A word to the Wise: Teach the hearts of thy faithful people

Readings for Morning Prayer Pentecost, Year A

Genesis 11:1-9

Acts 10:34-48

Today is Pentecost or in old language ‘Whitsun’

So called because the coming of the holy spirit was associated with baptism and this was a great day for baptism – when of course those to be baptised wore white.

Indeed, we have had a baptism here this morning

‘But why then’, you may say, ‘is the liturgical colour red?’

The colour of fire but also the colour of blood – the colour associated with a saint who dies a martyr’s death.

And there is an alternative etymology for Whitsun

That the word comes not from white but rather from ‘wit’

Meaning wisdom –vision –skill

For the feast of Pentecost is when wisdom and vision and skill came to the Apostles.

The disciples were gathered together to celebrate the Festival of Weeks or Shavuot – when the Jews celebrated the first fruits of the harvest but also the giving of the law to the Jews on Mt Sinai.   This day fell 50 days after Passover so penteconta (Greek for 50) became our Pentecost.

This was the day when the Apostles went from being a bunch of talentless and despised no hopers – fishermen, tax collectors and tentmakers to be Saints Peter, Andrew, James and John, Matthew and Paul

Lives which would, by tradition, at least all end in a violent death.  Preaching the Gospel of peace handed to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, has always been hazardous undertaking.

 

Earlier this morning we had a geography lesson and looked at how the Jews from all over the eastern Mediterranean were gathered in Jerusalem and could understand the Gospel message as spoken by Peter (Acts 2)

It was the very opposite of Babel

Instead of a loss of knowledge and communication – there was an explanation for the meaning of the history of Israel from the time of Moses and the giving of the first law through to the Joel and the prophets

There was the ability to communicate that meaning to all

It seems to me that we are at a point where we have a decision to make: whether to put up our walls and to stop talking to people of other nations, or else to listen to them and try to understand them

We see today the issues which arise when people see the world in a different way

It was no different when it was the IRA, the Red Brigades, the Baader -Meinhof Gang – people who saw the world in a different way

How do we remove such communication issues?

We must surely talk, not close ourselves off

We must inter-act

We must not allow a return to Babel

But rather proclaim a new Pentecost when people hear anew the message of peace and equality of all before God which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ

This is a universal truth outside of all doctrine, all ritual – outside of issues of infant versus adult baptism, outside of different versions of baptismal vows, outside of all ritual liturgy and liturgical colours.  As we learned in our reading from Acts:

the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’

We who have received that baptism should be mindful that the spirit is available to all

So let’s be inclusive – open to all – looking for the spirit in all whom we meet

For those of us who are baptised, let us use the water in the font today to remember our own baptism

Remember those whom we have brought to baptism – children, god-children

Remember too the lessons of the complex imagery of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

  • We might need a bit of new fire – of kindling the flame, breathing on the embers of our hearts
  • A new wind to give us a new direction- breathing of new life into our lungs and our lives
  • Water to wash away our transgressions and refresh our lips to sing new praise
  • A new light to show us the way in the dark recesses of our lives
  • A fire to melt our hard hearts and forge them into one in strength and solidarity removing the dross of our lives so that we might live in the spirit with good ‘wit’ and right judgement

As our Collect has it:

O God, who on this day
didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people
by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit:
Grant us by the same Spirit
to have a right judgment in all things,
and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort;
through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the same Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen.

(BCP Collect for Whitsun)

Sermon delivered by Chris Hancock at St. Martin’s Epsom,
Choral Mattins on the Feast of Pentecost, 4th June, 2017

Sermon for U2charist on New Year’s Day

2017-01-01-ch-photo

 

Sermon

 

May I speak In the name of the living and loving God whom we know as + Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen

Well, what a pleasure it is to be here on New Year’s Day – which is also the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Christ

As we have just heard in our Gospel passage

“After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb”.

It seems appropriate that we celebrate this feast on New Year’s day.

For nothing is more new than things which don’t even have names yet.

Have you ever given a name to something new – a pet, a house, a baby

When you name something you in some way shape its future, determine how people will interrelate to it – even give it a destiny.

Joseph and Mary called him Jesus – in Hebrew Jeshua or Joshua – which means: God saves

What a destiny!

