Sunday Sermons

King's Lynn Minster

Sunday 1st November 2020 – All Souls Choral Requiem

By Brother Gilbert, OC

One of the things that is most awful about watching someone we love dying is that we usually feel so helpless.

It is, of course, something to which we cannot accompany them. Whether we want to or not, we have to let them go.

Death is something each and every one of us has to experience alone.

And, as I say, that letting go is painfully just something we have to watch passively.

The opening words of our reading from the Lamentations is strictly speaking about the dying person but I feel that it also echoes the thoughts of those left behind.

“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.”

 

But you and I are privileged to have the knowledge that that is only part of the picture.

For - spiritually - we are not helpless at all.

And we can do so much - both for them and for us.


Because of our faith - because we believe that life continues beyond the point of death - there is a sense in which we don’t actually have to let them go at all.

Naturally their physical presence is no longer there - and that is often acutely painful.

But we have the faith that they are still very much living and there is no real separation at all - in the spiritual sense.

 

That reading from the Lamentations goes on to comfort the troubled soul when it declares:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.

It is exactly the same for us. As the people of God, our care and our concern for our departed continues. Our steadfast love never ceases.

And that is at the heart of what we gather here to do this evening.

 

We are here to hold before God for his love those whom we have loved. And not just that - for being part of the whole human family - we hold before him, too, all the departed.

Our love does not stop at the point of a death - and, wonderfully, neither does God’s.

And, as an instrument of our love we employ the graces and benefits of this Eucharist on their behalf.

Because we are Christians, we believe that this Mass is the holiest thing that we can ever do. And so it is fitting to do so with them in our minds and hearts at this time of remembrance.

 

In our Gospel reading this evening we hear so many words of encouragement and comfort.

We are told that the Father raises the dead and that our belief in Christ assures us of eternal life.

And it finishes with the wonderful declaration:

‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.’

 

In some ways, the modern world seeks to separate us from the reality of death.It is something that does not take place at home so often nowadays.

It is something that we might feel uncomfortable to talk about. People can often be quite old before they see a dead person.

Perhaps my talk of it this evening sounds quite awkward to your modern ear.

Even, despite the fact that death’s reality has been thrust upon us by this year’s crisis.

 

In contrast, for our ancestors, death was very much a constant companion. You only have to look around at the ages recorded on their ledger stones at our feet in the Chancel here to realise its familiarity.

In former days, death was a constant companion and neighbour.

And from that reality and that familiarity there comes the prayers that we hear in our wonderful music this evening - in the Faure setting.


There we see both sides of all of this that I mentioned earlier - the helplessness that we might feel and the help that our love and our prayers can still provide.

We hear in this lovely music all the anguish of parting - all the longing for the departed - all the pain of separation.

But we also hear the love we still have that pierces through death.

And, above all, the choirs’ voices lift our prayers for all who have gone to God.

 

The Risen Lord has conquered.

Christ has broken the seal not just of his own tomb but the seals on the tombs of everyone.

They are not an end. They are an open way.

They are a gateway.

And in love we pray that the souls of the departed will ever rest in the abiding peace of our Saviour.

Amen

 

King's Lynn Minster

Sunday 1st November 2020 – All Saints

By Revd Angela Rayner

Do you know the story of “Alice in Wonderland”? It contains a wonderful scene where Alice is speaking to the Queen. They are comparing ages.  Alice is seven and a half.  The Queen, it turns out, is “one hundred and one, five months and a day”.  Alice cannot believe that.  She says she cannot believe impossible things.  But, the Queen responds, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice… Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”.  Sometimes, Christian creeds seem to require such impossible belief.  And, today, on All Saints day, I am reminded of the apostles creed in which we affirm, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting”.  What an exhausting list! Six impossible things before breakfast.

But belief matters.  We live, these days, in what is known as the “none” generation.  Our friends, colleagues and neighbours do not believe in God, or at least in organised religion.  Whilst I don’t doubt this lack of belief, the rise in alternative spiritualities shows a hunger still exists.  I suspect today’s difficulty is not just that people do not believe in God - the difficulty is that they do not believe in the Church, in the saints.  Let’s face it, our failure to safeguard children, or welcome the Windrush generation, or handle disagreement over gender or sexuality with grace, all these have damaged the church.  And if the saints do not shine in glory, if our hearts aren’t brave, and our arms aren’t strong, then maybe people do not believe in God anymore because, as a Church, we’ve ceased to witness faithfully to God.

