Past John

At the end of this post, I’ll add the sermon I preached for a dear former student of mine’s First Mass, on St John’s Day — that’s the rationale for the title.

Otherwise, a pleasant enough start to the day: two miles in the warmest early-morning temperatures of the year, fruit and coffee, cleaning up, Morning Prayer, further coffee and a pain au raisin with Margaret at R&R, where several friends stopped by to chat. Did some shopping, came home to the ladies in time for lunch, and now settling down to do some actual scholarly reading and (heven permitting) writing (!). But first I will post the sermon in question.

Sermon for a Newly Ordained Priest's First Mass

Three Nativities

Got up, grudgingly, to run my miles and have a fruit and coffee breakfast. Said the Morning Office at home, fine-tuned today’s sermon a bit, cleaned up, and meandered down to St Helen’s for the first Mass in a couple of months, I think. After checking through the liturgical pattern at my home base (after serving for a couple of months, if not more, at the different St Nic’s and the very different St Michael and All Angels), I presided and preached, and came home to two fretful dogs. They were bereft, cos Margaret went to Oxford to Mary Mags this morning. All well.

Sermon for St John Baptist

(Oh, the three nativities are those of Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist, the three births observed in our liturgical calendar. Otherwise we observe the saint’s entry into the Church Triumphant, or the translation of their relics, or another ritually significant date.)

Whitsunday, Last Day

Two miles in pleasant weather (at a decent pace), Morning Prayer, hot breakfast, Pentecost Mass at St Nicolas’s, home to unwind for the early afternoon. Sermon below.

In a couple of hours, we’ll connect with family and friends in Connecticut for a memorial to my sister Holly. Then sleep, and begin a fresh week.

Sermon for Pentecost Year B

Sunday After Ascension

Walked and ran my two miles (usual route) this morning, fruit breakfast, got cleaned up and dressed, went to St Nic’s and prepared for the service, preached and celebrated, drifted home, and have been sitting mostly comatose since then. We were planning to go to Edith Wren’s birthday party, but the willing spirit, flesh, and so on.

In keeping with my new policy, here’s today’s sermon. I think it hasn’t fully matured — a couple of days of living with it would help — but it was well received, so…

First page of sermon, Sunday after Ascension

Ascending and Standing Up

My back and legs are still stiff from my over-eager book shelving extravaganza on Tuesday; yesterday I struggled on my morning run, so today — instead of running this morning — I walked most of my two miles. I walked, so as not to let my muscles entirely off the hook, but walking concedes that running was just too uncomfortable to press through.

Yesterday didn’t make that any easier. I raced from Morning Prayer to Oxford for my morning tutorial, then after lunch had a long consultation with a PG student, then a revision, then the long bus ride home, a hasty dinner, then off to St Nic’s for the Ascension Day Mass. At length, I stumbled home and collapsed in a heap on the living room sofa.

In keeping with my new resolution, I’m attaching the sermon below. I didn’t feel as though I had the rhythm of the sermon, but people’s responses suggest that they didn’t sense a problem.

Ascension Day sermon delivered to Abingdon Parish at St Nicolas's, Abingdon

Sunday of Second

For Brendan and Rosie’s wedding this summer, the first reading was taken from Gregory of Nazianzus’ Carmina 1.2.1. 262-275, 283-287. Brendan supplied a prose translation, but because your blogger here is that kind of guy, I felt impelled to look up the passage in Gregory’s original Greek and work it out for myself. Let it be acknowledged that this may be the only passage in which GRegory has anything favourable to say about marriage, and even here he praises it only to set up celibacy as a preferable alternative; still, if one doesn’t worry too much about intention and context, it’s a pleasant enough poem. I’m not sure I agree wtih the aspects of marriage he approves, and I frown as I try to imagine the comparison of married life to an amiable leaping colt. Then again, he’s a Doctor of the Church, and I’m just a doctor in a church.

As the sermon process wove and coiled and spooled and tangled, it occurred to me that the Greek might be translated into blank verse in English, with only a little some a certain amount of torturing the syntax. So I, undeterred from a little syntax-twisting in a good cause, ended up with this:

To one another hands, ears, feet we are,
once wed. A twofold strength our marriage brings:
Well-wishers’ double joy, ill-wishers’ pain.
Who share in common sorrow, lighten grief;
who share in merriment, laugh sweeter still.
More pleasant wealth, to minds harmonious;
more pleasant harmony to paupers, than that wealth.
To both, wedlock’s the key to prudent minds
and seal of love’s affectionate demand.
A colt, whose bounding friendship heals a mood;
a sip from home’s fresh well, reserved for home,
nor gushing out, nor bottled for export.
One nature in the flesh, like minds, of piety
a spur to one another — desire piques like with like.
. . .
Sed contra, single hearts live light,
requiring only trivial aid from God,
while those protecting partner, property,
and progeny — these sail upon life’s deeps.
They need God’s help the more, and God provides
the more; therefore, God treats them mercifully.

