Archives October 2010

Sermon Notes: Ordinary 30, Year C

Text: Luke 18:9-24

  • In our intercessions book “Dear Lord, So far today, I have done alright. I haven’t gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or over indulgent. I am very thankful for that! But, in a few minutes Lord,  I am going to get out of bed, and from then on I’m going to need a lot more help ~Amen”
  • Humility is a key Christian virtue, but I suspect that it also turns out to be one of the Key Christian vices.
  • With his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, my training Incumbant, the wonderful Canon Fr Michael Lewis used to say:
    • “Like all truly great men, I am very humble!”
  • …but so often people say things similar to this, and mean it!
  • We hear today the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
  • Two men, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector, go up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee stands by himself and he really is quite impressive.
  • Although centuries of Christian interpretation have led us to think of Pharisees as the baddies, this is not really fair.
  • They are often presented as Jesus’ opponents in the gospels, but we need to remember that they were society’s good people.
    • They were dependable, honest, upright, good neighbours, contributors to the community.
    • Quite frankly, they were the type of people we would all like to have as members of our parishes.
    • The Pharisee is a man at home in the temple.
      • He says his prayers.
      • He gives more than he has to. Although the tithe on income was standard, he tithes on everything he has, and many people would have benefited from his generosity.
  • He stands in the correct posture for prayer in the temple, arms raised and head lifted.
  • But – and this is a big but – in his prayer, he has nothing to ask of God.
    • He’s basically giving God a progress report. As far as he can tell, he’s got it all under control, and he’s happy about it: “God I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, the unrighteous, adulterers, or even like that tax collector over there.”
  • Meanwhile, standing off at a distance, is the tax collector.
    • He has got nothing to show for himself, and he knows it.
    • He earned his living by working for a foreign government collecting taxes from his own people.
    • For years he has collected high taxes from his Jewish neighbours to give to the Roman government.
    • He gives the Romans their flat rate on every head, and makes his money by charging an excess and keeping it for himself. Basically, he is a crook, a traitor, and in the eyes of most, a lowlife.
    • He is guilty and he knows it.
  • He keeps his head lowered as he comes into the temple.
  • Who knows why his guilt has got the better of him today, but there he is in the temple, full of remorse, beating his breast and saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
    • He doesn’t even promise to shape up. All he does is ask for God’s mercy.
  • The surprise ending of the story is that the Pharisee, who gives a wonderful performance in the temple, goes home empty.
    • He came asking nothing of God and he goes home getting nothing from God.
  • The tax collector, despicable fellow that he is, shows up empty handed asking for God’s mercy,
  • He goes home justified, that is, in right relationship with God.
  • We may hear this parable as a lesson on humility: don’t be proud like the Pharisee; go home and be humble like the tax collector.
  • And so, we fall into a trap.
  • We take a parable about God’s amazing, unconditional grace and acceptance, and turn it into a story about how we can earn or merit God’s love.
  • We’ve got the answer now: If we can just be humble like the tax collector and not be puffed up with pride like the Pharisee, then God will accept us and love us.
  • We may even find ourselves praying, “God, I thank thee that I am not like the Pharisee.”
  • The trap here is that we ask the wrong question of this parable.
  • It’s that distorted question “What can I do to be worthy of your love?”
  • The Pharisee in the parable asks this question, and he thinks he has the answer in his religious observance.
    • He fasts, he prays, he tithes, he lives an upright life.
    • The tragedy and the irony is that in the very act of demonstrating that he is worthy of love, he is cutting himself off from his neighbours and from God.
    • The tragedy and the irony of trying to make ourselves worthy of love through our supposed virtues, even the virtue of humility, is that we end up casting a sideward glance at others and measuring ourselves against them.
    • “If I need to earn God’s love, then I will have to be better than the others”.
  • But if we ask the right question, the question “Do you love me?” then the parable gives us an answer.
  • To the question “Do you love me?” God replies resoundingly and forever “Yes.”
  • The tax collector’s humility was not a virtue that earns him God’s love and acceptance.
  • The tax collector’s humility is a posture of openness in which he is able to receive God’s love.
  • Ultimately, the Pharisee and the tax collector are the same.
    • They both need God’s love.
    • The difference is that the Pharisee doesn’t know it and the tax collector does.
    • The tax collector goes up to the temple with nothing to show for himself.
      • His hands and his heart are empty and he knows it, and therefore he has room to experience the gospel and the good news is that there is nothing we need to do, nothing we can do, to earn the grace and love of God.
  • The love that moves the sun and the other stars, the love that creates, sustains, and redeems the cosmos, is always uttering its eternal “Yes” to our question “Do you love me?”
  • We are all loved. Loved unconditionally.
  • The answer to that deep and yearning question will always be “Yes”
  • …but how will you ask it?
  • Amen

