Category Archives: Other Sermons

Sermon – 26 August 18 – 10am – David

A sermon preached by Bishop David on John 6:56-69 and Ephesians 6:10-20

With the great British Bake Off looming on the horizon,  a week last Wednesday I decided to make a chocolate cake. It was the Feast of the Assumption, the girls had gone out for a walk
so I thought I would surprise them with a treat on their return.
Step one: find the Bero Cook Book. This slim volume has been a good friend to me since the 1970s, and after several minutes’ frantic searching I found it squeezed between Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith in Rachel’s substantial library of recipe books.
Step Two: weigh out six ounces of Self-Raising flour into large measuring jug. Easy-peasy. Flour in cupboard to right of cooker, scales also to right of cooker, measuring jug in cupboard to left of sink. The measuring jug is an old friend and we have conspired together for years to make illicit dumplings for my favourite stews.
Step three: add two ounces of cocoa. Getting a bit tricky now. No cocoa in cupboard to left of cooker, but remember Rachel likes to drink cocoa of an evening, like those Aztec gods we studied in the Third Form. Find tub of Divine Cocoa with evening drinks stuff in corner and tip it into jug, but sadly only 3/4 of an ounce. Rummage through 17 kitchen cupboards like a zealous customs official searching for illicit drugs and eventually find tub with stash of Traidcraft tea in cupboard next to recycling bin.
Step four: add eight ounces of caster sugar. Find seven ounces of granulated sugar in flour cupboard, and wearied by my search for cocoa, decide that will do.
Step five: mix thoroughly. Ever the romantic, I bought Rachel a powerful new mixer last Christmas so set it on full and plunge it into mix. Result: mushroom cloud of cocoa dust
pothers up and descends on Curly Kale which Rachel has left soaking in washing up bowl.
Decide cocoa can only improve the wretched stuff’s taste so plough on regardless.
Step six. Add four ounces of olive spread and mix in, covering jug with hand to prevent further chocolate mushroom clouds. Pleased with resulting mix, which looks like a chocolate crumble.
Step seven. Pour five Tbspoons of condensed milk into small jug. Not sure what a Tbspoon is,
nor do I want to rummage in 17 cupboards again in search of condensed milk, so decide normal milk will do. Discover Tbspoon is 15 ml, so do the Maths and measure 75 mls.
Step eight: Instructed to pour five Tbspoons  of normal milk into jug, so repeat exercise
with strange sense of culinary déjà vou.
Step nine: Mix in two eggs. Decide eggs look a bit small, so add extra one.
Step ten: mix in eggs and milk with chocolate crumble. Looks a bit runny, but never mind.
Step eleven: pour mixture into two greased 8 inch cake tins. Mm. Encountered oven tin cupboard earlier. Brim full of oven tins which pour out like an alpine avalanche as soon as you open door. Open door, snatch out two circular tins and slam door shut, resting knee against it to stave off aforementioned avalanche. Contents of cupboard sound as angry as inmates of Birmingham jail after lock down.
Step twelve: find tape measure in tool box in garage and am delighted that two snatched tins
exactly measure eight inches diameter, including rims. Bero Cook book does not mention rims,
which I guess weren’t invented in 1970s.
Step thirteen: tip slab of butter into dish and use its wrapper to grease tins. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and insert tins containing very runny cake mix, which slops from side to side like North Bay spring tide.
Step fourteen: leave cooking for 20 mins whilst I amuse myself making fudge cream filling. Use slab of butter evicted from wrapper, add two Tbspoons of treacle which I find lurking next to Quaker Oats box and melt in pan, adding two tbspoons of dark brown sugar I had previously discovered in my search for cocoa. No pain, no gain!
Step fifteen: add four ounces of icing sugar to pan. Bit worried about pan melting scales so cool it off by dipping it into washing up bowl soaking curly kale. Sizzling sound accompanied by smell of burning kale and cocoa. Mix in icing sugar forming a fudge-like lump.
Step sixteen: melt three bars of CDM into water bath. Discover red plastic bowl which contained last year’s Christmas pud in cupboard next to oven-tin cupboard, still in lock-down, with noisy riot unabated. Put CDM into bowl gently melt in milk pan containing boiling water.