This is the same name as the Joshua who was a hero in the Old Testament

A great warrior – a warrior who held a spear

In fact, a certain desert plant – the Yucca Brevifolia – which looks like a man holding a spear – is commonly called the Joshua Tree – and gave its name to an album recorded by a certain Christian rock group, after seeing these trees on a tour of the USA.

A moment’s digression on U2.

Why their music?  How do they reflect a Christian message?

First, and importantly, they have licensed for free their music for liturgical use.

In fact, they began as a Christian group – our Vicar, Nick Parish, saw them at the Greenbelt Festival in 1979 where they were a supporting act for Cliff Richard (O tempora, o mores!)

Their lyrics include a strong theme of relationship – they have a longing for relationship at their heart

‘I have climbed the highest mountains I have run through fields Only to be with you’ |
(I
still haven’t found what I’m looking for)

‘I want to be with you night and day ‘ (New year’s day).

We’re one, but we’re not the same We get to Carry each other Carry each other’
(One)

Personally, I believe that there is a fundamental relationality between all things

When we recognise that and give it a name – that name is love.

But it’s something that needs to be worked on

As Bono put it:
‘One love, we get to share it., Leaves you baby, if you don’t care for it.’ (One)

 U2 literally take ‘Pride in the name of love.’

Not only in their lyrics but also in their lives – Bono has fronted charity efforts from Live Aid to the UN but beyond this U2 are a band which has been together since 1976 – that’s a 40 year relationship more than all but the longest marriages.

So back to Jesus – or Joshua – whose name means saviour

We may ask ourselves: What does it mean for us to call Jesus saviour?

Jesus seems a far cry from a man holding a spear

Through our nativity services and in our crib scene we have seen Christ as the vulnerable baby born into poverty, the infant lying in a humble manger

Today’s Feast of the Circumcision may even be seen to prefigure the crucifixion (we see Christ hanging on the cross above me here) the vulnerable child who was cut and bled as an 8 year old Jewish boy would ultimately be cut and bleed on a cross – executed as a criminal.

What is saving about that?

What is saving about God’s incarnate weakness?

Well Christianity is all about the story and the story does not end there

Each Massacre of the Holy Innocents by a violent and jealous king is followed by the visit of the wise men from the east (see me here next week to hear more about that)

Each Good Friday crucifixion is followed by an Easter Sunday resurrection

The love of self-sacrifice defeats the spear which was thrust into Jesus side.

The Christian story is that Jesus saves because love wins.

This seems very apt for our other celebration today in the world of New Year celebrations

For this is 2017

I have just returned from America where they are preparing to inaugurate President Trump

What does that portend?  For America, for the world?

New things – scary things!

For some the New year – the future itself is scary

Brexit

Retirement

Getting a job?  Keeping a job?

Fighting an illness

The future can be frightening

But the Christian message is not to be afraid – ‘be not afraid’ of things which are strange and new – but rather to embrace them

As the shepherds did rejoicing in the news

As Mary did – pondering these things in her heart

Because the New Year offers the opportunity for new starts.

‘Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old’ (Isaiah 42:18)

‘Behold I am making all things new’ (Rev 21:5)

As in our New Year’s resolutions…

At the beginning of each year we recognise we have a new start -all is brand new – like new shoes, new carpets, a new car – spotless

If only things would remain so

But they don’t

Shoes get scuffed, carpets get stained, cars get scratched (my car recently hit an invisible wall)

Gym memberships taken out in January get forgotten in February.

And so it will probably be with many of our new year’s resolutions

We fail in them – we give up – we fall back.

We may find ourselves holding again the stone which we have just let go.

But the loving message of Jesus our saviour is that does not matter

What matters is what we do next – do we give up or do we live in hope and try again.

In the words of the Baptism service – the candidates are asked ‘Do you turn to Christ?’

The response ‘I turn to Christ’ is not a one off but said in the present continuous –

I turn to Christ

I turn again

I start again

I keep on turning

Because such is the creative, renewing power of God, just as the sun rises at the end of every night, so we can start again each morning – whatever we have done the previous day

The loving God gives new life – light in the darkness

God saves us from ourselves

So I pray that whatever you have dropped into the ‘dustbin of sin’ tonight you remember that should you find yourself holding it again – Jesus says let it go again

Should you find yourself standing in the darkness – then look East to the resurrection and find the light of hope.

Should you find yourself standing alone – then know that whatever you are suffering – Jesus has suffered and is suffering with you.