    With respect to Rev. Dr. Joseph S. Pagano, from whom the middle of this text is taken.


    100 years ago: Stern words in Brighton (reposted from the Church Times)

    October 21st, 1910.

      © not advert
    CROWDED congregations filled St Bartholomew’s Church [in Brigh ton on Sunday last, when the preacher, both at High Mass and Evensong, was the Rev. Fr Maxwell, S.S.J.E. In the course of a powerful sermon, Fr Maxwell said:—

    “And now I must say this very solemn word in face of all that is being said and done in Brighton at the present moment, and in the face of the sermons that are being preached elsewhere. Knowing that efforts are being made to disturb the faith of some of you, I am obliged to say that it would be impossible for anyone in the Church of England who had had an experience of the reality of her sacraments to leave the Church of England and to enter the Church of Rome without absolutely and utterly contradicting all that blessed experience they have had, and without giving absolutely and utterly the lie to all God has done for them.”

    The preacher paused and there was a peculiar silence in the church. Then he continued: “You may be told that there is no need to deny the priesthood and the sacraments in the Church of England when you enter the Church of Rome; you will not be asked to deny them in words, but very soon any person who has been received into the Church of Rome will receive what I dare not call Confirmation — it is not Con firmation — but they will receive something which will claim to be the sacrament of Confirmation. And I say without fear of contra diction that it is quite impossible for anyone to go through that ceremony without, in fact, giving the lie to the Confirmation that they have re ceived here in the Church of Eng land. . . Confirmation confers char acter; it leaves its indelible mark on the soul, and it cannot be repeated without sacrilege.”

    Preached at the wonderfully high church (literally!) St Bartholomew’s in Brighton. I wonder if St Peter’s Folkestone have taken this on board. Contrary to all expectations, the Church of England remains faithful, Catholic and Reformed, celebrating the Holy Sacraments and proclaiming the welcoming, inclusive love of Jesus Christ which transforms people faster than the Church transforms as an institution. Most of us of a Catholic tradition are remaining within the Church of England, and continuing to do God’s work within in and through it. Leave if you must, but realise the significance of what you choose to do. I thank God for Fr. Maxwell’s words echoing down over the century, and the Church Times for bringing it to our attention.

    Eucharistic Prayer B – "It's Rising Up" Easter Mass for the 24 Hours of Worship, Portsmouth Cathedral 29/30 Oct

    This Blessed Eucharistic Prayer is more lively than some we do and hence more suitable for an Easter Mass. It is based on the intertwining of Matt Redman’s “It’s Rising Up” with the Eucharistic Prayer.

    Numbers in the text refer to the numbers on screen

    IT’S RISING UP from coast to coast,

    From north to south, and east to west;

    The cry of hearts that love Your name,

    Which with one voice we will proclaim.

    The Lord be with you

    and also with you


    Lift up your hearts

    We lift them to the Lord


    Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God

    It is right to give thanks and praise.


    The former things have taken place,

    Can this be the new day of praise?

    A heavenly song that comes to birth,

    And reaches out to all the earth.


    (1) It is indeed right, our duty and our joy,

    always and everywhere to give you thanks,
    almighty and eternal Father,
    (2)and in these days of Easter
    to celebrate with joyful hearts
    the memory of your wonderful works.

    (3) For by the mystery of his passion

    Jesus Christ, your risen Son,
    has conquered the powers of death and hell
    and restored in men and women the image of your glory.

    (4) He has placed them once more in paradise

    and opened to them the gate of life eternal.