Step seventeen: cake been cooking for nineteen minutes now. Bero Cook book tells me to prod with skewer and if skewer comes clean, it’s cooked. Rummage in twelve drawers. Shout ow! in 12th drawer and realise I’ve found skewer. Stab into cake, then wash skewer in bowl containing Curly Kale and since it comes clean, deem cake cooked. Seems a funny test, but there again.
Step eighteen: tip cakes out onto cooling rack. Oh no, I’ve got to go back into oven tin cupboard,
still under riot conditions. Open door and am immediately viciously assaulted by Yorkshire pudding tin and liberated loose bottom of loose-bottom-cake tin. Snatch rack and slam door to prevent further escapes, kicking Yorkshire pudding tin and liberated loose bottom to other side of kitchen to be dealt with later.
Step nineteen: bang cake tins on kitchen shelf and tip out onto rack. Oh dear – concave hemisphere size of half cricket ball perfectly hollowed out in each half. Stomach turns as I recalled curacy in Middlesbrough days where lady had left her Christmas cakes to cool on living room floor only to find her mangy dog had taken bite out of each. Reassured me when she presented me with cake that she had filled hole with marzipan. Didn’t fancy that solution.
Instead, like skilled plastic surgeon moving skin from one part of body to another, sliced slithers off thicker part of hot cake and pressed them into hollow. Quickly use fudge cream as glue
spread on and slap two repaired halves of cake together.
Step twenty: Quickly cover with melted chocolate as girls return from walk.
‘I’ve made you a cake for the feast of the Assumption of our Lady into heaven,’ I declare, voice slightly shrill.
Thing is, the cake actually turned out great. But even if it hadn’t done,its preparation had involved twenty stressful steps, all for love.
Never mind the finished product, do we take into account those massive steps?
In our Gospel Jesus declares himself the bread which came down from heaven. Just think how many fraught stages cooking that bread had taken. The entire of the Old Testament, all those wanderings, all those prophets recalling God’s people to the true recipe, the ingredients highlighted in our reading from Paul.
Take a pinch of truth, four ounces of righteousness, five tbspoons of peace, greased with faith,
spread with salvation, all covered with the Word of God gently warmed in a font’s water bath.
Truth; righteousness; peace; faith; salvation; God’s word: six essential ingredients for our daily spiritual bake. Which cupboard are they in? Are they easy to access? Or have they suffered decades of neglect, forgotten behind the Five Spice jar?
Then the Annunciation, the birth at Bethlehem, the flight to Egypt, the baptism by John, the ministry,  the cross, the resurrection: crucial stages in the bake.
There used to be a Gospel song, All the way. Its title’s innuendo used to make me and my fellow curate giggle. But it was a good song.
From heaven above to earth below,
he came all the way for me,
from Bethlehem to Calvary,
all the way for me.
From Calvary to Easter morn,
he came all the way for me,
from heaven above into my heart,
he came all that way FOR ME.
All those frantic stages of baking the bread from heaven: all that for you.
The communion wafers I used at Helmsley I bought from the Carmelite nunnery at Thicket Priory on the banks of the Derwent south of Pocklington, where I’d lived as a boy. It was an enclosed order dedicated to silent prayer, all funded by making the wafers which you bought from a silent sister who took your written down order through a grill.
1000 people’s wafers; 20 priest’s wafers, God bless!
Every time I celebrated at Helmsley I used to think of all that the bread of life had done to reach me since 33 AD, two thousand years of the church, of prayer, all the prayer those wonderful sisters put into each wafer. Never mind the finished product. Just think of the journey it’s made to reach you.
Back to my chocolate cake, I cut off a big slice and took it to our neighbour. He’s a Roman Catholic, a doctor from Bombay working in Scarborough Hospital. His wife and daughter were away on holiday, he was home alone on call, so I wanted to cheer him up. ‘I’ve cooked this to celebrate the Assumption,’ I said to him, as the rain poured, realising how each of us had made the longest journey to enable this moment. A bishop from South Wales, a doctor from Bombay, brought together by Christ, the bread of life, as we are brought together this morning and wonderfully feed on him.
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.
(c) David Wilbourne 2018

