Rector’s Sponsored Walk

As part of the Archbishops call to prayer between Ascension and Pentecost known as Thy Kingdom Come we have over the past years undertaken a number of initiatives such as Prayer Walks in each of the parishes and Prayer walking over a number of days between all 15 churches. We will, of course, be fully participating in this year’s call to prayer in a number of new ways and Jo talks about it in this article – Thy Kingdom Come by Jo Neary.

I will also be undertaking a day of prayer and reflection whilst walking around our 15 churches this approximately 28 – 30 miles dependant on how lost I get along the way. I will be doing this as a sponsored event as I wish to create a Mission Fund for Jo and parishes to call upon as we continue to grow God’s Kingdom. Four years ago the Team Council agreed to a fund being set up but more than half of our parishes were reluctant to help fund it. This will take place on Thursday 17th May so please watch out for more information over the coming weeks and if you feel able please sponsor my attempt either by completing the sponsorship forms which are in of our churches or through the Pay Pal account which can be accessed below.

If you would like to donate to my sponsored walk please click the button below. This will take you securely to PayPal where you can make a donation via PayPal itself, or with a card if you do not have an account. This is a totally safe and secure process.

 



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Thank you in advance for your kind donation.

Easter Day Sunrise Service 2018 Sermon by Rev David

There is an account in the New Testament of St Peter’s instruction on the Christian faith to a man called Cornelius and his household (Acts 10). Who was Cornelius? He was a Roman soldier stationed in Caesarea. He was in charge of about one hundred men in the army of occupation. We are told he was a devout and God fearing man who gave generously to Jewish causes, so he was obviously a friend of the local Jewish community, we are told that he prayed constantly to God. He was not a Christian at that point, but was clearly looking for something, a man whose religious instinct had been awakened, no longer just dormant. But he had never heard of Jesus, or at least only indirectly.

However, he received a special message from God and was told to seek out Peter. Peter was not all that keen on seeing Cornelius simply because he was not a Jew, but then he too received a special message and was told to receive Cornelius. So they met. Peter instructed Cornelius in the Christian faith and eventually the Roman and his family all became Christians, followers of Christ. Peter had to explain that Jesus had been killed ‘by hanging him on a tree’, yet – and here was the important and difficult part -‘ three days later, God raised him to life’.

I wonder what went through Cornelius’ head at that moment. Was he unconvinced? Sceptical? Why, people don’t die and then come back to life, certainly not in an advanced and sophisticated society such as that of the Roman Empire at that time. But Peter went on: yes God raise Jesus to life, and what is more – Peter hammered the point home – god allowed him to be seen, not by everybody but by certain witnesses chosen beforehand. It strikes me that Peter was being a little modest in his claim about the number of people who saw Jesus risen and alive. St Paul, writing to the Corinthians said that on one occasion the risen Christ was seen by 500 people at the same time, and added: ‘If you doubt it, you can verify the fact because most of those who saw Christ on that occasion are still alive.’ St Paul was writing very early on and knew what he was saying.

But to return to Cornelius, Peter is at pains to point out, ‘now we are witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.’ He could have gone further – perhaps he did – and told Cornelius about the empty tomb, how he had run there with St John. John could not refrain from saying he got there first! They both ran and saw the empty tomb. Moreover, they saw the linen cloth which had been wrapped around the dead body of Jesus, and they saw that the cloth which had covered his face was in a different place.

They had not expected to find the tomb empty. They had failed to understand the teaching of the scripture that ‘Christ must rise from the dead’. St John is at pains to point that out. He and Peter had gone to the burial site only because Mary of Magdala had rushed to tell them what she had seen – an empty tomb.

Where was the body? Who had stolen it? I can see these questions playing in Cornelius’ mind. What had happened? Obviously someone had taken it, someone had stolen it. That was the rumour. This had unnerved the people responsible for killing Jesus. So they had bribed the soldiers who were guarding the tomb to say they had fallen asleep, and while they were asleep someone came and rolled the stone away and took the body. They took the money and spread the story – a very far-fetched story. But the tomb was empty and something very important had happened, because the disciples remembered what Jesus had said: ‘Yes, on the third day I will rise again.’

Where, Cornelius insisted was the body? Where was Jesus? He was told by St Peter that many had seen him alive, but his appearance was often very strange. Mary of Magdala thought he was the gardener. The two disciples walking on the way to Emmaus failed to recognise him, they saw him, but all seemed different now. Jesus had changed, acting after the resurrection quite differently from the way he acted before he died. But he was still the real Jesus, risen from the dead.

Now the apostles’ lives were beginning to change also. Once the Holy Spirit had come down upon them they were transformed and went on saying again and again ‘Jesus has risen from the dead’. The truth of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is what they preached and it is to that they gave witness. Cornelius was received into the Christian community and he too, and his household, became witnesses to the fact that the tomb was empty and Jesus Christ was alive, risen from the dead.

