it reminds us that God isn't Who we want Him to be, but rather beyond all knowledge.

And yet we shall indeed see Him as He really is, not through understanding, but through believing in Him.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Collect for Whitsunday 2015

Prayer book and breviary

GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Why teach the hearts of faithful people, why not the minds? One might think that this is a bit of a relic of Greek physiology where the heart is the seat of emotion and the brain an unknown organ which was thought to be primarily for cooling - an oversized sweat gland.Yet this collect still refers to the teaching of the heart and not the mind.

The trouble is that human physiology is very fragile. The mind can be ravaged by illnesses just as much as the body can. Perceptions can be warped, things misunderstood, forgotten, unaccessible to reason. Likewise the body itself can be wracked with many diseases. However, while the heart still pumps,the body still lives.

The heart is the centre of one's being. It is there that God teaches us, no matter what of health we're in so that it cannot decay away from us, or make us lose that righteousness from which we must make our judgement. This is God's holy comfort. In Him, we are equipped with the light of His love and in Him we receive an inseparable dignity.

Flammable Christianity?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Whitsunday 2015

Abba Lot says to Abba Joseph: “Father … I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation, and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart … what more should I do?” The elder stretches up his hands to heaven and his fingers become fire. He says, “Why not become all flame?”

Would you like to become all flame?


The early Christians often say things that can baffle us rather and Abba Lot and Abba Joseph are typical of the first Christian hermits who go out into the desert in order to hear God better. Notice that, despite spending all that time in prayer, they still need to ask each other about how to live the Christian life.

The disciples too spend much of their time with Our Lord Jesus a bit confused. They listen and think and do as they are told. In His Name they cast out demons and heal the sick and preach the good news of God’s love, yet still they scatter when He is crucified and disbelieve when He rises from the dead.

These are the people whom He has taught, but teaching doesn’t seem enough.
These are the people to whom He has shown miracles, but showing them miracles doesn’t help them to hold faith.
These are the people to whom He has shown His risen self, but rising from the dead doesn’t convince them.
They need something else. Some One else.

This is why Human beings needed today. We have needed to see God walk with us and to be one of us and to bring us back to God through His death on the Cross. However, human beings are limited in time and space and Our Lord is no exception. We clearly need Him to be with us always and to know that He is with us always. This is why God sends us the Holy Ghost.


Abba Joseph shows Abba Lot that simply doing our own thing is not enough. There is no way that we can earn our way to Heaven. There is nothing that we can do that can bring us close to God. It is God that makes Himself close to us so that we can reach out for Him. Abba Joseph knows that in order to live a life that leads to God, we need to call upon God the Holy Ghost.

Abba Joseph burns with the same fire that lights upon the head of each of the disciples. It is a fire that burns, but does not burn away. This is the same fire that burns in the bush and brings Moses to God.

Our Lord calls us to be the light of the world, but it is not our light that shines. It is His and His alone. It may not be our light, but we can choose to shine with it. This means living our life according to Christian principles and by careful prayer. However, we must also pray to God daily, and pray hard, that He would show us how we can allow His light to shine through us into the world and give hope to those who need it.


If we want to, we can indeed become all flame!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Devotion from Benediction: May 2015

My friends, we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament remembering that we are to see not with our eyes of flesh,but with our eyes of faith.

We kneel before Christ in a mystery, not before a created thing, but One Who is truly present, really Present, more present than even anyone of us can be even to ourselves.

We kneel before the ascended Christ Who keeps His promise that He will be with us until the end of the Age and Who gives us Himself in the Sacrament to honour that promise.

We kneel before Christ whose ascension pulls our little humanity up into the heights of heaven yet still shrouded by a sacred veil.

As Our Lord willingly presents Himself to us, so we present ourselves to Him bringing our concerns and our joys, remembering those who need our prayers and those who have passed behind the veil.

Therefore we before him bending...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Collects for the Sunday in the Octave of the Ascension

Prayer book
O GOD the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.