Sermon – 26 August 18 8am BCP – David

Trinity 13: Luke 10:23-37

Even though we’re very familiar with that parable, let’s meet the Good Samaritan again as if for the first time.
The priest and the levite were rushing to the Temple, busy, busy, busy for God. Too busy to spot the need under their noses. Does being too busy with your religion make you miss the dire need unfolded before your gaze?
When help comes, it flows in a surprising direction. The man making the journey from Jerusalem to Jericho would be wealthy, wealthy enough to be robbed. The Samaritan would be the despised under-dog, belonging to an inferior race. Yet it is the underdog who comes to the rescue of the privileged, and not the other way around. Whom do we despise or look down on who is our very salvation?
The Samaritan stopped and came to where he was.
The essence of incarnation, God stopping and in Jesus coming to where we are. Our stables, our poverty, our hypocrisy,  our crosses, our resurrections.
The Samaritan gave the innkeeper two pence to look after the wounded Jew, pro tem. Actually it’s not two pence but two denarii. A denarius was a day’s wage, so two day’s wages. If  you are a vicar you earn £71.23 a day. So two day’s wages in vicarage currency is £142.46, plus the oil and wine and donkey carriage, and that’s just for starters.
‘Whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again I will repay thee.’ Reminiscent of Mother Julian’s vision of Christ bleeding on the cross:
‘All this I am doing to win your heart.
And if I need to do more, I will do more.’
Inspired by the Good Samaritan, which soul, wounded by the wayside of the world will you give £142.46 to today? And that’s just for starters.
(c) David Wilbourne 2018

 

Sermon – 6 August – Philip

When our Resources Run Dry

Readings: Isaiah 55: 1 – 5 and Matthew 14: 13 – 21

Well we are continuing in Matthew’s gospel and today we are looking at the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.  But before we get into what that might be saying to us today I’d like spend a little time beforehand looking at some of the background. And the situation is that Jesus’ cousin, John – John the Baptist has just been murdered by Herod.  And Herod is a nasty piece of work and the immoral ruler of this part of the country in which this story takes place.  And so as we meet Jesus in chapter 14 he is grieving over the loss of his cousin John, a young man of about 30 years old.  And it’s a tragedy that such a young man in the prime of his life, with a huge ministry should have his life cut short by a cruel and evil king.

And I wonder how we would we feel in a situation like that if we had just lost someone close to us in such a terrible way?  And most people I think would want to hide away, to be alone, and to withdraw and not to be troubled by crowds of people.  And for Jesus it’s been a hectic time and on top of that he has now received this shock news that his cousin has been brutally murdered and he probably might be next.  And understandingly Jesus slips away for some time to be alone, but it’s not long before the crowds discover where he is and begin to throng around him.  And contrary to what we might normally expect in a situation like this, his reaction to them is not frustration, it isn’t anger, it’s not annoyance.  Here is what we read in v.14

‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.’

And what we see is that the sorrow that Jesus felt over John and the sorrow he may have felt for himself, is now turned into sorrow and compassion for the crowds around him and his heart goes out to them.

And in the parallel version of this story in Mark’s gospel it says he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  And what we see in this as a very intimate and personal metaphor for the care, protection and guidance that the Lord gives to those who turn to him in faith.    And you can almost hear in this echoes harking back to the Old Testament and Psalm 23.  And I’m sure you know that is the Psalm that begins:  ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’  But it is not that the Lord is just a shepherd.  The Psalm says: ‘The Lord is my shepherd.’  And that speaks of a personal relationship.  And our faith is not just an empty religion, it’s a living and personal relationship we can have with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is very much alive today.

And as Jesus ministers to those in need around him we can begin to hear further echoes from this same Psalm.  The Good shepherd meets our needs.  He restores the sheep.  He has the sheep to lie down in green pastures.  And as it says in Mark’s gospel, Jesus has the people to sit or recline on the green grass.

Now we need to still bear in mind that Jesus’ intention in coming to this place was not to minister but to take a break, to get some peace and to get some rest.  He’s already had a taxing ministry schedule and is still grieving over the death of his cousin, John.   But as Jesus begins to see some of the desperate needs in the crowd he is stirred to the depths of his heart and moved with compassion.  And so he begins to minister to them.

And it’s not just Jesus who is tired but the disciples are tired as well, as they have been assisting Jesus with the ministry.  And ministering to needy people can be very demanding and draining.  It can take a lot out of you.  People can very insistent and demanding.  And none of the disciples have anticipated that there were going to be this number of people who would be chasing them across the lakeside.  And I’m sure all they wanted to do was to take a break and spend a little time themselves with Jesus.

And I can imagine the sort of thing that may have been going through their minds as the day was wearing on.  “Lord I think we’ve done enough for today.”  I can imagine someone like Peter saying: “Lord can’t you just tell people to go home – we are just not prepared for this – can’t we just tell them to get lost.”  And sometimes we can become very weary with well-doing.
And over the years I’ve been here at St Laurence’s I’ve seen so many of you lovingly care for others and give them support and that’s just been an amazing thing for me to witness.  And it’s not unusual, is it for followers of Jesus who have a heart that deeply cares for others and their circumstances to find Jesus again and again bringing others to them to give them help and support.