And perhaps most importantly – if you find yourself wondering how to live your life – wondering what to do, what direction to take.  Remember to lo,ok to your relationships – to share your troubles and your joys with those whom you love and in particular those with whom we shall share this feast, this Eucharist of our Lord tonight.

‘One love, we get to share it., Leaves you baby, if you don’t care for it.’

Amen

Sermon given by Revd Christopher Hancock at St Martin of Tours, Epsom, on the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Christ, 1st January, 2017

‘Write this: for these words are true and faithful’: Reflection for Bible Sunday

Image result for bible images

 

Readings:

Jeremiah 36:9-26

Romans 10:5-17

Reflection

These readings seem to sum up a lot of what we love about scripture

Challenging names – telling of ancient far away stories of ancient far away people

Stories which though they seem old and strange, tell nevertheless of our own stories and our own times.

The events told in our Old Testament lesson this morning are rather foreboding not least since they remind of us of what the German poet Heinrich Heine wrote prophetically in 1821

“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen”

(For where they have burned books they have ended burning people)

Words which we were see come true in the 20th century.

Those of us who have been reading the lectionary for morning prayer have been reading the story of Judith – the brave Jewess who dared to stand up to the power of the Babylonians who reminds us of latter day heroes – perhaps Aung San Suu Kyi or Malala Yousafzai.

In the evenings we have also been reading the story of Tobit – a love story no different from any heart warming tale that we night read in one of our more sentimental newspapers today.

So despite its age and apparent remoteness we can have still have a relationship, a conversation with the Bible.  Moreover I believe we need to see the Bible which was written over many centuries as a text in conversation with itself.

The story we have just heard about the iniquities of Jehoikim surely contrasts deliberately with the story of his father Josiah who had led a period of reform after the rediscovery and public reading of the book of Deuteronomy.

As such this is part of the cycle of good and bad, of sin and repentance and forgiveness which is a feature of the old testament

This cycle can seem fruitless and indeed there is much in and out of the bible to make one question what is the point of life when falling short of the law is as inevitable as the death which lies at the end of life.

A cycle which Paul feels the need to address in his remarkable letter to the Romans – a cycle which he wants us to see as being over as having been ended by the salvation that comes through knowing God through Jesus Christ

For the book of Romans is full of hope – hope founded on the ancient promises of God that God brings renewal and new life.

– Who will multiply descendants as sand on the sea shore

– Who will forgive the sins of all those who turn to him

– Whose burden is not heavy and whose yoke is light

Such that ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’

 

What does saved mean?  Saved from what?

Two contrasting stories of real lives this week:

–        One of a bereaved person who had seen her life as worthless and meaningless – had rejected any concept of the divine and was considering suicide as a result– she could not believe that her life was important.

–         Another a young man, an alcoholic, who had found that by reading the Bible and seeing himself in relation to God who had come to see that he was valued and important – had replaced the deception of alcohol with the truth of God’s love and has been 9 months sober.

The Bible is a metaphor  for our relationship with God – just as it is a text in conversation with itself – defined by and given meaning by the other words in the book – so we are a people defined by our relationships with one another and in particular with the universal ‘other’ that is God.

That is our faith – that we are all in relationship with one-another through our common relationship with God

 And our hope is that that all things will ultimately be reconciled to one another

A promise which is set out in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation.

When “God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write this: for these words are true and faithful.”  (Revelation 21)

So do not imagine that this book is not important – that it is a dusty relic, a curiosity – not at all.  Be sure that its words are ‘true and faithful’ that they hold the very keys to life and death.

And so it is of paramount importance that we obey the words of today’s Collect, that we 

‘hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ what is written in this book.

 that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,

we may embrace and for ever hold fast

      the hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ’

Amen

Delivered by Rev Christopher Hancock at Choral Mattins, St Martin’s, Epsom on Bible Sunday
(23rd October, 2016)

Transforming lepers – transforming lives (Sermon preached by Christopher Hancock, 9th October, 2016)

Sermon on Luke 17:11-19; 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

I am beginning to know something of what it is like to be a leper.

As you may have noticed I have been regularly wearing my dog collar and walking around Epsom.  I have been wearing it when I need to (when I am explicitly on church business saying morning and evening prayer, conducting pastoral visits and the like) and when I don’t (when going to the Post Office, Ryman’s, Staples, Maplin, Greggs., McDonald’s, various Public Houses).   You will form an impression of the sort of person I am from the places I frequent.  A busy person who doesn’t have much time for lunch but likes beer and gadgets and Post-Its.