    (5) And so, in the joy of this Passover,

    earth and heaven resound with gladness,
    while angels and archangels and the powers of all creation
    sing for ever the hymn of your glory…

    Oh, let the cry to nations ring,

    That all may come and all may sing:


    ‘Holy is the Lord.’ (Every heart sing:)

    ‘Holy is the Lord.’ (With one voice sing:)

    ‘Holy is the Lord.’ (Every heart sing:)

    ‘Holy is the Lord.’


    (6) Lord, you are holy indeed, the source of all holiness;

    (7) grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit,

    and according to your holy will,

    these gifts of bread and wine

    may be to us the +body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ;


    (8) who, in the same night that he was betrayed,

    took bread and gave you thanks;

    he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying:


    Take, eat; this is my body

    which is given for you;

    do this in remembrance of me. (Bells)


    (9) In the same way, after supper

    he took the cup and gave you thanks;

    he gave it to them, saying:


    Drink this, all of you;

    this is my blood of the new covenant,

    which is shed for you and for all

    for the forgiveness of sins.

    (10) Do this, as often as you drink it,

    in remembrance of me. (Bells)


    (11) And so, Father, calling to mind his death on the cross,

    his perfect sacrifice made once for the sins

    of the whole world;

    rejoicing in his mighty resurrection

    and glorious ascension,

    and looking for his coming in glory,

    we celebrate this memorial of our redemption.


    (12) As we offer you this our sacrifice

    of praise and thanksgiving,

    we bring before you this bread and this cup

    and we thank you for counting us worthy

    to stand in your presence and serve you.


    (13) Send the Holy Spirit on your people

    and gather into one in your kingdom

    all who share this one bread and one cup,

    so that we, in the company of

    Our Blessed Lady, Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Patron of this Cathedral

    <insert other chosen Saints here>

    and all the saints,

    may praise and glorify you for ever,

    through Jesus Christ our Lord;


    And we have heard the Lion’s roar,

    That speaks of heaven’s love and power.

    Is this the time, is this the call

    That ushers in Your kingdom rule?

    (14) by whom, and with whom, and in whom,

    in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

    all honour and glory be yours, almighty Father,

    for ever and ever.


    Oh, let the cry to nations ring,

    That all may come and all may sing:


    ‘Jesus is alive.’ (Every heart sing:)

    ‘Jesus is alive.’ (With one voice sing:)

    ‘Jesus is alive.’ (Every heart sing:)

    ‘Jesus is alive.’





    Psalm 118 – 24 Hours of Worship, Portsmouth Cathedral 29/30 Oct 2010

    With grateful thanks to 11LR, Elson Junior School who read for us the Psalm for Easter Day. This will be used as the Psalm for the Episcopal Mass at Midday at the 24 Hours of Worship event at Portsmouth Cathedral on the 29/30th October.

    Images: London: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

    Music: Dillinja “Never Believe”

    Psalm 118

    1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

    2 Let Israel say:
    “His love endures forever.”

    14 The LORD is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.

    15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
    “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!

    16 The LORD’s right hand is lifted high;
    the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”

    17 I will not die but live,
    and will proclaim what the LORD has done.

    18 The LORD has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.

    19 Open for me the gates of righteousness;
    I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.

    20 This is the gate of the LORD
    through which the righteous may enter.

    21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

    Whole Lotta Sabbath: Awesome Mashup

    This has got to be one of the best ever Mashups I have ever heard – of any genre: a true work of brilliance.

    This also features a large amount of my teenage bedroom soundtrack, and shows true creativity. Bravo.

    Now, pass me my Air Guitar, I’m gonna have another listen…

    Firebox 3: Reflect – 24 hours of Worship, Portsmouth Cathedral 29/30 Oct


    A4 sized Mirrors, with ikons placed at an angle from them, so that you see both your own face and the face of the Saviour in them.

    Music: U2 “Sometimes you can’t make it on your own”

    The Firebox meditations will appear at 5am in the Cathedral in the St Thomas’ Chapel as part of the Diocese “24 Hours of Worship” Event  Please come.

    The blurb for his section says:

    5am Firebox

    Firebox is a collection of three meditations, originally createdfor Blesséd’s unique take on sacramental worship: using incense, ikons and a sense of mystery. The participant is encouraged to spend time engagingwith these meditations, reflecting upon their createdness, their being-made-in-the-image-of-God-ness and their response to that reflected love.

