Solemn Choral Evensong, July 2013

Sermon preached by Mr Clive Jackson on the occasion of a Solemn Choral Evensong held to give thanks for his 80th birthday and more than 50-year-long service as a Reader at St Lawrence. 059 There are two words which express my feelings tonight. Two words which seem a quite inadequate way of saying what I really mean. The two words are “Thank you’”. Thank you first and foremost to Almighty God in Trinity for the many many blessings he has bestowed on me in my life so far. Many through being part of his Holy Church. In the life, fellowship and ministry here at St. Lawrence’s. The friendship of people and the possibility of being able to be useful and helpful though ministry.. This is also true of the Minster as a guide and Hon. Chaplain. We Christians are not a bad lot when people get to know and understand us and what we are about. But also thank you to everyone who has been concerned with the splendid service tonight. To Father Tim and the Churchwardens for letting it happen. To that splendid group of singers, ably, nay expertly rehearsed by Alan. It has been a great pleasure to hear locally generated four part singing again in a building which lends itself to such music making. Thanks too to Evan for being our 'Master of Ceremonies', keeping us in order and doing his best to see that we did not put a foot wrong. But most importantly thanks to you for coming tonight to make an eightieth birthday and over half a century of being a Reader in God’s Church such a splendid and memorable occasion. Readers are quite busy in the church these days, preaching, taking services, helping at the Eucharist, taking funerals and taking Communion to the sick and house bound to mention a few. Indeed they do all things that an Ordained Deacon does except carry out public baptism. I think that I am correct. Should I be wrong, Fr. Tim will correct me at Morning Prayer tomorrow. Indeed some years ago David Hope, when Archbishop, described the Reader ministry as Diaconal. I am one who would like to see the Office of Reader abolished and replaced by a permanent Diaconate following our brothers and sisters in the Roman Church. So much for the commercial. Enough of that. As life goes one becomes more and more conscious of the blessings that come to us in all sorts of situations at times of anxiety and fear and at times of great joy and happiness. Thinking of being afraid look at poor old Jacob in that first lesson. He was afraid of what might happen when brother Esau arrived with his company of men and large numbers of livestock. He had two courses of action, confrontation with obvious results or an offering of love and friendship. So he gave orders “When my brother Esau meets you and asks “To whom do you belong?” “where are you going and whose are those animals that you are driving?” “You will answer “To you servant Jacob. They are a gift to my Lord Esau>” Jacob is following an inspired way of making peace with Esau. Obeying the command Love God and your neighbour as yourself. In spite of this gesture of love it was not a peaceful night for Jacob. There he was on his own wrestling with an unknown person or being. As we heard the wrestler could not master him so he dislocated Jacob’s shoulder. May be surprisingly Jacob had been wrestling with God himself. When things are tough or we see them as so, our faith can help a great deal. God is always there for us to lay our frustrations and problems before him. I would suggest that we are not likely to be called upon to wrestle with God as Jacob did. But prayer may involve arguing and discussing with him, not pulling punches, even calling a spade a shovel. He is there to help and wrestle with. Also there are fellow Christians with shoulders broad enough to cry on. Experience in the Minster and here makes it clear to me that there are many people in God’s world who are in desperate need of such shoulders. There is a ministry for us all to lend an ear to those distressed souls and offer relief. This does not necessarily mean offering advice, far from it. It means just being there to listen. Incidentally, today the church remembers John Keble, priest tractarian and poet. In a sermon preached in Gloucestershire he said “..we are all brethren (we might like to substitute that for brothers and sisters) we are all brothers and sisters, and as such are bound to love and serve one another. By which one consideration, if men would but bear it in mind, a whole host of ungodly thoughts and expressions would at once be silenced and done away with.” Think what a good world it would be! In that reading from St. Mark Jesus was contending with the Pharisees about God’s Law and human tradition, and the first part centred upon whether to wash hands or not. We today would not question at all knowing that germs etc. are everywhere. Isaiah put the problem Jesus was facing quite well With their lips they honour me, But with their hearts they turn away from me: All in vain they think to worship me, All they teach is human commands.” Jesus was concerned with the motive behind the action. Doing alone was not enough. It had to be done for the right motive. As Pusey said we are all brothers and sisters (in Christ) and as such are bound to love and serve one another. This is one of the lasting truths I have learned in my years as a member of the Church of God A truth which the world needs to know, and we Christians are the people to spread this by word and example. This is true of us living and being part of St. Lawrence’s. Our parish had undergone radical change in the nearly fifty years of which I have been here with you. In the early days many people were born, educated married and laid to rest having not stirred far beyond the parish boundary. Now we have close at hand two universities in our city, and many of their students live amongst us. It is good to welcome them and make them feel at home. It’s all a part of the commandment about loving God and our neighbour. Not only has there been demographic change but the Church of England itself has moved in developing a new eucharistic rite and a pleasant daily prayer book. Helping us to remain close to our brothers and sisters of other Christian bodies. My association with the SE York ecumenical group has enabled me to come into contact with members of other churches and rejoice in what we have in common and learn the problems we all face. Indeed, by such contacts Christians and the bodies to which they belong get to know and understand each other better. Incidentally I am to lead a Pilgrimage for the ecumenical group in the Minster on Thursday. (Seven o’clock at the backdoor in Chapter House Yard). Probably the person who was most conscious of the Love of God was St Paul. The brotherly love he expressed and taught in his epistles was not merely that he watched for every opportunity of doing good to the Christians among whom he lived; he found time to extend his brotherly love, care and charity to those who were far out of his reach whom he had never seen and was likely not to see. It is this love, this Christian love, which has helped to mould my life and has motivated me in what I have tried to do, and which motivates us as members of God’s Holy Church. After all St. Paul did write to the church at Corinth :-I may speak in tongues of men or of angels, but if I am without love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal….Love is kind and envies no one…there in nothing that love cannot face there is no limit to its faith, its hope… there are three things that last for ever, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of them all is love” In the opening words of the next chapter he makes the point “Put love first.” C. H. J. July 14th. 2013. IMG_7334

An active Church of England church in York, between the busy University of York campus and the ancient city walls – serving the Parish of St Lawrence -with-St Nicholas with Christian prayer, worship, fellowship, hospitality, and charity.