Sermons & services

Sermon for Trinity XV

Published Monday 18th Sept. 2023, at 8:14 p.m.

So this is probably the toughest sermon I’ve preached at St James, and there’ve been a few tricky ones, let me tell you. Do I just stick to the readings, and ignore the fact that this is my final sermon here as your parish priest? Or do I make it a leaving sermon and forget the readings? Because this is really difficult. It’s hard to walk away from a group of people that has become like family over the last six years. There are feelings of guilt: am I doing the right thing, am I letting people down? Feelings of sorrow: things I haven’t managed to achieve. Feelings of satisfaction: things I have managed to achieve. Feelings of anxiety: I have a deep love for you and for this church and I want to see it thrive and grow in the future. There are feelings of excitement too for my own future and the challenges that await me along the Central Line. Lots of feelings; lots of emotions. Lots of memories: the vast, vast majority of them good, by the way. Memories of those we have known and loved but see no longer. Memories of weddings and baptisms. Memories of wonderful experiences and wonderful people met along the way. Lives encountered and, I hope, enriched. Because I suppose most of all, I hope that I have helped you to deepen your love of the Lord Jesus. After all, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Jesus. Only Jesus. To know Him. To love Him. To worship Him. To imitate Him. And to make known His love for you to others. You probably noticed that over the years, a few bits from the bible constantly crop in my preaching. Here’s one of them. St Paul told the Christians in Galatia: I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. This is the Jesus we follow. The one who loved us and gave Himself for us in his life and in his death. The one who shows us God’s love, lived out in a human body. And so I suppose that brings me neatly to today’s Gospel which reminds us of God’s care and love for each one of us, personally. Another theme you may have noticed is that I like to talk about how none of us in an accident: we are all here because God wants us to be here. And I bang on about this because our increasingly atheistic culture says that we are here through nothing but sheer chance. And I believe profoundly that this message puts down deep and worrying roots within people. Shakespeare sums it up in Julius Caesar: Life’s but a walking shadow, A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more:

Is this all we are? Just lucky throws of the evolutionary dice? What is my purpose here? Do I even have a purpose? Now I know some wonderful atheists who live profoundly rewarding lives for themselves and for others. But at the same time, telling people that ultimately they’re here and then they’re gone is, I have no doubt, one significant contributory cause of the anxieties many people – especially young people – have about the meaning and purpose and direction of their lives. But we have a different message. We have a message that says we were in God’s mind before there was ever a thing called creation, before there was a thing called Time. Before there was anything, you and I were in the mind of God. Personally. And we were brought into being by the God who is love, held in being by love, and destined to share in that love after death for all eternity. Please, in the months and years ahead, hold these things in your heart and mind. God is love and loves you with an infinite and passionate love. And in Jesus he became one like us in all things but sin to draw us into the life of God. He came to pour that life – that love – of God into our hearts so that we might pour it out for others. To show us the way to our heavenly home, and blaze the trail that would take us there. Our translation of the Gospel today has Jesus saying, take no thought for your life. But a better translation is do not be anxious. I know the next few months of interregnum are not going to be easy. And I know many of you know that. But I can only repeat the words of Jesus today. Do not be anxious. Trust in the Lord. Trust in his care for you and this family here at St James. And another of my favourite quotes. Love one another. Jesus teaches us that the world will know us – and so Him – by the love we have for one another. So be gentle with one another. Bear with one with another, as St Paul tells the Colossian Christians. Love one another. Help one another. Never presume that someone else is doing that thing you notice needs doing. Never be nervous about volunteering to help. Never stop praying for one another. Never stop trusting in the Lord. Do not be anxious. Thank you. Thank you to you all for all your friendship and love and support. Thank you for all the amazing, happy, memories. Thank you and may God bless you.