Why am I doing this? – my children often ask me this.

I confess to mixed motives.  It took me the best part of five years to get ordained, jumping through numerous ecclesiastical hoops, completing dozens of essays, and filling in countless forms – I feel I have earned it.

Secondly, I like wearing a uniform – I miss my school uniform – I like to know what I am wearing when I get up in the morning.  I don’t like choices – even deciding which tie to wear can cause me great irritation.

Finally, and most importantly, it is a form of easy, low impact evangelism – both for the Gospel and for the Church of England.

Indeed, before my ordination both Andrew, Bishop of Guildford, and Paul Bryer, Archdeacon of Dorking, specifically asked me to wear my collar as much as possible.

By being seen to be a normal person doing normal things I am hopefully helping to remove some of the pre-conceptions that people have about the church of England and its priests.  To transform people’s beliefs

And I know this is a genuine issue– I can tell because of the reactions I get – and this is where the leprosy parallel comes in.

Women with children often move their push chairs to the other side of the pavement – I like to think it is out of respect – I fear it is because they assume that a man dressed in a collar may be dangerous to their children.

Muslim men will also physically move away from me which is quite amusing.  Am I for them Haram – unclean – or am I the representation of a Crusader?  Something to be feared either way.

Children stare and parents take them by the arm as if I were some unfortunate

Some people cross themselves – what is that about?  I am not an undertaker or a vampire.

That people behave so strangely suggests there is indeed a problem.   Hopefully, the more they see me the less odd it will be and the more that they will think about the second part of this soft evangelism.

Because by being seen I am hopefully making people think about God – even for just a moment.  To think about what they are doing in life and why – to have a sense that they are a small but important part of something much bigger.  To remember to count their blessings and acknowledge their infirmity.

And I can see that also works – I can see that from the way that some people smile at me as if reassured by my presence while some people refuse to meet my eye and look away – some people have a problem with God – I would love to know why …

To do that I would need to stop and talk to them – to get to know them as people.  But that is getting harder as we have fewer full time priests with the time to meet people where they are.

When I was reading the lectionary for this morning and in particular as I thought about Naaman and these 10 lepers I came to see that the Church of England itself is in danger of becoming a leper in its own community.

Increasingly shunned from hospitals and schools, even the leadership of the Church talks about it being in slow and ineleuctable decline as if it had a terminal and incurable illness.

Well, perhaps – and certainly if the Priesthood of the Church hide themselves away and if the management of the Church gives up on its position in society and builds smaller and smaller colonies for a smaller and smaller group of increasingly homogenous believers then the end is certain.

But I would not be happy with that and I doubt you would either.

So what can we learn from these bible stories of healing that may be relevant for the Church of England that it might be healed and given new life?

This is after all the challenge from the Bishop of Guildford with which we are wrestling at the moment to respond to his call for a Diocesan Mission Strategy – that we look to transform our church so that it can transform the lives of others.

And I think we can indeed learn from this morning’s stories of miraculous healing – from Naaman and from the 10 lepers.

First there is the all-important point of contact – of transmission of the Gospel:  for Naaman the story of Elisha comes from a captive slave girl – even the most unlikely people can be evangelists.

Each of us can be the one who calls others to God.  Indeed each of us should do this.  But let us challenge ourselves.  How many people have we invited to join us in church today?  Just imagine if we had all brought juts one extra person with us.

How do we do that?  Well how does Jesus meet the Samaritan leper?  He gets out and meets the people – he travels from Galilee to travel to Jerusalem and meets the lepers on the way.  We need to keep doing that – getting out and meeting people – meeting Jesus where he is – out there with the people.

Then there is the question of what we do, how we receive the Gospel – what do we do with it?

For Naaman it is obedience, humility – recognising that he does not have all the answers.  He is healed by bathing in the river Jordan – the rivers of Damascus do not cut it.  He has to be obedient to the word of God’s prophet Elisha, move out of his comfort zone and try something new.

Part of our transformation may lie in understanding what we can do ourselves and for what we need assistance from others.  That we may need to move out of our comfort zone and ask for help.

So do we need to do things radically differently?  Not at all – the transformation process does not need to be difficult.  There is no need for complex ritual or liturgy.  Whether for Naaman or the lepers it is just a question of hearing God’s word for us and doing it.  Of listening to God and reacting.  Keeping it simple.

