Sunday Sermons

King's Lynn Minster

Sunday 12th July 2020 – 5th Sunday of Trinity, Sea Sunday

The Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick, Bishop of Lynn

When I was a boy, my father used to take us sailing, usually off the Essex coast. We lived about an hour and half’s drive away, so it was an all-day expedition. My mother was very ambivalent about it and was always convinced we would capsize. So she would spend most of the journey to the coast drilling into us what to do when we capsized (always ‘when’, never ‘if’). You must grab on to a part of the boat and not let go, was her mantra.

One Saturday in my early teens when our youngest sister, Fanny, was about 3 or 4, off we went. Sure enough, the capsize happened and as we looked around, everyone was duly clinging on to a part of the boat except little Fanny. My father and I immediately dived down and shortly afterwards brought Fanny back to the surface, coughing and spluttering, but definitely alive, and clinging firmly to the anchor – “You said any part of the boat” she wailed when she could speak. Sometimes, too literal an interpretation is dangerous.

Of course, my mother was right to be apprehensive of the sea – it’s beautiful, teeming with the rich variety of its life, but it’s also dangerous, and a significant part of what we do on Sea Sunday is to pray particularly for those who risk their lives at sea. The history of our coasts is full of stories of lives lost at sea, of terrible tragedies and often a daily facing of danger.

Jesus spoke often of the need to be prepared to face danger – particularly for the sake of others. Even the tiny seed of wheat faces danger in rocks, birds, choking weeds – in its journey to find fulness of abundant life.

One of the challenges put before us as a church is to keep growing more Christlike, to let him transform us into what we are called to be. A number of bishops from around the country met on Zoom a few days ago with clergy mostly descended from what we know as the Windrush generation. They were challenging us, not simply to hear the call not to be racist, but to be positively anti-racist (actively opposed to racism) and to become more fully the ‘beloved community’ we are called to be – pointing to the constant call to hospitality and welcome, to reconciliation with God and one another, to the grace of God whose Trinitarian nature does not simply have different personalities juxtaposed as ‘You and I’, but weaves them together as ‘we’. Both in the Old Testament and the New, one of the enduring teachings is the call to hospitality – a hospitality which welcomes, affirms, loves and serves, even when it brings the one offering hospitality into places of difficulty and danger.

And this is because the hospitality of God’s Grace given to us – anything less than full, open, welcoming hospitality is in effect an allowing in of the swooping wild birds carrying off the seeds, or the baking rocks that deny life-giving refreshment, or the choking weeds that throttle and kill. God desires our – all of our abundant life. He needs a church that helps that flourish. You would think that ought to be easy, but often it is fraught with difficulty and danger – and it will always requires imaginative effort to help us see where the possibilities are for encouraging ourselves to be more open, more welcoming, more hospitable, more loving in the way of Christ, more willing to push out into the deeps so that our harvest can be as abundant as God desires.

Amen

King's Lynn Minster

Sunday 5th July 2020 – 4th Sunday of Trinity

The Venerable Ian Bentley, Archdeacon Of Lynn

Greetings to all at The Minster and it’s great to be able to share worship with you this morning.

I am looking at this Gospel reading from Matthew. The famous Russian author, Leo Tolstoy, wrote a short story and it was set in a village in Russia; the snows were just melting, and two children go out to play; Akulya and Malasha. They have both been given new frocks and have been told to be very careful that they don’t get them dirty, but there are puddles around and they’re children and one jumps in a puddle, splashes the other and a fight ensues and, as they’re squabbling, so their brothers come out and they start fighting with each other because they see that one sister is fighting another sister, and so it goes on. The Dads come out, the Mums come out and, before long, the village is at war. Then, suddenly one person shouts “Stop, look” and points to where the girls are and, of course, they have now made up. They are playing with a little boat they have made out of a bit of bark and this person says, “little girls are wiser than men”. Little children; wiser than adults.

Jesus says, “I thank you Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to children”. Not the first time that Jesus has used children as an example of how to accept God; how to accept the Kingdom of Heaven. The context of this is that there has been a dispute going on between Jesus and the Pharisees and they have complained about Him eating with tax collectors and sinners and he says, “You are never satisfied. You moaned about John, who had this austere lifestyle and now you are moaning about me because I am eating and drinking with people you don’t like”. “Well I’ll tell you what you’re like”, he says, “you say you are wise, you hold these secret truths and then say to the people, we have the truth about God and we lay these burdens upon you”; the Yoke of the Law, it’s called and its into that he says “I thank you Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to the children”. The word ‘revealed’ here is the same Greek word translated elsewhere as Apocalypse; a sudden dramatic, earth shattering event. So, what’s so earth shattering about this? What does He reveal?

