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21 June Zoom Church in Words & Video

21 June Zoom Church in Words & 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?

St Vitalis

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:-

Tixover’s font

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.

Loving Father,

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


Sunday 10 May 2020 – Simon’s Talk

Sunday 10 May 2020 – Simon’s Talk

Simon Aley, currently preparing for ordination, has recorded this week’s sermon, which can be watched here on YouTube.

If you have any problem doing this the sermon is also copied underneath. 

Today’s Gospel reading is John 14:1-12 and Simon has used the New International Version but you can follow in any Bible.


“Lord show us the Father and that will be enough for us”

So how are you managing in lockdown? How are you contacting friends, family, business contacts? By telephone? Skype? Teams? Facetime? Or Zoom. And what does it look like? A few weeks ago, the Church Times, created a montage of people on these various platforms in lockdown. Various images – some with a full face, others just the top of their head, some dog collars, one even robed! Different ages, different settings And don’t you all look round, take a nosy peek? Or is that just me?!! As you can imagine while our Priest in Charge reads the erudite articles in the Church Times, I tend to go for the cartoon they publish each week and in that same edition the cartoon also focussed on the online screen view classifying us accordingly, the artistic or the scholarly or the realistic! I will leave you to decide which group you fall into or other people you have had these Zoom or similar sessions with and taken a nosey peak! Lord show us the Father and that will be enough for us. Give us a nosy peek at God if you like.

I get Jesus’ disappointment at Philip saying this. “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” Philip was one of the earliest of the disciples to follow Jesus, a friend of Andrew and his family, Philip really had better opportunity than most to know Jesus and who he was and yet says “show us the Father and that will be enough.” Clearly therefore being a disciple of Jesus, all that time had not been enough. He needed something more. Jesus has just declared “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me.” Philip had assumed perhaps that Jesus was offering to introduce the disciples to the Father, and, in a sense, he does but what Philip fails to appreciate is that in seeing Jesus he is with the Father. Jesus and the Father are one. Philip should know that no-one has seen God and to do so is certain death. So, a strange demand for Philip to make.

What are you hoping to get from the Prime Minister’s announcement this evening 10th May? Depending on when you listen to this you may already know! What restrictions do you want to see lifted? One I have heard many times in the last week is around when we can get back into our churches and worship together. On one level I share that longing but on another I have really valued this time of worship in lockdown, actually seeing our garden grow daily through spring that I have not done in over 20 years living here in Manton and meeting with the people of God locally and around the world through daily acts of worship on Zoom – to pray for one another daily and see God’s hand at work. And as an aside I have probably invited more people every day to these Zoom services because that is how you join than I had to any other church services prior to lockdown and perhaps I need to learn from that. God was not locked into our churches when we had to close the doors. He was and is and will be omnipresent – everywhere. Lord show us the Father and that will be enough for us. We may be in lockdown, but God is with us every moment. The famous German Pastor and writer of the last century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a poem while locked in prison on New Year’s Day 1945 a few weeks before he was executed by the Nazis, not long before VE day. This is a free translation I did of one of the stanzas:

From all His powers so wonderfully bestowed

Whatever happens we can surely know

That God is with us evening until morning

Already knowing what each new day brings.

Jesus gave a wonderful assurance to his disciples and to all of us. It is one of the 7 I am sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel ego eimi is the Greek for I am and is a very intense way of saying this, deep, personal and reassuring and Jesus is not a way to God, he is the only way. Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. Jesus is truth. In the Old Testament the law is the truth but Christ fulfils the law and so embodies truth; the truth about who I am, how I am counted as righteous and my destiny in God are all wrapped into this assurance. And thirdly the life. Jesus is about to die. Our Gospel reading today has flipped us back to just before Holy Week and Jesus will die in a few days and the disciples have been warned and yet this condemned, or at least doomed man is claiming he is the life. This claim is only possible because Jesus, as he reminded Philip is in the Father and the Father is in him. He knew that but his faith was not strong enough. My faith is not strong enough. Relying on faith alone, I falter. If I had faith the size of a mustard seed, I could move mountains and yet there has been no tectonic activity as a result of my small faith and I suspect I am in good company. The nearest the patron saint of Wales got was for a small hill to rise up from the ground from which he could preach! My faith is not enough even for that. Being allowed back into our churches to worship again would not be enough and being shown the Father, I suspect, would not be enough. I need, we all need Christ in our lives and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. To know that Christ is in us, the hope of glory – the way, the truth and the life is enough for now in lockdown, in normal times and for all eternity.

Let us pray.

Thank you Lord that you are the way, the truth and the life, that you are in the Father and the Father is in you and in the Spirit’s you are with us and when our faith is weak you uplift us. Help us see however hard the situation is that you are enough for us. We may not see you, but we can love you and worship you right where are

And now to Him who is able to keep us from falling and to make us stand without blemish in the presence of His glory, to the only God our saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord be all glory, power and authority for all time and for now and forever. Amen

Sermon 19 April 2020: in words and on YouTube

Sermon 19 April 2020: in words and on YouTube

Simon Aley has prepared this week’s sermon. And as the Welland Fosse group of churches comes to terms with lockdown, Simon has bravely videoed/recorded himself on YouTube, if you would rather watch/listen than read/scroll.

