St Bride's and the Guild - St Bride's: Reflection

St Bride's: Sermons

St Bride's and the Guild

Matthew 25: 14–30

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14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.

19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

St Bride's and the Guild
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I can think of no widely known parish church that is better identified with its historic local community than St Bride's. Fleet Street has lost its immediate identification with the newspaper industry, but the idea of this Street as the home of newspapers lingers in the mind and the very name remains in use to identify the print media. The Guild of St Bride helps maintain and refresh the link.

Canon Alison Joyce as Rector of St Bride's and Rector of the Guild will play a key role in ensuring that the print media and their associated electronic media continue to look to this ancient and holy place of worship as their own spiritual home.

Having represented the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, patrons of the living, in the appointment process, I am confident that Alison is the best possible new Rector. She will expect and deserve the prayerful and practical support of the Guild and of the whole community of the Church here. For hers will be no easy task, even though she has had splendid encouragement from The Times, behaving last Saturday like a good old-fashioned local newspaper, or even a parish magazine.

Maintaining strong links with a community such as the media is bound to be difficult for the Church, not simply on the grounds that they have moved out of the parish and are anyway busy and short of time and trying to save money.

The Church is generally seen as eccentric and out of touch, religious faith is thought to be either toxic or marginal, spirituality is seen as a life-style choice and a matter of personal satisfaction, and God is massively misrepresented, if represented at all.

From the other point of view, things are little better. The print media are losing circulation and risking trust, newspapers are no longer needed for the record, journalists are rated little better than politicians, social media get you the news faster and anyway the news is so bad that no one really wants it. All people want is a little diversion and amusement.

And if the world has problems with the Church, the Church has real problems with the world. Calvinism lurks strongly within the faith and order of the Church of England. According to the Book of Common Prayer, those who are to be baptised are to be saved from perishing like Noah and his family in the ark and to pass through the waves of this troublesome world that they may come to the land of everlasting life. The godparents must promise to renounce the vain pomp and glory of the world with all covetous desires of the same so that they will not follow nor be led by them. The Book of Common Prayer sees the world as a wicked and dark place from which Christians are saved while all else perishes.

There is some biblical support for this belief. Jesus says to his disciples, 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.' And St James writes, 'Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.'

There are of course other ways of looking at the world. 'God saw all that he had made and behold it was very good.' And, again in St John's Gospel, 'God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.'

If we were not to recognise the deep and pervasive presence of cruelty, violence, exploitation and sheer wickedness in the world, we would be blind or mad or ourselves wicked. The current ills of Syria and Iraq, of Libya and Egypt, of Israel and Palestine, of South Sudan and Northern Nigeria and Ukraine bombard us day by day with temptations to despair.

I imagine we have all been reflecting over the past year on the difference between the state of the world a hundred years ago when the Great War broke out and the state of the world today. It has been powerfully borne in on me that a hundred years ago one of the reasons that the political and diplomatic classes of the various nations that ended up in that awful conflict failed to prevent it happening in the first place was their overoptimistic confidence that the world had moved on, peace had been maintained in Europe, with a few exceptions, for almost a hundred years, and the prosperity and maturity of the nations of Europe meant that a world war was simply not conceivable as a notion. It was - and it was bloody.

A hundred years on, there seems little optimism about international affairs. We are so battered by the failure of the Western alliance to achieve its goals over the past thirteen years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so aware of the terrors elsewhere, that we have largely become pessimists and see little but pervading gloom. If we do not wish to raise the Church's drawbridge in order to protect ourselves as Christians from the wicked world, we might anyway be determined to raise our national drawbridge in order to protect ourselves as English or perhaps British men and women from the wicked world. But all that is wrong. I want to keep the bridges down, to keep them traversable.

Today's Gospel reading about the man about to travel into a far country handing out his wealth to his servants, to one five talents, to another two and to a third one, is not easy to interpret. The context might help us. Chapter 25 of St Matthew's Gospel has three great parables which are all about being prepared for the coming Kingdom of God: the parable of the bridesmaids, some ready for the bridegroom to arrive and others not; the parable of the talents, some using the wealth they have been lent and another not; and the parable of the last judgement, some caring for the sick, the naked, the prisoner and others not. 'Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.'

What is particular to the parable of the talents is that Jesus expects his hearers to learn from the ways of the world. The commentators warn us against interpreting the word talents to mean gifts or abilities. It simply means at first a weight and later an amount of gold. It is of course almost impossible to translate the value of a talent of gold in our Lord's day into pounds sterling in our own. But even one talent is thought to have been a great deal of money, worth at some estimates a labourer's wage over a 15-year period. It should have been made to work, not buried in the ground. So, likewise, our Lord's hearers should recognise that, if we are to be worthy of a place in God's realm, we have to give it priority, to work at it.

Our faith, our practice of religion, is not to be a self-serving lifestyle choice, a matter of whatever makes us feel good about ourselves, but requires of us deep commitment and perseverance. And it is not just about us. We are to believe that we should - and that we can - make a difference in the world. If we have little optimism, we can at least have hope.

And here, I see an alliance between the Church at its best and the media at their best, both aiming to expose and drive away corruption and to bring healing and hope. Though both Church and media are not always, perhaps not often, at their best, the purpose and aim of collaboration between them must be to help both ends of the bridge to achieve the highest standards and the highest goals. I pray that God will prosper the mission of St Bride's Fleet Street and of its Rector.

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