Sermons

Sermons for  9, 2 August, 26, 19, 12, 5 July, 28, 21 &14 June, Trinity and Whit Sunday, Seventh, Sixth, Fifth, Fourth, Third, Second Sunday after Easter, Low Sunday, Easter Sunday, Good Friday Addresses and 29th March below
Canon David Reindorp’s Mattins streamed Sunday 28 June 2020 here
Also Sunday 21 June hereSunday 14 June here, Sunday 7 June here, Sunday 31 May here, Sunday 24 May here, Sunday 17 May here, Sunday 10 May here
Canon David Reindorp’s Third  Sunday after Easter Video Message here
Canon David Reindorp’s Second Sunday after Easter Video Message here
Canon David Reindorp’s First Sunday after Easter Video Sermon here
Canon David Reindorp's Easter Video Message 2020  here
Canon David Reindorp's Palm Sunday Sermon video here
Also videos of Chelsea Old Church services and messages collected together on youtube channel


SERMON  Sunday, 9th August 2020      Eighth after Trinity    Readings: (1) 1 Kings 19.9-18; (2) Mt.14.22-33

The prophet Elijah was perhaps the strangest of all the prophets of Israel: a real wild man of the mountains and desert. We are told that he was a resident of Gilead, but we know nothing of his birth or parentage: he simply appears on the scene, a rugged Bedouin-like figure in a hair-cloth mantle, a sort of reincarnation of an earlier and more austere period of Israel’s history. His name, meaning Yahweh is God, may be regarded as the motto of his life and expression of his mission as a prophet. His recorded prophetic activity took place mainly during the reign of Ahab, in the 9th century B.C., about 60 years after the division of the kingdom of Israel into two parts following the death of Solomon.
The first lesson we heard this morning, from the first Book of Kings, will I am sure have been familiar to you. Elijah has fled to Mt. Horeb from the wrath of Ahab’s wife Jezebel following the destruction of the prophets of Baal after their failure in the great test on Mt. Carmel, where Elijah’s prayer to God is answered but theirs to Baal is not. At Mt. Horeb Elijah encounters a very different God from the one whose power was so dramatically demonstrated at Carmel in the descent of fire from heaven. At Horeb there are indeed impressive demonstrations – a mighty wind, an earthquake and a fire – but God is not in any of these; and then a still, small voice asking Elijah what he is doing there. He replies in effect that he is alone and in fear for his life. But God reminds him that it is not the calling of a prophet to fly from this unfaithful world but rather to attend to God’s word and courageously carry it out; and he gives Elijah some work to do: he must go and anoint two kings to do God’s will and he must appoint his own successor, Elisha. The reading ended with God telling Elijah that he is not entirely alone: there was still a faithful remnant of 7000 persons in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
This idea of a faithful remnant is a one that runs right through the scriptures. Its basis is that God’s redemptive purpose for mankind will not be frustrated despite the moral failings of the great majority of his chosen people, who fail to keep his covenant. In the present instance the people, under the malign influence of a foreign queen of strong character, had succumbed to the worship of the pagan god Baal. But the kernel of the true Israel, the remnant of 7000, kept faith with the true God. Similarly when, nearly 200 years later, the people of the corrupted northern kingdom of Israel were taken away into captivity and disappeared from history, the people of the southern kingdom of Judah were saved; and then when after another century they in turn were carried away – into captivity in Babylon – a remnant of them were allowed two generations later to return to rebuild and reoccupy Jerusalem. These are just a few examples.
We see the same idea in the N.T. but in new garb, as it were. Our Lord’s teaching marks a new beginning: he preached a new gospel for the remission of sins and aimed to create a new people of God – the body of believers that we call the Church—superseding the old one. We see it in the sermon on the mount, for example, when be bade his disciples to become the salt of the earth, and the light of the world (Mt.5.13-16); and in the parable in which he likened the kingdom of heaven to leaven, which a woman put into a loaf, and the whole was leavened (Mt.13.33).
The same theme was taken up by St Paul; by his time the church was a well-established and growing body of believers. In his thought the Church fulfils the function of the faithful remnant and he contrasts “Israel after the flesh” with the “Israel of God”, which is the Church (Rom.9.27; Gal.6.16). The same thought appears in other epistles: in James, for example, the Christian Church is identified with the true Israel (1.1); and in the first epistle of Peter the Church is called “God’s own people” (2.9). And, it hardly needs saying, it has been the Church’s function ever since to bear witness to the Christian faith, even though it may seem sometimes, as it is in this country today, to be an uphill task in which only a minority are engaged. What are the false gods of today? We have gone beyond primitive gods of wood or stone. There is always Mammon, or worldly riches, against which our Lord often warned us; that golden god is still with us, and always will be. But in recent centuries other man-made gods in the form of secular creeds, have arisen to entice people away from Christianity: socialism, fascism, communism, nationalism, egalitarianism, and others. They are not as crude as the Baal god of Elijah’s day but they are just as man-made. The aims and ideas of some of them are not all bad: indeed some of them have things in common with Christianity; and it is possible to combine both provided we get our priorities right, put our Christian belief and practice first and keep faith with the true God. And that is where the secular creeds all share one fatal defect: they are two-dimensional; they have no divine dimension, the transcendental yet loving God whom we love and worship is simply not there; and without him there really is no hope for mankind. The human misery and oppression caused on a gigantic scale by some of these creeds, and their disastrous failures, bear witness to their inadequacy. One final word: we have been chosen in our generation to bear this heavy responsibility, but we must not think that that implies any great merit on our part. We are what we are by the grace of God, and it is by his grace that we have been given this task and the ability to do it. It has not been forced on us: God never does that, so we can at least claim the credit of having given our assent. Let us not lose it by lack of faith, timidity or laziness.