First you need to read the lesson which is John 20:19-29. 
You can read it using your own Bible, or watch this child-friendly video link from a Catholic community in America. Click here
Click on the arrow in the video below to PLAY Simon’s sermon


Well, here we are in the middle of the coronavirus lockdown, at the heart of the Christian year and the Gospel story is another lockdown! All the disciples – well almost all of them – were in Jerusalem and, knowing that Jesus had risen from the dead – were they elated? Were they out spreading the good news? No, they were dead scared and were together in a room and following current Government advice that the best protection from the current threat is your front door – they responded by shutting and locking it from the inside locking it tight for fear – of a virus?

No, for fear of the Jews, which is a strange fear to have in one sense because the disciples were all Jews themselves! Probably this refers to Jewish authorities, or local mobs although our present lockdown leads many of us to fear ourselves too. If we go out and anyone sneezes or coughs, they are glared at shunned for fear they may have the virus. Here in Manton our walking is restricted as the Rutland Water paths are closed for fear of spreading disease.

Fear was as real then as it is now but for different reasons. The disciples had seen what happened to Jesus and were afraid that the Jews, as John puts it, would come after them next and a similar fate would befall them and we know they were right to be afraid – a similar fate did befall other disciples. People are right to take precautions now for fear of catching or spreading this deadly virus and sadly the daily statistics show the importance of staying at home to save lives. And in the midst of all this fear, the risen Jesus appears, and the clear implication is that he didn’t knock, and the door was not unlocked. So, did this appearance reassure the disciples? I would be surprised if it did at first? ‘How did you get here?’ and ‘What, who are you?’ might all be questions the frightened disciples would ask and we get a clue that these were their concerns as Jesus has to reassure them he is who they think he is – they need evidence. After saying “Peace be with you” he shows them his hands and his side where the nails went through to address their doubts. And note from verse 20 there is no criticism of their doubt: there will be criticism but that comes later, but for now as Jesus enters this locked room he faces and answers their doubts and shows the evidence they need.

And Jesus gives the disciples authority to forgive sins in the power of the Holy Spirit which the disciples receive there and then. Now some people question this. Surely the Holy Spirit came 50 days later – Pentecost – that’s what it means – this must be wrong? No, the Holy Spirit has always been here as part of the Godhead. The Hebrew Bible’s name for the Holy Spirit is Ruach which means breath or wind. The Day of Pentecost recounts a dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit which had always been around but now came with power.

So, the disciples who have seen and touched the evidence of Christ’s resurrection are keen to share this with Thomas who was not there and did not see what happened. So, when they meet, they tell him. And this is the difference. This is why Thomas is chided, albeit gently when he meets Jesus, after being told by the other disciples what they had seen, what they had touched and Thomas’ fault lies in the shortest word in his response, at least in our language. The word “I”. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Regardless of the testimony evidence of what he is told by his fellow disciples; unless he sees, he touches, he feels he has no evidence he cannot believe.

And when they meet, Jesus lets Thomas see and touch and feel and Thomas stops doubting and believes and worships “My Lord and my God!” and Thomas is chided and told “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Thomas had all the evidence he should need – eyewitness accounts from his fellow disciples whom he should have trusted. This is important because in John’s Gospel, nothing is there by accident. At the end of this chapter we are told that what is written is there that we might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God’. John chooses three resurrection appearances for specific reasons and this one is to address fear and doubt that we might believe.

We have our doubts too and we demand evidence. Evidence for doubts as to whether or not this pandemic will ever end and when and the consequences of it all. Will life ever be the same again? Where is God in all this and what are and where are those faith handles, we cling to at such a time? If God is active now why is this person or that person not being protected?

I want to suggest that this lockdown is a great opportunity for all of us to get to grips with some of those questions, to face some of those doubts head on and pray, study and listen to God for ways through these doubts and questions so that we can grow and be stronger in our faith with our roots as Paul said “being rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17). It is at times like this that we need our faith handles to encourage us and sustain us. Books like the Gospel of John written just for this purpose. The problem it seems is there are so many areas of doubt in the Christian faith!!, so many questions and demands for evidence. Even the resurrection itself.

I am often reminded reading this passage of a great book written by the English writer and advertising legal practitioner, Frank Morrison 90 years ago in 1930 and remains print, which I commend to you. He set out to write a book discrediting the resurrection of Jesus to find out as the title of his book suggests “Who Moved the Stone?” But as he researched and read his mind changed and he found faith. In an embarrassing call to his publishers Faber and Faber he warned them that this book he had promised would not be as they had expected because he now firmly believed in the resurrection. The, by now relieved publisher responded – that’s great Frank, what will be the title of your book now? Oh no said Frank, the title remains the same! Frank Morrison worked through his doubts and looked at the evidence and found a faith handle. The disciples’ faith handle was to see and touch his nail scarred hands and speared side. What will be the faith handle for each of us?

Finally, armed with those faith handles, what will we do about it? Jesus is very clear to those disciples in lockdown “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (v.20) According tradition, Thomas got that and travelled to India, preached the Gospel, founded a church and was martyred in Chennai, formerly Madras.

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you” – what does that mean for us in lockdown and beyond? The answer is found in what it meant for Jesus Christ.

  • He came into the world as a poor Person
  • He came as a Servant
  • He emptied Himself
  • He delighted to do the Father’s will
  • He identified Himself with humanity
  • He went about doing good
  • He did everything by the power of the Holy Spirit
  • His goal was the cross

And now He said to the disciples and he says to us in lockdown, “I also send you.”

So, I guess we had better get ourselves ready. AMEN