Creation

Sermon preached at the Eucharist, Christ the Servant, Stockwood, Bristol, 29 October 1972

[I am unable to source the poem quoted at the beginning – if any reader can help me, I would be grateful. – SJC]

In the beginning was the pain

Of water, and the scalding nerve

In the rotating muscle, the fierce tears

And the wet child

From the baptism of his mother.

***

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void…

***

In the beginning was the Word…

Three accounts or, more accurately, impressions or experiences of how things started, and such expressions or revelations come about when men begin to wonder, “where did I come from? What am I here for? What’s the point of it all?” – and one of the ways his thoughts and meditations start off is to begin at the beginning. These three meditations begin with something happening. Something changed, something was done and something started, and finally something just was… something without a beginning or, presumably, an end.Read More »

The Holy Bird

Sermon preached at Pucklechurch (unspecified service and location), 22 May 1988

The wind blows where it wills, you cannot tell from where it comes nor where it goes; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

“Oh, dear. It’s electrical.” I have opened the bonnet of my car, and then the handbook which smugly assures me that I can follow their fault-finding charts and the problem will soon be sorted out. Hence my cry of despair. I know nothing about electrical things, even though well-meaning friends say it’s just like the flow of water. Their picture language about this unseen power doesn’t really turn me on – and the car won’t go either!

I think that the same is true about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can be experienced, felt, known even, but by being unseen there are all sorts of difficulties and we have to resort to metaphors like WIND, FIRE, ENERGY and, oh dear yes, the Holy Bird, the darned Dove.Read More »

Euridice

O lady;

When I hear

Your voice

And talk of

Choirs and music,

Euridice

Reversed her fading

And came alive

Again and solid

Before my eyes.

O lady.

 

O lady;

To imagine

You, in soft

Sweet acts of love

Baby chuckling

In your arms

A shawl of

Guilt and anger.

A wrap of warmth

A cloak of loss.

O lady.

The Christmas cave

Sermon (entitled “Epilogue”) preached at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital Carol Service, Christ Church, Clifton, Bristol, 13 December 1989

I don’t know if you are anything like me, but when the alarm clock goes in the morning I sometimes think, “oh no! Time to get up. I wish I could stay in bed for another hour!” But of course I can’t. There’s no escape. I can’t miss the 28 bus into work. I must get behind my desk by 8.30. Diving under the duvet is disastrous. Mind you, the temptation is very strong, and it’s not just limited to staying in bed. If you are unsure or afraid of things, it is very tempting to retreat from them; ducking for shelter is part of the survival instinct. That’s why the Americans are spending $93m on sending men crawling through tunnels to try to find a cave big enough to act as a vast fall-out shelter for the population.

That’s turning the clock back to the Stone Age when caves were selected as places of safety. But it is not just for escape, but for discovery. The biggest discovery I ever made in a cave was that if you didn’t take enough water your calcium carbide lamp wouldn’t work, and you’d be left in the dark! The discovery of paintings in the Lascaux caves, or of Ice Age flint tools lead us to consider caves as the womb of science, art and religion.Read More »

W-I-M-P

Sermon preached at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, Bristol, 17 September 1989

[Despite its name, Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital is not a hospital in the modern sense, but a school – one of the oldest private schools in Bristol. My father was chaplain there between 1988 and 1990 – SJC]

W-i-m-p is a wonderfully awful word. It’s odd that it seems to apply only to men. What’s your vision of a ‘wimp’? A guy who is small and thin. Weak-muscled. Large and wary eyes behind even larger spectacles. Ill-fitting clothes, perhaps an over-long belted raincoat. A sort of jelly on legs. One quick gust of wind and he’d probably blow away! A person with no talent at all, nothing to give, utterly useless.

I have to tell you that we are all in danger of being wimps.Read More »

The Transfiguration

Sermon preached at the Eucharist, Christ the Servant, Stockwood, Bristol, 1 April 1972

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. […] Meanwhile, where is God? When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing him, if you remember yourself and turn to him in gratitude and praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double-bolting inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away…

That’s from the beginning of a book on grief written by C. S. Lewis after his wife died. It’s terribly final, isn’t it? Life comes suddenly to a full stop and people are no more. I find this coming home very forceable if I have to take a series of funerals in a week. A procession of people in sorrow; each one different and intimate, a family drawing closer together, pale and tear-locked faces; each one facing that peculiar barrier of death.Read More »

Weeding and welding

Sermon preached at the wedding of Clare Brinton, unspecified church in Fleet, Hampshire, 12 August 2000

It is not only the Guardian that has a monopoly on this phenomenon. Of late, it has undertaken to publish corrections to its typing errors and omissions of information.

There is a long history behind this. The parish magazine is a great example. All articles of this nature appear to have been composed by the willing soul, Miss Print.

A recent example:

At last Sunday’s baptism, the children were christened as Kate and Sidney, and not Steak and Kidney as in the magazine. Also we apologise to the couples in the two marriages last week. We mentioned that there was a “weeding” and a “welding” in our parish church, rather than a “wedding”.

This, in fact, is a fortuitous mistake of Miss Print.Read More »

After the funeral

In addition to my father’s sermons, I wanted this site to include some of his other creative output. He was not merely a priest: he was also a poet, painter, cartoonist, storyteller and humorist. I thought that some of his poems, artwork and stories might provide both a contrast and a context for his overtly religious texts.

This poem was read at his funeral last Thursday by his widow, Christine. – SJC

Some may sing, but others sigh their griefs.

Nightingales or larks will hymn that grave

Or spice the orisons which catch the fire.

Old pains will drop their thievings of beliefs

And look to futures, and yet still behave

As nothing had addressed their full desire.

So turn to light and delights that transform

Those dusty, broom-shaped sweepings into night;

New dawns await to dry all those your fears.

These scars and memories you will rewarm

By months and days and minutes, but no fright

Can ever steal the blessings of those years.

Remembrance Sunday

Sermon preached at unspecified location, 12 November 1989

It is a bit of a shock when you announce quite smugly that you don’t have any enemies, to be told, “well, you haven’t fought any worthwhile battles, then!” The fact that there are conflicts is only a way of confirming that we are alive. There are too many people, however, who are prepared to go on being half-dead. Taking no real interest in affairs around, allowing others to ride rough-shod and to allow injustice to go unchallenged. This is true not only of the minor skirmishes of daily living that we all face at times, but also of the international conflicts with which world history is patterned.

An American President once remarked, “if you don’t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen!” If you stay out of the kitchen, people go hungry.Read More »