A sermon for Y’All

Here is a sermon that I preached on Sunday. You can find the audio here. (This one is more fun to listen to than to read, I think).

I have learned in the course of my travels that it sometimes takes people a few minutes to atune to the way I speak. I’ve learned that people sometimes need a few sentences before they get used to my accent – the way that I speak.

And of course, it works the other way around too.

I am getting used to listening to the sounds of voices that I am not used to hearing. And of course, coming to here, the first time I’ve been in the South has meant me having to listen extra carefully.

Before I came on this here I decided to lose weight and get fit. Over the course of a year I managed to lose 30 pounds. What I hadn’t realised was that when I came to the South, the hospitality would be such that I would put those 30 pounds back on. During breakfast.

Whilst I was eating that first breakfast, I had something to ponder. For the very first night that I was here I had the strangest of dreams. I’ve been up at Sewanee, the University of the South. It is a beautiful university and an excellent seminary and I was their guest. That first night, I dreamed that I had encountered angels. It is a strange dream to have these days though it would not have been particularly unusual in Biblical times. [Indeed, one might think that a very great deal of John’s Revelation, part of which we heard this morning, was just such a dream].

Anyway, I woke up on my first full day in the South absolutely sure that I’d encountered angels in my dreams. And as I came to, I desperately tried to remember what they had been saying. I knew that something was important. I tried and tried.
However, to this day, I can’t remember anything of the conversation.

I do remember one thing though. [Read more…]

Black Vestments

I noted Anne’s comment about seeing Bishop Kevin in splendid black vestments on Wednesday at Millport and it got me thinking about the wearing of black vestments here.

I’ve tended to be lucky in that I’ve been in a couple of churches which have black vestments and which I very happily wear for the requiem on All Souls’ Day and also sometimes at individual requiem Eucharists if that is the format of a funeral.

Some people get very twitchy about this and think that the right thing to do is to don Easter gladrags and wear gold to proclaim the resurrection.

It seems to me that most black vestments say something quite profound – they usually have gold or white or silver orphreys and that glimpse of resurrection trimming the black seems to me far more apt.

I think that the black vestments on All Souls’ Day say that we are unafraid of acknowledging that we are all touched by the rawness of grief; that we all stand alongside one another, frail and at times overwhelmed. It seems to me important to say by word and deed and even clothing that the church proclaims the love of God at the times when we feel least able to perceive it.

I call the congregation to mourn on All Souls’ Day.

There were tears.

And they were good tears. And we recognised that those who have died are held in the hand of God.

At the end of the service I also called the congregation to move on. To let the dead be dead and to live in the light of the resurrection. Several people have said to me that was a turning point moment in the way they are thinking about someone they have lost.

At the end of the service, we did change the mood. After all the mourning, we sang in a rather triumphant and defiant way in the face of death an appropriately upbeat hymn:

Ye blessed souls at rest,
who ran this earthly race
and now, from sin released,
behold your Saviour’s face,
his praises sound,
as in his sight
with sweet delight
ye do abound.

Ye saints, who toil below,
adore your heavenly King,
and onward as ye go
some joyful anthem sing;
take what he gives
and praise him still,
through good or ill,
who ever lives!