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BENEFICE SERMON FOR PENTECOST SUNDAY 28TH MAY 2023

BENEFICE SERMON FOR PENTECOST SUNDAY 28TH MAY 2023

Sermon for Pentecost

Acts 2, 1 – 8, 14 – 18
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.”
John 7. 37 – 39
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
The composer, Joseph Haydn, once explained that he had a particular morning routine, he described it thus…
“I get up early, and as soon as I have dressed I go down on my knees and pray to God and the Blessed Virgin that I may have another successful day. Then, when I’ve had some breakfast, I set down at the keyboard and begin my search. If I hit on an idea quickly, it goes ahead easily and without much trouble. But if I can’t get on, I know that I must have forfeited God’s grace by some fault of mine, and then I pray once more for grace.”
Haydn was a devout Roman Catholic who attributed his inspiration to God, he always wrote at the beginning of a manuscript, ‘In the name of the Lord’, and at the end of each composition, ‘Praise God’.
In his morning prayers Haydn sought inspiration; he is not the only composer to have attributed his music to divine inspiration, Sibelius wrote that, ‘Music is for me like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.’
In fact many composers report an intuitive sense that the music they write may have been written down by them but does not actually originate with them, that the creative process is more about hearing the music than composing it. For instance Mahler once said, ‘I don’t choose what I compose. It chooses me.’
In Church we may talk about the bible as inspired, or prophecy as inspired, but we do not usually equate this with inspiration spoken of beyond the bounds of the Church. The bible has authority over the life of the Church and over the lives of individual Christians, but as the bible says, all good things come from God, and that includes music.
Sometimes we speak as if God is religious and thereby must only exist within Church, and inspiration out in the world must be something different. No wonder people find it hard to believe in God if they think the only place He can be experienced is in Church, especially as people do not always find Church a particularly inspiring place.
If we confine our understanding of God to Church and to religious experiences then we make God irrelevant to our daily lives. Haydn clearly did not think like that, he sought the inspiration of God for each and every day. Given that Haydn was born the son of a humble wheelwright in an obscure Austrian village, and ended his days famed throughout Europe, and respected by princes and Emperors, we might say his prayers were not in vain.
Today is Pentecost when the Church tells the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the job of the Holy Spirit is inspiration…or to break the word up, ‘in-spirit-ation’. Through the work of the Holy Spirit the eternal pours into this world.  When we feel inspiration we are experiencing the touch of God.
When we perceive how to overcome a problem, a Pentecost moment has happened.
When we understand the feelings and emotions of another, a Pentecost moment has happened.
When we are inspired to express Christ-like love for another, a Pentecost moment has happened.
The Holy Spirit is at work in our world.
People are often puzzled by the idea of the Holy Spirit because they do not realise that they have experienced it. If we only expect the Spirit as a mighty rushing wind, or as flames of fire dancing above our heads, when we do receive the gift of God, the inspiration of the Spirit, we do not attribute it to God because it was not attended by either flame or wind.
Sometimes we make God impossible, something wholly beyond our experience or belief, when in fact God the Holy Spirit touches our daily lives.
I’m not even sure that we expect to experience the Holy Spirit in church, but that feeling of peace that you get in prayer, that is the touch of the Holy Spirit, that uplifting feeling you get in singing a hymn, that is the touch of the Holy Spirit, that sense that you have heard a truth in a sermon or a reading, that is the touch of the Holy Spirit – that aura of holiness that can be perceived about the Eucharist, that is the presence of the Holy Spirit making Christ known.
Those moments in your life when you feel most alive, when your soul sings for joy and that song resounds with all creation, in that moment you are in the Spirit – inspired by the presence of God, experiencing a particle of heaven come down.
Of course at times inspiration seems a distant dream, we can call upon the Holy Spirit, but we cannot command the Spirit. It is interesting that in the quote from Haydn he said that sometimes inspiration did not come, and at such times he prayed for grace.
The word grace is a translation of the biblical word charism, which is Greek for a gift. Actually I think the word ‘gift’ is a better translation than the word ‘grace’; we should speak of the gift of God, His good gifts to us.
I also find it interesting that Haydn found repentance allowed inspiration to return to him. It reminds me of Saint Peter’s words written in his first Epistle, ‘Repent and be baptised…in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’
The gift of God is received by those who turn to Him; quite simply you cannot receive a gift if your back is turned to the giver.
Repentance and Pentecost must be at the heart of our understanding of how churches grow because here is the origin and source of all church growth, the beginning, the moment of Genesis. The gathered disciples were the waiting body of Christ and the Holy Spirit was the breath that animated that body – made it alive. Inspiration is to breathe in, to breathe in the life of God and become fully alive. The starting point of growth for our churches is to turn to God and receive His inspiration. Like Haydn sat at his keyboard stuck for ideas our churches can seem to lack the energy and drive of inspiration, and so as Haydn did we also should daily turn to God and expect to receive the gift of His Spirit.
Church growth starts not out in our communities but in our hearts.
Once we have recognised the work of the Spirit in our lives and in our churches, when we have breathed in inspiration, then we can start to recognise the work of the Spirit out in the world and say to those around us, ‘that was the Holy Spirit’.
When we see love expressed for another, we can say ‘that was the inspiration of the Spirit.’ When we hear music that captures our hearts we can say, ‘that was the inspiration of the Spirit’. When we see a problem overcome by insight, then we can say ‘that was the inspiration of the Spirit’.  What is the ‘Eureka’ moment in science but a breaking in of the transcendent, a moment of divine insight? And when we see the feelings and emotions of another understood, then we may say, ‘that was the Holy Spirit at work’. Then perhaps Pentecost will not seem merely a remote and strange event remembered in dusty old churches, it will be recognised as the stuff of life and the beginning of something new.
Amen.
WELLAND FOSSE BENEFICE SERVICES FOR JUNE 2023

