The diversity of the one

Sermon preached at St Michael’s Church, Clifton, Bristol, 13 July 1997

[Apologies for the sporadic updating of this blog – work being carried on at my house has disrupted my home office facilities. – SJC]

When my boys were small, my brother and I used to make films with them. Recently he sent me a video copy of the old days, called Turn Back the Years. Very odd it is to see how we were then. And this reminds me, if you turn back your years, can you remember a school group photograph? There you were, all lined up in rows, and possibly in three tiers (the tallest at the back, of course) and your class teacher, either benign or severe, being always on the edge of the photograph.

Perhaps you were in school uniform – all caps or berets or badges looking the same. School uniform. Why did we ever have a school uniform? So that we would appear as a unit, a mark of our solidarity; we had a group identity.

Sure, an individual may flourish within and contribute to the whole, but such contributions would not be allowed to be paraded beyond the solid core. That seems to be at the base of school rules, and certainly those of the armed forces. No individualism. Don’t use your initiative, but just obey orders.

This really is a mess. And St Paul’s words in the second reading* try to point this out. [*1 Corinthians 12:12-30 – SJC]

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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 »