    Blesséd, hailing from Elson in Gosport, is one of the Churchof England’s most unique fresh expressions. Led by Rev SimonRundell, Blesséd is firmly rooted in a sacramental tradition, taking liturgy, signs, symbols and mystery from the Church’s ancient past and rooting them firmly in the multimedia of the 21st Century



    Firebox 2: Love and Self Control – 24 hours of Worship, Portsmouth Cathedral 29/30 Oct


    A large bucket of stones and a handful of sponges. A large pot of water.

    Love can be as soft as sponges, or feel as hard as stones. It can make us feel warm and enriched. It can frustrate us, especially when love is painful, when love is unreturned, or when the love someone has for us prevents us from following our own selfish desires: the parent who won’t let us out all night is the one who loves us.

    Pick up a stone. Cradle it in the palm of your hand. Feel its smoothness and its broken edges.

    Examine it closely. It’s been shaped by centuries of waves and weather, damaged by explosion, by digging and building. Yet here it is, in your hand, in this field. In this place. In your possession.

    It has been shaped by experience, good and bad; just as we are shaped by our experiences of life, of love.

    I will take your heart of stone, the prophet told the words of God to the people, and give you back a heart of flesh.

    Our experiences can make our hearts as cold as this stone, as tough as rock. Emotions can bounce off of it and nothing can touch it.

    Do we think this makes us strong? Do we think that by putting up a strong shield against people we’ll save ourselves from being hurt?

    Do you really want a heart of stone?

    I will take your heart of stone, and give you back a heart of flesh.

    As you cradle this stone in your hand, pass onto it all those feelings of hardness in your life: those times when you have rejected others, been indifferent to their needs, their suffering. Let your selfishness coat this stone.

    Now gently drop it into the water, and let it sink. It takes away with it those feelings, it’s toughness absorbs the tough things in your life, and the stream of living water which Jesus speaks of washes those feelings away.

    I will take your heart of stone, and give you back a heart of flesh.

    A heart of flesh is a heart which beats to the rhythm of the world, a heart of flesh is one which is open to the needs of those it meets. A vulnerable heart is one that is open to the love of God.

    Take up a sponge. It is soft and yielding, it is flexible, pliable, responsive. It moves with you, and it moves with life. It is a heart which is open for God.

    I will take your heart of stone, and give you back a heart of flesh.


    Firebox 1: Let my prayers rise before you like incense – 24 hours of Worship, Portsmouth Cathedral 29/30 Oct

    A meditation: light some charcoals and put some incense on them, let the young people watch the incense rise whilst they listen to this.

    Scripture: Psalm 141:3 “Let my prayers rise before you like incense”


    Place sand in Balti Dishes, charcoal on sand. Set alight and when fully lit, add incense to charcoal.

    In the beginning, there was nothing: nowt, zilch, nada. In the midst of the nothing there formed a breath.

    The breath of God was moving in the nothing, and as it held, it formed, shaped.

    The breath spoke, and there was shape and form and substance.

    See as the incense hangs in this place. See how it forms and reforms. Uncapturable, unmastered: shape and form and yet so wonderfully complex that we cannot describe it fully. That is God. Beyond shape, beyond describable form, and just like the scent of holiness that now hangs in this space, it penetrates all that it touches.

    When you leave this place, the smell will be absorbed into your clothes; deep into the fabric of our lives, this incense weaves the power of God.

    What do you see in the ever changing column of smoke. Look and you might see faces, animals, clouds and figures. As the dancing smoke takes shape, breaks and reforms, so all of Gods creation is brought to mind. And further, deeper, you see something more: a shape which is Gods plans for you.

    Just as this smoke rises into the air, so do your prayers, your wishes, your deepest desires. Let my prayers rise before you like incense writes the Pslamist. Let your prayers rise.

    And as your prayers rise, become absorbed into this holy smoke, breathe deeply. Inhale the breath of life, the breath of creation, the breath which brought you into being.

    And listen.

    Listen to what God says to you. Feel in your soul.

    Breathe on me, breath of God.