Sermon from Sunday 14 May

Caring for creation, being inclusive, not feeling alone and embracing the commandments of God.


Reading(s): John 14.15-21 & 1 Peter 3.13-22. This sermon was given by Sally Kerson at All Saints.

I am sure we can all remember the publicity that surrounded a certain person in the 1980s saying that he talked to his plants.  Many people mocked the then Prince of Wales, heir to the throne as being quite bonkers and even ‘barking up the wrong tree’ when he said those words.   Although recently he has been almost completely vindicated by those who can now see the planet is in danger and we must care for our plants and wildlife before they disappear for ever. Those of us who either have tended gardens in the past or are still able to, must surely admit that at one time or another we have uttered words to our plants, such as why aren’t you growing or don’t you look beautiful, if not aloud then certainly under our breath!  We should care deeply about creation and the effect that pollution and climate change is having on our eco systems. 

Today is Rogation Sunday and in Anglo-Saxon times it was the tradition for villagers to process around the parish ‘beating the bounds’ and saying prayers for the soil and the growing of crops, asking God’s blessing on the land, preserving boundaries and encouraging fellowship between neighbours by reconciling differences. Apparently, people carried flags, sang songs, read homilies, and used slender willow-branches to swat the landmarks that separated one parish from another, this was well before maps were drawn so identifying these boundaries were essential.  

Rogation tide is from now until Ascension Day which is on Thursday. These agricultural feast days such as Rogation, Lammas and Harvest are not observed as they used to be mainly because we are not so close to the land as we used to be, and let’s face it where there were many fields around us there are now huge housing estates. There are still some rural parishes which celebrate Rogation Sunday, I have heard of tractors being brought to church to be blessed or parishioners going on walks.

I probably speak for most of us when I say that the biggest contact with the food that goes on our tables is buying it from the supermarket. However, maybe we should think more about where the food we eat comes from and appreciate it more, not forgetting the privilege of sharing it with others, for example giving to the food bank as people are more in need than ever.   Going back to King Charles and to the recent coronation service we heard his majesty pray these words aloud asking God that "I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and conviction". Poignant words that were inclusive and they recognise that people all have different beliefs or perhaps none.    Another first for a coronation was when King Charles received blessings from other Christian leaders, including the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Scottish Free Church denominations. The United Kingdom has come a long way in the last 70 years to recognise the diversity in religion and culture, and it is hoped that this will help to bind together those who are still unsure of how they feel about living alongside people of different cultures and religions.

As the world is changing for us so it changed for Jesus’s disciples in this morning’s, reading taken from St. John’s Gospel we hear part of the final discourse at the Last Supper before Jesus is crucified and he is telling them that when he leaves them, they will not be alone, he will send the Holy Spirit, or in his words an Advocate meaning help and support.   He says I will not leave you orphaned.  The word ‘orphaned’ conjures up an image of a child whose parents have both died, however any of us can be orphaned at any age. In fact, on any given day, a lot of us are orphaned, at least in spirit especially when we feel alone and isolated because of what is happening around us. If we truly take the word ‘orphaned’ as we are brought up to understand the word, we know that there are thousands of children alone without parents, in this world due to diseases and war. 

There are thousands of children left to their own devices because of abuse and neglect.    Jesus uses this potent metaphor for what he was about to do, which was to leave his beloved disciples.  He surely knew that his death would strike fear and terror in those who loved him, those he loved so closely and so well, so sacrificially.  He surely knew they would be left vulnerable and would panic.

There are seasons of our lives, moments when the transitions, changes and tragedies can leave us feeling as if we are orphans.  Whether spoken or unspoken the questions begin. What will I do now? Where do I go? What happens next? Who will love, nurture and guide me? Who stands on my side? What will become of me? Those are the orphan’s questions. Those are the questions I imagine running through the heads and hearts of the disciples unless they had fully taken in what Jesus was saying about going to the father and not leaving them alone. But the passage begins with Jesus’s saying ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandants’. And that is at the heart of the Christian faith to love God, to believe in God, to trust in God.  But we all know that there are many who are persecuted for their faith and that is certainly the theme of Peter’s writing in our second lesson this morning, he was talking to people living in the 5 provinces of Asia Minor now located in modern day Turkey. Peter reminds the believers to have Christ’s humility, he is very realistic by saying that not everyone will see the good deeds of believers and respond politely; rather there are some who will stand against or even respond violently.  It is so easy for us to respond in the wrong way to those who oppose our believes or the church itself, which I must say people do love to attack for many reasons, its leaders, it’s supposed wealth and what it stands for, to give just a few examples.  It’s tempting to prove how wrong other people’s views are in an aggressive and arrogant way. Although I suspect most of us would just walk away and not want to enter such conversations especially if it was to become a heated debate!

However, Peter reminds us in the reading that to imitate Christ’s humility is the best way rather that arguing.  Thursday is Ascension Day when we recall Jesus leaving his disciples, 40 days after his resurrection, he leaves this earthly realm for his Father’s heavenly kingdom, then we wait a bit longer for Pentecost Sunday the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit that is talked about in today’s gospel reading.

So today is about waiting but also about action, how can be stewards of God’s creation? How can we break down the boundaries that we have made between other people, because we are not as inclusive as we think we are?  But more importantly we must keep the great commandments of loving God and our neighbour in order to furtherance God’s kingdom on earth.