Message from our Curate in Charge,
The Revd James Marston
As I prepare my final portfolio of work, I find myself reflecting on ministry and my experience here with you over the last two and a bit years. It has been something of a rollercoaster, flood, Covid, Curate-in-Charge. I thought, as I joined the church, I would be in for a life of calm reflection in a large rectory with lovely robes. Indeed, the priest of today is as much an administrator as a man or woman of God. Or at least that’s the danger, as with all of us finding time for calm reflection, prayer and paying attention to our faith can be something of a challenge – but rise to that challenge we, and I, must.
And though it may appear to be somewhat contrived, as I go through this process of theological reflection and essay writing I am struck at how much I feel I have changed, and I am sure I have learnt things since I’ve been alongside and among you over these last two rather strange years. No longer does wearing the clerical collar seem distinctly odd. No longer am I quite so nervous before a big service. No longer am I unsure of where to stand or what’s coming next. I’ve got used to it and, in turn, I suspect you’ve got a little used to me.
Perhaps one of the biggest things I have taken on board is that ministry is a collaborative effort. No one person runs our churches, no one person has control – indeed much of ministry seems to be joining in where the Holy Spirit is leading us rather than trying to direct God or our churches to reflect our own image of ourselves.
As we approach our advent season, I urge you to use this time of anticipation to pause and reflect on your own faith. Join me in this period of reflection and think about God in your own journey of faith over these last two or so years.
God has been and is in all our lives and sometimes, as we deepen our faith, it’s not a bad idea to look back and spot His presence.
As we approach a busy time in our church calendar, Aldeburgh churchwarden Ken Smith has asked me to ask the whole benefice for help and support as we approach the season of Christmas with its big services and large public events. If you are able to help Ken and assist him and his team, in a variety of roles, during some of these services do let Ken know, either in church, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Canon John Giles 60th Ordination Anniversary
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
1 Thessalonians 3.9-end
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’
Sermon by The Revd James Marston preached on
Sunday 21st November 2021
Christ the King
May I speak in the name of the Living God.
So far as a journalist and in other spheres of my 46 years I’ve met two duchesses, a duke, two or three belted earls, a couple of countesses, a fistful of lords and ladies, a plethora of knights and even went to school with one or two honourables.
And dare I say it, I’ve certainly come across quite a few “don’t you know who I ams?”
I’ve never met a King –not unless you count an Elvis Presley tribute act, I interviewed in advance of an appearance at the Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe.
Titles, what we call each other, are important. They define our expectations – even as a reverend, which is a style of address rather than an actual title, you’d be surprised if I started swearing or being cruel or even over-sarcastic in your company or from the pulpit. The titles and styles we use might not be as important as they once were – but even now in 21st century Britain aristocrats and royalty still hit the headlines if their behaviour contrast with middle-class morality and expectation in some way. And the vicar running off with the organist is always good copy.
It is true that the celebration of Christ the King is not an ancient feast. Indeed, it’s less than 100 years old with its roots in a papal encyclical dating from 1922. Of course, there is deep theological, biblical, and historical precedent informing this relatively new tradition. Indeed since the early days of the church, the concept and representation of Jesus as royal or imperial has not been uncommon. .
The strange thing is, of course, that Jesus, as we heard in today’s gospel reading, was often at pains to deny, or at least deflect, his royal and kingly credentials. Jesus, it seems to me, didn’t want to be seen as a king, at least not in the earthly political sense that we understand monarchy. Indeed, in Mark’s gospel in particular Jesus is cagey when called messiah as, I suspect, he wasn’t keen to be seen as a figurehead for political revolt. He wasn’t that sort of king.
Because Jesus’ kingship rests on the spiritual rather than the temporal so too does the celebration of Christ the King – a reminder not of earthly power so much as the spiritual. That’s not to say the spiritual and temporal are not linked – indeed in the book of common prayer communion service one of the prayers mentions the queen with the caveat “knowing whose minister she is” and “remembering whose authority she has.”
Even Her Majesty is answerable to a higher power – a powerful statement when the Book of Common Prayer was written. And I have no doubt the Queen takes her spiritual life as seriously as she does her earthly duties. We are lucky to have her, not only as a leader of our nation but also as the supreme governor of our church.
So, what does Christ the King mean to us?
I think the answer to that is fairly simple. It means we allow our hearts and minds to be governed by Christ and not by ourselves or our own selfish desires and agendas.
The festival of Christ the King reminds us to whom our souls belong and how our faith must define our behaviours, our actions, our reactions, our outlook, even our internal processes.
Our faith, with, study and prayer, practice and praise, Eucharist, and fellowship, should define us as the people of God in such a way as to make us stand out on our community and to those around us.
No easy task but one we can attempt again and again, over and over, in our lives to achieve.
My challenge to us this week is not some deep spiritual exercise, nor is it to get too depressed as we all get it wrong, but to add Christ into our daily consciousness just a tiny bit more than we do usually. To think about our faith as we interact and meet others, to look at someone and think where Jesus might be in their lives. To see the world through the lens of Christ.
The celebration of Christ the King is not only a reminder of the glory of Christ in heaven or the Kingdom of now and not yet towards which we strive, but a practical aide memoire to prompt us to remember whose ministers we are and whose authority we have in every aspect of our lives.
O Lord our God, make us watchful and keep us faithful
as we await the coming of your Son our Lord;
that, when he shall appear, he may not find us sleeping in sin
but active in his service and joyful in his praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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