Sermons

A selection of Father Peter’s sermons at St.Cubys.

Easter 6 2016

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Story of banker / politician / tradesman / social security claimant.

A modern story for modern times – it perhaps shows why the world does not give peace – cannot give peace – rampant greed  undermines social cohesion. Avarice has always been with us and probably always will and hence we always need to be alert to it.

There was a brilliant portrayal in a recent drama on BBC4 – a Danish drama entitled “Follow the Money” – great title and wise advice for anyone wanting to understand history.  On the face it of it you had this wonderful green energy company called Endergren which was really a giant financial scam of Enron proportions –   Endergren was drama – Enron of course was real life.

The reason I mention this today is because it is Nones Sunday when daughter churches of Merton Priory will remember their long abolished mother house.

Now we all know our history don’t we? Henry VIII appointed Cromwell to review the monasteries and religious houses, list their possessions and report back.  Surprise, Surprise  …. Cromwell reported back the religious houses were corrupt and needed reform. Oh yes reform! Closing and removal of their possessions and transferring their wealth to the crown was just incidental!

Now the Church was powerful so Henry needed friends – what better way to get friends than to offer the aristocracy a share in the plunder………..and it worked a treat. Land was transferred to the dukes and barons and the religious houses fell into ruin. The senior clergy of the monasteries and priories were pensioned off (those that is that did not resist – those who did were hung, drawn and quartered). Just a little echo there of the Mafia making you an offer you could not refuse!

Nothing much changes  – we live today at a time when the cry has gone up about reform of public services – a new dissolution of the monasteries in a way.

Schools are being forced to become multi academy trusts like the hospitals and health services were forced to become foundation trusts. This has happened under all political parties for the last 25 years so I’m not being party political…………I’m just saying follow the money.

How many of us if we needed to borrow money would pay twice or three times the interest rate we needed to pay? Yet this is what PFI has meant…………….so if you keep spending the same gross amount on public services but saddle them with PFI debts you’re transferring money to the pockets of the banks and reducing the service’s ability to meet public needs.

PwC and the other consulting accountancy firms are appointed to rove over public services like modern day Cromwells. Should we be surprised if like Cromwell they find solutions which just happen to line their own pockets and those of the banks and private equity groups?

Merton Priory is an example from Tudor times of a policy based on greed. To look at my opening story again you can just imagine Henry saying much the same to the merchant class of his day while he and his landed friends increased their wealth exponentially.

We need a peace that comes from greater social cohesion, something built on the values of the Kingdom of God rather than the values of the Empire of rapacious private interests.

Pope Francis has said, “the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other and the problem is they don’t even look for them anymore.”  They seek peace in superficial diversions – X factor style. But who can blame people seeking escape from a world of 14% unemployment and zero hour contracts!

The Jesuits researched the situation of young workers and discovered that their findings revealed a reality that is in stark contrast to the celebration of the dignity of work that is an integral part of the social teaching of the Church.

Given the vast contradiction between the experience of working life for many people and the dignity to which the Church declares that workers are entitled, there are bound to be implications for society as a whole and specifically for the Church. The teachings of the Church on dignity and labour are clear; the teaching offers us a vision of what God wants for us and therefore inspires us to work for the realisation of that vision, in our own lives and those of others.

The Church uses its voice to point beyond the financial implications of unemployment and precarious work to the mental and emotional consequences of a lack of work or substandard working practices.  Just as Pope Francis has done, just as Archbishop Welby has also done . As the Body of Christ, we are called to tackle injustice wherever we see it, including in the workplace.  14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Easter 4 17 April 2016

7:17 for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

From our Gospel reading:

10:27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

Why is it that religion in the west is so tired, so threadbare, so worn out? Why is it we feel parched and not guided to the springs of the water of life? Why does the fullness of life in God escape us?

I think it is because the Church has lost the art of being mystical.

Albert Einstein was asked toward the end of his life if he had any regrets. He answered: “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” This is a significant confession, coming as it does from one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th century, a man who moved beyond the modern science of Newton and ushered in a postmodern science and consciousness.

In the West, the modern age (meaning the 16th to mid-20th centuries) was not only ignorant of, but actually hostile to, mysticism. Fundamentalism by definition is anti-mystical or distorts mysticism, and much of liberal theology and religion is so academic and left-brained that it numbs and ignores the right brain, which is our mystical brain. Theological colleges teach few practices to access our mysticism. This is why many find religion so boring — it lacks the adventure and inner exploration that our souls yearn for. As St. John of the Cross said, “Launch out into the deep.”

Western religious dogma, guilt trips and institutional churchiness starves the mystical in us. The West remains so out of touch with its own mystical tradition that many Westerners seeking mysticism felt and still feel they have to go East to find it. While this can work for many brave and generous individuals, it cannot work for the entire culture. Carl Jung warned us that “we westerners cannot be pirates thieving wisdom from foreign shores that it has taken them centuries to develop as if our own culture was an error outlived.”

There is great wisdom in our Western spiritual traditions, but  this needs a new birth and a fresh beginning. This is where the Christian Mystics come in. We in the West must learn again their insights and take them into our hearts.

Change is necessary for the survival of Christianity. Carl Jung said: “Only the mystics bring what is creative to religion itself.” Jesus was a mystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British empire; and Martin Luther King Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk.

We might listen to the 12th century Abbess Hildegard of Bingen who was an amazing musician, painter, healer, writer (she wrote 10 books), scientist and poet. She writes of a love affair between the Divine and nature when she says: “As the Creator loves his creation, so creation loves the creator. Creation, of course, was fashioned to be adorned, to be showered, to be gifted with the love of the creator. The entire world has been embraced by this kiss.” Echoes there of the Song of Solomon.

Fr. Bede Griffiths was an English Benedictine monk who spent 50 years in India living and building up an ashram that was Christian and, in many respects, Hindu. He wrote a number of books on the coming together of Eastern and Western mysticism. He writes:

“Perhaps this is the deepest impression left by life in India, the sense of the sacred as something pervading the whole order of nature. Every hill and tree and river is holy, and the simplest human acts of eating and drinking, still more of birth and marriage, have all retained their sacred character. … It is there that the West need to learn from the East the sense of the ‘holy,’ of a transcendent mystery which is immanent in everything and which gives an ultimate meaning to life…”

The Oxford Movement in the CofE  re-engaged the Church in  England with that sense of the sacred, that provided a colourful worship in which people could lose themselves.

Deep down, each one of us is a mystic. When we tap into that inner mystic our faith becomes alive again. From that reawakened faith comes creativity, the prophetic vision. With a reborn faith we discover we want to serve in whatever capacity we can. Getting in touch with the mystic inside, the core of our being where we “know” God, is the beginning of  a deeper commitment.

7:17 for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

10:27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.