And I wonder how many times you may have encountered needs that you felt were far bigger and beyond the resources you personally were able to give.  Or you may have been faced with circumstances or a problem that was so overwhelming you’ve thought – this is just beyond what I can cope with?  Or sometimes you may have felt so tired and worn out that you just couldn’t go on.  And in these situations sometimes all we can do is to take it to Jesus and pray.  And one of my favourite spiritual writers is the Quaker, Richard Forster and he says this.  He says:
‘If we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them and this will lead us to prayer.’

And it’s often when we are at the end of our own strength and resources and we turn the whole thing over to the Lord that he steps in and does the unexpected.

Well Jesus and the disciples are continuing to minister to this vast number of people but the disciples are becoming increasingly aware that it’s getting rather late and that these people they are ministering to haven’t had anything to eat all day.  And if we look at verse 15 it says: ‘As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late.  Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy some food.”
Now try and imagine – you are one of the disciples, you’re already very tired and hungry.  And you suggest to Jesus that it might now be a good time to wind things up but Jesus is having none of it.  And this is how he responds.  He says: “No – No – they don’t need to go away. – You give them something to eat.”

Well how might you react I wonder?  I know I’d be thinking:  “What’s he asking us to do now – this is impossible.”  And I’m sure what Jesus is doing here is seeking to provoke a response.  And there is a response: “Well we have five loaves of bread and two fish but that’s all.”  And, of course, that’s barely enough for two people, never mind such a big crowd.  And these weren’t loaves as we think of them today, like a Kingsmill or Hovis ‘Best of Both.’   They were actually more like small pancakes or pita bread, little flat cakes or bread that would have been cooked on a stone.

And Jesus says: “Look bring them here to me.”  It then says: ‘Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.’

And so Jesus takes the loaves, lifts his face to heaven and prays and then breaks them and gives them to the disciples.  And a possible interpretation of the text (and I’m only saying possible) but a possible interpretation, and what I think happened, is that the bread and fish are multiplying as the disciples are distributing the bread and the fish to the people in the crowd.
In other word it requires their participation and faith.  The disciples are actually having to do something.  They need to step out in faith.

And so try and imagine the possible scenario.  Jesus gives each disciple a little piece of bread and a little piece of fish and sends them up the hill and says: “Now go feed those 400 people over there, Andrew.  Peter, you feed those 500 up there.”  And I can imagine Peter looking at these little pieces of bread and the fish and saying “this is crazy – why does Jesus get me to do these crazy things?  This is embarrassing.”  But nevertheless Peter goes up the hill in obedience to Jesus.

And he starts to tear off a little piece of bread, as we do here when we are having an informal communion, and it starts multiplying in his hands.  And it’s amazing.  And possibly in being so taken up with the task he’s been given he gets caught up in the flow of it.  And so he tears off another piece and there is more bread.  He starts tearing off more pieces and starts ripping up the fish and they are multiplying – and on it goes.  And, of course, as we know when everyone’s eaten there’s more food left at the end than there was at the beginning.

And so what about the personal application for us today.  Well I wonder about those times when we encounter a need which, we know is much bigger than our own resources to meet.  We long to help but in reality we know there is very little we can actually do.  But then what about, when faced with circumstances like these, giving them over to God and saying something to him along these lines.  “Lord I acknowledge this is way beyond me but I offer to you whatever I can do to help, however inadequate that maybe for you to use for your glory.”  And it’s amazing how, at times, he takes us up on that and often in ways we don’t expect.

And I’ve been reading what Tom Wright says about this and he says:

‘We offer uncomprehendingly, what little we have.  Jesus takes ideas, loaves and fishes, money, a sense of humour, time, energy, talents, love, artistic gifts, skill with words, quickness of eye or fingers, whatever we have to offer.  He holds them before his father with prayer and blessing.  Then, breaking them so they are ready for use, he gives them back to us to give to those who need them.’

And then he goes on to say this: ‘It is part of genuine Christian service, at whatever level, that we look on in amazement to see what God has done with the bits and pieces we dug out of our meagre resources to offer to him.’

