The distinction of λόγος- A Sermon by Arwen Folkes.

A Sermon preached by Arwen Folkes, Ordinand, on 18th May 2016. 

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‘No one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me’
~ Mk 9.38-40
May I speak in the name of….
When a business idea is born there almost always follows a process of strategic planning, writing a mission statement, and deciding who exactly it is for.  A brand or logo will then be designed to represent how the service or a product is to be understood by others.
Logos generally embody the values, definition, membership, appeal, and purpose of a concept. While some logos speak instantly others become significant as a service becomes more and more associated with it.
In particular, when it’s a logo for an activity, it often represents membership marking who belongs, and who doesn’t. It can become a badge of honour, a right to be earned or bought, and if particularly high-end the logo indicates a privilege.
In the first verse of this evenings Gospel it seems as though the ‘name of Jesus’ has come to inhabit the space of a logo; ‘We tried to stop them’ John says ‘because they were not following us’.
Stopped because they hadn’t earned the right to use the Jesus logo, because using the name of Jesus requires membership, earned rights, and followed tradition.
But, Jesus reclaims the right to decide who uses ‘his name’ and stops them in their tracks.
‘No, no, no’, he says, ‘my name is not a logo of membership … my name is the power of the λόγος of God’
Although linguistically similar, the term ‘λόγος’ is very different to the term ‘logo’. Where logo symbolizes an idea, logos is the idea; it includes the spark, the power, the movement, and the expression.
The second verse of tonight’s Gospel shows that Jesus himself believes his very name contains a power that transcends any mere linguistic representation. Within the very name of Jesus, there exists all that he says, does, breathes and becomes. The name is completely hallowed by his being and, he tells us, the one who uses it will find their purpose hallowed in return.
Such is the power of the name, such is the reach of the word, such is the λόγος of God … where humans use a logo to express the values of something, the λόγος frees humans to express the values of everything.
I wonder, therefore, how we facilitate the name of Jesus being known as logo or λόγος? The answer I think lies in being aware of the distinction.
A logo depends upon those who buy into it and creates exclusivity by placing parameters and definitions on who has the right to belong and use the brand. Indeed, legal structures exist to prosecute anyone deemed to have misrepresented the logo’s concept.
In contrast, the λόγος incorporates, builds, and integrates. It transforms, because it sees potential and nurtures it and it tries new things. As heard this evening it even works with those outside the tradition because it knows no bounds.
Where a logo says ‘yes’ but will frequently mean no, when the λόγος says yes, he really means it.
When we fully consider the name of Jesus Christ, I think we surely see that human boundaries are not the gospel message … because, the real message to be found is that the λόγος of God can gloriously and powerfully gift anyone who has experienced the call to use his name.
In the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen

What is the point?

A sermon preached by Rachel Revely, ordinand, on Tuesday 10 May 2016

 

Evening Prayer readings: Deuteronomy 31.14-29, 1 John 3.1-10

 
What… is… the… point? 
Now I am sure we have all thought that recently especially after midnight in the library. But that’s  also what I would be thinking if I were Moses in our first reading. What was the point? You spend nearly all your 120 years talking to non-flammable vegetation, risking sheep and limb dragging these people out of Egypt, wandering the desert for years, think of all the blisters, then what do you hear on your death bed after all your hard work “Soon you will lie down with your ancestors. Then this people will begin to prostitute themselves to the foreign Gods.”  … Excellent

I don’t know about all of you but I would be thinking what is the point? But not Moses. Although he is dying, and spoiler alert: his death takes all week.
 
Moses still cares about God, the people and his beliefs. Moses hears all the lord has to say and still witnesses to it. He preserves it as law and passes it down amongst all the tribes. Till the end Moses upholds the courage of his convictions. For me, Moses epitomises courage in the old testament, even though like many others he is a rather reluctant prophet but Moses is courageous and no matter the situation always witnesses to God.
 