Almighty, everlasting God, grant that we may always devote our wills to thy service, and wait upon thy Majesty with singleness of heart. Through

The Prayer Book addresses our feeling of loss and confusion after the departure of Our Lord. The Breviary tries to be stoic with its "Keep calm and carry on" attitude. Many of us feel the same way.

When we learn to ride a bike, we do so with the comfort of stabilisers which prevent us from falling over. Then our parent takes away our stabilisers to encourage us to learn to keep our balance and ride our bike properly. That moment when the stabilisers are off is a worry, yet if we are to continue riding, we must keep calm and carry on, despite the worry and anxiety we have in our hearts.

With the breviary, we pray that we may keep our focus on serving God as we try and do what's right without seeing Him stand there and looking for His approval. With the Prayer Book, we lift up that anxiety of living without seeing Christ and asking for that different type of support which will enable us precisely to serve Him and thus keep riding on that same path. We will not have stabilisers, but we will have the knowledge that there is Someone there continually guiding us and drawing us forward. That knowledge and comfort will be strengthened by praying these collects more sincerely.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ascension, the end of the humdrum

It's amazing how easily bored we can get. There is an interesting trend that, as soon as boredom sets in, our heads sink into chests, either to nod off, or to consult the delights of the all-knowing, all-entertaining mobile phone.

Interestingly, we get bored with pretty much everything. Animals get bored too. There are some very sad videos of horses pacing around their stables desperate to leave the shackles of their stable and to get into the paddock for a run around and explore. For animals, there is usually an alternative to being bored, some activity which will result in stimulation and thus some form of happiness. Animals' boredom usually results from a restriction imposed upon them (usually by human beings) which, when removed, allows that animal to be what it is.

Pain, hunger, thirst and fear have very clear causes and very clear methods of alleviation. To alleviate the boredom of the horse, you just need to open the stable door. To alleviate our boredom, we need to find the cause. Yet, does boredom have a cause? What sort of stimulation do we need?

As soon as a task becomes repetitive or samey, we lose interest and boredom sets in. Yet it doesn't feel as urgent as pain or fear. It's almost as if the very task of existing is repetitive or samey. The fact that humans can indeed suffer from ennui and weltschmerz points to our unease of just simply being. They are both recognized sensations. We know that weltschmerz is, by definition, a dissatisfaction with the world as it appears. Some people avoid it, finding everything in life to amuse them and give life meaning, yet still, we all seem to suffer some form of boredom. As the horse transcends her stable, do we transcend our own environment? Do we transcend the very world in which we live?

Christians believe so, and the Ascension of Our Lord points to that most definitely.

In descending to us, Our Lord empties Himself of that which would set Him apart from humanity. He becomes limited in ability, in power, in endurance, in duration and in space. Was he ever bored? Given that He wrote in the sand while the Powers-that-be sought to condemn a woman taken in adultery and in doing so seek to discredit His ministry, one might conclude that Our Lord was indeed bored with the interminable legal gnat-straining of those who believed themselves to be the arbiters of knowledge, truth and righteousness. We can only speculate with Our Lord. If He ever was bored, He never showed it and perhaps He was able to work against it.

How? By prayer? That would seem reasonable. If you seek an end to your boredom, you seek to transcend the situation that you're in. Prayer might not cure the boredom, but it might keep it in perspective by giving yourself more fully to the One Who is completely transcendent and, precisely because He is transcendent, is completely immanent.

In ascending, Our Lord is re-clothed with everything that he stripped off in order to be with us. He ascends in His Humanity showing that humanity is not destroyed by ascending. In Our Lord Jesus it is not only possible but it is a fact that Humanity and Divinity can be indivisibly entwined. In ascending Our Lord steps off of the page of the drawing that He drew in order to be present with it without limitation.

In ascending, He offers us the chance too to cease being drawings on the page, but to gain substance, depth, to become more solid and to step off the page in Him. In being with God we find ourselves given a place in His Being, in His substance that can only come from Ascension.  This is not just a time of farewell to One Whose love for us gave us redemption, but a demonstration of the Christian's true fate - a gaol-break out from the stable and into Reality itself! And we'll never be bored again!

