For those unable to make the Zoom service, here is the video.
On the Second Sunday after Trinity in 2020, which was also Father’s Day, 24 households across the Benefice Zoomed or Phoned in to the service, bringing 34 people together to worship ‘face to face’. Our Ordinand Simon Aley led the service and ran the technology.
You can view the service at your leisure here on YouTube. Simon’s sermon and visual aids are posted below the YouTube video.
SERMON – St Vitalis, Sbettia, Tunisia, North Africa. Have a look at this picture. What do you think it is?
OK, so it is a byzantine font or baptistry from a church in North Africa dating back to the 5th or 6th century The basilica has largely been destroyed over time but this font/baptistry survived with steps to go down and steps to rise up.
What does its shape remind you of?
Haggia, Sophia, Istanbul – Or what about this second font/baptistry also byzantine, this time from Turkey and only recently excavated when they changed the church to a mosque. Only one set of steps here and perhaps the shape is clearer?
The answer is they are coffin shaped and probably this was quite deliberate. This talk probably needs filing under not for use at a child’s christening service even though it is highly relevant. As the lockdown continues, sacraments like baptism and communion seem distant memories. So, this is an opportunity to reflect on our baptisms and the importance of the sacrament shortly after Easter and Pentecost with which they are so closely linked.
Until now Paul has been writing to the Christians in Rome about the need to turn to Christ and be saved. Now Paul turns his attention to those who have been saved and what this means for each Christian and he demonstrates this with baptism. When you were baptised your old self died Hence these fonts are coffin shaped to vividly demonstrate this metamorphosis. So, what is the significance of baptism?
We are saved not because of anything we did but because of what Christ did for us and that necessitated his death on a cross. This is necessary because as Paul is about to say the wages of sin is death so by spiritually dying with Christ we are united in his saving death and rising out of the water we leave the old sinful self behind and rise out as Christ rose from the dead. Note how Paul describes sin and its wages. For Paul, sin is real, almost a being, a king or a slave-owner demanding wages, its pound of flesh. But sin has once and for all time been deposed and put in its place and we too can shed that burden.
Yesterday morning as we said morning prayer, something I commend to any of you who can or are prepared to rise for 8.30 in the morning and can be accessed most mornings on the same meeting id you used to access this service. Yesterday morning we read from Luke chapter 12 where Jesus says “I have a baptism to be baptised and what stress I am under until it is completed.” Jesus is using the symbol of baptism, because it is a symbol, a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward spiritual grace. He uses that symbol to point towards his death and resurrection that his baptism in the River Jordan was leading up to –the baptism to be baptised. On Pentecost Sunday those of you with us; we looked at Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch baptised into union with Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit right near the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles showing that baptism has been the initiation practice from the very start.
But wait a minute, Simon, these baptisms seem very different from our baptisms and our fonts look more like this:-
This of course is the font at Tixover with the first aid box prominent in the corner in case anything should go wrong, God forbid! Because no one is going to be buried in there or climb out! True, but our liturgy reflects Paul’s imagery of baptism. This is what the Pastoral Introduction to our denomination’s liturgy of baptism says:
“The service paints many vivid pictures of what happens on the Christian way. There is the sign of the cross, the badge of faith in the Christian journey, which reminds us of Christ’s death for us. Our ‘drowning’ in the water of baptism, where we believe we die to sin and are raised to new life, unites us to Christ’s dying and rising, a picture that can be brought home vividly by the way the baptism is administered. Water is also a sign of new life, as we are born again by water and the Spirit. And as a sign of that new life, there may be a lighted candle, a picture of the light of Christ conquering the darkness of evil. Everyone who is baptised walks in that light for the rest of their lives.”
Being baptised does not stop you ever sinning again. Wouldn’t that be great if it did! But baptism does enable us to cast off that old sinful self and rise with Christ with whom we are united as a new creation, no longer in condemnation for our sinful lives to enable us to journey on with God and it does not change whether you are baptised at 16 weeks, 16 years or 16 half-decades
Nor does baptism stop after you are baptised or even after you have confirmed that baptism it is a journey we walk for the rest of our lives, united to Christ. Of course, that walk will not be sin-free but should be sin-less, reduced sin because our lives are united to Christ. We should not take for granted the grace that God has given us and act indifferently. Otherwise we have not left that old sinful life behind. It is by grace that we have been saved and it is by faith in Christ that we walk a new life united with him no longer in condemnation but wanting to live a better life.
Let us pray. This prayer is from the Common Worship Order of baptism.
we thank you for your servant Moses,
who led your people through the waters of the Red Sea
to freedom in the Promised Land.
We thank you for your Son Jesus,
who has passed through the deep waters of death
and opened for all the way of salvation.
Send your Spirit,
that those who are washed in the water of baptism
may die with Christ and rise with him,
to find true freedom as your children,
alive in Christ for ever. AMEN
An increasing number of people around the Benefice are joining Zoom church on a Sunday morning AND phoning in from landlines.
Christopher’s Sermon for Sunday 14 June may be read below, and if you’d like to see and hear the service ‘as live’ just click on the Youtube link below. Please note a technical hitch that muted Simon’s microphone while the hymn was played means there’s a silent period, but hang in there: the hymn does come later!
SERMON – Rublev’s Icon
Icons from the Orthodox Tradition do invite us in. Like the computer icon, they take us into a different world, into the more intimate company of Almighty God. This 14th century icon illustrates our reading today when 3 figures visit Abraham and announce the surprising birth of a baby to his wife, Sarah, aged 90. You will know that it was ‘written’ by a Russian monk, Andrei Rublev and is called ‘The Hospitality of Abraham’. It moves the conversation closer to the nature of God. Rublev has Christianised the Genesis story by identifying Abraham’s 3 visitors as the 3 persons of God. Rowan Williams calls it, “God’s Selfie!”