Courage is crucial to our lives as Christians and in this Novena, we have been asked to pray especially today for the gift of courage. But what is courage some of us might say its the student who when faced with this  very question in an exam wrote: “this is” stood up and walked out.

Whilst others could say it is drinking the mystery ascension day cocktail in the bar. Courage comes in variety of forms. Courage is often something someone else has or needs, we can make it a facet of the other something distant and far away. We don’t need courage, why would we? Surely, we are safe! But that does not acknowledge that we are all given courage through the saving power of our God.
 
In our second reading John says that sin doesn’t have the power of fear over us because we know we God but this can appear like arrogance and starts to build up a dichotomy that if you sin you are not saved and if you are saved then you do not sin. However, we all know its not as simple as that. 
 
What I believe we see in our second reading is the courage of God that is imparted to us, through the cross. We do not and should not have courage in ourselves alone but have courage in ourselves through our saviour.  Jesus is the foundation of our faith. He is our stronghold in who we find courage and safety.
 
But in this week of prayer for evangelism and mission we cannot just rely on safety and ignore our God given courage. The nineteenth american theologian William Shedd once said “ships are safe in harbour but thats not what ships are for” and I think this analogy is true for us as well. We are not just supposed to sit in safety. Taking our gift of courage from God we could go out empowered by the gospel. This is part of God’s plan for us. We even hear it in our psalm for this evening “Send forth your strength O god and establish what you have wrought in us.” And what god has wrought in us is established through the power of his gospel. Moses died before he could cross the Jordan but he died as he lived being courageous and listening to God.  This is what we should all strive to do for the rest of our lives… 
 
Because fundamentally… that is the point.

Annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Written by Philip Murray, Ordinand. 
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And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Lk 1:38
On entering the Shrine Church at Walsingham, pilgrims come immediately to the Annunciation Altar. There, in bright white and Marian blue, that tremendous moment at the beginning of the Incarnation is depicted in still simplicity. The Angel Gabriel kneels in petition; the Blessed Virgin Mary sits in quiet humility; the Father looks on expectedly, surrounded by the heavenly host who wait in nervous excitement on her word. “Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum” pilgrims read on the Altar—the angel’s first voicing of those words uttered by countless Christians ever since. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”. And on reading these words, pilgrims can’t help but think of Mary’s reply: the proper prayer of all who, like her, seek to follow her Son: “be it unto me according to thy word”.

These words, of course, have a particular significance for those preparing to take Holy Orders in the Church. Mary’s unhesitating acceptance of God’s call on her life, her complete self-giving in service of God’s plan for his creation, is the ideal that guides all of us in formation for the diaconate and priesthood. It was appropriate, then, that the Annunciation Altar was where pilgrims from the House gathered at the beginning of our pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The pilgrimage was, in a sense, already well under way. We had made the not-very-long journey across the Fens, the many verses of the Walsingham Pilgrim Hymn sung with gusto on the bus (Ave! Ave! Ave Maria! still rings in our ears). We’d visited the Slipper Chapel at the Roman Catholic Shrine, and availed ourselves of the plenary indulgence offered to all pilgrims crossing through the Mercy Door during this year’s Jubilee of Mercy. We’d walked the Holy Mile to the Anglican Shrine, many of the braver members of the House barefooted. But it was at the Annunciation Altar, as S. Luke’s account of the Annunciation was read, that our spiritual pilgrimage got properly underway.

Walsingham is a microcosm of the Church, a place where a myriad of individual Christian vocations are woven together into something that supports and guides all those seeking to follow Christ: the Lady Richeldis de Faverches, asked by the Blessed Virgin Mary almost a millennium ago to build a replica of our Lord’s childhood home; Fr Alfred Hope Patten, called to rebuild the shrine in the 1920s and 30s after its destruction during the Reformation; the priests and deacons who have ministered at the shrine from that time since, singing the Mass and offering pilgrims the healing waters of the well. And so our pilgrimage to Walsingham gave us the opportunity to bask in this same spiritual atmosphere, as we sought to draw closer to God for guidance and support in our formation. In the Holy House we were reminded of the humility of Christ; at Mass we were shown once again of his generous, sacrificial giving; in Benediction we dwelt on his on-going presence in the world; at the waters of the well, we were shown the healing that only faith in Christ can bring. All of these are things that we, as men and women who—God willing—will one day be ordained, will be expected to model, as we serve as a reflection of Christ in the communities to which we’re sent.