SERMON 2 August 2020 given by the Reverend Canon David Reindorp TD DL, Vicar of Chelsea Old Church
The Eighth Sunday after Trinity.     Readings: The Book of Genesis Chapter 32 v 22-31, The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 14 v 13-21
It is very apposite that our Old Testament reading today is about images and names. We are in the midst of a national debate about the images and statues that we have made and should have made. The Jewish faith forbade any graven images of God. Even in speech the name Jahweh is never said but is mouthed.
Jacob wrestles with a man and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint when he wrestled with him. Jacob is asked his name. After he has asked for a blessing Jacob gives his name. The mysterious man says, “You shall no longer be named Jacob but Israel, for you have strivened with God and with humans and have prevailed.” Then Jacob askes him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” and then he blesses him. And Jacob concludes with the phrase, “For I have seen God face to face and yet my life is preserved”.
With scripture, what one is always trying to discern is what is being said, why was it recorded, what did it mean then, and what does it mean now. It is saying something very profound about our very being. Wrestling with God and comprehension of God, it is talking about the spiritual and the material. At the time it was written, God was a given. In our own age we wrestle with the whole concept of God in an increasingly sceptical world.
In our Gospel reading the people are looking for God. Why else would such a great crowd come to hear Jesus?
What were they expecting? What had they heard about this strange, wandering, itinerant preacher? Clearly, partially it was healing, because we read about Jesus healing the sick. And then there is this curious exchange. The disciples say, “Send them away. It is late and they need food and we are far from the villages”. Jesus says, “They need not go away, give them something to eat”.
The puzzled disciples say, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes”. And Jesus says, “Bring them here to me”.
Jesus orders the crowds to sit on the grass. He blesses the five loaves and the two fishes and gives them to his disciples and the disciples give them to the crowd. And they all ate and were filled. And we are told they picked up the leftovers and there were twelve baskets full.
It is interesting to me that they were a poor people because they picked up what was left over. In our modern society we would have just left it. And finally, we are told there were five thousand of them.
What it says to me is that our world has enough. Why is it that we can never organise ourselves to share that fully?