WELLAND FOSSE BENEFICE SERVICES FOR JUNE 2023

WELLAND-FOSSE BENEFICE SERVICES

 

JUNE 2023

 

Date Barrowden South Luffenham Morcott Duddington Tixover
Sun 4th June

Trinity

Sunday

 

11am

Holy Communion (Said)

(SG)

6pm

Evensong

(AR & SS)

9.30am

Holy Communion

(SG)

 
Sun 11th June

 

 

11am

Family Morning Worship

(SG)

9.30am

Family Holy Communion

(SG)

11am

Morning Worship

(S&V)

 
Sun 18th June 11am

Holy Communion

Elastic Band

(SG)

9.30am

Morning Worship

(SS)

 

  9.30am

Holy Communion

(SG)

SATURDAY

24TH JUNE

5PM

Choral Evensong

Sung by the Uppingham Church choir with singers from Welland-Foss and St Peter’s, Weston Favell under the direction of John Wardle

   
Sun 25th June

 

 

11am

Morning Worship

(AR & SS)

9.30am

Holy communion

(SG)

11am

Holy Communion

(SG)

   

 

 

BENEFICE CHURCH SERVICES FOR 28TH MAY 2023

BENEFICE CHURCH SERVICES FOR 28TH MAY 2023

 

Sunday Services for Pentecost Sunday

 

9.30am  South Luffenham Church      Holy communion (SG)

11.00 am Barrowden Church                Morning Worship (AR&SS)

11.00am Morcott Church                       Holy Communion   (SG)

Readings:

Psalm 48

Deuteronomy 16.9-15

John 15.26 – 16.15

 

 

Zoom Morning Prayer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8.30am and Compline on Thursdays at 6pm

Please email sally@saltlane.com if you would like a Zoom link

 

WELLAND FOSSE BENEFICE SERVICES FOR SUNDAY THE 21ST MAY 2023

WELLAND FOSSE BENEFICE SERVICES FOR SUNDAY THE 21ST MAY 2023

Services for the Sunday after the Ascension

 

 

 

9.30 am  South Luffenham Church                               Morning worship (AR)

11.00am Barrowden Church                                            Holy communion (with elastic band) (SG)

 

5.00pm  Tixover Church                                                    Rogation Service  (SG)

Readings :Acts 1.6-14
Psalm 68.1-10,32-35*
1 Peter 4.12-14; 5.6-11
John 17.1-11

Zoom Morning Prayer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8.30am and Compline on Thursdays at 6pm

Please email sally@saltlane.com if you would like a Zoom link

SPRING EVENING CONCERT AT BARROWDEN CHURCH 14TH MAY 2023

SPRING EVENING CONCERT AT BARROWDEN CHURCH 14TH MAY 2023

 

On Sunday 14th May we had a A Spring Evening concert with Harry Jacques (tenor) and Alan Thomas (guitar) at St Peter’s Barrowden. Harry and Alan performed a variety of songs, including works by Dowland, Handel, folk song arrangements by Britten, and a number of songs by Simon and Garfunkel. It was wonderful to hear musicians of Harry and Alan’s quality performing, they had clearly put a great deal of consideration and preparation into the music. Their helpful explanations of each song, and their friendly banter, created a friendly and informal atmosphere. Each song created a world of imagination and feeling that filled minds and hearts in the church.
The concert was very well attended, and a general hope was expressed that Harry and Alan would return to delight us once more in the not too distant future.