And I think that is amazing! Amen

Philip Newell (Reader)
Sermon preached at St Laurence’s, Scalby at a service of Morning Worship on Sunday 6th August 2017

Sermon – 19 Mar 17 – Philip

Living Water

Readings: Exodus 17: 1 – 7 and John 4: 5 – 11

“Where can you get this living water?”  Well that’s a question a woman from Sychar in Samaria asks Jesus in a strange and very unusual encounter at a place known as ‘Jacob’s Well.’  And it takes place as Jesus is on his way back from Judea, in the south of the country, to Galilee in the north. And Jesus has purposely decided to take a rest at this particular place which is located in the very heart of Samaritan territory.  Now a Jew would not normally take this route back through Samaria, but it’s the hottest part of the day and Jesus is tired and he’s thirsty.  But he has a reason for being here and it’s not long before this woman comes to draw water from the well.  Now this would not normally happen in the circumstances of the time – but Jesus takes the opportunity to engage her in conversation and he asks her for a drink.

And they start talking- talking about water.  And very skilfully Jesus uses this image or metaphor of water to explain how the water he can give is not like the water in the well – but living water which is like an eternal spring that can well up within us.  And it conjures up a picture of newness of spiritual life constantly bubbling up and spilling over.  But at this stage the woman has not quite grasped what he’s getting at – but it sounds good and so she asks if Jesus if he will give her some of this water.

And we can see what Jesus is doing.  He’s trying to draw the woman gently on from the material to the spiritual.  And it seems, to me, that for us too, Jesus through the presence of the Holy Spirit is constantly prompting us to move on from the material to the life of the Spirit.  But how far we are prepared to go depends on just how thirsty we are.
And so as we’ve seen, Jesus is obviously not talking about natural water (the material if you like) but the newness of spiritual life and vitality which we can experience and enjoy when we come into close relationship with him.

And this isn’t just about drinking – it’s about overflowing.  And we see this as Jesus develops this metaphor a few pages later on in John chapter 7 when he speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Let me read to you what it says.

It says this: ‘on the last and greatest day of the Feast Jesus stood and said in a loud voice: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  And the text then goes on to say: ‘By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.’
And so are we amongst those who are thirsty for this living water?  And I think it prompts us to ask ourselves where we stand in relation to Jesus.  Do we know Him?  Do we really know Him?  Do we know anything about that living water welling up within that he promises to give to those who believe in him?

And the more I read and study the Scriptures it’s my personal conviction that I believe that Jesus is calling each one of us into a deeper relationship with him – deeper than we we’ve ever known before – deeper in the place of encounter – deeper in the place of intimacy.
And you know we can be involved in a lot of religious activity and other stuff and in the midst of it all still miss him and remain at a distance from him.   But his desire is – that we draw near and to know him and to be known by him.

Well Jesus engages the woman who has come to the well in conversation and you can imagine what might have going through her mind.  “Who is this speaking to me?  He’s a Jew and I’m a Samaritan and Jews and Samaritans don’t have anything to do with one another.”  And there’s a long history as to why this should be the case that goes right back into the Old Testament.  Well we haven’t time to explore that this morning.  But suffice it to say a self-respecting Jew wouldn’t even breathe the same air as a Samaritan.  As far as they were concerned they were unclean and heretics as they were not proper Jews.

But what’s more, it wasn’t just that she, a Samaritan was conversing with a Jew, but for a man to talk to women in public like that just wasn’t the done thing at that time.  At least that’s what the rabbis told you.

But not only that – but we learn later that this is a woman with a string of broken relationships.  She’s been married five times already and the man she’s now living with is not her husband – and for the time it’s all rather scandalous.  Maybe that’s why she comes to the well in the heat of the day when no one else does.  She’s fed up with the whispering behind her back and people looking down on her because of her lifestyle.

And for Jesus, a holy rabbi, to be seen talking to a woman like this would have been shocking to his Jewish contemporaries.  But Jesus is not going to allow what others might think – detract from what he came to do.  He goes out of his way to seek out those who are needy – to reach out to those who feel they are worthless and let them know they have value in his sight.
And it seems to me that what we have here is a woman who is desperately seeking to be loved.  But the tragedy is that the men in her life have let her down in one way or another – she’s already been through five of them!

It maybe some of those relationships have been abusive – we don’t know.  In addition to that, the fact, that she comes to the well on her own, at the time she does, also seems to suggest she’s been ostracised by her neighbours because of what they perceive to be her promiscuous lifestyle.  And maybe all this has left her with little or no self-worth.