Collect for Ascension Day

Prayer book and Breviary
GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Ascension of Our Lord is very revealing. Until we see the Lord ascend, there is no reason to suppose that He has descended. In rising again from the dead, He shows that it is possible for human beings to rise from the dead, and therefore, if he promises that we will rise again from the dead He has given us some physical handle to back up that promise.

But he ascends into Heaven. He shows that it is possible for a human being to ascend into Heaven and that gives a physical handle to back up the promise that we will see Him again in Heaven, or at least in an existence that transcends but does not obliterate our present existence. It also gives us a physical handle into the truth of His promise that He is God Himself, the Son of God, the Word Incarnate. We see proof that He is precisely Who He has always claimed to be. If He ascends, then He must have descended first. What comes down must go up!

In ascending, Our Lord pulls humanity up with Him, pulling its fabric up into the Godhead like a carpet. If our hearts and minds are with Him, then they will be lifted with Him into the Heavens. That is the promise that He gives us, and the promise that we seek in seeking God in Christ.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Recognising Habits

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Fifth Sunday after Easter

Schoolboys have some disgusting habits which are not going to be divulged at length. Shirts untucked, misplaced apostrophes, two plus two is five, et c. You can probably think of many of your own. Pity the poor teachers who have to try and break those habits so that schoolboys can grow to be part of society.

Why are habits so hard to break?


Habits are so called because they become part of how we live our lives. They are the things we do every day that we don’t even think about. Once upon a time, it was a struggle to tie our shoelaces or catch a train because we weren’t used to it. Now, it’s second nature to us. When we are little, everything seems difficult, yet with lots of times to practice, we don’t even think about what we do. That’s where our habits come in; they are things that we do on auto-pilot. We don’t think about them, and because we don’t think about them, it becomes very difficult to break them.

Have you noticed, though, how much you can recognise someone by their habits?


Think of it. You notice a plate in the washing up bowl with tomato ketchup residue, and you know that your husband put it there because a) he loves tomato ketchup and b) he never does the washing up. You can tell who is at home without actually seeing them because you know how people in your house move around. That familiarity is comforting and forms part of each person’s identity, whether they are good habits or bad. Indeed, we often miss someone the most when we don’t see those little habits.

For us Christians, the whole business of repentance is the forming of new Christian habits to replace old sinful habits. St James tells us, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”

Unless we practice what we hear and what we preach, we never really become the people that God wants us to be. If we live in the bad habits of sin, then we will never really see the person that God created us to be. We simply won’t be recognisable as Christians.

Our Lord says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”


We have to make living our faith a good habit. We should pray daily ideally in the morning and in the evening. We should seek to love people as best as we can and to ensure that we make it a good habit to think of others’ well-being. Our faith must be visible for it to be recognisable because, if it is recognisable from what we do on the outside, our hearts must be in the right place on the inside.

This clearly matters to God who showed us His true self, and asks us to show Him our true selves willingly. Of course, He already know our true selves. That is not the point.

He wants us to show Him from our own desire for Him. God wants to know us through those habits which show that we want to know Him. And we get to know God by His habits. And they are very good habits indeed!

Collect for the fifth Sunday after Easter

Prayer book

O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

This is the last collect before the Ascension and we recall that, before ascending to the Father, Our Lord breathes the Holy Ghost upon His disciples. For them, this is His holy inspiration and from this holy inspiration comes the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church: One Breath, One Church.

In this act of outpouring the Holy Ghost, prefiguring the day of Pentecost, our fallen wills are given guidance. We no longer have to do bad things, for we are able to choose the way of the Holy Ghost which presents us with the ways that are good and the ways that are bad. The Church has full possession of these ways, even though there are times when her members fall away from them.