Sermon for the Coronation Service. Sunday 7th May 2023

Sermon for the Coronation Service. Sunday 7th May 2023

Sermon for Coronation Celebration Service.

1 Samuel 8, 1 – 22a
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
Luke 22.24-30
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king.
And all the people rejoiced and said:
God save the King!
Long live the King!
Words from Handel’s Coronation Anthem, ‘Zadok the Priest’, sung at Coronations since 1727, but actually based on words much older from 1 Kings in the Old Testament. That bible passage is an account of the Coronation of King Solomon of Israel, getting on for three thousand years ago. British Coronation services reach back not just through the centuries, but through the millennia, for inspiration and meaning.
But what has the coronation of an Old Testament King got to do with 21st Century Britain?
In our first reading we heard the story of how the people of ancient Israel ended up with a King.
The Old Testament tells the story of how God generated a nation out of Abraham, and then rescued that nation out of slavery in Egypt, and gave them laws through Moses, and led them through the wilderness for forty years until they entered and occupied the Promised Land.
Which brings us to our passage from 1 Samuel. At this point God was their king, He had given them the law, He appointed Judges to administer the law, and had raised up warriors to defend the nation. However, the people of Israel wanted to be like other nations, to have a King. So they told the prophet Samuel they wanted a King, and Samuel passed on the message to God.
God was not impressed, it looked like the people were rejecting God’s Kingship, so God warns them of the consequences of having a man as King, saying to Samuel,
“He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses…and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.”
Despite this lesson in the reality of politics the people of Israel still said they wanted a King. So God reluctantly tells Samuel, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
In the ancient world when you made someone King you gave them god-like powers over your lives. The King had the power to take your life, liberty and property. No wonder that in the ancient world Kings often proclaimed themselves to be gods.
Humans aren’t really cut out to exercise power, we are fallible, given to vainglory, and our understanding of justice is inevitably compromised by partiality. As everyone knows, ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’
Down through the centuries we have have struggled to reconcile our perceived need to be governed, with our need to regulate those who govern us.
It’s not just a problem with Kings, any government that has the power to protect you, necessarily has the power to harm you.
God’s Old Testament solution was to make sure the king understood that God was the King of Kings. That is to say authority remained with God, and that the earthly king was just His servant. The law given by God remained a higher authority than the man appointed king.
Apart from his disastrous lapse into adultery and murder, King David understood this, and the nation prospered. His son Solomon, despite his legendary wisdom, let the notion slip, and thereafter the Old Testament tells a sorry tale of national decline as various Kings follow their own ways rather than God’s.
In our own nation we have a long history of struggling to regulate the powers of those who govern us.
Magna Charta, the Civil War, Habeus Corpus, the 1688 Revolution, the Bill of Rights, the gradual assertion of the power of Prime Minister and Parliament over the monarchy, so now we have a Constitutional Monarchy, the Rule of Law, and a Parliamentary Democracy. How much blood and strife has that cost?
You can make a reasonable argument that our constitutional arrangements are biblical, in that, like in the Old Testament, we seek to limit the power of government, and abide by the rule of law. We have not replaced the absolute power of Kings with the absolute power of Parliament, or Prime Minister, or even of the people, because we recognise that human beings are fallible, and corruptible, and we want those who govern us to be held accountable to the highest values – those of justice and truth.
The Coronation Service makes clear that the King is accountable to God. In a secular coronation who would the King (or Head of State) be accountable to? How would we conceive of holding those who govern us accountable to higher values in an age of moral relativism? In an age of many truths, instead of the one truth, what would be the standard? If there is no authority above our rulers, can we trust them to be the ultimate authority?
Of course these matters are never settled, times and priorities change, we can never perfect the constitution to everyone’s approval.
I notice republican campaigners have been using the slogan, ‘not my King.’ Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but, ‘not my King?’ That’s not how Monarchy works. Like it or not he is your King.
I also noticed the controversy about the oath we were all invited to participate in, an oath of loyalty to the King. Such public affirmations of loyalty do not sit well with the British character, but if you pay your taxes, abide by the laws of the land, and do not intend over-throwing the Crown or His Majesty’s government by force of arms, then you have made a tacit oath of loyalty to the King. And what do you think the National Anthem is about?
Who is the King? Merely Charles Windsor? No, the King is not just a man born in random succession to the throne.
The King is us.
We the people.
The King is a representative person, not by being average, or by being typical, but by being himself. One person chosen by a long process of historical events, some glorious, and some exceeding dubious. Chosen to be the one person who stands for us all. You could do this by election, or even by lot, but we do it by history. At least then our identity is not determined by the passing moment, but by the passing of time.
As an Anglican clergyman I have to take an oath of allegiance to the Monarch. On such occasions I think of the millions of Britains who are my neighbours, and the millions who are my forebears. I also heartily thank God that I am not asked to live in the gilded cage, and unstinting public scrutiny, of the royal family. The 16th century essayist, Montaigne, wrote,”…if a man knew the weight of a sceptre he would not bother to pick it up if he found it lying on the ground.”
While Kings of the ancient world were claiming to be gods, Jesus said,
‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them…But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become… like one who serves.’
In the person of Jesus the Great King of Kings stepped down into human flesh to live and die as a servant of others. That is the highest standard. One which all should follow, but especially those in authority over us. To live in Christ-like service of others, that’s something our late Queen aspired to, and that so many recognised in her.
By the Grace of God, may Charles lead us in lives of loving, Christ-like service.
Amen.
BENEFICE CHURCH SERVICES FOR MAY 2023