Sermon for Sunday 26th July 2020 Seventh after Trinity. Given by our Reader, John Watherston CBE
Readings: (1) 1 Kings 3.3-14; (2) Romans 8.26-end
I must begin this sermon with a disclaimer. I feel very ill qualified to speak on the subject of prayer, especially to a congregation which includes many lifelong Christians who may well know much more about it than I do. But both the lessons we heard read this morning refer to prayer – and in particular to private prayer – and it seems appropriate to say something about it; to give a layman’s view, as it were. I shall return to the lessons later.
To be regular in private prayer day by day is one of the nine duties of a practising member of the Church of England. It is a very important one, and also, in my experience, one of the most difficult to do well. It is all too easy to fall out of the habit of private prayer; in that situation it can feel as if an unseen, even diabolical, power is restraining us, trying to prevent us from communing with God; and that itself may be an indication of the importance of prayer to our spiritual lives. The first essential, as with any good habit we wish to acquire or keep, is to want to do it; or, if you cannot at first get as far as that, to want to want to do it; and in this God himself will help us because he for his part wants us to pray. He seeks us, and will make the best use of any movement of the will on our part.
But let us first take a step back and, going behind the Church’s precept, ask why should we want to pray? This is a rational age, and we demand reasons for everything. What is prayer for? If you were to ask that question out there in the street the answer most people would give you, those that have a religious belief, that is, would probably be that it is for asking God for things, what we call petitionary prayers; and depending on the nature of the request and its motivation these may, indeed should, properly form part of our prayers; but these are only one kind of prayer.
As Christians we believe that God transcends the world he has created, and that he has a personal nature. We also believe that an intimate relationship exists between him and mankind, made manifest by the incarnation and the redeeming work of Jesus Christ; and further, that that relationship is one that each human person individually can enter into. Prayer, often expressed as “through Jesus Christ our Lord” is the way above all others in which that relationship is made real.
I said a moment ago that petitionary prayer is only one kind; there are three others: prayers of praise, of penitence and of thanks giving. In our public worship we offer all three; but it is important to include them in our private prayers as well, especially penitence, when we should try to examine our lives to see where we have fallen short, in a way that we do not really have an opportunity to do when we say the General Confession in church. And we should include a prayer of thanksgiving, for despite the present troubles we are in general greatly blessed to be living at this time and place, though there will sadly be some exceptions: the General Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer is a good one to use sometimes.
But I suggest we should also make a point of not keeping to ready-made prayers. We are fortunate indeed in having a magnificent inheritance of prayers composed by Christians down the centuries. By all means let us use them, but if we confine ourselves to them there is a danger that we shall merely “say our prayers” without out minds being fully engaged. I know that I find the most demanding part of my prayers every day is when I have to think what I really want to speak to God about and pray ad lib, so to speak. But for this we have the encouraging words of St Paul that we heard at the beginning of our second lesson this morning:
“..the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us . .” (Romans 8.26)
Hitherto I have mentioned only what we are saying to God. But in a relationship there should be dialogue.so in prayer we must be ready to listen as well; indeed that is the most important part. I remember a young woman many years ago who had decided to become a nun. On the day she took her final vows after some years as a novice her family were especially her mother, were rather upset; but was as radiant as a bride, and she told a friend that every day in the chapel God said something new to her.
For a private dialogue like this to be possible our minds need to be peaceful and settled, free from outside distractions. In the modern world that may not be easy. Addressing this problem in relation to private prayer Thomas Merton, an American monk, once wrote this-
“The world we live in assails us on every side with useless appeals to emotion and to sense appetite. Radios, newspapers, television, billboards, neon-signs, surround us with a perpetual incitement to pour out our money and our vital energies in futile transitory transactions.”
As you may guess from the media he cites, that was written many years ago; now with much more intrusive media of communication the problem is a great deal worse. But our Lord’s words about going into our closet and closing our door still apply.
So to come back finally to the first lesson we heard this morning, which I think one of the most touching passages in the Old Testament. You will remember that it describes how Solomon, as a very young man, has succeeded to the throne of his father, King David. That was a hard act to follow, but we are told that Solomon loved God and observed his father’s statutes. God appears to him in a dream and says: “Ask what I shall give thee”; and Solomon, recognising the greatness of his inheritance and the magnitude of his responsibility, and recognising also his own inexperience and inadequacy for the task, asks for wisdom. It is the very model of what a petitionary prayer should be: it combines a proper humility with a desire for God’s guidance in what he had to do. And his prayer was pleasing to God, who granted his request, and much else besides, so that the wisdom of Solomon has been proverbial ever since.
 