Walsingham, then, is chiefly a place of vocation: the vocation of Mary, who’s unwavering Yes to God forms the very basis of our faith; the vocations of all Christians who’ve made pilgrimage to Walsingham, aided by the prayers and example of Mary, Mother and Model of Vocations as they seek to follow her Son. As we came away from the Shrine, we too were refreshed in our own vocations. Through a day of prayer, communion and frivolity, we were made more able to say, with Mary, “be it unto me according to thy word”.

And you know the way to the place where I am going. – A Sermon for St Phillip and St James

Sermon preached by Ayla Lepine, ordinand at Festal Eucharist for SS Philip and James
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‘And you know the way to the place where I am going.’
 
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our reading from John’s gospel this morning begins with something that that seems pleasant. Be comforted. Relax. Everything is fine. Is it? It’s perplexing that each time it appears in scripture it seems to be a signal to do exactly the opposite of what these words from God’s mouth are telling us to do. Jesus says, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’ That ‘fear not’ language that so regularly punctuates the Old and the New Testament is, certainly, a compassionate gesture towards the promise of calm, safety, and salvation. It also appears, again and again, where it is evident that the hearers are terrified, anxious, and urgently and blindly searching for any answers that will provide layers of insulation against a truth that is hard to hear, or that might be beyond what these listeners think that they can stand.
If you find you are deeply anxious about something – or perhaps a long list of things – one of the least helpful responses to receive is ‘don’t worry about it’. Not because it wouldn’t be good to be freed from anxiety, but because this may strike us as an impossible thing to do. Worse, that reaction might come across as a diminishment of the turmoil we’re experiencing. Often, behind that unhelpful ‘don’t worry about it’, is something far better – the assertion that you and your anxieties are cared for, that you count, that your confidante believes have ample strength, through faith and through hope, to keep going. Sometimes anxiety can be so paralysing that it simply stops us from being able to listen at all.
Jesus tells his friends that they are welcome guests in their Father’s house, and Jesus puts this across with logic, with care, with the promise that he and his disciples will ultimately not be parted. ‘I will take you to myself’ is a truly intimate phrase. I will not let you go. I will hold you close. A place for you, where you count and where you are free from the trouble that cloaks you so thickly you are unable to see, to hear, even to breathe…..a place for you is waiting. Prepared. So trust, Jesus says. Please, trust. ‘You know the way to the place where I am going’, Jesus concludes. We are moving towards the Passion narratives in this chapter – Jesus and his disciples have been traveling together a while, knowing one another better, learning all they can from the Son of God they follow as their Lord, as we do, faltering sometimes, trying to listen, trying to put one foot in front of the other, as we continue – tragically – to let our hearts be troubled.
How do the disciples react to Jesus’ assurance that they know the way to their Father’s house, because, indeed, by following Christ, they are already stepping within its threshold. Thomas contradicts Jesus: ‘we do not know the way.’ Jesus explains – you do know the way, I am the way, you have seen the Father. Philip ignores Jesus: ‘Lord, show us the Father’, and what’s more, Philip, as we so often are because we’re so wrapped up in ourselves and so unwilling to accept the utter love God has already shown us…Philip says the disciples won’t be satisfied until they’ve seen the Father. Jesus gets annoyed. ‘you still don’t know? Still don’t see? Still won’t believe?’

Today the Church celebrates saints Philip and James. They followed, they accepted God’s call. They faltered, they misunderstood, they struggled to see how and why God loved them so much. May we, like Philip, James, and Christ’s apostles, follow our Lord, who has prepared a place for each of us, if we would only turn, if we would only trust that we know the way. Amen.