Indeed, the fact that the Church now possesses knowledge of good and evil through the gift of God means that it is her members that can be truly shown up for being sinful. Her very existence exposes Christians for being the hypocrites that they are, but to their good and thus the good of the whole world. The true Christian needs to repent actively, and the Inspired Church possesses the ability and authority to help that repentance happen. This ability and authority can only be used if the ministers of God follow that same programme of active repentance and keep to the pattern that Our Lord set for us. In praying this collect, we pray ourselves to be true to the gospel we have received and submit ourselves to the authority of Christ.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Collect for the fourth Sunday after Easter

Prayer book

O ALMIGHTY God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

St Peter reminds us to forget our fleshly lusts in preference of that which lies above. We are fallen and our ability to choose the good in life is completely impaired while we do not know what good is. We are unable to choose good without knowing that God is good and that He created us of His goodness. Our fall from grace means that we are blinded, and our eyes only opened by the grace given to us by God in baptism which rids us of our inherited separation from God.

The beauty is that the sacrament of Baptism transcends the ages and does not change because God has not changed and neither has human nature. We still sin in the same way as Adam and Eve, yet we are saved in the same way through the second Adam, namely Our Lord Jesus Christ. The world changes around us, and we are caught up in its currents and torrents. We find ourselves confused and battered by tides and tempests.

However, God is our Rock and we cling to Him by faith and cooperating with His grace, going where He goes and staying where He stays despite the raging of the times. God gives us the opportunity to be limpets and barnacles upon His being so that we may indeed endure to the end and be saved.

Spoiling the Wrath

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the fourth Sunday after Easter

Let’s face it, we Christians are just not supposed to get angry are we?

If we start to look just that little bit cross that things aren’t going our way, we hear people say “you’ve got to turn the other cheek”, “love thine enemies” and other such things, especially from people who aren’t Christian and expect us Christians to conform to a given stereotype of being all meek and mild and gentle and complete push-overs. Yet, each of us gets angry, does that mean that we are necessarily in sin, after all Anger is one of the seven Deadly Sins, is it not?


Well, actually, no it isn’t. Anger is not a deadly sin. People think that it is, but in fact when Christians reflect upon what is truly sinful it isn’t anger that’s the sin, it’s an uncontrolled anger – an anger that boils over into violence and hatred. It’s an anger that spills into the desire for destruction and complete obliteration. This type of anger is called often called wrath.

Perhaps you will have heard a teacher speak of breathing the wrath of God into a naughty schoolboy. It’s true that there is something called “the wrath of God”. Why is it that God gets wrath and we don’t?

That’s easy to answer: God is God and we are not God. God’s wrath is a very simple hatred for all evil and it’s perfectly reasonable for us to hate evil. There are lots of passages in Holy Scripture in which God is described in terms of a soldier waging war upon his enemies. The Psalmist says, “Stand up, O Lord, in thy wrath, and lift up thyself, because of the indignation of mine enemies: arise up for me in the judgement that thou hast commanded.” It seems that the wrath of God is exactly what we Christians want!


Let us be clear. Only God can control His anger. Since Evil is precisely a lack of any good at all, God can overcome Evil just by putting Good in its place. Human beings can’t actually do that. We are created by God and therefore it is good for us to exist – in our very selves we are good because we are created by God – but we are not able to work out what is truly evil and how it is truly evil. For God, wrath brings about more Good. For us human beings, well, you only have to look at the violence in the world around us to see that our wrath does not bring about Good.


That does not prevent us from being angry though. Our Lord shows His anger when He casts the money-changers out of the temple. Also, St Mark tells us:

“[Jesus] entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.”

Notice how Jesus controls his anger and uses it to allow His Father to do Good. This is how we repent of the sin of wrath, how we turn back to God. We step back and look for what the problem really is and then work out what good we can put in its place. Often, all we need to say is “get thee behind me Satan” to rid us of the temptation to hate and destroy. We must not allow our anger to overcome us, but control it remembering that we must in all things do the will of God.


It is not a sin to be angry, but is it a sin not to be angry? What do you think? This is a question for another time, perhaps.