BENEFICE CHURCH SERVICES FOR MAY 2023

MAY 2023

 

Date Barrowden South Luffenham Morcott Duddington Tixover
Fri 5th May     A Vigil of Prayer

Ahead of the Coronation

Of King Charles III

Evening time

   
Sun 7th May 11am

Coronation

Holy Communion

(SG)

11am

Coronation Service

(AR & SS)

  9.30am

Coronation Service

(SG)

 
Sun 14th May 11am

Family Morning Worship

(SG)

9.30am

Family Holy Communion

(SG)

11am

Rogation

Morning Worship

(S&V)

   
Sun 21st May 11am

Elastic Band

Holy Communion

(SG)

9.30am

Morning Worship

(AR)

    5pm

Rogation Service

(SG)

Sun 28th

May

Pentecost

 

11am

Morning Worship

(AR & SS)

9.30am

Holy Communion

(SG)

11am

Holy Communion

(SG)

   

 

 

Zoom Morning Prayer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8.30am and Compline on Thursdays at 6pm

Please email sally@saltlane.com if you would like a Zoom link

SERMON FOR EASTER 4 GATEKEEPERS. 30TH APRIL 2023

SERMON FOR EASTER 4 GATEKEEPERS. 30TH APRIL 2023

Sermon for Easter 4: Gatekeepers.