That does not mean to say that we ignore tradition and what has gone before.  Jesus who came to change ‘not one letter, not one stroke of a letter’ of the law, reminds the cleansed lepers that they need to see the priests as prescribed by the law of ancient law of Israel – read it for yourselves in Leviticus 13 and 14.  (It’s a bit grim so you might want to save it to read until after lunch).

Finally, for the healed there is joy and thanksgiving.  In Luke’s story it is the Samaritan Leper who comes back and says thank you – he rejoices – eucharizon in the Greek – the same word as our Eucharist – the celebration of our salvation through union with God in Jesus Christ – a celebration in which we shall shortly share in our communion.

And so his cleansing is moved to a deeper spiritual level because he has fully received his healing – in his heart as well as in his body.  The Samaritan allows Christ to transform his view of the world, of how he sees himself in life.  Ultimately, to feel the joy of being loved by God in Jesus Christ.

It is interesting and perhaps encouraging that even Jesus only converts one in ten of those whom he heals.  That then is the target for us – that we make a lasting impression on one in ten of those who touch this place in the course of a year.

For we know that if we can but plant this mustard seed of faith in the hearts of a few, then with that faith they themselves will move mountains.  Because at the heart of both healings is simple faith – of understanding that we all sit under God who loves us.

So what then are the lessons for us?

  1. To get out and meet people – to offer them to come and see.
  2. To submit to the will of God in honesty and humility – to get out of our comfort zones – acknowledging that we may need help to see through his mission for us
  3. To honour tradition but keep it simple – there is no need to reinvent the wheel
  4. Above all to allow ourselves to be transformed so that we may transform others

And what might that transformation look like?

Well let me share a vision that I have had:

In my three months here I have seen that this church is formed from many different groups and constituencies, different strands of faith if you will.

If we can agree on a common purpose for our work here then these fibres can be woven together to form a great rope, a hawser that we can use to drag the super-tanker that is the Church of England – to drag it closer to the people whom it serves – to move it faster than it ever believed possible – to turn the talk of decline to rejoicing for growth

How best to do that you must decide but you will see some ideas starting to take shape on the board at the back of church – for me it seems that doing more with the many children of this Parish is very likely to be a part of that vision.

I encourage you to share your ideas either by writing on the lovely multicolour Post-Its or by speaking with me, or Nick or the Church wardens

And my prayer is that, by uniting these many strands into a single great cable, we may in turn draw open the very gates of heaven that through them the people of this Parish may enter into the kingdom of God.

That would be a transforming church indeed.  Amen

Sermon preached at St Martin’s, Epsom, by Christopher Hancock, 9th October, 2016

Collect for the Guildford Diocesan Mission Strategy
Transforming Church – Transforming Lives

God of our salvation, you sent your Son to draw all people into your abundant life:
grant that your church, empowered by your Spirit,
may be the instrument of your transforming purposes in the world,
that all may know your power  to heal and to save.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

Lost and found – Sermon on Luke 15:1-10

Sermon for Proper 19C  Luke 15:1-10

Personally, I never lose things – ahem.  Well not often.

In the weeks prior to my ordination earlier this year, I needed to prove I was a Christian.  To do this I needed to produce my baptism certificate – somewhat late in the process I thought but the Church works in mysterious ways.  Anyway I was sure that my parents must have it – as I knew I did not.

A lengthy discussion ensued with my mother saying very forcefully that I was baptised on Lady Day 25th March, 1968 – but she did not have the certificate and so she must have given it to me with other important papers at some time in the past.

However, I could not find it.  I turned the house upside down, discovering all sorts of interesting and forgotten documents –  ‘O’-Level and ‘A’-Level certificates, Grade 4 bassoon exam. (Result: Merit).  Grade 5 bassoon exam (Result: Fail).  My cycling proficiency certificate, my Puffin club badge!

I did not remember ever having seen this baptism certificate and I became increasingly suspicious when, after a little research, I found that Lady Day in 1968 was a Monday.  Surely I was not Christened on a Monday?

I called the parish where I was baptised and – sure enough – they found the entry in their registers – Sunday 24th March, 1968.  A certified copy was duly produced and here I am today.

Parents of Jaime and Wilfred take note – perhaps one day your sons will be called to be ordained – don’t lose the certificate that you will receive later this morning!

Why do I say all of this?

