Three Pillars of Anglicanism.

If I were going to preach a traditional sermon, then I might tell you that  Matthew 13. 1-9, 18-23 displays the three pillars of Anglicanism. Scriture. Tradition. Reason.
But I don’t often preach traditional Sermons. I do want to talk about seed, soil and roots which are I suppose the same thing as Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Yesterday was St. Swithin’s day. And the film which came out of the box last night was One Day – because it is only the events of St. Swithin’s day that we get to see. One day each year for twenty years. It is a beautiful film with a wonderful soundtrack. If we believe st. Swithun’s lore we can expect another forty days of mist and rain. as the proverb goes: St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain For forty days it will remain St Swithun’s day if thou be fair For forty days ’twill rain nae mare Or: If on St Swithun’s day it really pours You’re better off to stay indoors. But I’ve not mentioned the film to talk about the weather. It’s a film about seed, soil and roots and it is written how we read our gospels – in snapshots. This is much how our Gospels are written, dipping in and out of the events and lives of Jesus and his companions.  In One Day we move from terrible London flats smelling of onions to awful post university jobs in restaurants and television.  From meetings in France to returning to the family home. From difficult conversations with parents to distant answer phone messages.  Missed calls and missed opportunities.  From new jobs, to new boyfriends.  From bad jobs to car crash employment.  Terrible live television to all star school plays.  Rows in restaurants to dead end relationships.  Break downs and making up to put downs and pick me ups.  By the end we are left with two people who we know so very well and who ought to be so very right for one another.  They are comfortable with each other, though not always comforting.  Our patience with their painfully slow coming together is rewarded with a romantic liaison in Paris, the wedding, plans for children of their own.  The dream is unfolding, and then, we ought to expect it as in many romantic stories but we don’t, it is cut short. Where there was a comforting voice there is now silence.  Where there was a companion there is now an empty chair.  Where there was a loving caress there is nothing.  And our Gospels have taken us on a whirlwind snapshot tour from a backstreet birth, refugees travelling the road, baptisms, weddings, funerals, confrontations, healings and reconciliations. The seed is planted at the beginning and it takes time to develop. It needs to put down roots in order to be fed, and it needs a heart of understanding, the soil, for it to be truly grounded. Eventually the film One Day brings us to that place where the heart is ready, the roots are sure and the seed has matured. Is it too late for Dexter and Emma each st Swithun’s day to flourish? Is it too late for us to fall in love again with the story of Jesus. We don’t fall in love with an idea, we fall in love with a person, we take them into our heart and let the roots go deep down. Therein lies our problem. And the film one day offers a solution… We have to live as if Jesus were still here as if he were around the next corner, in the face of the stranger, the friend, those at our work, in our homes. We need to fill in the gaps for ourselves taking the cues from the seeds of scripture we have and building a picture of the kingdom that Jesus taught. This is our tradition. At its best it provides the roots we need to be strong, but without a heart in which to plant, we have nothing to grow. Our challenge is to begin afresh with the seed once again, for sadly it has lay dormant in soil which has had no great depth and with roots which have often been cut off.

Church Closed. Graveyard Open.
Are only the dead welcome now?
Standing in the quiet hills life around
begins to emerge, or perhaps I being still
of heart become aware of its presence.
Amongst the flourishing grasses unknown
wild flower seeds have come and put down
their roots over which the occasional visitor treads.
The walls of grey stone sit silently here.
Songs once from within at an end.
Yet here outwith the walls there is a
full chorus as life takes back this ancient
space. And worship begins as we let it grow
within a heart that sings once again of love
and beauty. Wild, untamed, open and free.

Seed and Soil and Root


Church Closed. Graveyard Open.
Are only the dead welcome now?
Standing in the quiet hills life around
begins to emerge, or perhaps I being still
of heart become aware of its presence.
Amongst the flourishing grasses unknown
wild flower seeds have come and put down
their roots over which the occasional visitor treads.
The walls of grey stone sit silently here.
Songs once from within at an end.
Yet here outwith the walls there is a
full chorus as life takes back this ancient
space. And worship begins as we let it grow
within a heart that sings once again of love
and beauty. Wild, untamed, open and free.

humble feast day for new servants

As Terry Wogan was wont to say, most years as I recall, Nights are drawing in – soon be Christmas. And before we all groan at the use of the ‘c’ word before advent or even autumn has begun. He had a point and was reflecting the solar calendar. That at midsummer we are half way through the year. On 24th June we very often forget to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist the one who came to point the way towards Jesus. They were no fools, those who put the calendar together. Putting our celebrations at the high and low points of the solar year. John the baptist was not born yesterday (in more ways than one) but six months before that other significant date, we mark his birth. The one who was to decrease as the other increased. Yesterday we witnessed a radical thing in Bangor Cathedral and if you didn’t make it, then I would urge you to consider it next year. An ordination service is a radical thing. In the presence of distinguished company and honoured guests, friends and family young and old. Ten people dedicated their life in service to God and to the church. This is not an agenda the world recognises as significant or even particularly important. And that is good. For the moment it does, there will be some financial initiative and the whole radical edge will be lost. Ordination services are particularly important for they set apart those for particular ministries. Those who themselves will decrease that others increase. It is at its heart a service of humility. That ministry will bring many things including the sword that Jesus speaks of. Families will be tested, tensions will run high. Loyalties will be divided. At midsummer it is a good time of year, for more than one reason to be on the beach. The beach is a place on the edge. A meeting point of sea, sky and earth. So to is it a meeting point each year for our ordination services. As the waves on the beach crash in, each one brings with it a new image, sand and stones thrown up and cast down before us. Such is the experience of being at the service of ordination. Memories of past, and the new future to come are brought before us. It is a meeting place of past, present and future. The thoughts of the years of training will crash as waves upon those prepared for this day, the present will manifest itself as a new experience as each moment comes and the future is before them, a new ministry, a new chapter. We are gathered in and sent out. The dioceses across Wales gathered yesterday at their respective cathedrals to be sent out to the parishes. In a similar way we too are gathered in here, to be sent out. The cartoon on the back of the sheet may seem like pointing fun at the training and initial tasks of those called to ministry, but they are called to be humble servants. Dave Walker has captured to essence of ordination. Sometimes our calling is to prepare a way, or even just prepare the chairs. Open the door, put on the lights, create a welcoming place and gather folk in, in order that we send them out into the world. They too will decrease as they offer the gifts and fruits of the spirit to all they encounter. We pray for them in their daily calling.