SERMON 19 July 2020 given by the Reverend Canon David Reindorp TD DL, Vicar of Chelsea Old Church The Sixth Sunday after Trinity Readings: The Prophet Isaiah Chapter 44 v 6-8 The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 13 v 24-30, 36-43
It is not a new phenomenon. The psalmist was lamenting it 3000 years ago. The gist of the psalmist’s lament is: Why do the unrighteous flourish, and by implication, why do I, who is attempting to be true to God, not always flourish?
I, greatly daring, set off for a walk to Battersea Park. The powers that be had helpfully marked out the way to cross Albert Bridge. Up this side and down the other. Coming towards me were, I surmise, a mother, a daughter and a dog. I was always taught that you should never ask a lady’s age. But the mother was clearly in the bracket that put her in the “At risk” category. Incensed, but trying to control it, I addressed them both. “Forgive me, I said, you must be foreign, for it states clearly that this side is across.” They gave no answer. I wondered what a government had to do to protect us from ourselves. I felt the psalmist would have had something to say.
Jesus in today’s Gospel, addresses it directly. In the parable, where he compares what happens when a sower sows good seed and in the night an enemy comes and sows seeds among the wheat. The result is healthy plants and weeds. The farmer’s team say, “Shall we pull up the weeds?” And the farmer replies, “No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bundle them together to be burned and gather the wheat into my barn.”
Later the disciples ask for an explanation. They say, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”
And Jesus answers.
“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man
The field is the world and the good seed are the children of the kingdom
The weeds are the children of the evil one and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age
And the reapers are angels.
Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire
So will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels
And they will collect out of his kingdom
All causes of sin and evil doers
And they will throw them into the furnace of fire
Where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father.
Let anyone with ears listen.”
You do not need me to spell out what is being said.
We clearly will be accountable for our actions.
We will have to face the truth about ourselves and answer for it.
PS I wonder what the reaction will be from those two women who defied the law, common sense and written instructions, if we hit a second spike?

Sermon for Sunday, 12th July 2020      Given by our Reader, John Watherston CBE     Fifth Sunday after Trinity
I should like to begin by echoing what David said a week ago: it is a very great pleasure to be here again in this church and among fellow parishioners, even if we are of necessity fewer than usual; and to echo also the tribute David paid to all those in the country whose hard work has been getting us through this difficult time. And I should like to recall something else David said, rather longer ago, referring to when we read the Litany here, back at the beginning of March: we may have thought that its deprecation against plague, pestilence and famine had a decidedly archaic air – surely these were not things we needed to worry about nowadays, we may have thought – but within a few weeks a pestilence did indeed strike us, causing tens of thousands of deaths in this country alone, with much suffering, anxiety and economic havoc; and it is still with us. There has been nothing like it here for 100 years, and comparisons are drawn with the plagues that used to break out from time to time in earlier centuries.
 
For many people this period has been a painful one. Some have lost loved ones, with the added grief of not being able to visit them or say goodbye in the way they would naturally wish. For many, especially the elderly, the sickness itself has been a most unpleasant and frightening ordeal; and fear and loneliness have assailed many of those who have had to live alone for several months; conversely there are families who have been confined to cramped living conditions, perhaps with increasingly fractious children and fraying tempers. And then there are many who have suffered severe economic loss, or who have deep anxieties about their future livelihood. And for all of us this has been at the very least a time of worry, for ourselves, our loved ones or the country as a whole, and of denial of some of our favourite activities.
All in all this pestilence has administered a severe jolt not only to our economy and way of life, but also to the notions we may have had of smooth progress to an ever more prosperous future. In mediaeval times we might have regarded it as a visitation from God for our misdeeds. We do not think like that nowadays, but instead take a more down-to-earth line, asking: what does the science tell us? The trouble this time is that the science has not always spoken very clearly, making life difficult for those who try to follow it. But it is not my purpose to score cheap points criticising those who are doing the best they can to make very difficult decisions with incomplete information. I want to look to the future.