Indeed, many people joined together in community simply because Jesus Christ, true God and true man had risen from the dead. A community grew up out of an acknowledgement of the fact. Even more than that, there were people prepared to be witnesses, even to the extent of losing their lives – becoming martyrs for Jesus. I think of Cornelius going back to his family and reminding them of what they have learned – that they must be witnesses by the way they live, and that Jesus, who had risen from the dead, was to be their leader. They were to learn about the Gospel, follow the things Jesus said and do as he bid.

Everything was different – and so it as to be for us. As we come together at Easter in the great act of worship, we listen to the word of God proclaimed. Then we must go back to our households and tell them that we, too, should be witnesses to Christ, to the Gospel, to the Church. We must be witnesses because out there are thousands and thousands of people who do not know Christ, yet are searching, wanting. The religious instinct in every person, perhaps, in our time is beginning to awaken. Who can tell them where to find the truth but those who belong to the Christian Community which believes in Christ who died and rose from the dead? That is the task for all of us to be witnesses to that fact and to all that follows from it for Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed and for that we all shout Alleluia.

Easter Day 2018 Sermon by Rev David

Mark 16: 1 – 8

One of the programmes that I have been watching on TV is Master Chef. No doubt you’ve seen it or parts of it. Contestants have to cook a two or three course meal in a given amount of time and then submit it to be judged by the presenters, Greg and John, and one or more judges, – generally top star chefs including Beaminster’s own Matt Folas. Just occasionally one of the elegantly laid out food on the plate gets a complete thumbs down from one of the presenters or one of the judges. I’ve seen a couple of programmes where what looked like a good, well presented dish is sampled and pronounced by at least one judge as horrible. Just what is not hoped for or expected by the contestant.

The unexpected is what confronted the woman who’d gone to the place where Jesus had been buried two days earlier. They had gone to finish the burial rituals, embalming the body with aromatic spices. But there was no body. Nothing to embalm, Nothing to anoint. Jesus had gone. Imagine for a moment what must have gone through the minds of the woman. Had Jesus been taken by body snatchers or grave robbers? Had his body been taken by the religious authorities to prevent it becoming a place of veneration? Had it been taken by Jesus’ followers for reburial somewhere else? If so why? And if so how was it that someone didn’t let on where they had buried him. It is one of the pillars supporting the resurrection – there is no place known where the body may be. After all it would soon have become a place to go and put flowers and remember Jesus. Just as people do today at the grave of a loved one. But in the case of Jesus there is nowhere to be close to his body. There is nowhere because there is no body. Jesus died – no doubt about that but Jesus came alive – he had risen from the dead.

After a few hours Jesus began to be seen by various groups of people. Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning. The disciples in the upper room. The disciples out fishing. The disciples walking to the nearby village of Emmaus. All those were as unexpected as was the empty tomb when the woman went there. Gradually it began to sink in that in some way or other Jesus had come alive again, and he was risen from the dead. The resurrection is one of those unexpected events events that happen from time to time. In John’s Gospel account it was Simon Peter who ran to the tomb, went in and believed. I would love to know more about what he believed; believed that Jesus had risen from the dead; believed that Jesus was who he claimed to be – the son of God. We don’t know.

But probably by the end of what is sometimes called Easter Week many of those who had been followers came to accept that Jesus has come alive again. Thomas was one who had a problem with the idea and it was totally unexpected – just like the unexpected comments on a dish in Master Chef which look so elegant and promising but just do not taste very good.

Some find it difficult today to accept that Jesus rose from the dead. That sort of thing does not happen. But then when God is involved all sorts of amazing things do happen. When the angel visited Mary to announce her to be the Mother of God’s son Jesus he reminded her that nothing is impossible with God. (Lk 1:37). We need to be careful in our understanding. God does do unexpected things. It is one of the exciting aspects of Christianity. God surprises us with some of the things he does. And that is the true significance of the resurrection. It is above all the chance to begin to see the power of God at work.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with an insight into God’s power. And that is no different today as it was 2000 years ago. The problem it seems to me is that we are not prepared for the unexpected and not for unusual things to happen. When we really learn to trust God unexpected things happen. We are invited to put our trust and faith in Jesus, believing him to be God’s Son. It all starts with our learning to trust God. Really trust him. It is something we have to work at. It does not come easily. But if we do God is faithful to his promise.

It might be worth taking a little time today to ask yourself – how committed am I to Jesus and what are the unexpected things that have happened to you because you are a Christian. It is worth taking a little time today to review your lives and ask where and how had God done unexpected things in your life and give thanks to him for them.

I suspect that everyone can find something; well give thanks for it. And the greatest gift of all and the most unexpected one is that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, spent time with us learning about human life and then died so that our sins can be forgiven.

