Attunement

“The sermon, then, is the result of God’s interaction, and it is the working out of God’s purpose for his people at this time.”

I have found myself really struggling to write the sermon this week. Sometimes that happens, when life takes over, where distractions get in the way. It is easy to lose focus, especially during lockdown, when the regular rhymes and rhythms have been discarded. In a way, this seems to me to be an important Lenten discipline – to attempt to focus on God’s will even if the sources of imagination and contemplation appear to have dried up. 

If you were concerned that you were to be denied a sermon this Sunday, worry not! Although I am struggling, I will get there, I promise. I will summon the words and draw theological themes and exercise a form of prayerful perseverance. I sometimes wonder if the struggle leads to a greater grasp of the Holy Spirit’s promptings. The words that are composed are not necessarily my words, easily manufactured and processed, but the words graced by God. The sermon, then, is the result of God’s interaction, and it is the working out of God’s purpose for his people at this time.

If we look carefully at this painting by Hofmann who delighted in re-creating the life of Christ on canvas, we can see the different levels of attunement which occurred in the Temple on that day. The priest, sitting down, clinging on to his known scripture – the Law. The cynic, gesturing the improbability and impossibility of Jesus’ vision. The old man, quietly reflecting on the words of this young prophet. Finally the listener flanking Jesus with a scroll wrapped in his hand, pausing in meditation. Who, out of these, is willing to be drawn into God’s will?

Jesus in the Temple, 1881 a painting by Heinrich Hofmann

The congregation (or audience, in this age of livestreaming), is also given a responsibility. A certain duty is placed upon those who are listening to God’s word, to listen well. The liturgy of the Word is shared out for anyone who has ears to listen. But a relationship exists in this sharing out – speaking, listening, questioning, interpreting, inspiring, consoling. The homilist cannot speak without listeners to receive the Word. The congregation cannot fully attend without God’s Holy Spirit being fully present. A unity of purpose is formed through the filtering of this Word across the community. This is why the CATechesis group is so important – that we take time, more time, to consider what God is saying to us today. I would commend this weekly meeting to you, not that you are burdened to join each week, but it is an essential tool in tuning in to God’s will and purpose. (email me for further details).


God speaks when he shares his Word. The good news is that God’s story is one of hospitality, of welcome. When we attune ourselves to God’s story, wonderful things happen. We enter into a deeper relationship with the Word. We become a community shaped by joy and purpose. But this doesn’t come easily. You may have to struggle to attend to God’s Word. You may well have to fight distractions. You will need to find the space and time to listen well. If you are prepared to give of yourself in this way, be prepared to be changed.

Pastoral Letter for Lent

It seems that people are keen to hear stories which make sense of a confused and confusing world.

Moths are attracted to light and, when stories are told on porches and verandas during the longer days and shorter nights, well, moths will come and listen! There is a storytelling phenomenon called ‘The Moth’ which I heard about during my screenwriters’ course a couple of years ago. These are stories told by everyday people who have chosen to speak in a public arena, a little like the Ted Talks from the world of commerce. The Moth stories relate to ordinary life experiences but what brings these stories to life, what brings them to the light like a moth, is that they speak to our sense of wonder in the human condition. (See https://themoth.org).

It seems that people are keen to hear stories which make sense of a confused and confusing world. The Moth is attracting huge audiences through podcasts, books and radio shows. The stories are based upon a diverse range of themes, always told with feeling and sincerity. They prey upon our innate need to be drawn into the dramatic world of another person’s experience of the world.

We have a natural source for storytelling material – the Bible – which is a compendium of Moth stories. It is filled with people’s experiences of life and and loss and hope. When we hear Jesus’ story we recognise a person who lives and speaks with a divine grace and authenticity. We are attracted to Jesus like moths to the light. 

The stories we hear in this season of Lent – in which Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit of God – have never been more relevant or engaging. The Lenten stories speak about courage, fortitude and discernment. When we feel that our faith is limited or inadequate in some way, when we feel distanced from God, when our only sense is that of the world’s recklessness and not of the Spirit’s presence – then we can be reassured that we are living Jesus’ story too, a story that leads us to God’s Easter and our freedom. 

Be drawn into the light this Lent, stay close to Christ, stay present and remember, you are his story too.

LENTEN DISCIPLINES
Instead of giving up something this Lent, why not try and put something on. The pandemic has depleted many of us, so why not do something new which improves our wellbeing and spiritual strength? I am going to say the Rosary each day but there are a host of free and easy resources at hand. Here are a few more suggestions: 

Come and see for those curious to learn more. Simply register with the Oxford Diocese and receive daily bible readings and commentaries for Lent. There are also videos to watch of different peoples’ testimonies. https://www.oxford.anglican.org/come-and-see/

Common Worship – morning and evening prayer. Go to our parish website homepage and click. You will be taken to the prayer with the readings attached. Join millions of Anglicans around the world saying these daily offices. https://www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk

Knowing Jesus – a Lent retreat from the Jesuits in Scotland. “Christian tradition believes that the person of Jesus Christ reveals God to us. If we are to follow Christ and imitate him, we need to know him through his words and actions as shown in the Gospels.” https://www.onlineprayer.net

UPCOMING SERVICES

Stations of the Cross – the details to connect by Zoom for Stations of the Cross every Friday in Lent before Holy Week at 6pm:

https://zoom.us/j/92111679099?pwd=SWdrUUpXSHpUU0I3aWkzUStSWWU3Zz09

Meeting ID: 921 1167 9099 
Passcode: 925015

The Stations of the Cross uses Claire Sadler’s pictures that are in church and the usual liturgy, but presented in a way that works for Zoom.

Tune in for the Eucharist on the First Sunday of Lent 

The CATechesis group

Each week the CAT group focuses on the sermon and gospel passage of the previous Sunday. You can come and go as you please – we would love to see you. We meet at 7.30pm on Zoom:

StM&AA’s Summertown is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting. Topic: CATechesis Group Time: Feb 23, 2021 07:30 PM London
Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/99330983259?pwd=K3R3UitQOXhWcFZFcHlXTjMwYnc3Zz09 Meeting ID: 993 3098 3259 Passcode: 139348


Introducing the daring adventures of…. Michaelmas Mouse!

Each week our intrepid friend (or foe – “It’s vermin Fawlty!”) discovers a new and interesting part of St Michael’s Church to explore. Follow his adventures on our Facebook and Instagram feeds. Many thanks to Leah Mattinson for feeding and caring for him! But we won’t be inviting Michaelmas Mouse to the Cat group!! Leah has also provided the craft for this week.

There’s lots going on, despite the church being closed for public worship but open for private prayer. 

God bless you all this Lent.