It’s a prayer and he starts with these words that I have read “Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth”. This is a title of God only used three times in the New Testament and Jesus is pointing to, if you like, this hugeness of God and then saying, “I reveal that to you”.

All of these things have been handed over to me by my Father, no-one knows the Father, except the Son and no-one knows the Son except the Father. If you see me, you see God”. No wonder the Pharisees were so cross with Him but He then goes on and says, “and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”. No secret revelation. Jesus is simply saying to people, come to me and you will know God; all may come and, in coming to me, you can have the same relationship with God that I have. Stunning. Stunning information for people. A revelation: and it comes with a cascade of promises:

If you are weary.  Well, I guess many of us are feeling weary, we have just passed the 100 day mark of this lockdown. Some are beginning to come out of it and, for others, the end is not in sight. There is fear around; weariness. If you carry heavy burdens, Jesus says, then listen to me …. I will give you rest. Of course, the thing is with burdens, before we can have rest from them; we have to lay them down, we have to allow somebody else to share the burden, and that is what Jesus is offering.

The Yoke of the Law; that heavy burden that is being placed on people’s shoulders … he says, I will replace, because actually the Yoke works like this … you put an older Ox alongside a younger one, you yoke them together and the younger one learns from the older; and they share the burden and, as Jesus says, you share the burdens with me, as you follow me, as you come to me, so you discover that I am gentle and humble in heart and that is how God is.

You will discover rest for your soul.

The way he gives is both easier than the way of the Pharisee and harder. Easier because we are yoked with somebody who actually cares for us, who loves us, who likes us. It’s harder, because being yoked with Jesus means that we are prepared to actually follow Him; if you like, the yoke of Discipleship, learning from Him.

But it’s not really hard is it? He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows the way we should walk, the way we should go, the path ahead of us; better than we know it ourselves. Come to me, says Jesus, and I will show you God. Come to me and trust me, as a child trusts a parent. An amazing relationship that is offered; and it is yours.

Amen

King's Lynn Minster

Sunday 28th June 2020 – 3rd Sunday of Trinity, St Peter & St Paul

Canon Andy Bryant (Norwich Cathedral)

May the words of my lips and meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.

It is good to be with you this morning.  I send greetings from all my Chapter colleagues at your Cathedral. Please be assured we are holding you all in our prayers at this time.

When the orders came that all church buildings had to be closed because of the pandemic, some wonderful stories emerged of rural churches that could not find a key to lock their churches.  Nobody in living memory could remember their churches ever having been locked day or night.  Locking the building was simply something they did not do.

In today’s Gospel Peter is given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  If you were given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven how would you use them?  I want to suggest to you that Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven precisely because Jesus knew Peter would never use them – at least never to lock anyone out.

Peter is the one who can manage to both get things so right and so wrong.  In today’s gospel he is the one who boldly proclaims Jesus as the Messiah.  But a few verses later, beyond where our reading ends today, Peter tells Jesus off for talking about his death and resurrection and is rebuked by Jesus with the words: Get behind me Satan. 

Peter, perhaps more so than any of the other disciples, knows the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.  It is no accident that it is Peter who has the dream of the unclean and clean animals and realises God is telling him that no one should be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven, neither Jew nor Gentile.  Knowing how often he himself had messed up and yet was forgiven, Peter would have known the Kingdom of Heaven was truly for all.  If a person like himself could be welcomed in the Kingdom of Heaven, how could he ever contemplate excluding anyone else?

Paul too was aware of the wonder and mystery of God’s grace – he who had once persecuted the Church discovers he is saved, not by any action of his own but rather by the unconditional love of God.

Yet the history of the Church shows us how often we have wanted to use the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to exclude.  The early Church was divided over issues of circumcised versus uncircumcised and over the food people ate.  Since then the Church has wanted to exclude people because of their religious beliefs, their political affiliations, over their racial origin, whether they were slave or free, catholic or protestant, or in recent times due to gender and sexuality.

In the face of the unconditional love of God, we so often have been excluding, quick to judge, creating divisions rather than healing them.  We have wanted to use the keys of the kingdom of heaven to lock some people out, forgetting that we are saved by God’s grace alone and not because of who we are, what we do or how we behave.

