Yes to God: A Sermon to Celebrate 60 Years of Ordained Ministry

September 25th, 2017

On 24th September 2017 my Dad, Gervase Babington, celebrated the 60th anniversary of his Ordination as a Deacon.  There was a lovely celebration at their church in Lincoln, St Nicholas, at which I preached and Dad gave the final blessing.  Thanks to all the people of St Nicholas church for making us welcome and for their love and care over the years.  Below is the full text of my sermon.

 

Yes to God

 

May I be helped to speak in the name of the Living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

First, can I say a huge thank you to the Vicar, Hugh, for inviting me to preach this morning and indeed for encouraging this celebration to take place today.  It is really wonderful for us all to be here for this celebration of a lifetime of ministry.

When Gervase, my Dad, moved after 16 years from being Rector of Waddington to become Vicar of Gainsborough, one of the congregation said to him, “I’ve timed all your sermons and you never preached for less than 7 minutes and never more than 12!” So, if you would like to set your timers now I will see if I can keep within that range.  One of my dad’s maxims about preaching is that a sermon should be about two things:  about God and about 10 minutes.  Whilst this sermon will be about those two things, I would also like to stretch that rule today because this sermon will also be about my father and his ministry as a deacon and priest.

60 years ago this week, Gervase Babington was ordained as a deacon in Sheffield Cathedral by Bishop Leslie Hunter.  It was a time of great change and challenge:  under Bishop Leslie Hunter, Sheffield was a forward-thinking diocese engaging with industrial mission, encouraging lay ministry, and exploring new patterns of ordained ministry.  It was also a time of great popular spiritual and theological questioning, exemplified by the controversial book Honest to God. Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus, the risen Christ, is with us…

April 30th, 2017

A Pilgrimage of Trust and the Emmaus Road

Luke 24.13-35

 

Jesus, the risen Christ, is with us.

The gathering of people from across Europe this weekend in Birmingham is part of the Taizé Community’s pilgrimage of trust on earth – we are travelling together as people sharing in a journey of faith.  We can learn at least four things from today’s gospel story to encourage and inspire us as we continue on this pilgrimage of trust.

First, Jesus, the risen Christ, is with us when we walk together.

Jesus is with us even when we do not recognize him.  He is with us in the stranger who shares our journey.

He is with us when we are doubting, discouraged or in despair.

He is with us even when we are walking in completely the wrong direction, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, walking away from the amazing things that God was doing in Jerusalem…

 

Second, Jesus is with us when we open the scriptures together.  It is wonderful when we experience that sense of God speaking to us in the words of the Bible and we, too, can say: ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke with on the road?’

We can learn about God from the living Word of God in the Bible.  We learn best and we learn most when we learn from each other, when we interpret the story of our lives in the light of the story of salvation. Just as Jesus interpreted the experience of the disciples as he opened the scriptures to them.

 

Third, Jesus is with us in the breaking of bread.

Many Churches teach and many Christians believe in the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine of communion.  What we must remember about that teaching of the real presence is that Jesus is present in the whole action of the Eucharist.  He is not just present in the bread and wine; he is present in our gathering, in our thanking, in our praising, in our sharing, in our responding, in our receiving.  But it is not what we are doing that makes him present, his presence in the sacrament of communion is his gift of himself – it is the free gift of grace.  He is with us because this is his table, he is the host, he is the one who invites us to come to him to receive.  We are the Lord’s people, gathered around the Lord’s table, on the Lord’s day.

 

Fourth, Jesus is with us in our proclamation of his life and love.  Just as those disciples on the Emmaus Road rushed back to Jerusalem to share the good news and to share their joy, so are we sent out each week to proclaim the gospel in word and deed.  The service ends with the word ‘Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia. Alleluia!’  Jesus is with us as we share our faith.

What little faith we have to share, it is enough; the little confidence we have to share it, it is enough.  The gospel of Jesus is a call to joy and simplicity of life.  The gift of the Taizé Community is that it shows us how we might do that.  The little we have is enough.  So let us remember that we, too, are sent out to experience the joy of sharing the story of our faith in Jesus.

Jesus, the risen Christ is with us:

With us when we walk together in friendship;

With us when we open the Bible together and listen and learn from each other;

With us when we break bread;

With us when we share our faith and make God’s love known.

Jesus, the risen Christ is with us.  Alleluia. Amen.

