Sermon: We can talk to God

St Mary’s Whitby 28 September 2014

Exodus 17:1-7, Phil 2:1-13, Matt 21:23-32

There is a theme in our readings that links the story of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness with the Pharisees questioning Jesus over where he gets his authority.

The Israelites are grumbling that there is no water. They tend to get a bit of a bad rap when so many of the accounts of the wilderness days are about how they are never happy, but let’s put ourselves into their shoes for a minute. They had been led out of Egypt, putting all their trust in an elderly shepherd who had turned up out of nowhere, speaking their language. They had been led through the sea, and they had seen Moses part that sea by raising his staff. So on the one hand they knew that their leader was someone special, who could do the miraculous things, or rather, a channel through whom God could deliver them. Continue reading

Sitting in the back row…

I went to the Ordination service in Wellington Cathedral today. Last year I was ordained Deacon, and it was a real highlight of my life. Today, it was with mixed feelings that I went, because the original plan was that I would be ordained a priest today, with the group who were ordained with me last year.

It was a wonderful service though, and we prayed for the ordinands, and wished them well.

The Permanent Deacons sat behind the choir, which was a mixed blessing – having been a member of the cathedral choir some 23 years ago it was  delight to hear them again, up-close and personal, and I had to stop myself joining in the sublime singing of the Sanctus. But the difficult bit was when the priests all went forward to lay their hands on the bishop as he ordained the new priests. The Deacons were not part of that.

Isn’t it the same Holy Spirit? Weren’t we ordained by the laying on of hands of the bishop? Having been a Pentecostal for some years, we all took part in stretching out our hands for someone who was being prayed for, and there a was real sense of being part of the Holy Spirit’s work. Today felt anachronistic, as if the practice was out-of-step with modern theology.

There is a lot of talk around the place about how the division between Deacons and priests shouldn’t be hierarchical, but in a service like this one, with processions starting with Deacons and ending with Bishops, there is certainly is a sense of hierarchy.

Quite a few of my colleagues asked me if I was going to be priested next year, and were surprised that I was not included in this year’s group. I explained that, no, I am now a Permanent Deacon, and it’s a wonderful thing to be! And I truly believe that Deacons have a very necessary role in the church, and in its community-facing work. I am glad to be part of that. But so many of our clergy and parishioners don’t yet have a sense of what the Diaconate can be, that it’s just regarded as a sort of ‘half-measure’, not quite ‘up to’ the priesting level.

Until these perceptions are challenged we will always be relegated to the back row, both literally and metaphorically.

Luke 10:1-4  Later the Lord chose seventy-two other followers and sent them out two by two to every town and village where he was about to go.
 He said to them: A large crop is in the fields, but there are only a few workers. Ask the Lord in charge of the harvest to send out workers to bring it in.
Now go, but remember, I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves.
Don’t take along a moneybag or a traveling bag or sandals. And don’t waste time greeting people on the road.

Bishop Justin preached on this text – I will add the link tomorrow.

Being Family

Bishop’s Charge to Wellington Synod 2012

Have a look at this link – our new Bishop Justin Duckworth speaks of his vision for the church, and the challenges facing all of us at this time. There is a lot of food for thought here, and +Justin is facing the future with a  full awareness that things have to change. His title is Being Family – as the family of God we have to pull together, but just as in any real family there are people who are harder to get on with, so it is in the church family-  somehow our DNA binds us together  We have each others’ backs.