The authorities’ efforts are now directed at, as they put it, “getting the economy going again”: the economic wellbeing of the country as a whole depends on that. Well, as a short-term aim that must be right, but I do hope that it does not ultimately mean a mere reversion to our previous state of being merely a consumer society, with the aim of ever-rising consumption – spend and spend, as it were – too often on things that are merely wasteful or vacuous, and of which we have no real need. God may not have brought the pestilence down upon us, but he has ways of bringing good out of evil, and we can and should learn lessons from disasters and take advantage of the opportunities they can provide.
As Christians we are all well aware of the many scriptural and other warnings about attachment to material things. For example in our first lesson (Gen.25.19-34) we heard how Esau, Isaac’s elder son, despised the birthright that was God’s gift to him and sold it to his brother Jacob for a mess of pottage because he happened to be hungry that day. In the parable of the sower, our second lesson this morning (Mt.13.1-9, 18-23), some of the seed fell among thorns, which represent the cares of this world and delight in riches, and they choke the word; and again, in the sermon on the mount our Lord taught that we cannot serve both God and mammon (Mt.6.24); and in the psalms we read: “give not yourselves to vanity; if riches increase, set not your heart upon them” (Ps.62.10); and that theme of vanity was taken up by John Bunyan in his description of Vanity Fair in The Pilgrim’s Progress. And the situation has got worse: as a modern authority on Christian ethics has put it, the doctrine of late capitalism is that you are what you have, you are not a citizen but a consumer. One advertisement for a car used only one word: “worship”; and I suspect the advertiser was only half joking. None of this is to say that money or cars, or anything else, are bad in themselves, on the contrary: they can be good servants, but they make bad masters, let alone gods.
Some years ago, the then Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, spoke about the prevalent greed for material goods, saying that though it has always existed it has become much more widespread, being now indulged by ordinary people. Thinking in particular of computer gadgets that tended to cut people off from their families and friends he said: “The consumer society is . . . the most efficient mechanism ever devised for the creation and distribution of unhappiness”. When he was Bishop of London, Richard Chartres often used to criticise our apparent aim as a society of achieving ever-rising living standards and levels of spending as ends in themselves, with no further object in view.
I mentioned earlier the harmful aspects of the coronavirus; but there have been beneficial effects too. Among them are that some people have found they have broken their consumerist habits; some have learned, or perhaps re-learned, the pleasures of the natural world, and have appreciated the peace and quiet and time for reflection, free from some of the multitude of distractions that commonly assail us nowadays. Moreover, this goes with the grain of a better care for the environment, and good and responsible stewardship of God’s creation. We have also learned, in a world that is less friendly than we might like to think, the dangers of not being self-sufficient in goods that, far from being wasteful or unnecessary, may be vital in times of emergency.
So it is very much to be hoped that, whatever short-term measures may have to be taken to get the economy back on its feet, in the longer term the opportunity provided by this emergency will be taken to try to get us away from the toxic consumerist orientation of our politics and economics and towards something more healthy and sustainable for us all.