The Storyteller – A sermon for Easter Day

April 17th, 2017

The Storyteller

Sermon for Easter Day 2017

 

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a storyteller.

He told beautiful but simple stories that touched the souls, warmed the hearts and sparked the imaginations of all who heard them.

He told his stories with wonderful words and a sharp wit.  He told his stories with a look of love and a gentle touch.  He told his stories with his actions so that sometimes it seemed as if his whole life were itself the truest kind of story.

His stories touched and transformed people. All sorts of people came to hear them.  He called them to come to him, he invited them to come closer…

‘Come to me, all you that are weary, come and rest a while.  Come to me and lay down your burdens, forget your worries, let go your sense of shame.  Come to me and listen…’

And as he told his stories it was like his words created something out of nothing; it was as if he made the whole world new again.  When he had finished speaking and people had finished drinking it all in, they went away refreshed.  People left walking taller, feeling freer, and knowing that they were OK.  Those who had come feeling left out or excluded, knew that they belonged.  Those who came feeling guilty, left knowing they were forgiven. Those who were wronged, went home feeling put right with the world.  And he did all with his words, and his gentle touch and a look of deep compassion.

 

But, as every storyteller knows, every story has a problem.  And the problem was that not everybody liked the storyteller’s stories… not everybody liked the storyteller.

His stories of a world turned upside down didn’t appeal to those who lived on the upside of the world.  They liked their place in the existing story.  They didn’t like stories that undermined their power and position.  They didn’t like their authority questioned.  So they authored a new plot line, based on betrayal, denial, and false accusations.  A plot that turned on violence and suffering and ended in death.

It turned the tale of the storyteller into a tragedy.  The storyteller’s enemies brought their plot to fruition and wrote their alternative ending.  And so it was that the storyteller died and there was nothing that those who loved his stories could do about it.

The End.

 

 

And yet, as in all the best stories, the storyteller’s story has an unexpected twist.  You see, as you probably all know, stories have a life of their own!

Those who had lived alongside the storyteller and all who had listened to and loved his stories found that the stories lived in them.  They found that they, too, could tell the stories; they, too, could bring a gentle touch and a look of love.  The stories were so vivid and brought such vitality that sometimes it was beyond doubt that the storyteller was telling the stories in person – even if they did not recognize him at first.

It would be wrong to say that they all lived happily ever after… true stories don’t usually resolve that way.  The storyteller being with them again was not a happy ending, it was a joyful beginning.  The story teller being alive did not mean that his betrayal, suffering and death never happened.  Rather, this was a whole new story being told within them and amongst them, it was the living words of the storyteller and his stories bringing a new creation into being.  No longer once upon a time, in land far way, but now and here, his story lives and works in us; the storyteller’s words and touch and compassion are at work in us.  For goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death.

The beginning. Alleluia! Amen.

 

Everybody’s Welcome to Rise & Shine our Breakfast-Time Service

February 23rd, 2017

RISE AND SHINE WEB BANNER-01Everybody’s Welcome to come to Rise and Shine!  The next service is on Sunday 22nd October at 9.00 a.m.  in the Church Hall.

Informal, inter-generational worship as continue to explore the Big Story of God’s saving love.

More information here at the Rise and Shine Facebook Page

People Get Ready – A Sermon for Advent 2016

November 28th, 2016

pepole-get-ready-banner

People Get Ready – Advent Sunday 2016

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. (Matthew 24.42-44)

As I reflected on the gospel passage for this week I kept on finding myself singing the song ‘People Get Ready’. It has been a real ‘earworm’ and in the end I decided that the only thing to do was to sing the song and then offer some Advent reflections on it.  Better than a recording of me singing it you can listen to the original version here.

People get ready, there’s a train a coming;
you don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming;
don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

People get ready for the train to Jordan;
it’s picking up passengers from coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board ’em;
there’s hope for all among those loved the most.

There ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner;
who would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner;
for there’s no hiding place against the Kingdom’s throne.

So, people get ready, there’s a train a coming;
you don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming;
don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.
You don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

 

‘People Get Ready!’ – this is the Advent message, the Advent cry.

