Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

Praying In The Spirit Of St Francis – Launch Of The Prayer Community

Monday, October 5th, 2009

sandamianocross

Sermon for St Francis Day 2009. (Given By the Rev Cannon John Austen)

St Francis. A good name to have for your patron saint. One lady in our church was brought up at St Chrysostom’s in Handsworth. She said no-one could pronounce the name, so they used to call the church St Chrysanthemums. (more…)

Some days I question…

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Sermon given on 20th September 2009
A meditation on Mark 9.30 – 37

There are some days when I question my Christian faith
and my commitment to following Jesus:
do I actually get this at all?
Do I honestly understand it?
Do I really live it?
And some days the answer is no.

So when I read that the disciples did not understand what he was saying to them and that they were even afraid to ask him their questions, then I am a little reassured that it is not just me.

Do you ever ask yourself the same questions?

Some times I can look at the church and its customs and traditions, its ceremonies and ways of doing things and I think isn’t this all just a little bit ridiculous? Sometimes when I’m stood up somewhere, wearing some fine robes and saying some words that don’t seem to connect with the people listening then I think: is this really what Jesus had in mind?

So when I read that Jesus’ friends whilst walking with him on the way of discipleship could argue about who was the greatest – I realise that the followers of Jesus have always been a bit mixed up when it comes to issues of power and status, issues of fitting in and being significant.

And I wonder what the church would look like if it stopped trying to be successful and gave the same energy to striving to be servant of all?

Some days it seems that there is always a story in the news
about what happened to ‘Baby P’;
or of a child being stabbed;
or  yet another story of abuse or neglect by adults or sometimes even other children;
and then once again I am reminded that
children actually are very vulnerable,
very dependent,
often victims when families break down
or where there is violence and abuse.

So when I read that Jesus took a little child and put it among them, placed it in the midst of them, set it in the centre of their community, then I try to see that child not as a symbol but a person. Children were at the bottom of economic and social scales in the ancient world – and they often still are even if we also often overly idealise childhood. Jesus took a real, human child and said this is your example, this is your pattern, this is your role model.

And this is the test…
Jesus says
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me…”
Whoever actually welcomes even one child,
whoever they may be and
however they may be behaving,
and however they make you feel…
Whoever genuinely welcomes one such child in my name,
out of their faith in me,
In a real sense “welcomes me”.

That’s what Jesus says.

But most days I find it much easier to welcome the people I like,
Easier to welcome someone who is like me…
easy to welcome someone who looks good,
who won’t be disruptive,
who won’t make any demands on me
or require me to change…

Genuine welcome requires something of me
because I am already in,
because I am already secure in our belonging,
because I have the resources, the experience,
and who know what to do and when…

I am aware that this makes it all sound like welcoming the child, the little one, the stranger is very costly and threatening. It can be. But it can also be joy, delight and gift.

The disciples did not understand and were afraid to ask their questions… and yet children have a wonderful capacity to ask challenging questions which draw out of me answers. So in the playground a little girl asks me “Revd Peter, why do they call Good Friday good?” And there is an opportunity to talk to her about how life is stronger than death and in the same way that Jesus talked to his friends to say something to her of how he had to suffer and die and rise again.

Children have a wonderful capacity to bring a breath of fresh air into a situation – to deflate my self-importance and bring me back down to earth. As a curate I remember a little boy in an RE lesson suddenly putting his hand up to say “Revd Peter, I can see your head through your hair”!

And children have the gift of being able to embrace you with unselfconscious affection.

It is as the gospel says. I can learn from them.

And if I can receive children,
If I can welcome and serve the little ones in society,
If I can give hospitality to strangers,
If I can allow myself to be disturbed then…
Then perhaps I might even be open to receive Jesus himself.

After all is that not what we celebrate at Christmas…
God made known to us in the person of a tiny, vulnerable child…
As the carol asks:
When he comes, when he comes, who will make him welcome?

And I remember too that in the last chorus of the same carol the words change…
When he comes, when he comes, we will make him welcome!

Born from Above

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2009. Romans 8.12-17; John 3.1-17
A baby is born. After nine months of growth and nurture in the womb and after twelve hours of difficult and agonizing labour she is safely delivered. The midwife places her straight onto her exhausted but euphoric mother’s tummy and then guides the father to cut the umbilical cord. The midwife quickly checks the baby over, swaddles her in a blanket and gives her to the father so that she can tend to the mother. The father cradles his newborn daughter – she is crying and breathing in her first lungfuls of air, He gently speaks her name and she settles at the sound of his familiar voice and the security of being held. (more…)

There was a man sent from God…

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent 2008 (John 1.6-8, 19-28)

There was a man sent from God,
whose name was…
Barry. (more…)

Celebration of 50 years of Ordination

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Sermon on the 50th Anniversary of Canon Gervase Babington’s Ordination
The Feast of St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist; 21st September 2008

 

Anniversary of Ordination Celebration

I would like to begin by saying how happy I am that we are all here today. It is with a real sense of honour and joy that I stand here to preach; it is so good to have so many members of my extended family and so many friends from this community here together; and all to celebrate together with my Dad 50 years of ministry as a priest in the Church of England.
Just in case I was tempted to self-indulgence in my sermon this morning we had those words from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:  verse 5 “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” We are celebrating today not 50 years of self-publicity but half a century of faithful ministry in the service of Jesus Christ.
So what I want to do in this sermon is simply direct our collective attention towards the person of Jesus as we see him in the reading we’ve heard from the gospel, the story of the call of Matthew whose feast we celebrate today. (more…)