 

What do we mean then, when we say “I believe in the communion of saints”?  Traditionally, the church is divided into three types of saints.  There’s the Church militant - those are the saints on earth - you and me.  Then there is the Church penitent - those are the saints awaiting glory.  When we pray for our sisters and brothers who’ve died, these are the people for whom we pray.  And, finally, there is the Church triumphant.  These are the people believed to have attained the full vision of God; St Peter, St Paul, St Monica.  These saints are the ones whose prayers Thomas Cranmer once suggested we might request.  For Catholic Christians do not pray to saints; we ask that they pray on our behalf, when we are too tired or weak or busy to pray for ourselves.  But, you might wonder.  What has any of that to do with us?  The saints are all very well, but we are just ordinary people, aren’t we?

On All Saints Day, we usually consider the church triumphant, “the saints who before us have found their reward”.  We give thanks for these people, and look to their example and ask for their prayers. But there is only one communion of saints.  There is only one holy, catholic and apostolic church.  So, in today’s gospel, Jesus asks us to imagine that all disciples might someday be saints triumphant.  When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  We don’t know who will follow Jesus’ call out of the crowd to be a disciple.  We do not know who will be a saint, and who will remain a by-stander.  The crowds heard Jesus.  The crowds heard Jesus, but only the disciples followed him.

And so, those disciples, those saints, who’d left their homes and goods and their entire lives follow Jesus up the mountain.  They’re given a lesson in whom they are becoming.  These “blessed are” sayings are known as the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes only make sense as a description of Jesus Christ. We cannot make ourselves meek or hungry for righteousness.  We cannot tell somebody to be poor in spirit.  These are gifts.  And they are gifts given by the God who first embodied them.  Jesus’ words “point beyond themselves to himself”.  These sayings, these beatitudes are the interpretation of Jesus’ life.  Here is the man who is poor in spirit.  Here is the man who mourned.  Here is the man who is meek, who hungers and thirst for righteousness, who was reviled and persecuted.  Here is the one about whom evil was uttered, who died for us.  If we are to live out our calling as saints, we can only do so through following Christ.

 

This part of the Sermon on the Mount is not, then, given to each of us as individuals.  It’s not a shopping list!  This description of the saints is given to us as a community.  And so, when we look around this place, we glimpse in one another the merciful.  We notice those who mourn.  We observe the pure in heart.  We see those things because we are Christ’s body, the Church.  The beatitudes are not more impossible things to believe before breakfast but a “description of the life of a people gathered by and around Jesus”.  “Jesus does not suggest everyone who follows him will possess all the Beatitudes”, but some will have each of them.  If God is drawing the crowd to himself, we need to find ways to be visible as disciples, as a community, to demonstrate his life to the world.

But, I realise, my friends, I am asking for the impossible.  How can we be visible when re-entering lock-down?  How can we be peacemakers when we cannot even leave our homes?  How will we spot the meek when some of the places in these pews have been empty for eight months?  Perhaps we learn from our reading in Revelation.  In his vision, St John sees the great multitude that no one could count from every tribe and nation and people.  We might first look to the saints who’ve gone before, to ask, how in situations of conflict or depression or persecution, how they lived faithfully as Christians?  And then we might watch their actions, for “they cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to be Lamb”.  The ones we call saints worship God in spirit and in truth. 

This lockdown is long and hard.  If we are to make it out the other side as a community, we must learn to worship God in our homes.  It is as we seek God - in the Scriptures, through prayer, by music, in silence - that we grow as saints.  And as we grow in knowledge of God, we find ways to reach to our sisters and brothers, and beyond the disciples, to the crowd.  We will have to be imaginative!  To phone or text or write or to drop notes to those we’ve not seen for a while.  But perhaps as we confess the reality of the communion of saints - not as another impossible thing to believe before breakfast - but through those who’ve gone before, and in those who are still our neighbours - perhaps the “nones” of our generation might glimpse a God worth believing in too.

Amen

 

King's Lynn Minster

Saturday 31st October – All Souls Service of Remembrance

By Canon Chris Copsey

2020 has been a year that is marked by the overwhelming turmoil and dislocation of the global pandemic. A year where our everyday lives have been changed and restricted beyond anything we could have imagined and now looks to continue.

‘Nothing is the same now’

is a phrase I have heard so often because of Covid but also one I hear often when I am with anyone who is grieving for someone who has been close.

‘Nothing is the same now’

Through many months this year it has been particularly devastating that churches have not been able to offer a place of refuge or prayer and funerals have not been possible or severely restricted. Despite the restrictions a candle has burnt in the chapel behind you and prayer offered by many, including the clergy, with these words

Loving and eternal God 

In prayer we bring all those whose lives we remember and who were precious to us

Those Whose last moments we were unable to share. 

Those whose farewell was not as we wished

We leave each one in your tender and loving care.