Sermon 5 July 2020 given by the Reverend Canon David Reindorp TD DL, Vicar of Chelsea Old Church
The Fourth Sunday after Trinity - Readings: The Prophet Zechariah Chapter 9: v 9-12 , St. Paul’s letter to the Romans Chapter 7: v 15-25
Cartoons capture the zeitgeist, the spirit and temper of the times, more than the spoken or visual word. The cartoon in last week’s Church Times was titled “The Beatitudes for a Global Pandemic”.
The first little cartoon shows a row of houses with people inside. Blessed are those who stay indoors… for they have protected others.
The next is a woman looking at a bill. Blessed are the employed and the self-employed…for their need of God is great.
Blessed are the corner-shopkeepers…for they are the purveyors of scarce things.
Blessed are the delivery drivers and the postal workers…for they are the bringers of essential things.
Blessed are the hospital workers, the ambulance crews, the doctors, the nurses, the care-assistants and the cleaners…for they stand between us and the grave and the Kingdom of Heaven is surely theirs.
Blessed are the check-out workers…for they have patience and fortitude in the face of overwork and frustration.
Blessed are the refuse collectors… for they will see God despite the mountains of waste.
Blessed are the teachers…for they remain steadfast and constant in disturbing times.
Blessed are the church workers, the deacons, priests and bishops…for they are a comforting presence in a hurting world as they continue to signpost towards God.
Blessed are the single parents…for they are coping alone with their responsibilities and there is no respite.
Blessed are those who are alone…for they are children of God and with Him they will never be lonely.
Blessed are the bereaved…for whom the worst has already happened, they shall be comforted.
Blessed are those who are isolated with their abusers…for one day we pray they will know safety.
Blessed are all during this time who have pure hearts; or who still hunger and thirst for justice; or who work for peace and who model mercy…may you know comfort, may you know calm and may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, Amen

Sermon 28 June 2020 given by the Reverend Canon David Reindorp TD DL, Vicar of Chelsea Old Church
The Third Sunday after Trinity. Readings: The Book of Genesis Chapter 22: v 1-14, The Letter of St Paul to the Romans Chapter 6: v 12-end

Our first reading comes as a huge shock. The back story is that Isaac, Abraham’s son, was born to Abraham and his wife Sarah late in the sense that they did think they were going to have no children. Abraham, through his son Isaac, is to be the Father of the Chosen Race of God. Abraham and Sarah clearly adored Isaac.
Then comes the command of God that Abraham should sacrifice his son Isaac. The question in our minds is how could any father sacrifice his son, and as Christians we understand that God is prepared to sacrifice his son Jesus for our sakes. It does not make easy reading. Even Abraham lies to the servants accompanying him when they ask where is the sacrifice and says God will provide the sacrifice. He does not tell them it is Isaac his son. He says to the young men to go away. Abraham even lies to his son Isaac about what is to happen. Abraham builds an altar, lays the wood, binds his son Isaac and places him on top of the altar and the wood. Just as Abraham reaches out to kill his son the Angel of the Lord stays his hand and Abraham looks up and sees a ram and sacrifices the ram.
Abraham has obeyed God even in this extreme command. In the twenty first century it is still an uncomfortable read. What are we to make of it? It says tough things about what we are prepared to sacrifice for our faith. It leaves us with the stark proposition that God was prepared to sacrifice His Son. It is this absolute demand, however uncomfortable, that lies at the heart of the Christian faith.
In our second reading St Paul is writing to the Church that he established in Rome. He is talking about the law of God, as understood in the Old Testament. St Paul was a Jew, a rabbi no less. We first hear of him when his task was to eradicate this new group, yet to be known as Christians, which seemed to threaten the very basis of the Jewish faith.
One of my lecturers at Cambridge challenged us with the idea that he would have liked to have been a first century Jew, for you knew where you were. The law of God guided you in what you were eating, your dress and every aspect of your life. If you fulfilled all these obligations you were alright with God and you knew where you were. What he was getting us to understand was that Christian faith was not limited to laws, it was about our very being. What St. Paul is combatting is that now the Law was superseded it did it mean you could do anything you liked.
It reminds me of the school rules of old. There was always a barrack room schoolboy who could work out the wrinkles, and did. Family life doesn’t have rules that are written down They are picked up from parents This week we had an example in my family. My three-year old grandson was suddenly missing from a group of socially distanced parents who had met in the park. Suddenly he was absent. You can imagine the panic. Then some 50 yards away an ice cream van was spotted. There was an orderly queue of adults awaiting ice creams. At the end of the queue was the three-year old Archie. When challenged by the distraught father he explained he just wanted to get ice creams for everybody. I was rather touched that aged three he had mastered the iron law of queuing!
St. Paul’s final words speak to us still.
“But now you have been freed from being slaves to sin. You are free to serve God.
The advantage you get is sanctification.
The end is eternal life.
The wages of sin is death.
But the free gift of God
Is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord“.
Ps The three-year old Archie was forgiven and got an ice cream.