And so we see Jesus going out of his way to reach a person in need.  And in looking at the personal application how do we connect with people in a thirsty world I wonder.  One thing we see in the story is that Jesus – the one who could call on legions of angels and through whom the universe was made – making himself needy and vulnerable.  Jesus is tired from his journey and needs to rest by the well.  Not only is he tired but it’s hot, being in the heat of the day, and he’s thirsty.  And he asks the woman to give him a drink.  And it’s through that he reaches out to her.

And reaching out to others is what we are called to do as followers of Jesus. And this is a theme picked up by the Archbishop of York in his call for us to be out and about in our communities talking to people about Jesus.  And commenting on a recent Church of England report he says this: “Our job is to be out there, on the streets, wherever it is, sharing this amazing message of Jesus: that he actually forgives us our sins, gives us new life in the present and hope for the future.”

And then a quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.   He says this about it:
“We share the good news, not because it’s a duty….but because we are consumed with knowing how wonderful Jesus is – we want to talk to others about him.”

And if we are excited about Jesus this can be all done very naturally without being forced.  I came across an article in Christianity magazine recently by Mike Pivalachi, a well-known Christian leader who’s involved in a ministry amongst young people called ‘Soul Survivor.’ And in the article he shares a story involving one of his friends called, Sam.

And he says this: ‘Now there was nothing special about Sam.  He’s just an ordinary guy who loves Jesus and has faithfully done his best to serve Him in the area of inner city Birmingham over the last 20 years.  And over that time he’s experienced both joys and sorrows, good days and bad days as he’s sought to introduce unchurched young people to Jesus.

And in June 2015, Sam was walking through a park when he noticed a man sitting alone on a bench.  And as he was passing, he sensed the Lord saying to him: “His name is Daniel and he feels as though he is in prison from which he can’t escape.  I want you to tell him that I love him and want to rescue him from his prison.”

Well in fear and trembling, as one can imagine, Sam went over to the man, introduced himself and asked if his name was Daniel.  Well the man responded rather aggressively with a “No.”  And at this Sam understandably felt rather deflated but nevertheless decided he may as well go and tell the man the second part of what he thought the Lord had told him.  And at this the man started to cry and told Sam that his name was indeed Daniel.   And it soon became clear that he’d lied because he’d been freaked out by Sam knowing his name and it also became clear the reason he’d been sitting on the bench in the park is because he was preparing to commit suicide.

And so Sam sat with the man for the next two hours during which he introduced him to Jesus and prayed with him and the following Sunday took him to church.  And now Daniel now knows there is a God who loves him and loves being part of his new church family.
Now Sam could easily have shrugged off that prompting from the Spirit as he was walking through the park that day.  “It’s just my imagination,” he could have told himself and just walked on but he didn’t.

Well it’s when the living water begins to overflow that we have that desire to reach out to others.  We see that with the Samaritan woman after her encounter with Jesus.  She goes off and tells people in her village about her meeting with Jesus.  And it seems she’s so excited she leaves her water pot behind.   It’s as though she’s splashing the water about all over the place.  And that’s what living water does when it begins to bubble up and overflow.

Well let me finish with something very practical which we can all do.
We’ve seen Jesus reaching out to the Samaritan woman and then we’ve seen the woman reaching out to others with the good news of Jesus.  Well what about making a start in our own neighbourhoods, the places where we live.  If someone new moves in near us – why not go and knock on the door, introduce yourself and welcome them to the parish by offering them one of our St Laurence’s Welcome Packs and just see where it goes from there.  It’s a very neighbourly and friendly thing to do and a way of getting to know new people.  It’s not difficult at all and it’s something, as a church, we’ve been doing on the new High Mill Estate for some time now.  These packs are very attractive and can be picked up from Freda in the Church Office and there’s some at the back of church as well.  However, if you do pick one of these up please make personal contact with the person you intend giving it to – don’t just push it through the letter box – it makes all the difference – it’s that personal encounter that makes a lasting impression.

And so can we all be encouraged to do that!  And wouldn’t it be great to see lots of that living water being splashed about all around our parish.

Philip Newell (Reader)
Sermon preached at St Laurence’s, Scalby on Sunday 19th March 2017 at a service of Holy Communion.