Well – I suppose this draws together several of the kinds of loss which are explored in our Gospel reading this morning

There is the loss of an object – the certificate – and the turmoil which ensued in looking for it

There is also a loss of truth – resulting in a loss of identity – a fact about myself was now wrong (it was not quite Justin Welby finding he was the son of a different father but I felt a small tremor as I had been filling in ecclesiastical forms incorrectly for years)

There is no such thing as a simple parable and like the parable of the prodigal son which follows, these apparently simple parables explore the complex questions of what it is to be lost – to lose oneself or to be lost to others.

We can be lost like a sheep because we have strayed we have been in error – made a mistake – as we say in the Prayer Book act of confession ‘we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep’

Or we can be lost like a coin because we have got mislaid, disconnected from where we should be – we have lost our bearings and forgotten who we are – we can get lost in the woods – we can be lost in life – we can get the date of our baptism wrong or we can forget that we have even been baptised at all.

These parables also explore response to loss:

It is dislocating – emotional – we search – turning a house upside down to find a lost coin [or indeed a baptism certificate] or we leave home and livelihood behind in or to go in search for a lost sheep.

I lost a child once – in a department store in America …

This was my first child and I had no experience of toddlers – of their speed of movement and spirit of adventure.

I was in a changing room trying on different pairs of trousers

My young son, William, was with me – in my care.  ‘Keep your eye on him!’, my wife had warned me, sternly.

Well no sooner had I removed my trousers when little William crawled under the partition wall to enter the next cubicle – so I quickly put my trousers back on and went to get him – but he wasn’t there!

I left the changing room and instead of William, I found my wife.

‘William is with you?’ I said in a hopeful tone?

I shall never forget the look she gave me.

‘You have lost our son?’

So we searched the store high and low – in a state of complete panic – imagine trying to find a runaway 2-year old in a forest of clothes racks

Well I am here today to tell the story so you know that we found him

But I have never forgotten this – because my wife has never let me

In fact, I was in good company – because not only did David and Samantha Cameron leave their child behind in a pub, but Jesus own parents lost him in Jerusalem, on the way back from the Passover (Luke 2[1])

Where did they find him?

In the temple – in church – in fact he had never left – they had moved on but he had remained constant –  there may be lesson for us in this – in particular for those of us who may feel that they have lost Jesus and keep on looking for Jesus in new places – but perhaps he never left the place where we first found him – ‘Did you not know I would be in my Father’s house?’

Some of us know the experience of finding God again after a period of distance, of dislocation, of loss

When you find something you think you have lost it is like receiving something for the first time – like receiving a gift – and the Greek word for joy which is used repeatedly in our Gospel reading – Chara – is from the same root as Charis or gift from which we get Eucharist – that perfect symbol of the gift we have of union with God and with all of God’s creation

A gift we shall receive afresh in a short while this morning

So there is joy in the shepherd in finding and in the sheep in being found

There is joy in finding God and Luke tells us that God also  rejoices in finding us

There is a harmony in this reciprocity, a resonance which speaks of the warm feeling we have when we feel that we are known, loved, found, understood.

A feeling I find each time I receive the Eucharist – when we deliberately remember our relationship with all creation, with God and with Christ – as we do this ‘in remembrance of Him’.

So what then might be the messages for us?

We should clearly keep a close eye on those for whom we care – putting them before ourselves and not just before our modesty in changing rooms in foreign countries!

But also to look out for the lost that may be in no-one’s care – those who have strayed themselves or been mislaid, perhaps those who have been left behind by change thinking they must move but needing to be brought back to where they began

We should rejoice too in those who are found – as we rejoice today in Jamie and Wilfred who are about to become the newest Christians in the world

In particular, we should rejoice here in Church

For this may be where we ourselves find God – where we find ourselves and where Christ finds us.

It is so much easier to find God if we are finding Him every week – so much easier to remember where He is.  I hope parents and Godparents you will hear this and bring Jamie and Wilfred in time to confirm their relationship with God through Jesus Christ and to join us in sharing this gift.

So, in conclusion, I pray that we will all keep coming here and keep finding Jesus as He promised us:

‘For when two or three are gathered together in my name – there I will be in the midst of them[2].

Amen

 Sermon delivered by Rev Christopher Hancock, St Martin’s Epsom, 11th September, 2016.

[1] Luke 2:41-52

[2] Mat 18:20