There’s a today every day of the week

Sermon preached at Evensong, Christ the Servant, Stockwood, Bristol on Easter Day, 18 April 1976

[This sermon is unusually long and declamatory for my father’s style. I have omitted a couple of phrases which are in parentheses in the manuscript, as if he had edited the sermon and cut them. They add nothing of substance to what is reproduced here. – SJC]

Ring the bells! Sing the hymns! All is joy and praise today! Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Look at the spring flowers, the bubbles and sun. Death has been swallowed up into life!

All this is fantastic! Great! Fabulous!

But how long will it last? Why does it seem that by the time you get to Low Sunday (next week) you are feeling low yourself, a bit flat. Bit of an anti-climax; like the moment after the big bang at the end of the firework display.

You can be deeply moved by the Easter hymns, get caught up with the rush and excitement of Easter (after all, this is no stately walking occasion – the disciples ran away from the tomb), but when you get home, you find that life is much the same humdrum affair as it was before.

Some people find that Easter is something that the churches get all excited about, and feel they ought to join in; but are really untouched by it. That’s the Martha way. No less true, not lacking in faith, looking forward with anticipation to that promise.

Then Jesus speaks.

Look. Resurrection is for today and every day. It is for you and for everybody. Look. Look. Open up your heavenly eyes and see me.

I AM THE RESURRECTION. I AM LIFE.

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The poor deaf!

Address delivered to Bristol Diocesan Synod, 23 November 1991

I am sure that if you were asked how many native languages exist in the British Isles you would list: English, Welsh, Gaelic, Erse, Manx and Cornish, and there it would end. Yet there is another language in daily use among over 30,000 of the population and one which has recently been recognised as official by the European Community. It is a language which is never spoken, and one which is almost too impossible to write down in an easily intelligible form. It is gaining hugely in popularity so that teaching classes are always heavily over-subscribed. British Sign Language is enjoying a boom. Arcane and exotic to the outsider; as ordinary, at times, to the user as a note for the milkman.

Who are “the Deaf”? (And there’s a mistake – almost as bad as calling them “the disabled.”) People who are deaf do not look upon themselves as being ‘disabled’, only disadvantaged. Centuries of well-meaning but misguided attitudes have left the deaf community as an oppressed minority culture – and no linguistic group can exist without a culture to which the language gives expression. One major feature of deaf culture is cold dinners: you cannot sign clearly when holding a knife and fork!

There is so much confusion about the terminology. Those with a hearing loss – hard of hearing – those who become deafened, through meningitis, rubella or road accidents, are lumped together with the profoundly, pre lingually deaf – as if they were all the same, except by degree. Ten and a half million people in the UK, skilfully ignored until they open their mouths or hands.

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Anything you ask

Sermon preached at Christ the Servant, Stockwood, Bristol, 23 May 1976

Anything which you ask in my name, the Father will grant to you.

Now surely there must by now be an enormous queue of people forming, every person in that line with an objection, an example, an instance, saying,

“Now, look here, I asked for this.”

“I prayed to God for…”

“I petitioned God most humbly, concerning…”

“I fasted for three days before going on my knees.”

And every person in that queue would agree that they had most faithfully and reverently finished their prayers (indeed, doesn’t every prayer finish), “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We are asking things in his name; and they don’t happen.

And perhaps with one voice they would say, protest: “why does Jesus in the Bible say one thing, and God in our lives seem to say another?”

No. Don’t dismiss my imaginary queue of protesters. They are honest but puzzled enquirers into their faith. Are not their questions genuine? Haven’t they been on many a Christian’s lips at some time? And to say by way of an answer, “well, you’ve got to have faith” will not do. It’s frustratingly not enough.

If you will, first, accept me as a member of my own imaginary queue, and not as the smug quizmaster of the TV contest who’s peeped at the answers already, I’ll offer to you some of the ways which I have found helpful in trying to come to terms with this asking and answering of prayers.

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