All age – Blessed Virgin Mary

Have any of you ever been asked to do something, or go somewhere, but you really REALLY didn’t want to? (Take answers)

Clean your room, do the washing up, go to visit someone you didn’t like, have to go see family rather than play out with your friends, do your tax return, fill out paperwork, had to give up meeting friends to do work?

What do you do? What do you do when you really don’t want to do something? (Take answers)

You start making excuses

I’m too busy, I can’t, I don’t know how to, but they’re much cleverer, faster, better than me, they should do it!

We all do this from time to time, especially with the small stuff in life.

But, sometimes we’re asked to do something huge! Has anyone been asked to do anything huge and important? (Take answers)

Well, I have someone with me who was asked to do something very, VERY important. Can anyone remember our gospel reading, or guess at who I might have here who was asked to do something VERY important?

(Uncover statue)

MARY

Mary was given a very important task, what was Mary asked to do?

Be the Mother of Jesus.

This was HUGE. And would have been very difficult for her and others to understand and accept.

She wasn’t married.

She lived in the wrong side of town.

She was poor.

And she could have come up with LOADS of excuses for NOT being the Mother to Jesus.

I can’t, I’m planning my wedding.

I can’t, what would people think of me?

I can’t, what do I tell my parents?

I can’t, what do I tell Joseph? He’ll think I’ve been seeing someone else.

I can’t, I’m too poor to look after a baby.

I can’t, I’m too young to be a mother.

I can’t, I’m not important enough for God to be bothered with me!

But did she say any of these? (Take answers)

No. After she had spoken to the angel, she is so excited she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who is also expecting a baby. And she said something amazing. She said something so wonderful, that we repeat it every day in the cathedral. And in every cathedral, and in every church it is sung, and said and prayed.

And its known as the ‘Magnificat’ which is the first word of Mary’s praise in Latin.

It’s become for us, a song of joy, and has been set to music more times than I can count.

Because this girl who must have thought that she couldn’t, God did not say ‘she is just a girl’. God took Mary seriously, trusted her and put her to work. And when she believed she could do God’s work, it was the most joyful thing she had ever known. And so she said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour’  and she talks about what God has and will do for his people.

“I praise the Lord with all my heart.

    I am very happy because God is my Savior.

I am not important,

    but he has shown his care for me, his lowly servant.

From now until the end of time,

    people will remember how much God blessed me.

Yes, the Powerful One has done great things for me.

    His name is very holy.

He always gives mercy

    to those who worship him.

He reached out his arm and showed his power.

    He scattered those who are proud and think great things about themselves.

He brought down rulers from their thrones

    and raised up the humble people.

He filled the hungry with good things,

    but he sent the rich away with nothing.

God has helped Israel—the people he chose to serve him.

    He did not forget his promise to give us his mercy.

He has done what he promised to our ancestors,

    to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary shows us what is possible when we say Yes. When we say Yes to God, wonderful things can happen. Even world changing things. And he doesn’t just use the clever or the important. He can use all of us.

So next time you’re asked to do something, think, am I going to make an excuse, or should I joyfully say yes, because there is the potential in all things for God to do his wonderful work.

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Candlemas Sermon Year B 2015

Luke 2. 22-40
“Then Simeon blessed them and said , “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel ….and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
I wonder how many visitors to our cathedral over the past few weeks have been puzzled by the continued presence of our Christmas crib? I hope it hasn’t upset too many who subscribe to the old superstition about the consequences of letting Christmas decorations remain after twelfth night! (I’ve come across one or two of them in a previous parish) But our crib isn’t a left-over decoration-

Far from it! It is a reminder that throughout January we have been reflecting upon, and celebrating, the birth of Jesus. It’s been 40 days since His birth and now he is brought to the temple in our celebration named, Candlemas.
Now, light is a universal symbol. It expresses important meanings in both secular and religious life all over the world. Candles are lit for birthdays, fireworks set off for celebrations and lamps burnt to remember the departed. Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Divali as a festival of light. Jews keep Hanukah by lighting candles for the eight days of the festival.
And light has an important significance to us also. Light is not just as a sign of joy or a practical way of expressing hope. It is linked explicitly to the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ and so for us is a symbol of Jesus himself.
Isaiah speaks of the Messiah as ‘a light to the Gentiles,’ Zechariah looks forward to the time when ‘the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.’
Writing of the mystery of Christ’s birth, John takes up the image: ‘The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.’
So it is hardly surprising that Simeon draws on Old Testament imagery when he recognises the child Jesus as the Messiah, speaking of him in those lovely words we know as the Nunc dimittis as “a light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.”
These powerful words are fulfilled in Jesus’ mission to bring healing and hope, to dispel doubt and to overcome sin and death. So it is not difficult to see how this was worked out in his own life and ministry. He brought sight to the blind, and in so doing describes himself as ‘the light of the world.’
But it is much harder for us to discern how his light continues to shine in our own world, we are overwhelmed every day in the media by images of war, oppression, famine and disease.
We need to ask, are the candles we light today merely pretty decorations, but without the power to overcome the darkness that surrounds us?
Or do they symbolize something much deeper , more powerful and more challenging?
Jesus calls us to bring light into the darkness of our world. St Paul takes up this image, ‘The Lord has commanded us saying, “I have sent you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” ‘ Like the apostles, we are called not simply to gaze at his light and draw comfort from it, but to receive it in ourselves and reflect it to others.
But we must be aware that this can be a costly undertaking.
It wasn’t for nothing that Simeon give that chilling warning to Mary “And a sword will pierce your soul too.”
I wonder how often, old Simeon’s insight and warning bring a chill to Mary’s heart in the next 30 years as she watched her Son “grow and become strong, & filled with wisdom ” Like any other mother, she must have wanted to protect her son from harm when he so often confronted the powers of darkness.
So often, we too can shy away from the challenges involved in bringing his light into the darkness of our own age.
But Jesus still comes to bring the light of God’s love into the dark places of our world and he calls us to work with him, to dedicate our lives to serving him in serving the needs of his wounded world.
And that is always a challenge- for our human instinct is to protect ourselves from the inconvenience, difficulties and dangers of life, to turn a blind-eye to a society that seems to be spiralling out of control and wash our hands of those whose lives seem beyond our powers to influence or help. We turn our light away, and protect it for ourselves rather passing it onto those in true darkness.
May this feast of Candlemas remind us that embracing the light of Christ is not primarily about lighting candles;- it is about shedding light on the dark places we find and continuing the work that Christ started.
May your candles be more than a source of light, but a symbol of Christ, the light of the world, and a sign of your calling to carry that light to others.

Resurrection

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Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10)

Do not be afraid! Death will never have the last word. Jesus is alive. Alleluia!