Sermon – 20 November 16 – David Butterfield

Generosity

Bible Readings: Isaiah 6.1-8; Luke 15.11-24

It was two years ago last June that I stepped down from being Archdeacon of the East Riding, and became Archdeacon for Generous Giving and Stewardship. It was Archbishop Sentamu’s idea, and it’s just for three years. So I now travel around the whole of the Diocese of York advising PCCs about how to strengthen their income from Planned Giving. I am looking forward to meeting with the members of your PCC on Thursday January 19.
The vision for our Diocese is that we will be a family of Generous Churches Making and Nurturing Disciples. So, as the word “generous” is in our Vision Statement and in my job title, I thought I would focus on the word “generous” this morning.
On the theme of generosity, there was once a church where the church members were not at all generous. One day two spiders who lived in the church happened to meet as they were walking down the main aisle. One spider says to the other, “I hear you’re moving house?” “I certainly am,” replied the other spider. “I’ve been living in the pulpit all my life, but this new vicar preaches so long and loud that I’ve not had a moment’s peace for weeks”. The other spider says, “Then you must come and live with us. We live in the collection box and we have not been disturbed for years!” I’m sure that would not be true of you here at St Laurence’s.
On the theme of being generous, let me begin by saying “Thank You” to you here at St Laurence’s. I imagine you are aware that every Church in the Diocese of York, makes a monthly financial contribution to what is called The Common Fund. It is from the Common Fund that all the clergy are paid and other Support Services from the Diocese are funded. I would like to say “thank you” to you for the way that you have made your contributions faithfully, month by month, and year by year. Having been Archdeacon of the East Riding, I am aware that your record of generous and faithful goes back many years.
I recall the occasion when you received a legacy and, I think it was two years running that you decided to pay the total amount of (what was then the Parish Share) in January. I remember when I thanked Alastair for this he, in his self-deprecating way, pointed out that with very low interest rates there was no point in putting it in the bank. However, not every PCC would have decided to this and I think what you did indicated a real spirit of generosity.
What’s more, I am aware that you have increased your 2017 Freewill Offer to the Common Fund by a substantial amount. So thank you again for your faithfulness and generosity, and the Archbishop, who is my Line Manager has also asked me to pass on his thanks when I visit Churches.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we should be generous people. But why should disciples of Jesus Christ give generously?
There are a number of answers to that question, but I think the first, and the most important reason why those of us who call ourselves Christians should give generously is this: We give in response to the generosity of God: the generosity that has shown to each one of us.
In the Gospel Reading we heard the well-known parable of Jesus which illustrates the amazing generosity of God. In the parable, the Father threw a party for his wayward son, even though his son didn’t deserve it. That is meant to be a picture of how God lavishes his generosity on us! I’ll refer to the parable again a little later. But first let me reflect on God’s generosity to us, by drawing your attention to a prayer.
As a small boy, I recall that my Grandfather once told me how he had come across a prayer in the 1662 Prayer Book. The Prayer is called “A General Thanksgiving”. It’s not a prayer that we use very much today, and yet it is a brilliant prayer. This is how it begins…..
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we thine unworthy servants
do give thee most humble and hearty thanks
for all thy goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all men.
My Grandfather told me of the time when, having read the prayer, it stopped him in his tracks. This was because, he suddenly thought to himself: “Albert, when have you given humble and hearty thanks to God for his goodness and loving kindness to you?”. He then went on to tell me about how, from then on, he had endeavoured to be a more thankful person.
This Prayer of Thanksgiving was written by a man called Edward Reynolds who was the Bishop of Norwich between 1661 and 1676. So, in his prayer, what examples of God’s goodness and loving-kindness does Edward Reynolds encourage us to thank God for? He lists them.
He begins with, “We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life”. If you were to write down a list of “all the blessings of this life” that God has poured upon you, what would you include?
* that we live in the UK – a developed country, a safe country to live in?
* Life would be very different for us if we had been born in such a place as Iraq, Yemen, or Syria.
* that we have homes to live in, clothes to wear, an abundance of food to eat?
* that we have medical services available free at the point of need?
* that on a world scale, we are so rich!
There are a number of websites where you can enter the level of your income and it tells you how rich you are on a world scale. They vary a bit, but the general overall picture is the same. One website reveals the following……
* If we have a net annual income of £15,000 per year, we are in the top 4% of the richest people in the world.
* If our net income is £20,000, we’re in the top 2%.
* £25,000, the top 1%
* £30,000, the top 0.6%
While those figures will not be precisely accurate, I think we get the general message, and in response, we say to God, “Yes, we bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life”.
But then, secondly, we Christians are on the receiving end of a wealth and riches that money cannot buy, and which relate to another life that God has promised us. So Edward Reynolds prayer continues…..
We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ:
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