This song by Curtis Mayfield and covered by many artists was first a hit in 1965 and became very popular especially with the Civil Rights movement in America.  The song has a strong gospel influence and the imagery of the train appears in several songs in this tradition and from the Spirituals.  The Underground Railroad was not an actual train but the name given to a network of escape routes and safe houses for slaves in the 19th century.  The stated destination of being bound for Jordan is a biblical reference to God’s people being led by Moses from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. So, get ready for freedom, get ready for liberation, get ready for salvation!  To get ready for a coming train (often in my experience) involves a lot of waiting and watching; this is not just an idle hanging around, but an expectant looking for something you know is going to come.  This is a call to Advent hope!

To go on this journey to freedom all you need is faith: to catch the sound of the train’s engines, to open the train’s doors so you can climb on board – all you need is faith.  We are saved by faith; not by our own believing but by God’s faithfulness – it is God’s steadfast love that keeps on calling to us and reaching out to us.  Advent is a time to hear afresh the call of God’s love and his longing to bring us back to himself. Advent is a time to get ready to receive the gift of God’s love and forgiveness.  It is not about what we do or what we have:  we don’t need any baggage, we don’t need any ticket – we can ‘just get on board’ because our salvation is God’s gift to us.  God’s grace, God’s gift of love, God’s forgiveness is for everyone – there is room for all among those who love the most. There is room for all who love and who want to be on board this train; that is important to remember as we come to the next verse…

Judgement is also a traditional Advent theme – one that often gets lost amongst the preparations for Christmas.  Advent means coming and it is not just the celebration of Christ’s first coming to us when he was born at Bethlehem; this is also about the second coming at the end of all things.  Then all the nations will be gathered before the judgement throne of Christ the King:  the song warns us that there’s no hiding place against the kingdom’s throne.  The warning is clear to the hopeless sinner; the person who would hurt the rest of humankind just to save themselves.  There will come a time when we have to stand before God’s judgement and so the Advent call is to repent, to turn from our self-centred ways and become centred on God’s will.  In this way, we believe that no sinner is truly hopeless before God, there is always hope because God judges us not only with infinite justice but with infinite mercy.  There is pity – there is mercy – for us and for all who turn back to God.  We may feel that our chances are indeed thin, and Jesus challenged his followers to enter by the narrow gate. But as the words of one of my favourite hymns say: there is a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.  We do not deserve it on our own merits but we are counted worthy by God because of all that Jesus has done for us.

So people get ready.It is Advent. Christ is coming.Wake up, watch, wait,Pay attention, look, listen…Keep faith, keep hope, keep on turning to God’s love and mercy…Get ready to get on board the train bound for God’s kingdom of freedom, justice, mercy and peace…And be thankful that it is coming and you are welcome to join the journey…You don’t need no ticket you just thank the Lord. Amen.

Brexit and the Kingdom of God – a sermon on 26th June 2016

June 26th, 2016

Brexit banner

Brexit and the Kingdom of God

Sermon for Fifth Sunday after Trinity

26th June 2016

Galatians 15.1,13-25; Luke 9.51-62

 

So we have voted for Brexit.  I won’t pretend that I am not deeply disappointed, even horrified, by the outcome of the referendum. Since becoming politically aware as a teenager I have been convinced of the idea that the European Union is the best way of preserving peace in Europe.  I am an internationalist and I believe that the greatest challenges the world faces at the moment can only be met if we recognize our interdependence and act together.  I and many of my friends have benefited from and enjoyed the opportunities that being part of the EU has offered, both for work and leisure.  However, I know that the voting figures nationally and for Birmingham, show that just over half the people of this country do not share that view. I am aware that whilst some of you will share my sadness at this decision, possibly an equal number will be pleased by it; so I am speaking personally and I am not criticising the way anyone here voted or the reasons why they voted that way. Read the rest of this entry »

90th Anniversary of St Francis Church

November 19th, 2015

 

St Francis Church Sketch showing planned Campanile resize

St Francis Church 90th Birthday!

This Weekend it is the 90th Birthday of St Francis Church (consecrated on 21st November 1925). You are warmly invited to join in the celebrations.

  • Saturday 21st November 3.00 – 5.00 p.m. Afternoon Tea and a visual presentation.
  • Sunday 22nd November 10.00 a.m. Dedication Festival Service.

The picture is the architect’s sketch of how the completed church was intended to look – the bell tower (or campanile) has not been built (yet!).

Pilgrim Course now on at St Francis Church

June 6th, 2015

pilgrimlonglogolores

Pilgrim Course at St Francis

On Thursdays at 7.30 p.m. at the Vicarage from 15th October, we will be exploring the second  module of the Pilgrim Course: ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.  The Pilgrim Course is also being used by several of our Home Groups, ask in church for more details about times and venues.

