Browsed by
Category: Barrowden

Easter Day Sermon – April 2018

Easter Day Sermon – April 2018

Sermon by Christopher Armstrong given at the Easter Communion

on 1st April 2018 at St Peter’s Church Barrowden.

Imagine your favourite Easter Egg today, empty of chocolates. How will you react? You might be puzzled; you might look round for the family member who has hidden the contents or, if you shoot from the hip, you might even fire off an email to the manufacturer to complain. And all because we expect these days to find our Easter Eggs full. Just like our tombs. We expect to find them full – and none more so than the tomb of Jesus. When the women walk to the tomb in order to embalm the body after the hasty burial on the Friday, the day before the Sabbath, they found the tomb empty. Of that there can be no doubt. All 4 gospel writers agree. Had the tomb been full then there would be no Christian Gospel. Such a story would indeed be an idle tale for the proof against the resurrection would be staring the disciples in the face.

We have to realise on this Easter Day in the third millennium that the empty tomb does not create belief. Rather, it creates puzzlement, fear, surprise, wonder, curiosity. In fact, Mark’s gospel ends with the words, “they were afraid”, which is not the best start to good news.

Jesus had preached that he would be raised from the dead but that was a common hope in the first century mind. It was associated with the general resurrection on the last day. They had not heard Jesus accurately. The raising of a single person was contrary to their expectations. So they were surprised, fearful, terrified at the discovery of an empty tomb.

In our gospel today, St. Mark uses women as the first witnesses of the empty tomb and also the first messengers to share the news with the disciples and Peter. Now women were seen as unreliable witnesses in the 1st century but the gospels take a different view. St Luke in particular is the champion of the marginalized and makes the point that even women, even the socially inferior, can be messengers of good news. However, the apostles don’t believe them. To them it was an idle tale, though the Greek is stronger still: they were delirious.

So the tomb is empty. This is a severe embarrassment to St. Matthew for in his gospel account the Romans mount a guard outside the tomb precisely to ensure the disciples don’t come and snatch the body away. The guards thus have a lot of explaining to do.

The tomb is empty – not a reason for belief but a prelude to belief. The body of Jesus has not been found though we can assume that it was the most sought after corpse in the world. The empty tomb doesn’t convince any of the disciples that Jesus is alive and it plays no part in the earliest evidence for the Resurrection that comes from St. Paul. No. The empty tomb doesn’t convey belief. The most reliable evidence for the Resurrection comes next when scattered groups of disciples experience the presence of Christ as well as Paul and his anti-Christian Jewish friends on extermination missions. Both Jewish and Roman histories record this exceptional event and its implications right outside their area of interest and even contrary to it. Finally, the most conclusive proof of all is us here today, the Easter people, those who have met and experienced the risen Lord in some way or another. The sooner we can learn the language of resurrection experiences – not just that of the empty tomb but how peoples’ lives are changed by Christ – the sooner our friends will see and believe. Amen.

Other sermons from Lent and Easter can be found at

Sermon for Maundy Thursday Barrowden 2018 – Foot Washing

Sermon for Maundy Thursday Barrowden 2018 – Foot Washing

Below is the sermon which was given at the Maundy Thursday service in St Peter’s, Barrowden by the Very Rev. Christopher Armstrong

‘A new Commandment I give unto you’ John 13.34.


Most of us have some fetish, some peculiarities which we quite like to indulge, much to the amusement or shock of other people.  The Churchwarden here thinks I suffer from OCD after we cleaned out the vestry together.

In reality, I have a fetish about shoes and because of this I am delighted to live within striking distance of Northampton, once the centre of the shoe trade and still sporting remnants of that business. So imagine my glee when I found the exact spot in Kettering to have my best shoes repaired!  Not content to post them back to the factory, I took them personally – but I was disappointed.  Instead of finding an imposing and ancient factory complex, the Sat Nav. told us to pull up outside a very plain building: no banner signs; no flashy advertisements; one small brass plate on a plain wooden door.

The door led into a cubby-hole, out of which peered a secretary who immediately took control.  She wouldn’t allow us any further into the factory but she did summon a friendly foreman who told us a bit about the factory and its changed circumstances.  Once it employed 500 workers; now there were 50.

Yes, it was an unimposing building but within it was a concentration of shoe-making expertise which is the envy off the world, stretching back many generations. I could confidently leave my best shoes to be repaired knowing that they would do all in their means to make them as new once more.


Tonight, in this imposing building, we concentrate on what I hope we do best: the expression of love.  It comes in many forms: partnership, trust, sharing, joy in one another’s company and that unique gift which Christianity gives to our culture, forgiveness. Of course we are not yet perfect. This is work in progress. Unlike the shoe factory, these gifts are difficult to hand down but rather inherited and fanned into life by mutual example and encouragement.

We meet to celebrate The Eucharist together on the anniversary of its Institution by Jesus at The Last Supper.  And what did Jesus do?   He shared himself. He gave himself away! ‘This is my body’, he said. ‘This is my blood.  Do this to re-member me, to reconstitute me, to identify with me’.  These words we know so well, we repeat them Sunday by Sunday; we probably know them by heart. They are words: powerful words but nevertheless, words.

St. John, in our gospel tonight, doesn’t repeat those words.  His account of the Last Supper is all action.  In the middle of supper, he gets up, puts on a towel and washes the feet of his disciples.

This was astonishing even for Jesus. In any household, the steward would be the person who makes things happen.  He had some status. But Jesus took the job of the lowly slave – who had no status except to wash feet.

Is this then what we need to do? Well, yes.  How do we serve the world except by humble acts of love?  St. Francis sent out his friars, telling them to preach the gospel. ‘Use words if necessary’ he said.

Some of you will be watching the current programme on the Camino with an assorted group of believers, agnostics and atheists travelling together with the usual discussion.  However, what got them all excited on their journey was an old man giving away sticks free of charge and a little later on, a vineyard giving away free wine, as much as they could drink! Here is the generosity of God which oils the wheels of faith in the world.

There are so many examples of loving service in our villages, mostly submerged under the ordinariness of life events. They surface among neighbours, in the community shop, in political or civic service and much of it flows out from our centres of faith excellence. I frequently think of the Barrowden Community Shop as a wonderful model for our churches: entirely there to serve.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from his prison cell: “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others…not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.”

‘A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you’. Amen.


CHURCH SERVICES: Palm Sunday – 25th March 2018

CHURCH SERVICES: Palm Sunday – 25th March 2018

All are Welcome at any of our Services across the Benefice this Sunday,

Palm Sunday

• 9.30 am South Luffenham Church:   Holy Communion (CA )
• 11.00 am Barrowden Church:             Holy Communion (CA)

Readings: Isa. 50. 4-9a  Mark 14.1-15.end
CA =The Very Reverend Christopher Armstrong AR = Mrs Ann Robinson, Reader