Mary anoints Jesus’ feet
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
When we first moved to London as a family, having many friendship groups from different times in our lives dotted around London, we often find ourselves at parties with friends of friends who were strangers to us. Off-duty, as I was in such situations, and still trying to understand how I would inhabit being a public Christian – a priest – I felt quite reticent to talk about being a priest. I was surprised when I did at how it both confounded and fascinated people that they should know somebody who had chosen to do this totally bizarre thing, even going to church seemed pretty bizarre.
Today’s Gospel has the ability to completely confound, as so much of Jesus’ message does. I always find myself quite sympathetic with Judas’ point of view – what about the money that could be used for the poor, rather than to buy ointment for Jesus’ feet. I don’t even totally accept the Gospel writer’s explanation that Judas was stealing from the common purse. But as a Christian community, as Christ’s Church, we must remember that what we do starts with Jesus. It starts with worshipping him, with listening to his teaching, and by following his example. Yes, it does involve the feeding of the poor, yes it does involve caring for those in our community, it also involves caring for one another, but first it involves putting ourselves in right relationship with God as we seek to Love him with all our hearts and all our minds and all our bodies, and to love ourselves, and to love our neighbours. Our worship, our prayer, our relationship with God inevitably drives us out to love those around us. It challenges us to be ready for change, it gives us security and comfort to take risks, because we know that we are loved by the one who created us and who sends us out to take those risks.
As today is our Annual Meetings, this sermon doubles as my report. Or at least a supplement to the written report which you will find in the annual report booklet. I therefore want to say thank you to all of you for the work you do participating in our worship, for the work you do in building up our social time together, for the work you do to care for one another. I also want to thank you for what you are, for your faith, for being representatives of Christ in the world around us, for being so welcoming and caring to those who walk through the doors. Who you are, as much as what you do, is what makes this place feel so warm and welcoming when strangers walk through the doors.
Jesus says they will know us by the love we have for one another. That love, that is what the world finds most confounding, and most fascinating, that we love one another, and that we love God. All Saints is a particularly loving place, a place where people are made to feel welcome, a place where people can be transformed by that love, and I thank you for that.
Over the last year we have continued to show that love for one another and for the wider community in the many things we continue to do together: from our worship, to our social events and everything between. But we have also tried new things, like the way in the wilderness and water in the desert, and we’ve developed partnerships, for example at our Christmas Tree Festival, in the Jazz night that we did jointly with Pattison road, and the new initiative to improve the footpath down to Cricklewood lane. The Christmas Tree Festival was a particular highlight because it gave people outside the church a sense of belonging inside the church building. I have been struck by the number of people who have sought me out to talk about the footpath improvement. On the face of it – it’s something simple, but it is a symbol of something more, and it is a sign of possibility for Child’s Hill. It’s also got people talking, so one of the local business owners asked if I was the priest who was involved, they had been told by another neighbour about it, and then started talking about how they were wondering how they could help improve the local area too.
We’ve also developed our engagement with children and young people: the community stay and play has seen many young children and families come into the church and built up our relationships with the community. The special Children’s and family events like the Good Friday workshop, the election day workshop, the after school film clubs, Epiphany Family service and Back to School Sunday followed by the teddy bear’s picnic have added to the work we do supporting the school, and the opportunities we have to work with Jack and Jill to build up our relationship with local families. It’s also been great to include children and young people in our liturgy in the choir, serving and reading and praying. These things won’t suddenly result in hoards of new people in the pews on Sundays, but they establish All Saints as a centre of the community for all. Though, we have also been fortunate to see many new people become part of our community, but with that comes change, which is exciting but can also be threatening to those who are used to seeing the same faces – It has been wonderful to see newcomers being positively welcomed and included.
Going forward, as we listen to God’s calling to us, we need to be prepared to dream big dreams and trust in God to make the unimaginable possible. We will need to build on who we are, develop what we have already started doing, but also be prepared for new opportunities. We need to challenge ourselves to respond to the needs of a society full of divisions, to be stewards of God’s creation and to work for a fully inclusive church. Always trusting that if we start from a desire to share in God’s love for all creation, that we will find ourselves overwhelmed by the generosity of God’s grace.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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