Act 2: 42 – end
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
John 10: 1- 10
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
In first century Palestine most villages had a pen where all  the sheep from the local farms were kept safe at night. The pen had a gatekeeper. On seeing a local shepherd approach the gatekeeper opened the gate, the shepherd then called, and out come running his sheep, while the other sheep stayed put.
This is the scene Jesus is referring to in our first passage from John. We heard, ‘ The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.’ Jesus says, the sheep ‘will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.’
Jesus is explaining to the gathered members of the religious establishment the divisive fact that his voice has authority, and that the people have come out to listen to him, not them.
He then moves the shepherding scene on. When the sheep had been called the shepherds took them out to graze in remote pastures. Here the sheep slept in pens, with the shepherd sleeping across the entrance, as if he were a gate. This was not to save the cost of a wooden gate, this was to ensure the shepherd was fully aware of what might be entering or leaving the pen. If you rely on a wooden gate to do the job, then when you nod off in the corner a sheep might exit, or a thief or predator might enter, and the first you know about it is when you wake up. You don’t want to wake up to count the sheep and find one missing, or indeed wake up suddenly in the night to find a wolf among the them. If you are the gate you will be awoken by any sheep trying to sneak out, or any wolves or thieves trying to sneak in. This is not a responsibility you can delegate to a piece of wood.
Back in the village, where there was more security, you could have a gate and a gatekeeper, but out in the wilds the responsible shepherd was the gate.
In verses 7 – 10 Jesus uses this pastoral scene as an illustration. He is the gate, the faithful are the flock, and the thieves and robbers are the religious establishment of his day.
All this pastoral imagery of sheep being called and going out to pasture, of shepherds and of gates, is occasioned by what preceded this passage of scripture, which is an account by John of the Pharisees criticising Jesus for healing a blind man on the Sabbath.
Jesus wants the faithful to ‘have life, and have it to the full’, which includes being healed on the Sabbath no matter how much the Sabbath rules have been twisted into life stealing burdens by the thieves and robbers of the religious establishment.
Jesus is telling the educated and duly appointed religious guardians of his day that he, a carpenter become itinerant preacher, has authority over both them and the faithful. That his teaching is life giving, and theirs is destructive. He is doing all this in public, making use of the traditional shepherding symbols associated with leadership in Israel. I think we miss the meaning of this passage if we let our contemporary minds imagine a gentle and lovely scene of contented rustic shepherds and sheep out in the sunshine, when the lot of first century shepherds was brutal and hard, and Jesus is making a seriously confrontational and controversial point.
He’s saying, ‘I’m in charge’.
Our first reading described the life of the Church that gathered in response to the voice of Jesus. We heard that,
‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’, and that, ‘All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.’ That, ‘They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.’
This is the one catholic and apostolic church of which, two thousand years later, we are a part. We are not nearly as radical in our application of the teachings of Jesus as the early church, and we don’t make the voice of Jesus heard as effectively, so I doubt it will be written of us, ‘ the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’
Not everyone accepts that we Anglicans are a part of the one catholic and apostolic church, the Roman Catholics have severe doubts about it, as do many Conservative Evangelical denominations. Apparently we believe the wrong things, or worship the wrong way, or don’t accept the authority of the right Bishop. Even some Anglican churches are now saying that we are not a part of the one catholic and apostolic church because of recent liturgical developments concerning same sex relationships.
It appears that the one catholic and apostolic church has many gatekeepers.
Logically they are either appointed by God, or self appointed.
Entry into the early church was by baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Peter said, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
To repent means to stop going your own way, and start following the voice of Jesus.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is a sign that God will always accept your repentance, and will continue to offer you forgiveness for the times you stray from the way of Jesus.
We seem to have made it all rather more complicated since Peter’s time.
To those Christians who have set up road blocks at the gateway to the church I would say, believing the right thing helps you understand that God forgives, but it does not enable God to forgive.
Believing the right thing is not a token you take to heaven and exchange for entrance. Salvation is the gift of God. No token or sacrifice on our part is required or effectual.
Christians should not believe in salvation by creed, or salvation by sacrament, or salvation by doctrine, or by tradition, or good works, or even by believing the right things about sexuality, but rather Christians should believe in salvation by faith in the grace of God.
Creeds, sacraments, doctrines, traditions, good works, these things can show you the way, but as the Psalmist writes, ‘salvation belongs to the Lord.’
Salvation belongs to no one denomination, no doctrinal formula, no church; salvation does not even belong to the Church.
Salvation belongs to God.
That’s why Jesus can say he is the gate.
‘I am the gate’, is one of those times in John’s account of the life of Jesus where Jesus says, ‘I am’, deliberately echoing God’s self-description to Moses at the Burning Bush, ‘I am who I am…tell them I am has sent you…The Lord the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent you.’
That’s why Jesus can claim the Old Testament imagery of leadership for himself, that’s why he claims authority over the religious hierarchy of first century Palestine, and indeed over the religious hierarchy of any age, including our own.
If we are to think of ourselves as gate keepers at all, it is to fling wide the gate when Jesus calls his sheep out to pasture.
We should remember, Jesus is the gate, and at the cross the gate was flung wide open for anybody who realises they are in need of God’s healing and forgiveness.
There’s an old hymn, we don’t sing it in the Anglican tradition, but we ought to, it’s called, ‘Here is love, vast as the Ocean’, the second verse reads,
On the mount of crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide
Grace and love, like mighty rivers
Poured incessant from above
And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.
The job of the church is to make known that vast and gracious tide of God’s love, to kiss a guilty world in love.

Amen.

Part time Vicar of the Welland Foss Benefice (3 days plus Sunday Services)
Barrowden Church – St Peter
Duddington Church – St Mary
Morcott Church – St Mary the Virgin
South Luffenham Church – St Mary
Tixover Church – St Luke
Wakerley Church – St John the Baptist (Retired)