Friday, 28 November 2008

A poem for Advent - by John Betjeman

Christmas by John Betjeman
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.
John Betjeman (1906 - 1984)

Monday, 10 November 2008

Peace and Reconciliation - Mentmore on Remembrance Sunday


Encyclopaedia definition of Peace generally negative

Absence of war

Lack of hostility and conflict

Freedom from civil disorder

Peace not just non-violence

Gandhi: if an oppressive society lacks violence, it is nevertheless not peaceful because of injustice and oppression

Martin Luther King: True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but the presence of justice

Trouble is, peace throughout history has often been achieved by a victor over a vanquished. Roman peace – Pax Romana – gained through ruthless repression and not voluntarily

Even Nobel Peace Prize – given to someone who ‘has done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations’ has often been awarded to those who have previously been at war, but have later been associated with making peace when the conflict has ended

Peace is an ideal state

Are you at peace with yourself and the world?

From the 1300’s onward, Peace was used as a greeting

Translation of the Latin Pax or the Gk Eirene

The Hebrew Shalom is a form of Peace characterised by respect, justice and goodwill

During our Common Worship Eucharist we wish each other Peace

Not absence of conflict, but Peace of the Lord – a wholly deeper meaning

Is it disrespectful to those who have died in war and conflict that we turn our attention to Peace and Reconciliation on Remembrance Sunday?

No – we still commemorate the sacrifice of those who died

We still give thanks for their selfless dedication

They did not seek War, but they fought for Peace

Peace is at the heart of the Gospel

It occurs over and over again throughout scripture

From the covenants of peace and the desire for peace in a warring society in the OT

To the more personal inner peace of the NT

For Jesus, peace is a state of mind, body and spirit

This springs forth as harmony, balance, contentment, freedom and justice

Blessed are the peacemakers, he said

The angels at his birth sang of peace and goodwill

The disciples were sent out on their mission – wished peace on every home that would receive them

In John’s gospel, Jesus says he said things so that in him we might have peace

In James 3: Peacemakers sow in peace and reap a harvest of righteousness

Peace resounds throughout the NT

John 14 My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid

So this morning as we commemorate those who have died – especially those two new names on the War Memorial, let us dedicate ourselves to the furtherance of peace. That is what is at the heart of the Gospel – and that is what those who gave their lives fought for – that we may have peace and have it in abundance.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

9 November 2008

It has been a busy few days. Vicky and I have just arrived back in London, having driven through strong winds that tossed the car to and fro as we navigated the M25 and joined the M40/Westway into Shepherd’s Bush.

On Thursday morning, after the 9.15 Holy Communion, the rest of the morning was spent at Cheddington Combined School, looking around with head teacher Mr Dylan Jones and visiting a number of classes. I was asked by two of the teachers to take their classes for a session, and we have already also planned a Christmas Assembly for early December.

The number of services and events meant some office work on Thursday and Friday. Vicky came up to Cheddington by train on Friday evening, and we enjoyed a huge fish platter at the Grove Lock. They were having an American themed week, with portion sizes to match.

On Saturday morning, there was the Book Browse at the Methodist Hall. Sunday however was the busiest day, starting with a well attended Remembrance Service at Mentmore where special invitations had gone out and the church was quite full. Two new names had been added to the War Memorial from WW2 and we had managed to track down members of one family who travelled from Herefordshire to be at the service.

Just after lunch, I took a Memorial Service at Cheddington for someone with close associations with the village, but who had lived in the US for many years and sadly died recently.

Later the same afternoon, we had a meeting in the Rectory for those attending the Parish Weekend in 2009.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

All Saints

Service at Cheddington, then at Mentmore. Sunday 2 November. Here are the sermon notes:

What is the difference between All Saints, All Souls, All Hallows (Hallowe’en)

Early Church – anniversary of saint’s martyrdom celebrated

So many martyrs under persecution of Diocletian – All Martyrs then All Saints

1 November in West – Sunday after Pentecost in East

Also called Hallowmas or All Hallows – hence Hallowe’en

All Souls commemorates faithful departed – 2 November

At Reformation, All Saints and All Souls fused in Anglican Church

Restored as separate days in 1980 ASB

Why did Reformers object?

Disagreed with special position in RC church that people were beatified or set aside

So why are we combining All Saints and All Souls today?

Let’s look at what Scripture says

Not so easy – depends on the translation

NIV – no mention of Saints

NRSV – occurs 71 times – 6 OT + Apocrypha; rest in NT esp. Acts + Pauline letters


In NT (whatever word) = everyone who possesses Spirit of God in Christ

Gk: Hagios – holy

Note: a person’s saintliness derives from God not from herself or himself

Saintliness = holiness of God apparent in a Christian soul

I Peter 1:16 You shall be holy for I am holy

Eph 2:19 You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints (hagioi) and also members of the household of God

APOSTLES CREED – Communion of Saints

Two fold meaning

All holy people share in the holy things God provides

Everyone is called to holiness – to be a saint. This process is completed when we pass from this life to enjoy the light, happiness and peace in the presence of God

MARTYRS – we are all saints, but not all martyrs

From earliest days, Church singled out certain people to commemorate as examples of Christian faith

Came about through sheer numbers martyred under Diocletian – there was a desire to emulate their faithfulness

This was good, but led to unfortunate consequences when taken to extremes



Visiting sites of burial or remains

Intercessors on our behalf to God – depicted wearing crowns

Even prayed to by those still alive

Saints played major role in life of church in Middle Ages – festivals, chantries


Informal process of naming a Saint became formalized

Pope John XV started process in 993

Orthodox church has no process – all those believed to be saints by grace of God need no recognition


Most protestant churches reject veneration of saints – but Anglican churck, RC and some Lutherans have honoured saints since time immemorial.


They remind us that whilst Christ is the one way, truth and life – there are many ways of following him

Lives of saints give insights into how people lived the gospel in their own time – and these insights can apply to every age

All our churches are dedicated to a Saint – anyone know history of S. Giles?

Is it useful to us or beneficial in any way?

We are called to be Saints
1 Cor 1 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord* and ours:

We do not run this race alone, but with all the saints
Hebrews 12.1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,* and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

The Holy Spirit intercedes for the Saints Rom 8:27

As Saints, we are equipped for ministry Eph 4
11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

So this is a rather different picture we are being given of the Christian life

  1. As Saints
  2. Not struggling alone, but in communion with other saints
  3. Sanctified, called to be holy
  4. Using our special gifts for the furtherance of the Kingdom