Yesterday I marked ten years as Master of the Foundation of Lady katherine Leveson and Vicar of St Mary’s Temple Balsall. Here are some extracts from my sermon:
From any perspective ten years is a reasonable slice of time. Perhaps, about an eighth of my life? 520 weeks. 3,640 days. Give or take a few this amounts over 800 services, over 50 weddings, 118 funerals and 135 baptisms. The statistics tell another story but that is not for me to narrate today – be aware, my friends, always be aware of those who wish to write themselves into significance.
Part of the transformation that must always come being a disciple of Christ is that we should have a proper sense of self-regard which does not claim to much; which seeks to nurture a healthy sense of humble humour about oneself….. for we surely live in a world where the ego constantly attempts to justify itself? And in the self-justification there is always delusion and not a little bit of fantasy.
So these ten years matter – they matter to me very much and I hope that they matter to you. It is a privilege to be your priest and to lead this community. They have been stimulating, demanding but happy years and I have much to be thankful for.
However, this morning you would not expect me, I hope, to escape into reminiscence about the past. I am too young for that and too wary of those who seek some kind of secure refuge in it.
Last year I found myself at a meeting in London and I noticed that the clock on the wall wasn’t quite right: the second hand on the clock was moving correctly – tick, tick, tick – counting every tiny section of time with great regularity and determination – but the hour hand was stuck. Every second was counted, but time had no direction and was going nowhere. We could have sat there for ever if we had relied on the clock. And frankly, during the conversation of one or two of the people around the table, it felt like that!
Think of the image – a second hand moving – but no marking of time with the hour hand. Unless we put the detail into a bigger perspective – unless we allow seconds to become hours, days, years – then we are stagnant. What matters today is that we seek God’s grace in this Holy Eucharist to live for a future under his love. We need to reflect on the ethos and purpose of our life together, the fabric of living, to try and interpret where we fit into God’s mission in this time and this culture. This intentionality; this reflectiveness which can lead to wisdom is in itself a sign of life and growth. We may understand backwards, but we must always live forwards. You will all know parishes and institutions and places where there are meetings, but no conversation and no reflection beyond the immediate and the mundane: tick, tick, tick.
A church or a community like this foundation become small, concerned only with the examination of results and statistics and money and buildings and the status of individuals and which offices they need or want, but forgets about the learning and the loving and the following and the fostering of a common life in which new ideas can flourish and ancient wisdom can be recovered. Such a church, such a foundation has its second hand ticking, but the hour hand is stuck; its members count the seconds but they cannot tell the time.
So in this respect our vocation is always to be radical, to get back to the roots of common purpose, and to be visionary; to see beyond immediate concerns, to recall the greater project of the common good.
So, this morning, while giving hearty thanks for all that has been offered and shared and discovered over these past 10 years. I wish quite firmly to put them behind us and to look to the horizon, to look to the future. We need to think about what we are becoming, we need to plan for a life which can draw others in, which can deepen our sense of the wonder and beauty of God; which can make us more loving, more hopeful, more trusting human beings. Beauty that longs for God, that who makes us disciples of Jesus Christ, a follower, a learner, a servant sent in his name. In Christ, in this Eucharist, that longing finds a direction and a shape. In his kingdom is our utmost fulfilment; his love, his compassion, his beauty, his truth, his goodness, his grace in Christ. And so we are led to pray;
For all that has been Thanks : For all that will be YES.