Sunday 4th August

Last Sunday was a busy and confusing one. I had three morning services and I was meant to do two in the afternoon, but thankfully our lay reader took the final one off me, I may well have died if she didn’t.

There was great excitement at the news of the bishops intention to appoint Revd Beth Bailey to the updated/ re-formed Ministry Area.

I had three sermons for Sunday. One for the Eucharistic services, one for the Family Service, and one for Gosber (Welsh Evensong), all based upon the set readings, so I’m not going to post all three up because there are too many repetitions and overlaps.

In the Eucharistic Service I spoke about what the most important things in life are. Earthly wealth and riches are not comparable to heavenly wealth. And earthly riches are worth even less if we cannot, and do not share them with others.

I used this story I found about the legend of Alexander the Great. Legend has it that after conquering many kingdoms, he was returning home but he fell seriously ill and he came to the point of death.

With death staring at him in the face, Alexander realized that his conquests, his great army, his sharp sword and all his wealth were of no consequence.

Knowing that his end is near, he called his generals and said, “I will depart from this world soon, but I have three wishes and they must be carried out without fail.”

“Firstly, my physicians alone must carry my coffin. Secondly, when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the grave will be strewn with all the gold and silver and precious stones that I have collected.”

“Finally, my last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.”

His generals assured him that his three wishes would be fulfilled, but they would like to know why those three strange wishes, and so he explained.

“I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor can cure every illness. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So let people not take life for granted.

As for strewing the gold and silver and other riches along the way to the grave, that is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life gaining riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.

And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I want people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I will go out of this world.”

And with those final words, Alexander the Great closed his eyes and breathed his last.

I ended with this line “what you do for yourself dies with you. What you do for others, lives on, and makes you rich in the sight of God.”

In the Family Service I started by speaking of our favourite toys and how much we love the things that we have. There were two little girls who had brought their toy dogs with them, they brought them up and spoke about how much they liked their toys. I went on to re-tell the story of the brothers and how they had fallen out because they didn’t know how to share, and that they thought their ‘stuff’ was more important than their friendship and relationship.

Sometimes we want something so much, and think about something so much that we make other people sad or angry, we forget how we make other people feel. Jesus says that the amount of stuff we collect doesn’t matter, that there are more important things, like filling our lives with the love of God and sharing that with those around us.


In the final Eucharistic Service, there were questions at the end about the use of the word ‘vanity’ and its origins because the welsh made the passage more clear. The welsh word used is ‘Gwagedd’ which conveys the sense of emptiness and futility. So for Gosber I was able to pick up on these questions and explore the meaning of the Old Testament reading in the change of language.

“Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

I explained the meaning of the original Hebrew term ‘hebel’ which means ‘breath’ or ‘vapor’, relating to the emptiness of a breath, making “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” into “Empty of emptiness! All things are empty!” or “Futility of futilities! All is futile!”

In the context of God, and the whole of eternity, all is meaningless, and without God, everything is empty, everything is void.

The use of vanity in scripture is closer the concept of futility, but we do not mean vain in the modern sense of the word, it’s not about not being able to pull ourselves away from the mirror. We can think of vanity as a disordered attachment to ourselves, which in the context of God and eternity of all meaningless.

We try too often to hold onto those fleeting things. Let’s hold onto those things that count most in life, and learn the lesson of life from the scriptures and teachings of Jesus, so that we know how to live now, as well as forever.

Ubuntu – Who is my neighbour? Sermon 14th July 2013

The story of the Good Samaritan I imagine is very well known to most of us. It’s probably one of the first stories we learn as children and one that we grow up with, we’re familiar to it, and we know what’s going to happen…

Our reading from the gospel today starts and ends with a question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’

‘Who is my neighbour?’

And we know the answer; the story for us has lost the shock factor that it would have had back when Jesus was telling it. This story really shook those who were listening because the hero of the story was not who they were expecting.

Jesus’ story had a twist, because the hero was not one of their own, the hero was not someone who was seen as good and honest. The hero was a Samaritan, a people who were separated from the main stream and looked down upon, they were the lowest, unclean and it was believed that no good could come from them. They were despised and written off.

We might question why Jesus would even mention the Samaritans when there was a good chance that his audience would just stop listening to him, why risk turning these people away?

Because they needed shaking up, Jesus needed to waken them up

Who is my neighbour?

These people would not even help one of their own in need. How could they just walk away from those who are suffering, and half dead, and let the stranger and the outsider, and even their enemies take care of them???

This is a question for us, ‘Who is my neighbour?’

Today we’re reminded of the law, reaching back from the Old Testament, and stretching into our lives today, we’re reminded ‘To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.’

‘Who is my neighbour?’

When I started thinking about what I was going to talk about this morning, I picture came into my head that I’d seen on the internet a few weeks back. It was an image of a group of African children surrounded by the green forest, all sitting in a circle with their legs stretched out in front of them. I remember first seeing this picture and how simple, but how beautiful it was, and then I remembered the story that went along with it.

An anthropologist had been studying an African tribe to learn about their culture, he’d finished his study but had some time to kill while waiting for his lift to the airport.

He’d been surrounded by the people of this tribe for weeks, and especially the children, so he thought he’d play a game with them to help pass the time.

He’d brought lots of sweets with him to the village, and had a lot left over, so he put everything in a basket with a ribbon attached and put the basket under a tree. Then he called all the kids together.

He drew a line on the floor, and told them to wait for his signal. When he shouted “GO!” they were all to run and the first one to reach the basket would win everything inside.

He shouted “GO!”, but instead of all running, they joined hands, and ran together as a group towards the basket. When they got there they shared the sweets out equally and happily ate what they had.

After the weeks of study the anthropologist thought he knew everything there was to know about the tribe, but this behaviour surprised him, and so he asked them why they has all gone together especially when one of them could have had all the sweets to themselves.

A young girl replied “Ubuntu! (oo-boon-too) how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?

Ubuntu is a term for humaneness, for caring, sharing and being in harmony with others and all of creation.

Ubuntu means, “I am because we are” and it’s the essence of living together as a community. I am, because we are. How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?

Who is my neighbour?

The parable of the good Samaritan allows us to think about who our neighbour is, but it also leads us to question what type of community that God has called us to be, and the type of society we want to live in?

And this, I think, brings us back to the law, ‘To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.’’

What type of community do we want here in Llanbedr, Dyffryn and Talybont? Do we want one where we divide and separate? When we leave those in need for others to care for? Or do we take the spirit of Ubuntu, and follow the will of God for us to love.

“I am because we are”

When others are happy, we will be happy.

So let us be that loving neighbour to one another.

Let us help those in need and share the happiness of life with one another.

Let us make a difference in this world that tends to be indifferent.