Showing posts from April, 2017

St Michael's Camden Town: what we've done in a year

In the weeks after Easter the disciples meet the Risen Lord in a variety of ways. But there is one constant in their experiences: they all at first fail to recognise him. It takes some word or action to open their eyes to his presence, and the trigger is something different for each of them, whether it is Mary being called by name, Thomas recognising the wounds, or the pair on the Emmaus road in the breaking of bread. Jesus calls to each of them, reveals himself to each of them, in different ways according to who they are.
We have achieved a lot this year, and I mean ‘we.’ We are an Anglo-Catholic church with a high view of priesthood and a tradition of expecting the clergy to be in charge, I know – but this doesn’t mean we have to have a low theology of baptism. We are all baptised to fulfil God’s potential in us as he calls us one by one, and my vision for this church is one in which everyone here discerns and fulfils his or her own particular vocation, hears Our Lord calling in eac…

Worried about memory loss? England should be.

A friend of mine used to joke about a certain priest’s sermons which went something like this: “I walked into the supermarket yesterday, and it reminded me of Jesus. Amen.” Well, my sermon today may be a little longer than that (sorry), but I’m going to start in a not entirely dissimilar way.
Not, admittedly, in a supermarket, but in a shoe shop, J.D. Sports in Camden Town, in fact, where I found myself on Good Friday, all cassocked up like a faithful priest. Now before you raise your eyebrows in horror that I was out shopping on Good Friday, a day of fasting and weeping and all that, I should point out that I was trying to get a pair of trainers for a homeless man whose shoes had worn out. But I’m not here to “virtue signal.” I just want to tell you what a juxtaposition it was, leaving the tomb-like stillness of my church and going into J.D. Sports. The church was bare, the altars stripped, the people silent and contemplative; but the shoe shop was jam-packed full of people from a…

What have the martyrs ever done for us?

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. And just as well.
This time last week, we were processing around the block with palms in our hands, a short but powerful proclamation of Our Saviour’s entry to Jerusalem: powerful enough that passers-by joined our number, and I hope that some of you have come back here to celebrate His rising from the dead and triumph over death today with us.
But at the same time, while we were singing our way through the back of Sainsbury’s, far away in Egypt, a church full of our brothers and sisters kept Palm Sunday in a very different way. We may feel that we are making ourselves a target by parading publicly as Christians out in Camden Town, but those Egyptian Christians in that awful bomb attack, even as they were beginning to celebrate their Lord’s victory over death, died for the faith we share.
We are right to be horrified and to mourn, but it is important not to lose sight, especially on Easter Day, of what it was we and our Egyptian brethren were proclaiming l…

It's just bread and wine

Imagine: you’ve just made a deal with someone and shaken on it. The person then goes off and breaks the deal straight away. When you ask them about it and point out that you shook hands, they say “What of it? It was just friction between flesh.”
Or imagine for a moment that I took your national flag and burned it right in front of you; and when you got angry, I said, “well, it’s just a piece of coloured cloth.”
Or to take another example, what if I ripped the head off a toddler's favourite teddy bear? She could cry all she liked, but after all, I could say, “it’s just some stuffed bit of polyester.” What’s all the fuss about?
Now of course, a handshake or even a kiss is friction between two people’s flesh. A flag is a piece of coloured cloth. A teddy bear is a stuffed bit of polyester. But to say that they are just any of these things is misleading. They have a deeper significance than their mere outward forms might suggest.
And yet there are those who like to say that the Euc…

Wednesday of Holy Week: Handing Over

So far, since Monday, I have been saying that there is a common thread holding each of the three gospel passages together in the Greek word paradosis, which means in the Bible both "handing over" and "betrayal," and so links Judas' handing over of Jesus to the authorities with Jesus' handing over of himself in bread and wine. We saw how three characters respond to Jesus handing his body and blood over to them: Mary by giving without counting the cost, Peter by betraying Jesus but returning to him for forgiveness, and Judas by betraying Jesus, handing him over to the authorities, and losing all hope and trust in God.

So far we have been looking at all this through the lens of St John's gospel. Like yesterday, today we are guests at the Last Supper, but now we put on St Matthew's specs and see see things slightly differently. So let’s set the scene.

First thing, forget the painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The disciples were not sitting on chairs around…

Tuesday Traitors

I hope you've got the keys to the Tardis in your handbags, because we've got a bit of zipping through time to do in these three days of Holy Week. Yesterday, St John took us back in time to the night before the events of Palm Sunday, and we heard how it was Mary who had listened and understood how Our Lord was going to be handed over to the Cross and how he would hand himself over to us. Mary’s response was to give without counting the cost, in contrast with Judas, so desperate for everything to be costed for usefulness. Interesting that it was a woman who understood Jesus better than any disciple, just as we commemorate the women weeping for him in the Stations of the Cross, and just as it was a woman, another Mary, who first saw him resurrected: especially since today, our gospel is a tale of two men, and both traitors.

I do love a good John le CarrĂ© novel, especially the ever-popular "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." Le CarrĂ© builds up a sympathetic portrait of the…

Get rich quick

I was walking home one day in my clerical garb, and just up the road from here (St Mary's Somers Town) a couple of homeless men who were having a drink on a step stopped me, with the usual request. I don't carry cash in Camden Town for just this reason, and normally when I say I'm not carrying any, that's enough - or if someone is really desperate for food, I'll go with them and buy them some on my card. But these gentlemen had a bit of Dutch courage in them and clearly wanted a bit of sport. "The Church has got lots of money," one of them said. "You're meant to help the poor. That's us. So why don't you give us all the Church's money?"

The homeless people were genuinely poor, which lends their objection some strength. However, you do hear similar arguments from wealthier people, too. I once received a nasty little email from someone in Berkhamsted saying that the best thing we could do for him would be to turn the church into a…