Rublev depicts the 3 visitors as angels: they have wings. Blue is the colour which connects all three, suggesting a heavenly home. The figure on the right is the Holy Spirit, his blue garment covered in green, the colour of life, for we talk in The Creed about The Holy Spirit, the giver of Life. The angel in the middle represents The Son with a dark red covering suggesting the colour of earth, the colour of blood, reminding us of the incarnation and crucifixion. The figure on the left is the Father, his blue cloak covered with a translucent robe symbolizing divine glory.
What then are the messages we can read from this icon about God?
Firstly, the figures sit in a circle around the communion table suggesting unity. They even look alike!
Secondly, they have regard for one another, their heads inclined to the other but with one eye also on that which is the focus of their attention, the chalice.
Thirdly, there is someone missing: Abraham! He needs to be there to receive the news about a miraculous birth. But the gap is meant for us too. We are drawn into that holy company.
I know that some of you will be quite familiar with this icon and how it works but I am taking the liberty of sharing it with you again because an icon stands at the threshold of a new world and we are on the threshold of re-opening our churches.
This pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways, both great and small, temporary and permanent. It has also highlighted the value of our churches as sacred places in our communities. It’s when you lose something that you realize its value!
The Genesis story records a critical and unique moment in the Bible story – when Abraham’s offspring is predicted which leads us to Jesus. A birth is announced, names are changed, a new order begins and Abraham is taken into the intimate decisions of Yahweh. Here is a moment to record: by story and by icon.
So as we gradually re-open our churches, this icon reminds us of that threshold moment when the holy becomes tangible, as it does so often in our churches. It is there that we meet with God. That sacred space beckons us. But things will be different.
The lessons drawn from the icon remind us firstly of our unity, which no virus can destroy. We are all distinct, unique yet each has a part to play. What will be that part for you in the new reality? Zoom worship during the lockdown has flattened the church hierarchy. Others have emerged to take on leadership roles. This will be a growing feature of church life beyond the lockdown.
Secondly, Abraham’s visitors have a care for one another. They look out for the other. Whom do we need to look out for as the lockdown eases? Neighbourliness has always been a mark of village life but it has increased during lockdown. But we will each know those whom we do our best to avoid. However life is too short to continue that charade. Is it time to do something about it?
Finally, our inclusion in this mystery. It is so easy to assume some superiority in our church-going. All are invited; all are hard-wired for faith. Perhaps this is a new moment given to us to assume not that others are excluded but that others would like to be there too. Issue that invitation, however coded! The future of our churches cannot be guaranteed after this fierce pandemic. It requires the work of us all to mark the ongoing importance of that sacred space in the centre of our village communities.
We are about to enter a different world. With the angelic guests of Abraham, let us be quiet for a moment and contemplate the possibilities in front of us. Amen.
Readings for this Sunday
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
Gen. 18. 1 – 15 (21. 1 – 7 ) Ps. 116. 1, 10 – 17 Rom. 5. 1 – 8 Matt. 9. 35 – 10. 8
BCP: 2. Sam. 9. 6 – end Ps. 41. 1 – 4 1 John 4. 7 – end Luke 16. 19 – 31
Readings for this Sunday
They are listed below for you to read at home.
Acts 2 . 1 – 21
Ps.104 26 – 36. 37b
1 Cor. 12. 3b – 13
John 20. 19 – 23
Deut. 16. 9 – 12
Acts 2 . 1 – 11
John 14. 15 – 31a
The Benefice is now holding Sunday Service ONLINE each week and ANYONE can join in, including people who don’t have the internet (who are getting a leaflet about this).
This is what our new Sunday Service looks like – just click on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtNRfGWw17U&feature=youtu.be
You can join in ‘face to face’ via a PC, Mac, iPad or a Smartphone. Let Simon Aley have your email address and he will invite you, sending you a link to click on each week. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you don’t want to do that, or don’t have the technology, you can PHONE IN FROM A LANDLINE, by calling 0203 695 0088 or 0203 966 3809 and when prompted, use your keypad to enter this number and the hash symbol: 4761164739#
If you join by phone only, your face won’t be seen, but you’ll be with us in real time.
Join each week a few minutes ahead of 10am, so that any tech issues can be resolved with Simon’s help.
The readings for this Sunday, Easter 7, are listed below for you to read at home.
Acts 1 . 6 – 14
Ps.68 1-10 32 – end
1 Peter 4. 12 – 14 5. 6 – 11
John 17. 1 – 11
2 Kings 2. 9 – 15
Ps. 68 32 – end
1 Peter 4. 7 – 11
John 15. 26 – 16.4a
The readings for ASCENSION DAY, are listed below for you to read at home.
Acts 1. 1 – 11
Eph. 1. 15 – end
Luke 24. 44 – end
Dan. 7. 13 – 14
Ps. 68 1 – 6
Acts 1. 1 – 11
Mark 16. 14 – end
The readings for this Sunday Easter 5, are listed below for you to read at home.
Act 17. 22 – 31
Ps.66 7 – end
1 Peter 3. 13 – end
John 14. 15 – 21
Joel 2. 21 – 26
Ps. 66 1 – 8
Jas. 1. 22 – end
John 16. 23b -end
The readings will not be read in church this Sunday Easter 5, are listed below for you to read at home.
Acts 7. 55 – end
Ps.31. 1-5 15 – 16
1 Peter 2. 2 – 10
John 14. 1 – 14
Job 19 21 – 27a
Ps. 66 14 – end
Jas. 1. 17 – 21
John 16. 5 – 15