As I write this, my train is passing Durham Cathedral which stands gloriously above both the castle and the town. The Cathedral is glowing in the floodlights which bring out its strength and its majesty. Durham Cathedral, standing high above the River Wear, is revered by all who live in Durham County as a focal point for those with much or limited faith.
A number of us from the Benefice were at the Advent Carol Service at Guildford Cathedral last Sunday Evening for a celebration at the start of the Christian year. The Cathedral was full of the sound of joyful singing as we sang ‘Come thou long expected Jesus’. This was the first of numerous pre-Christmas celebrations at the Cathedral for a range of schools and charities.
From a humble stable to magnificent Cathedrals. From a quiet birth to hundreds of people joining together in joyful celebrations.
May our Advent season include quiet times of reflection as we remember the humble stable. Let us also join fully in the celebration of carols, music and readings as we remember how the birth of Jesus changed the world. It led to the building of magnificent Cathedrals, and even more significantly, continues to lead to changed lives based on faith, hope and love.
Obsessed with the weather? Yes, because it makes a difference to my day. Shall I hang out the washing? Shall I stay in and do something else – or have I got to go out anyway and just get wet? But have you noticed how our weather forecasters, while getting ever more accurate, are also keen on giving us advice…?
…It’s going to be wet: so take an umbrella
…Tomorrow will be much colder: so wrap up warm
…The sun will be strong: so put on sun cream.
…There will be an overnight frost: so get out that can of de-icer.
Today is the last Sunday of the church’s year, the feast of Christ the King. In today’s reading, after the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus sends his disciples off, dismisses the crowd, and goes away by himself to pray. Mark doesn’t say why Jesus did this, but John (6:15) says that it was because Jesus knew they were about to come and take him by force to make him king.
Today is also known as ‘Stir up Sunday’, from the first line of the traditional Collect for today: “Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people.” Next Sunday is 1st December, Advent Sunday. Christmas is coming: so buy presents, send cards, stock up the freezer, sort out who is going to be where when. Christmas is coming: so stir up puddings and cakes, and stir up hearts to prepare for the birth of our Saviour.
Christ is King: so…
One of my favourite modern songs (This is my God) includes these words:
By the power of your word
I am restored
I am redeemed
By your spirit I am free
Today’s passage from Mark is all about restoration. Two people, a woman and a girl, have their lives blighted; the woman through a chronic and socially disastrous illness (she would have been perpetually “unclean” and shunned as a result), and the girl – well, perhaps blighted is too weak a word to describe her premature death. But then they both have their lives miraculously restored to them. In both cases the restoration comes through faith: in the girl’s case, her father’s faith; in the woman’s case, her own faith. And in both cases their restoration is confirmed by Jesus speaking to them. By the power of his word they are restored…
That was then. Now, the reality is all of us live lives that are blighted in one way or another, and while Jesus is no longer here for us to touch his cloak, his word remains, passed down to us by Mark and others. If we read, and listen, and hear, and have faith, then by the power of his word we too can be restored, redeemed, set free.
And if you like me worry about a lack of faith, turn to Mark 9 verses 14 to 27 and take comfort from the man’s response to Jesus: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – and Jesus did…
There are many things to remember in November – not just Guy Fawkes and his unfortunate demise. (Did you know that, immediately before his execution on 31 January 1606, Guy Fawkes jumped from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck?)
On the brighter side of life, there are happier things to remember. In our family, we celebrate a number of birthdays, so there is always a party happening here or an elaborate cake being created there.
However, for many of us, November is the month when we remember those who gave their lives in two world wars and in other conflicts since. I always find Remembrance Sunday a very poignant and moving occasion. I wasn’t around during WW2(!) but my father served in the RAF and we talked about it a great deal. Most importantly, he spoke about the friendships he had made. Many friends from those days remained in touch, seventy years on.
A couple of years ago, the closest (and one of the last) of his wartime friends died. It was as though an important family link with the past had been severed; but the journey continues, albeit not in the company of the original cast.
In the Bible, remembering was important. The Jews remembered significant people, places and events – and so should we.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember them.
At this time of year we normally have our Stewardship Sunday when we ask church members to review their giving and make a pledge for the coming year. It occurs to me that some church members might like to know more about financial management at our church.
As a fairly large church we receive about a quarter of a million pounds from our members each year. This covers our non capital costs but we need more for one off major expenditures. The PCC has to budget carefully. A new budget is prepared at year end for the following year which usually involves rector, associate, curate, treasurers and wardens of both churches gathering budget holders budgets and spending a day together looking at each line. Pizza and pastries are the only reward. Major costs are the Parish Share which we pay to the diocese and includes the cost of our rector; salaries for our administrative staff, Associate Minister, team leader for children, youth and families, families worker, gardener and caretaker; outreach, mission and pastoral expenditure; administrative costs; buildings upkeep; utilities and rent for the curate’s accommodation. Clergy and staff also run up necessary expenses. Everything we buy is on someone’s budget lines and the budget holders are accountable to the PCC. In my experience staff and clergy are very careful when it comes to spending money. I sometimes get an email asking if it is OK to buy a new tea pot !
Our tight controls means no sleepless nights for me at year end and I hope that all of you who give generously feel secure in the knowledge that your giving is wisely managed.