28 December 2011

Grace, peace and purpose of Christmas

Time magazine this year declared the Protester to be the 'Person of the Year' - and certainly 2011 was an extraordinary year of protests and revolutions. But it was not the first year to be noted as such - and one event that began a revolution that continues to this day was the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, which we celebrate on this Sunday of the Nativity.

The revolution that Jesus began was not begun with riots and violence, but with a revolution of grace and peace.

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Recorded at St Paul's, Camden

PowerPoint slides

The Kiva.org parish page can be found here: http://www.kiva.org/team/stpaulscamden

26 December 2011

Christmas Proclamation

At the midnight Mass on Christmas Day (or Christmas Eve if you prefer) there is a tradition of reading the 'Christmas Proclamation' - which powerfully situates the events of the Nativity in the historical context of salvation and secular history. This is a recording of the beginning of Mass and the proclamation...

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Recorded at St Paul's Camden, midnight Mass

18 December 2011

David, Mary and the Ark

After journeying through this season of Advent with the prophet Isaiah, and then for the last two weeks with the witness of John the Baptiser, it is only on this fourth Sunday of Advent that we finally are presented with the figure of Mary to accompany our Advent reflection. When we encounter her in the gospel of Luke 1:26-38, we are invited to reflect upon her in the light of the desire by King David to build a temple for the Lord - as a suitable dwelling place for the Lord (2 Sam 7:1-16). Clearly the church wants us to reflect upon these two figures together in order to understand the prophecy that David receives from Nathan about the House of David.

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Recorded at St Paul's, 10am (11'27")

11 December 2011

Rejoice always

On this third Sunday in Advent, the church issues a command - Rejoice! The teaching comes to us from the second reading today, taken from the very end of St Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, and therefore the very earliest Christian writing that we have. In the few short sentences, Paul manages to pack in eight commandments, a short explanation, a benediction and a final promise. The teaching that Paul offers in some ways provides us with a summation of not just the Advent season, but also of the whole Christian life; perhaps he wrote it with new believers in mind, and wanted to have a series of short, easy-to-remember teachings that would help to form Christian disciples in the way of Christ, so that we would be ready to meet him when he comes (which Paul seems to believe was going to be real-soon-now).

The Commandments:
  1. 16 Rejoice always, 
  2. 17 pray constantly,
  3. 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [explanation]
  4. 19 Do not quench the Spirit, 
  5. 20 do not despise prophesying, 
  6. 21 but test everything; 
  7. hold fast what is good, 
  8. 22 abstain from every form of evil.
The Benediction:
23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Concluding Promises:24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (NRSV)
The Jesus Prayer has a number of versions; the one I quoted in this homily is:

  • Lord Jesus Christ,
    Son of the Living God,
    have mercy on me, a sinner.

Recorded at St Paul's, 8am (11'20")

04 December 2011


Literature in the classical world was often concerned to set the scene and provide an overview of the whole text from the very first line of the text. When we come to a text like the Gospel of Mark, we may be tempted to pass over the opening line of the Gospel - which we are presented with in our liturgy today for the Second Sunday of Advent - but that would be a mistake. When Mark sits down to compose his Gospel - more than likely the very first gospel to be written - he was very aware of his context. Most likely he wrote the Gospel from Rome while still living there after the death several years before of both Peter and Paul - both as victims of the Roman regime. Sometimes this Gospel is called the 'Gospel of Peter', because it is seen to reflect the thought and teachings of St Peter, and St Mark acts as the compiler and scribe for the memories of his friend and great Apostle.

St Mark was aware of the claimed power of the Roman Emperor, who would claim to be the divine 'Lord' and the 'Son of God'; who would declare an advent before his arrival anywhere, and who would send out messengers (angelos in Greek) to announce the good news (euangelion) of a new military victory. So Mark carefully chooses to undermine the whole of Roman propaganda when his first line is:

"Beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God".

Any book that is written to a Jewish audience and begins with 'Beginning' would automatically evoke the opening line of the very first book of Scripture - the creation poem in the book of Genesis: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth." St John will do something similar when he begins his gospel with "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

What does this beginning teach us?

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Recorded at St Paul's, 8am (11'20")