It won’t be nominated for any awards, but if some other patrologist invites me to preach at a wedding featuring Gregory’s encomium on the married state, I may have this in my pocket (so to speak) to work from.

Roving Preacher

Today I didn’t run my mile, for several reasons. Yesterday, running to a cab, I felt as though I might have tweaked something in my midsection (and I’m disinclined to take chances with injury). Further, I was polishing my homily for the patronal feast at St Laurence, South Hinksey (attached below). And of course, since I hate running, these were eminently sound rationales for staying at home.

I did get to St Laurence, though, and had a delicious lunch thereafter, and came home and sat like a lump for the rest of the day.
Continue reading “Roving Preacher”

Good Friday 2016

HoopoeLast time, I said I’d begin posting sermons from the past few years. I had expected to fulfil that promise gradually over the course of my weeks of study leave, but Tasha asked to see Friday’s sermon here, so I’ll put it up as soon as I finish typing these notes. I worked on getting the best balance between the horrible risk of perpetuating and underscoring anti-Jewish presuppositions (on one hand) and accepting the catholic tradition that sees continuity between the sacrifices of Israel and the sacrifice of Jesus (continued in the Mass). Likewise, the text from Hebrews wants very much to relegate Israel’s covenant to obsolescence (even as Hebrews insists that neither Israel nor those who enter the heavenly sanctuary through Jesus is to be complete without the other). As a result, I aimed at associating and juxtaposing the two scenes without prejudice to either.
Continue reading “Good Friday 2016”

I’m Sorry, Cambridge

As I was going over the last round of edits to this morning’s sermon, I realised that the conclusion wanted a place name, a place name near to Oxford and recognisable as forming an improbable match for our fair city. I could have said “Blackbird Leys,” but Blackbird Leys attracts enough disrespect without my piling on. Jericho, Summertown, Banbury, Cowley, Iffley, none of them had the right ring to them. So I took an easy way out and chose “Cambridge,” even though it wasn’t what I wanted rhetorically. I apologise, but the sermon had to be finished one way or another.

What with the travel to and from Glasgow, my giving my Ephesians presentation twice yesterday, and preaching this morning, I’m knackered (and so is Margaret, who did most of the difficult stuff with me plus she has an ethics lecture to prepare for Tuesday). Glasgow touched my heart over the weekend: the city, our very sweet friends whom it was a joy to see again, teaching on behalf of Trinity College and the Scottish Episcopal Church, the pint of Chip 71 at the Ubiquitous Chip…. But it’s great to be back home in Oxford, and we will allow ourselves some time to relax this afternoon.

Sermon below:

Continue reading “I’m Sorry, Cambridge”

Friday’s Devotion

HoopoeLast Friday I led our weekly Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, so I prepared a devotion for the service. As it was St Ignatius of Antioch, I composed the devotion as a pastiche of passages (and some paraphrase) from Ignatius’s letters (attached below). I’m still getting the hang of this genre of writing, but this week’s did not take as much intense compositional frustration as past devotions (partly, I think, because I gave myself a framework by deciding to use Ignatius’s words).
Continue reading “Friday’s Devotion”

Treasures, But No Grill

In case I don’t gather my wits in time today to write more paragraphs about hermeneutics, nor have Net access till bedtime, I’ll post today yesterday’s sermon. The gracious Father James Wilkinson of the Church of St Laurence in the Parish of South with New Hinksey (that’s not to be confused with St Lawrence, North Hinksey!) had invited me to preach for the patronal festival, and it was my honour yesterday so to do. The church itself is a lovely small thing (I took some pictures which I may add if I have time), with its thirteenth-century nave and eighteenth-century chancel, and many generations of the local saints interred in the churchyard. Margaret worried during the sermon, because the rood screen comes perilously close to the top of my head.

The sermon went well, I think; at least, the regular congregants from St Laurence’s with whom I sat at lunch seemed to have received it kindly. The parish lunch held at the much newer and larger church in the parish, St John the Evangelist, New Hinksey, was a feast fit for a hungry visiting preacher, and good conversation, some impromptu stand-up comedy, and Margaret and I returned home well-fed, welcomed, and well tired! My thanks to Father James, to my friend, colleague, and neighbour Dr Mark Philpott (who helped us with the intricate history of the two churches and the various Hinkseys, arranged for transport, and subdeaconed at the Mass), and Lee and Eileen Clark who brought us home.

St Laurence 2014