And once again we are having to face up to the racism that still infects both our society and our Church.  The fact that anyone could feel the need to carry a banner saying Black Lives Matter condemns us.  How have we found ourselves in a place where people of colour are still discriminated against and daily have to endure prejudice and racial abuse?  Worst still, we are too often unconscious of the ways we exclude, pre-judge or put down.

Faced with the sheer generosity of God’s love, it is as if we cannot quite comprehend it and feel that in some way it should be limited or contained – after all why else was Peter given the keys to the Kingdom if not in some way to police it.  However, I believe Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven not to police it but to liberate it from our desire to exclude; to open doors, not lock them.  Our task is not to protect the generosity of God but to demonstrate it in living lives of love.

The death of George Floyd has been an uncomfortable reminder of the inherent racism at work in our societies.  The unevenness of the impact of the pandemic has again highlighted the deep inequalities at the heart of our nation, and of our world.  Many have used the phrase “new normal” but whatever that may or may not mean, as Christians we cannot rest until there is justice and peace for all, and a right and equal sharing of the world’s resources.

And each time we hear again this gospel, or see an image of Peter holding a key, we need to remember the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are not for locking but for opening, opening up a vision for the world where all are included, where all are valued; each of us honoured as a beloved child of God.

King's Lynn Minster Sunday 22nd June 2020 – 2nd Sunday of Trinity

The Revd Peter Rowntree

When I was a very young man, early on in my Christian life, my spiritual director (a holy and an  experienced priest) spoke to me about my period of prayer before going to bed at night.  He advised me to do something that is obvious; he urged me to use that time to go over the past day and review it before God, in God’s presence.  Now I may not have been listening to him attentively enough but I got the impression that this advice was solely about using it as a time for confession.  Searching out the things that I had done wrong in the day; recalling the ways I hadn’t acted lovingly.  And so confessing all of that, before I could lie down with a clean and holy conscience.

And, I say that I may not have listened attentively enough for I now believe that I only got half the story.  True, of course, it is a good thing to confess to God the wrongs of life.  It both heals us and restores us.  But I soon realised that our loving God does not want us to stop at that and stay just with the sin of the day.  He urges us toward the more positive,too.

For, contrary to what we might assume, the truth actually is that God is not up there in heaven plotting how to kick the boot in, secretly watching so he can catch us out in anything bad.  Rather, instead, the truth is that not only does he love us but, as we have just heard in our Gospel reading, Jesus proclaims that God values us, too.  We are of value to him.  And the thing that amazes me the most is that he doesn’t just want to pour out blessings on us but that he wants us to co-operate with him in that work.  Collaborators rather than mere recipients.

In that reading, Our Lord points out a couple of sparrows. I like to picture that, as he was speaking, there were some of these everyday birds jumping about nearby; and perhaps he points to the sparrows and tells his listeners that God cherishes every one of them.  We may hardly notice them but Jesus speaks of their worth, their value. And he cherishes us in just the same way. Indeed, Jesus goes on to state that God is caught up so much in all that we are, that he even knows the exact number of hairs on our heads.

I believe that we are called as Christians to be balanced people. Balanced and mature.  Encompassing the whole picture.  And those sparrows and those hairs on the head remind us of how high we are in standing before our Father.  And this is equally true, too, even, may I say, even when we think about our wrongs and confess our sins. It is right and proper to do that.  It is right and proper to lay before God where we miss the mark.  But we only do that so that, through God’s forgiveness, we can throw it aside for ever and not allow it to damage us.  Only then, with this ridding of self-preoccupation, only then can we collaborate in God’s loving work.

Our Epistle reading this morning, from the Letter to the Romans, that speaks of this in the vivid context of the resurrection liberating us from death.  And the emphasis here is not upon the imprisonment but upon the freedom.  Near to the end of today’s Gospel reading there is a sentence that might easily disturb us.  Jesus says “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  And that sentence may disturb us because, although it is a very characteristic way of speaking for someone of Jesus’ time, it is not usually the way we speak today. It seems to be so violent.  But I believe that this is not about people fighting against people at all.  And part of what he is trying to get across is that we are called to battle against anything within our own lives that diverts us from him and his work.

We are called to fight that through those very balanced lives which enable us to get on with our God-given task of doing what he does: Loving people into the kingdom.

Amen.