The Alban Pilgrimage Children’s Talk 2015

The children’s talk went something like this……..

The Chinese emperor seeking a new Prime Minister, challenged all of the children to bring in the greatest power in the world.  Some brought weapons.  Others said that the beautiful have t he power to get whatever they want and spent the year making themselves as beautiful as possible.  The brainy children pointed to the power of technology bringing examples of important Chinese inventions.  And, of course one group saw money as the path to greatest power.

After thinking long and hard, one child brought a seed.  When the emperor asked her why, she explained that when it is planted a seed produces a wonderful plant which produces food for now and more seeds for future plants.  It contains life which is the strongest power in the universe.  Of course she became the new Prime Minister. (The Greatest Power, by Demi)

Jesus tells us today about how we should live our lives. He says if we pay too much attention to the things of the world, then we’ll miss out on life.

What type of things might we pay too much time on which then makes us miss out on other things? (Let the kids answer)

TV, computers, music, food, sweets, comics, games.

Jesus says, ‘those who give themselves to the things I tell them about will have a great life, and will have eternal life’.

What things does Jesus teach us about? (Let the kids answer)

Love, peace, justice, giving, selflessness, caring, etc

These are the things that are important in life, these are the things we have to work towards doing each and every day to have a full and happy life.

Alban gave us a great example in how he lived his life. He thought about others first, and protected Amphibalus the priest when the soldiers came looking for him. It was a dangerous thing to do, and Alban knew that, but it didn’t stop him.

The soldiers gave him the chance to save his own life by promising to follow the Roman gods, but he wouldn’t and he told everyone clearly that he believed in the one true God who made all of heaven and earth.

Alban stood for truth and bravery, he was selfless and caring. And that is why we celebrate him today. St Albans Abbey was built in his memory so that others could worship the one true God and be reminded of his example, and so that we continue to try and live better lives, so we can have the life that Jesus promises us. DSC03585DSC03589

We also had bubble prayers 🙂

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Wedding Sermon Joe Wyatt & Maggie Little

Psalm 100 & Philippians 4. 4-9

Today is deemed one of the most romantic days of the year. Up and down the country and around the world, symbols of love are being exchanged. Some will do it in small gestures, chocolates, or flowers maybe, some will do it in secret. For others it will be a huge occasion, and I’m not sure if you can get a larger gesture of love then what Joe and Maggie are doing today, to marry, and declare their love for each other in front of their family and friends.
One thing we can be sure of is that neither of you have any excuse for forgetting your anniversary!!!
To be loved, I believe, is the deepest of our human desires, and to give love, is one of the greatest of human joys. The pursuit of love has been well documented down the ages and appears in all of our greatest works of art and literature. And it is good and right that we have a day to celebrate our love.
The legend of St Valentine himself is a story of love conquering. Valentine was a priest who lived during the Roman era. Emperor Claudius II had prohibited marriage, declaring that it was better for men to become soldiers in his army, and that’s what he expected them to do. However Valentine disagreed and continued to marry people in secret. Valentine acted against the authorities to ensure that people love could still be declared and couples could still make vows.
It didn’t take long after his death for Valentine’s story to catch the imaginations of people, and the church declared that St Valentine’s day would become a celebration.
It is good, and right that we should celebrate love, wherever we find it. And I hope that your celebrations Joe and Maggie will not be reserved to just one day. Because we are told in our readings that we are to rejoice; we are to rejoice and make joyful sounds wherever we see something that is true and honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and excellent. And we pray today that your marriage will be full of these things, so that every day you are together will be a celebration and an occasion of deep joy.
This is a day of celebration, of love shared, exchanged and declared in front of God and in front of your family and friends and I’m sure they will all do exactly what the readings ask, they will rejoice with you.

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.

Advent 3 Evensong Malachi 3:1-4

We are over half way through this season of Advent, this season of preparation, this season of waiting, and it’s a good time to step back and look at our journey, where we have been, and to look ahead to where we are going.

For many, they share in the traditions that make up an emotionally difficult, stressful and expensive Christmas; decorating the tree and houses in a mixture of plastic, wooden and glass ornaments, tinsel, figures of Santa and snowmen, reindeer, sending out 100s of cards, many to people you hardly speak to for the rest of the year, attending and hosting parties, meals, drink get together; buying gifts for friends and family, neighbours and acquaintances; buying enough food to make an army obese, even though the shops are only closed for one day.

But none of these things does a true Christmas make.

Even those of us who commit to keeping a holy Christmas and to keep the true meaning of it can get bogged down in all of these frills that have become the tradition and if we’re honest, Christmas in this consumer society does seem to be all about the cards, and the gifts, the parties and decorations.

And it makes me sad to see so many committing to the hollowness of the fills rather then the holiness of the season.

Advent is a season of preparation, but if your Christmas is about the frills, then what are you preparing for?

