St Bride's: Sermons

The Church's year

Luke 21: 5-19

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And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,

As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?

And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.

But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.

10 Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:

11 And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.

12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.

13 And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:

15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.

17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.

18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish.

19 In your patience possess ye your souls.

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In this country we experience different kinds of year. There is the calendar year, January to December, there is the fiscal year, April to March, there is the farming year which begins with sowing in the spring through to harvesting in the autumn: and then there is the Church's year, which is just coming to an end, about to start afresh on Advent Sunday in two weeks time.

And just as people usher out the old and bring in the new year on December 31st with noise and partying and fireworks, so the church announces the end of one year and the start of another with a bit of its own chaos: the apocalyptic images in today's Gospel, dramatic and unexpected happenings in sun, moon and stars - turbulence and upheaval - and all in order to obliterate the past and prepare for a new spiritual beginning. And just as new year resolutions are made on 1st January, so the challenge for us is to make a new church year spiritual resolution - to live the spiritual life better than we did last year, as we prepare once again for the beginning of the Church's year on Advent Sunday, when we say Come Lord Jesus, afresh, into our world and into our hearts.

But what does it mean to live the spiritual life, to be a spiritual person? How do you know if you are a spiritual person or not? Here are four straightforward signs.

A spiritual person has the capacity for transcendence. In other words you are aware that there's something more to existence than meets the eye, that this world points beyond itself to its creator. In contrast to the atheist who says what you see is what you get, the spiritual person senses something more, in every flower, every landscape, in art, friendship, beauty, kindness, that hints at something or SOMEONE more, and that unless we can get in touch with that someone there is something missing in our lives. So the spiritual person notices, has the capacity to see beyond and behind.

Secondly, you are a spiritual person if you have developed a sense of vocation. And I don't mean they want to get ordained, but that whatever job you are doing, it's not just a job. That we have been put on this earth for a purpose and a reason, and that what you do is part of that. As Cardinal Newman put it:-

God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another.
I am a link in a chain,
A bond of connection between people,
And he has not created me for naught.

Thirdly, you are a spiritual person if you use spiritual resources to solve problems. You obviously, if you have any sense, use practical skills and help, but you also turn to prayer, seek solitude, find strength in worship, and in the fellowship of the church and use these spiritual resources to put life and its problems into a larger context.

Fourthly, you are a spiritual person if you do decent things. It's as simple as that. You actually show love, forgiveness, compassion, gratitude, honesty and decency in your daily living. You go the extra mile, you do the right thing even when it costs you. Daily, unsung heroism that breathes the spirit of Jesus Christ.

So here we are, on the threshold of the church's new year, gathered in worship, united in our collective weaknesses and longings, and yet called to be spiritual people, as a living sign to a troubled and confused world that there is meaning and purpose to life, that the "beyond" is in our midst, calling us to live moral and transformed lives, and that we have spiritual resources to help us do that.

That's what it means to be a spiritual person. And when we hear that lovely collect 'Stir up O Lord the wills of thy faithful people', perhaps we should think about, not being stirred to do things, but to receive great things. Of being stirred to look, and listen, to develop our spiritual sensitivities, our awareness of the God dimension to life. Let that be our spiritual resolution as we approach the beginning of another new Church year. Amen.

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