This section of the prayer lists four significant spiritual blessings…..
God’s love
If we are in Christ, we have tasted God’s inestimable, which means “immeasurable”, love. As Paul writes, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Redemption
We have experienced being bought back by God from our slavery to sin at the cost of Christ’s death – all for us. Rather than being excluded from God’s presence because of our sin, we are able to approach the throne of God because Jesus died to save us from our sin.
Grace
One definition of the word “grace” is, “Something for nothing, for those who don’t deserve anything.” As Christians we have been on the receiving end of God’s generosity – God’s Grace.
Hope
To top it all, we have, what the prayer calls: the hope of glory – the promise of life beyond the grave. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
I don’t think we fully appreciate these spiritual blessings, these riches of God’s grace! I believe we gain a better appreciation of them in those moments when we catch a fuller glimpse of God’s glory.
We think of Isaiah, who, as we heard in our Old Testament reading, had a vision of God in all his glory. His response was to cry out, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips…..yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
When Isaiah had a vision of the purity and the holiness of God, he was suddenly aware of how much he was in need of God’s cleansing and forgiveness, his mercy and his grace. At that point in his vision, a seraph touched his lips with a live coal and said, “Your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”
I believe that it’s when God reveals himself to us in a special way and we glimpse God’s glory in a way we haven’t done before, that we suddenly see how far we fall short of his glory, and so realise the amazing generosity of God in sending Jesus to die for us, so that we can be blessed with every spiritual blessing and be given a taste of the riches of heaven. So how do we respond to this amazing generosity of God?
A first way, is to thank God for his goodness to us, and we can use this ancient prayer to do this as we say to God, “”We give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us”.
A second way that we can respond to God’s generosity is by being generous people ourselves.
So what does it mean to be generous?
Last year I focused on this question at an assembly I was taking at a secondary school in York. I offered the students a couple of working definitions of what the word “generous” might mean. The first is, “To be generous is to give in a way that is above and beyond what I would normally have expected myself  to give?”
Or looking at it from the point of view of the receiver, “To be generous is to give in a way that is above and beyond what the person on the receiving end of my gift would have expected to receive from me?”
If I were to develop this question further in a Christian context I would point out how the words “generous” and “generosity” do not occur very often in the Bible. The reason for this is because the authors of the Scriptures use another word instead. That is the word Grace. The word “grace” includes “generosity” and a whole lot more besides.
As I said earlier, one definition of grace is, “Something for nothing, for those who don’t deserve anything.” If you had been the father of the Prodigal Son, how would you have responded when your son turned up on the doorstep. Would you have been rather cool towards him? I suspect that few of us would have responded by killing the fatted calf and throwing a party! But that’s a picture of the generosity that God extends to us!
So, if we are going to respond to the generosity of God by being generous people ourselves we need to pray that the generous Spirit of God will motivate and inspire us to be generous, as he is generous. Of course there are a myriad of ways in which we can be generous.
* By having a generous attitude.
* By giving people the benefit of the doubt.
* By always being ready to forgive.
* By giving gifts, and it’s especially meaningful if we are able to give gifts that we have made with our own hands.
* Also, a significant way of being generous is through the giving of our money.
As Christians, I believe it is important that we see the giving of our money is part of our worship. In the last chapter of 1 Chronicles, we are told of how King David made preparations for the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. He invited God’s people to bring their gifts to pay for it. There was an incredibly generous response.
Although they all brought their gifts to the King – King David, the writer of 1 Chronicles doesn’t say that the people “offered all this to King David”. The author writes, “Then the people rejoiced because…..they had offered freely…..to the Lord.” They regarded their giving of money as worship! I believe that we should see the offering of our money as part of our worship too.
In the order of service for Holy Communion, at the point at which the offering is presented, there are a number of different prayers that can be said. One of them is this prayer of King David…..
Yours Lord, is the greatness, 
the power, the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you,
and of your own do we give you.
So when we place our gifts into the offertory plate or give by Standing Order, we are caught up in worship as we give back to God what is really his.
So we rejoice that we have a generous God, and we pray that he will inspire us by his Spirit to be generous people.
Finally, when I took up my post of Archdeacon for Generous Giving and Stewardship nearly 21/2 years ago, the very job title, “Archdeacon for Generous Giving” challenged me! Having the word “generous” in my job title caused me to ask myself the question, “Am I a generous person?” I thought, if there were to be a eulogy at my funeral, would someone make the remark, “Well I’ll say one thing, he was generous chap”? I’m not sure they would, but I have been working on it and I am continuing to do so.
So may I end by asking you the question, “Are you a generous person? Will they say of you at your funeral: She was a generous woman. He was a generous man?”.