This course is for people who are not yet Christians but who are open to finding out more and for those who are just beginning the journey. People who want some sort of refresher course are also very welcome. In walking with you on this journey we are not assuming that you necessarily share the beliefs that are being explored, just that you want to find out more about them.

To find out more you can follow the link below to see an introductory video:

“The Pilgrim course is a journey to the heart of God and to a living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ within the household of his Church.”
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York

Ageing Well Group

May 20th, 2015

wooden cut texture

 

 

THURSDAY MORNINGS

15th Ocotber onwards  FROM 10.30 – 12.15

AT THE ST FRANCIS CENTRE,
SYCAMORE ROAD, BOURNVILLE B30 2AA

Meeting to explore ideas and to share practical wisdom about ageing well.

The topics we looked at included:
• New steps and challenges
• Keeping mentally and physically active
• New and existing relationships
• Facing fears and feeling safe
• Money Matters
• Any Questions
• Legal issues
• Your health and the health services

Just come along to find out how it went and about how to join in for the second run of the course.
ST FRANCIS CHURCH: 0121 472 7215 ext 2
Or e-mail: admin@bournvilleparishchurch.org.uk
Ageing Well is funded by Awards for All and co-ordinated by Bournville Parish Church

The Kingdom Kaleidoscope: A poetic response to Matthew 13.31-33; 44-52

July 27th, 2014

kaleidoscope

The Kingdom Kaleidoscope

By way of a sermon this morning I gave this poetic response to this morning’s Gospel reading from Matthew 13.31-33; 44-52 (the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 27th July 2014)

 

A cascade, a cascade

of word images tumbling one over another

Simile after simile –

the Kingdom of heaven is like this, is like that,

is like the other;

something completely other…

Jesus holds up a Kingdom kaleidoscope

for those who have eyes to see;

it is a heart-and-mind-changing vision

of the world turned upside down and

God-ways up.

 

For those who have ears to hear

these little stories

there is much to think about.

He throws them out, indiscriminately

scattering images before us

like a sower sowing seeds

trusting that some will land in our soil

and take root.

 

They are riddles,

teasing our ears with truths told

sideways and slant, sideways and slant:

stretching our imaginations;

confounding our reason;

expanding our horizons;

catching us by surprise

with unexpected meanings.

 

The Kingdom comes on earth as in heaven;

it is amongst and amidst

the everyday, ordinary tasks of our lives.

God’s work is to be glimpsed in our work –

so Jesus says:

in sowing, kneading, banking, trading, fishing,

even scribing…

 

The Kingdom is the seed of a weed:

tiny, hidden, sown-unknown and grown

along with the corn,

becoming something so much bigger

than seems probable.

Birds come to roost and rest and make

their nests in its branches…

in the middle of the farmer’s field a hungry flock

now making themselves at home

amongst the crops.

 

The Kingdom is a culture of yeast.

A woman mixes the leaven into the flour

where hidden away in the dough

it lives and works and slowly grows

It raises the whole loaf and gives its life

as the bread is baked and broken for the feast.

 

To discover the Kingdom is to find

hidden treasure and to experience

the joy of unexpected, unearned riches,

suddenly yours if

you will trade everything

to own the place the treasure hides.

 

It is just like finding a gemstone –

much-prized and precious, much-prized and precious;

you would sell everything, give all you have,

to be able to keep this Kingdom jewel.

And holding that pearl of great price

you would find yourself

in a beautiful poverty;

made utterly poor by the giving to receive.

 

This Kingdom is like a net:

weaving, wending and working

to gather everyone in – all are welcomed.

We are a mixed bunch;

we are good and we are bad

together caught by God’s Grace.

In God’s good time and in God’s gentle justice

all will be sorted, sieved and saved.

 

Do you understand? The teller of these tales asks.

Yes… our hesitant and hopeful reply.

Do you really understand?

Yes. Really? If so, then…

 

Be writers of the Kingdom

on the pages of your own lives;

Be tellers of truth stories

for those who are hungry for good news;

Be beggars showing other beggars

the way to the banquet’s open door;

Be livers of a Kingdom life

filled with old wisdom and fresh hope…

That others may see and hear and awakened be

to the eternal possibilities of new life.