We have a different understanding of preparation given to us in our scriptures. We are preparing for the coming of the Lord, coming to us in human form, coming as one of us, to live with and among us. And no amount of tinsel can prepare you for that.

We’ve heard it said again and again at our Advent services, that this is a time of preparation and looking at the four last things, death, judgement, heaven and hell.

But how are we to do this? How are we to do this when the rest of the world is in the ‘Christmas Spirit’ so soon? And why would we want to when the rest of the world preparations are so sparkly and attractive?

Mary Reed Newland has a wonderful quote about what our advent preparation should be, she says, :

“…you cannot just walk into such a blaze of glory without preparation… you must creep up to it, think about it, count the days, watch the signs, and prepare.”

Listen again to the words of the prophet Malachi who speaks one method of preparation:

“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple… but who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver,
This is a time of preparation—but what a preparation!

Refiner’s fire!

Strangely enough, when given the option between being put in a fire and fairy lights and tinsel, most people opt for the fairy lights and tinsel.

Refiners fire is not a form of preparation that we often opt for. Not many of us like being put into the fire by God; or by life’s circumstances.

But we’ve all been there, when the heat is on, and we’re under pressure, when life happens

and we have to deal with the messy reality of our fragile and fallible nature, and when we have to deal with the messy reality of the fragility and fallibility of others.

When we need to suck it up, and tackle those things that hang over us, and weigh heavy on our shoulders.

When we’re faced with the choices that we’d rather avoid, and face with the people that have hurt us, and the people we’ve hurt.

And when we’ve experience loss, and death. In all these, we are people in the refiners fire.

We have a choice in those times, to use them, to refine, improve and purify, For the bad things to burn away, and to allow God to create something new and to do a new thing in us, or not.

‘but who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire….. he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver

A friend of mine, who is a priest in a little Welsh town, was a silversmith in a former life and made very fine jewellery.

He once described to me the process to of how silver is refined.

He said, ‘the piece of silver is held over the fire to heat up. It needs to be in the middle of the fire where the hottest flames are so all the impurities, the dross can be burnt away. You need to carefully watch during this process, there is no room for slacking because if the silver is left a moment too long, then it would be destroyed.

The refiner needs to wait until their reflection can been seen in the silver, then it is ready to be made into something beautiful.

If God is the refiner, and we are the silver, we can know, and trust in a few things about this process of preparation.

We can trust that God is a good silversmith, who doesn’t just throw us in the fire and leave us there to be destroyed.

He holds us, watches us, he is always nearby, unwilling to let us be destroyed.

And we can trust that when we are ready, that the refiners reflection is returned to him, that we reflect outwards God’s image.

“…you cannot just walk into such a blaze of glory without preparation… you must creep up to it, think about it, count the days, watch the signs, and prepare.”

Advent is that time of preparation before entering the blaze of glory, before meeting God made man in the manger of Bethlehem.

How will use the rest of this preparation time? With tinsel and shopping, or with burning the dross, and reflecting God to the world?

Carol Service Sermon for Townsend School

It’s so easy at this time of the year to get caught up in the ‘Christmas Spirit’. We all have our favourite parts of Christmas, those parts that we look forward to the most.

We had our toddler service this morning with the Abbey’s big white teddy bear, predictably named, Abbey Bear. And we asked the tots what parts of Christmas they enjoy the most.

I’d like to see if you agree with their list, so put your hand up when I call out something you are especially looking forward to this Christmas.

  • All the chocolates you get to eat.
  • The parities
  • The music and carols
  • Decorating the tree
  • Spending time with family
  • The presents
  • Eating huge amounts of Christmas dinner

There are so many things to enjoy about this season, and its good that we have so many things during these cold and wet days to look forward to. But at the same time, it’s

really easy to get so distracted by the glitter and sparkle of this season that we can forget what it’s really all about.

We need to remember that Christmas is a birthday celebration.

It’s the time we get to celebrate being given the greatest gift of all. A gift that will not wear out, or break, or needs batteries changing. It’s the time we celebrate God coming down to earth, to live with us and as one of us.

We’ve just heard, read so well, the story of Jesus, starting with the predictions from Isaiah, 800 years before his birth going right through that story we all know so well. Angels, Shepherds, Wise men and donkeys.

I want you to think for a moment of what that really means. What does it mean that God sent Jesus to be born a human?

Thanks to the Victorians, we’re given a particular image of Jesus at this time of year of him being sweet Jesus, meek and mild, no crying or screaming. We don’t often think about the man that this quiet angelic child will turn into.

The man who walked purposefully from town to town, village to village, community to community teaching people about

  • Justice
  • Peace
  • Fairness
  • Forgiveness
  • Truth
  • Love
  • Charity
  • Hospitality
  • Generosity
  • Faithfulness
  • Healing
  • Unity

This baby will grow up to argue with religious leaders and public officials so that the poor aren’t ripped off, so the sick can be helped, that the hungry will be fed and those with nothing would be given the things they need.

But we are quick to forget this.

