A sermon on 2 Corinthians 4 preached by the Revd Dr Simon Vibert, Vice Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford at Christ Church, Virginia Water.
Last week, Archbishop Justin Welby called upon every Anglican church to join in prayer for our country. Imagine if the call had instead come from our Prime Minister or Parliament? Imagine our government urging us to pray about membership of the European Union. Hard to imagine? In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma is officiating today at the National Day of Prayer at Absa Stadium in Durban. The prayers will be for, amongst other things, successful and peaceful 2016 Local Government Elections as well as for the further consolidation of democracy. Leaders of religious and civil society are joining the government in praying also for national unity, social cohesion as well as for rain and the promotion of water conservation under the persistent drought conditions. Lord teach us to pray like that. Please turn with me to Luke 11 and let us learn from Jesus about the importance of prayer (11:1-2), the content of prayer (11:3-4), the practice of prayer (11:5-8) and the assurance of prayer (11:9-13). We are looking for answers to four questions – when we should pray, what we should pray, how we should pray and why.
I wonder if you can guess who said this: “During my second year at college, I plunged into the deepest depression I’ve ever known. I wrestled in prayer, searched the scriptures, examined my conscience, and fell apart… Over the next year I learned more about myself and my emotions than I had thought possible. If today I manage to function as a pastor, it is not least because I know something about pain. I know, too, that healing of memory and imagination is not just wishful thinking.”
That was the Right Revd Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham, one of the leading theologians in the world today. Who do you think said this?
“I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence: but the irrational deadweight of my old skeptical habits, and the spirit of the age, and the cares of the day, steal away all my lively feeling of the truth, and often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address.”
Revd Alan Hulme, Diocesan Director for Parish Development, preaching at Christ Church, Virginia Water on Acts 2:42-47.
“In visiting the library of the monastery, in the month of May, 1844, I perceived in the middle of the great hall a large and wide basket full of old parchments; and the librarian, who was a man of information, told me that two heaps of papers like these, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames. What was my surprise to find amid this heap of papers a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to me to be one of the most ancient that I had ever seen. The authorities of the convent allowed me to possess myself of a third of these parchments, or about forty-three sheets, all the more readily as they were destined for the fire. But I could not get them to yield up possession of the remainder. The too lively satisfaction which I had displayed had aroused their suspicions as to the value of this manuscript. I transcribed a page of the text of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and enjoined on the monks to take religious care of all such remains which might fall in their way. On my return to Saxony there were men of learning who at once appreciated the value of the treasure which I brought back with me. I did not divulge the name of the place where I had found it, in the hopes of returning and recovering the rest of the manuscript. I handed over to the Saxon Government my rich collection of Oriental manuscripts in return for the payment of all my travelling expenses. I deposited in the library of the University of Leipzig, in shape of a collection, which bears my name, fifty manuscripts, some of which are very rare and interesting. I did the same with the Sinaitic fragments, to which I gave the name of Codex Frederick Augustus, in acknowledgment of the patronage given to me by the King of Saxony.”
What do you have to do to celebrate your 90th birthday? Or in Peggy’s case, your 94th? Do listen to Peggy’s story, which is now online. We don’t know what Her Majesty the Queen’s exercise programme has been like over the decades. We will probably never know if she has had a personal trainer, or how often she went to the gym. How she has coped with a gruelling daily schedule of public and private engagements for more than 70 years I do not know. Along the way she must have eaten an awful lot of rich food at state banquets, business lunches and garden tea parties. I suspect one reason Her Majesty has enjoyed a long reign and healthy life has been because of regular appointments with her doctor. When was the last time you went to see your GP? Not just when you were sick. When was the last time you saw your GP for a health check? You know, blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, kidney function, glucose, PSA, etc. Its free so, no excuse.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Are you married? Do you love your spouse? Do you have children? Do you love them? You have parents? Do you love them? What about brothers and sisters? How do you prove you love those closest to you? Providing for them is one way. Let me give you a simple but very revealing test of the quality of your love. When was the last time you went to see your GP? I don’t mean because you were sick. When was the last time you saw your GP for a health check? You know, blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, kidney function, glucose, PSA, etc. Its free so, no excuse.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
If you would like to contact Peggy please write via Christ Church, Christchurch Road, Virginia Water, GU25 4PT.
I wonder if you have taken time to read the booklet you received this week from the government? It explains why the government believes the UK should remain in the European Union. Both those in favour and those wishing us to leave the EU, focus on the same thing – sovereignty. Who is in control of our borders, our economy, our laws, our resources, our security? It has also been another stressful week for our political leaders, both those deemed to have not paid enough tax as well as those who paid late or have even paid too much. I suggested on Facebook that perhaps, having remained in office for well over 60 years and having survived 13 successive Prime Ministers, it might be better if Her Majesty the Queen dissolved Parliament and we went back to an absolute if benevolent monarchy.” Then when I had thought about it some more, I realised she didn’t need to, because we already have one. To mark Her Majesty’s 90th birthday we are distributing to local school children as well as seniors, copies of, The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. It tells in her own words, of her personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.