God of compassion,

be close to those who grieve

In their loneliness, be their consolation; in their anxiety, be their hope;                                                                                                                                                      in their darkness, be their light; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So tonight is so important, to bring us together in God’s presence to remember our loved ones who have died, to hold before God the fact that we miss them, to remember that nothing is lost in God’s care, and to try to trust him for their safe-keeping.  There are not easy things to do,

But now, here, is a place that is safe,

A place where we can remember, smile, cry.

A place where we can sit quietly with our feelings of loss, whether they are terribly raw, or no less real but made different by time.

‘Nothing is the same now,’ loss makes life different but we each have our memories, things that bring our loved ones to mind. I know that plants in my garden bring memories of my mum.  For many it is photographs, recipes handwritten by friends, favourite music and food, remembered sayings, hints of certain fragrances.

For many of us, the memories we have are happy ones – but for some the memories themselves are painful – difficult relationships, misunderstandings and unresolved endings.

This church has been here for over 900 years, and the stones of this place have been hallowed by prayers, tears and laughter uttered by countless thousands of people who we will never know, their memory long gone but who tonight we hold too as we remember those we know and love.

In a few moments we will come to that part of the service when we remember by name those we have loved.   Angela and I will face the Easter candle, a beacon of hope, symbolising the promise that Christ, the light of the world is with us always even in the darkest times.

The Easter candle, lit it in the shadows of Easter morning, remembers the first Easter morning when the first hints of the possibility that death is not the end were whispered in the dark.   With that one word, Mary, Jesus announces his resurrection.

Here is hope and love for all people for all time. 

God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ Bottom of Form

“Nothing is the same now”

So we come in this ancient holy place to hallow, to bless, each life that we love.

Take some moments of stillness, think of precious memories, ones that make us laugh and those that make us cry.

We offer our thoughts and our memories 

To God who understands our sense of profound sense of loss;

To God who is strong enough to bear the heat of the over whelming emotions that the pandemic has caused…anger, anxiety, isolation and the denial of the need to gather and to hug those close to us;

God who is gentle enough to cradle our exhaustion and offer to all his healing, his light and his peace.

As we remember those we love we let them go from our love into the presence of loves completeness.  A love that will never, ever let us go.

Amen

 

King's Lynn Minster

Sunday 25th October 2020 – Last Sunday after Trinity

By Revd John Smith

 

In our ever-changing world I find in recent years, as I grow older, I need reminders to help me. For example, I am very grateful to my Church Pocket Book and Diary 2020 that reminds me of the many changes that have and are taking place within the Churches Calendar. Today the diary states it is the last Sunday after Trinity, the 20th Sunday after Trinity, Bible Sunday and summer time ends. Bible Sunday, in the good old days, was on the 2nd Sunday of Advent but changes have taken place. We miss out on the collect for Bible Sunday which reminds us to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest Holy Scripture. My diary is helpful when I have the privilege of talking here and helping in other parishes in other dioceses. I find these reminders very helpful.

Earlier this week I saw an advert in my newspaper last week a reminder that wasn’t very helpful, in fact it wound me up. Shop early for Christmas it said. Far too early in my humble opinion.  It isn’t even the end of October. We in our household prefer to take our time and we will celebrate Christmas in a right and proper way when the diary says its Advent then Christmas as we then celebrate the birth of our Lord.

I’ve also seen another reminder that raised my hackles – a rehash of advertising from 12 years ago that atheists had placed on buses to say there is no god. “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” Well, may God bless them. I believe in God. There are lots of things for us to worry about, this pandemic an example, but I have no desire to plaster any adverts on buses – I believe that we and our Church buildings are the best adverts for God –we have God and our faith to help us face life with all its ups and downs. And our church building is a better advertising hording than the side of a bus; marvel at what our ancestors did all those years ago and ask the atheists to ask themselves why did the folk of many years ago build such places – mostly for the greater glory of God.

Then there is another good and important reminder of what our faith means to us in the gospel reading for today. Matthew tells us in the discussion a lawyer had with our Lord of the 2 great commandments whereby we live our lives – love God, love your neighbour.  They are actually 2 Old Testament commandments, we heard one of them in today’s Old Testament reading, and most people in Jesu’s day knew these commandments and did their best to live by them. But it was Jesus who brought the 2 commandments together, they came from different sources within the Old Testament; Jesus had the wisdom to combine the 2 and amazingly they are the basis for all religious faiths in our world today.

The Pharisees were very fond of linguistic arguing and putting a point over but Jesus played them at their own game and quoted from one of the psalms attributed to King David who was the great hero for the Pharisees and Jesus told them that he, the messiah, God’s anointed one, was greater than David.  May we always be reminded to live our lives in faith, loving God and loving our neighbour. 

Amen.