We forget that he called and asked us to do these things in our lives as well.

But we’re easily distracted.

How often do we think about those that today, right now, are poor, lonely, sick, or dying.

If our celebrations at this time of year are only about the tinsel, turkey and presents, then our celebration is hollow and empty.

Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate the birth of Jesus among us by making a special effort to demonstrate some of those qualities in our lives?

We’re still in the season f Advent. We’re in week 3 of 4 in our time of preparation. And it’s a time, not only to buy our gifts and party, but it’s also a time we can prepare ourselves and make ourselves ready.

In the time we have left before Christmas, think about whether you are prepared to celebrate a real Christmas, or a hollow festival of tinsel?

Are you ready to meet Jesus when he comes?

Are you able to celebrate Christmas by letting others see God working through you, and showing those qualities in your life that we taught us about?

How are you going to celebrate this Christmas?

Amen.

Christingle Sermon

Reading Hebrews 1.1-3

(I had a child read for the service). Thank you for reading so clearly. It’s important that this reading especially was read clearly because it talks about all those different ways God uses to speak to us.

He gave us the bible, and all the stories in it and speaks to us through them. And we’re told that he can speak to us through prophets and visions and dreams.

And today we’re going to see if he can speak to us and tell us anything special through some objects that I have here.

(Get 5 children up to hold the objects, questioning them in turn what each of them are.)

Firstly what is this? An orange

Secondly what is this? Some ribbon

Thirdly? Four cocktail sticks

Next? Some sweets (I’ve counted them, and I’ll be checking at the end to see how many there are)

And finally?  A Candle

Now, a really difficult question: if you put all of these things together what would you make? A Christingle

As you will probably know the various things that make up the Christingle all represent something and tell us, speaks to us something about God:

The orange represents the world in which we live. The four sticks remind us of the four seasons of the year. The red ribbon reminds us of the blood of Jesus and the fact that he died on the cross for us. The sweets remind us that God gives us a lot of great gifts in our lives, and of course the candle on the top reminds us of Jesus himself – the light of the world.

And so when all those ordinary objects are put together we have something through which God can speak to us, and He can tell us through this the story of creation, and of Jesus and his love for us.

But individually those things are nothing more than what they’re meant to be – the orange is an orange, the stick is a stick, the candle is a candle and so on…

And the same can true for all of us – as we approach Christmas we can all have a good time hopefully, we can enjoy giving and receiving cards and presents, but if we leave Jesus out of Christmas then we are missing out on the real purpose of all these celebrations and we’re missing the one thing that gives meaning to it all.
(Get the kids to assemble the Christingle while you tell the story)

There’s a little story about Mary, Jesus’ mum, she had a very strange dream one night

she sees signs lit up saying Happy Christmas, she sees houses decorated, and people rushing around the shops buying lots of presents and food and drinks.

She hears of parties being arranged, and thinks how wonderful it is to see people enjoying her son Jesus’ birthday.

But then Christmas comes and she realises that people aren’t giving their presents to Jesus, and in fact, they’re not even mentioning him – She is filled with sadness as she realises that people have forgotten to thank Jesus for all he’s done for them, even on his birthday.

We must remember in the middle of all of the celebrations that we’re going to have, that Christmas is about, the light in the middle of our Christingles, it’s about Jesus coming to earth as a baby, and Jesus coming to us, as the light in our lives.

and it would be wrong to leave him out of his own celebrations,

So today God speaks to us, through our Christingles and reminds us again of the story of the world as we prepare to celebrate Jesus, light of the world coming to us. Amen

Family sermon 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

A nice saying but not always true.

Even as adults most of us will be able to remember an occasion when someone said something mean to us, or about us

Words are really important, they can make us feel really good, or they can make us feel really bad.

I have a hat of words here and I want to see how you’d feel if someone said them to you.

  • Looking good
  • bad girl
  • good job
  • fatty
  • i want to be like you
  • loser

Words can make us feel good, or bad, and so it’s really important for us to think carefully before we say

In our reading, we heard a few words about how God wants us to be, and especially how he wants us to behave to each other.

It said we need to put on faith and love and we need to encourage one another, and build each other up.

I looked up what encourage meant in the dictionary. Although I think I knew what it means, sometimes looking things up can give us a better understanding.

And the dictionary said encourage ,Rams to give courage, and to give support and help.

And I think that idea is important, that we are to help other people become confident and courageous in what they are doing.

Sometimes it’s telling someone they have done a good job that encourages them. Or that the look really good, or praising something someone has done. It’s important to share these things.

Words are important, but so are actions.

But often, we’re encouraged, and we’re given courage by looking at what others do and taking our example from them.

There is a poem that I want to read for you about a child learning and taking their example from their parent. And so many of these could learn from ourselves.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you make my favorite cake for me,
and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I heard you say a prayer,
and I believed that there was a God to talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I felt you kiss me goodnight,
and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it’s alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I looked….
and I wanted to say thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.