Trinity 17, 2010

A sermon preached by Mr Clive Jackson at Evensong, on the 17th Sunday after Trinity, 2010 IMG_7374 pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself, and so bring us at last to your heavenly city.” From the collect prayer for today. I do not need to remind you that we are, at this moment on the burial site of roundheads who besieged the city during the English Civil War. Neither do I need to remind you of the battery of cannon they had up on Lamel Hill which they used to fire on to our city which was loyal to King Charles 1st. People say that there are still scars on Walmgate Bar from the days when the city was besieged. Not only was the bar damaged, so was our parish church and the Priory of St. Nicholas which was one of the finest parish churches in the city. Together with Chester, York is unique in having its medieval walls intact. In North America the only place to have city walls, and they are not all that old, is the attractive French-Canadian city of Quebec standing above the St. Lawrence sea way, the gateway to Canada. As we heard tonight, Jerusalem had and has city walls and city gates. Unlike York its gates are not defended by barbicans; instead, on passing through a gate, one is confronted by a very hefty wall. To enter one needs to turn to the right or left as appropriate. A good way of disconcerting an enemy and eliminating him. In Nehemiah’s time the walls of Jerusalem were in a bad state of repair as we heard tonight. Last Sunday we heard from the Book of Ezra how people had returned to the city to repair the Temple. So having got their priorities right by attending to God and putting the Temple to rights they faced the problem of how to restore the city to its proper physical and spiritual condition. This is what the book bearing Nehemiah’s name is all about. He was a mere waiter who served at the king’s table. Being in the royal presence on a regular basis made it possible for him to be noticed – and promoted! This happened at Susa one of the most important cities in Persia as did the events described in the book of Ezra about which we heard last week. Nehemiah heard about the plight of Jerusalem in November – December of our calendar, but it was not until March – April that he was able to tell the king of his concerns. As we know he was given permission to return to the city. So, provided with the necessary documents and an escort of cavalry he set off. (This may have been necessary because of the resistance to the project from Sanballat and Tobiah.) On his arrival Nehemiah undertook survey to assess the damage. This was done in secret under the cover of darkness; the city leaders did not trust him! But they seem to have come round because they became wholeheartedly behind the project of rebuilding the city walls. It is interesting to read that work on the walls was done by priests and Levites and by important officials all bending their backs and getting their hands dirty. The Christian church is not unlike the city of Jerusalem and its walls in Nehemiah’s day. Its walls, its unity, is in a damaged state. I often wonder if God willed that there should be many different Christian bodies. After all we are, thank God, all different. It is, therefore, not surprising that each person had a favoured way of approaching God’s throne or not approaching it at all. Thank God for his gift of free will. That being so there is a pressing need for Christians everywhere to get to know each other and unite in working together, forgetting rivalry and difference of approach. Working to establish the principle of loving God and our neighbour. It is lovely to see this working out in our sharing the building with the Calvary Chapel, not the only time the two bodies have co-operated. Also in the working of the SE York ecumenical group where Christians of all shapes and sizes meet to come together and do things. Such contacts help to break down barriers. I remember once some years ago when attending a meeting in connection with our school talking to the priest from St. George’s. He asked how we were doing and I said how we were worshipping in the hall and using St. Denys’s for funerals. He said “You can use St. George’s when ever you like.” Such generosity between churches shows the Christian spirit But this goes beyond our relationships with fellow Christians and the bodies to which they belong. We are citizens of God’s world and commanded to love our neighbours of whatever sort shape or size. Someone put it like this. “My friends, let us be sure of this, that the world is for us, as we see it, as we make it, either an ever widening vision of God’s glory, or a narrow and pitiful spectacle of the conflicts of man’s selfishness. We can see only that for which our eyes are opened, and the Holy Spirit alone can open the eyes of the soul.” (Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott, St. Cuthbert’s Darlington 1892) But it is still as true today as it was when the bishop uttered the words in Darlington. All of us need that Holy Spirit to open our eyes, to give us a vision of what God wants us to be here and in the church as a whole. Maybe there is some work for a person like Nehemiah, he who rebuilt and repaired the Holy City of Jerusalem. Work which might be painful as well as challenging and fulfilling...pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself and so bring us at last to your heavenly city where we shall see you face to face.   A.M.D.G. C. H. J. 2010.

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.