And for that I say Alleluia. Amen

Good Friday – Third Hour 2018 Sermon by Rev David

‘It is finished.’ (John 19: 30)

‘It is finished.’…

…It well might not have been. Suppose that Jesus had yielded to the Tempter’s suggestion that what the people wanted was food for the belly, while Jesus knew that what they needed was God’s word. Suppose that he had yielded to the Tempter’s suggestion that what the people wanted was fun and excitement, while Jesus knew that what they needed was a life with the quality of eternity. Suppose he had yielded to the Tempter’s suggestion that what the people wanted was force, powerful leadership which would drive the Romans into the sea, while Jesus knew that what they needed was the worship of God worked out in service to their fellow human beings.

Let us suppose for a minute;

That Jesus had headed Peter’s enticing words: ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’

That at the crucial moment there had been no horrified rebuttal: ‘Get behind me Satan.’

That in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus had inverted the prayer and said ‘Not your will but mine be done.’

We should pause and reflect that at the last, as he looked up into the Father’s face, Jesus could not have cried ‘Accomplished! Completed! Finished.’ He would have had an incomplete offering to make to God. Our liturgy could never have contained in the 1662 version, the words ‘A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.’ In this cry ‘It is finished’ we see the first rays of Easter light. We cannot and must not, separate Good Friday and Easter Day.

Good Friday, (which is a corruption of God’s Friday) would have been the Devils field-day if it had not been for the event of Easter. It would have signalled the final triumph of evil.

Our Christian faith is that at the moment of victory the whole human prospect was changed. At that point in history there was a new creation, the daybreak of the world. And the ratification was the resurrection. In one irreducibly miraculous act, baffling all human explanation, God raised him high and gave him a name above every name. And the early church took up the shout ‘Christ reigns.’

‘It is finished’ is a cry, a rallying cry, which the church needs to hear today. If that cry is heeded, it spells an end to that almost morbid self-denigration and defeatism which has marked some sections of the church for all too long.

Again we should pause and reflect and think that we follow a crucified Christ, we would follow no other. But we follow a Christ who at the moment when men thought they had defeated him, saw that he had defeated the forces of evil and cried ‘Finished!’ Accomplished!’ ‘Consummated!’ ‘Achieved!’ Here is our hope.

We who are baptised into Christ, who have taken up our cross to follow him, are heirs of that hope. True the forces of evil are on the rampage and we are in the midst of the conflict. But their final defeat is guaranteed, for, as we affirm at every Eucharist,

‘Christ has died: Christ is risen: Christ will come again.’

We pause and reflect on these words.

So while our heads are bent over the world’s pain and sickness and sin, and our backs ache in doing our part in alleviating them, our hearts are sustained by the triumph of faith.

‘It is finished!’

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Amen.

Rolling the Stone Away

When the two Marys went to the tomb that first Easter morning, the last thing they expected was to find it empty. After all, they had just witnessed Jesus crucified, along with most of their dreams. Now duty-bound, they came to prepare his body for burial.

That day they did not come to receive, they came to give. and there is no nobler human aspiration. Service prompted by duty is the hallmark of true discipleship. That is why God calls to love, expecting nothing in return: to give to those who will never thank us; to forgive those who refuse to reciprocate.

As God watched these two woman walking to the tomb that early morning, he had a surprise in store for them. The Bible says that the angel, who ‘went to the tomb, and rolled the stone away,’ said, ‘Come…see the place where his body was’. The angel did not move the stone so that Jesus could get out. The one who conquered death can certainly move a rock. No, he moved the stone so that the woman could look in and rejoice. Why? Because God honours faithfulness: When she was long past childbearing, Sarah believed God and became the mother of nations; when his failure was overwhelming and public, David repented and was pardoned and restored; when the road was darkest for the two Marys, an angel showed up and resurrected their hopes.

If today, or any time in the future, your way seems full of sadness, even despair; if it seems that everything you had hoped and dreamed of is turning into dust before your eyes; when things seem hopeless – don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. The answer is on the way. God always honours faithfulness, and when necessary , he even sends angels. You may not get the answer you had expected, or the solution you have prayed for – but god heeds your prayers and will be faithful to you – and you can trust him to know what and when is best.

This has become ever clearer in our area over the past few years through prayer we saw new ‘things’ starting to happen, new avenues starting to spring open. When we took our minds off prayer these avenues began to narrow and ‘things’ appeared to stop happening. So we re-committed to prayer and the spirit has begun to move in wonderfully surprising ways again, surely this is God being faithful to us because he sees us being faithful to him. So let us continue in our commitment to prayer, not because we seek any reward, but because God calls us to love and to give to those who will never thank us and to forgive those who refuse to reciprocate.