Sermon 21 June 2020 given by the Reverend Canon David Reindorp TD DL, Vicar of Chelsea Old Church
Second Sunday after Trinity.  Readings: The Book of Genesis Chapter 21: v 8-21 The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 10: v 24-39
Both our readings this morning concern themes that are very topical at this moment.
The themes are Slavery and Physical Fear.
We are in fear of a pandemic. Slavery is much on our minds at a time of Black Lives Matter.
Abraham, who has been chosen by God to be the founder of the People of Israel, the father of the Jewish race. Jesus as a practising and faithful Jew would have regarded Abraham as the founder of his race. The issue is that Abraham had two wives: Sarah the father of Isaac and Hagar described as the Egyptian who was a slave and also mother of a son by Abraham. Sarah was jealous and wished the son of Hagar quite literally out of the way. Sarah did not even want this son to play with her son Isaac.
The reading continues with the expulsion of Hagar and her child. Abraham understands from God that this son too will be a father to a nation. It is a harrowing tale. Hagar deserts her son but watches from afar. And then Hagar understands that she should not abandon her child when God says, “Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand for I will make a great nation of him”. Sarah’s fear is for the inheritance of her son Isaac which is echoed by the fear that Jesus is addressing in our second reading. 
Race is a big issue that we face as a nation. I have what is called in current jargon skin in the game. My grandfather was the first of my family to be born in England. His father, on coming to England, dropped his title and the “von” and anglicised his name in order to fit in. He changed his denomination from being a Roman Catholic because he observed that the English were Anglican. His wife, my great grandmother, was English. As a child and young man I could never understand my father’s lack of interest in his family’s history. Only recently did I recall my father telling me that as a boy in the First World War he had been present when my grandfather, as a parish priest, had appealed from his pulpit as a result of his church being attacked for his having a German name, saying that he had been born in this country. I realise now that that scar ran deep. My mother was African whose parents were Scots. She was always a wry observer of English society.
So race is not a new issue.
One of the shocks of the ancient world was that Christianity was based on all being equal. The church has not always lived up to that, but it is at the core of our belief.
We fear for ourselves and our society, unsurprisingly as a result of a pandemic such as we have never experienced in our lives hitherto. Jesus overturned the accepted world. The promised Messiah was to bring peace. Jesus and his disciples were to realise that his being the Messiah meant death and resurrection. And here Jesus says something that speaks to us now.
“Do not fear those who kill the body
But cannot kill the soul
Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
Unperceived by your Father”
And He, Jesus, goes on to say:
“So do not be afraid
You are of more value than many sparrows”.
We are all equal in the sight of God. Jesus died for us all and we have nothing to fear.
Both of these give me solace comfort in our troubled times.

Sermon for Sunday, 14th June 2020 Written by our Reader, John Watherston CBE
First after Trinity Readings: (1) Romans 5.1-8; (2) Matthew 9.35-10.8
In the collect for today, the first Sunday after Trinity, we acknowledged our moral weakness and prayed God to grant us the help of his grace so that in keeping his commandments we might please him, both in will and deed. But how exactly do we understand that word grace? It is much used in parts of the bible, especially in the epistles of St Paul; indeed, it appeared in the reading from his letter to the Romans this morning; as does, several times, the phrase “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” with which we begin our usual conclusion to our prayers at Matins. If you look it up in a dictionary you will find it has several shades of secular meaning, but also a quite definite theological meaning: namely, the free and unmerited favour of God and, more specifically, the divine influence or power that operates in us to regenerate and sanctify us, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation. It is thus a word, and a concept, that is central to our faith.
Let us return to the letter to the Romans. St Paul tells us two things: first, that it is through faith in Jesus Christ that we have access into this grace wherein we stand. He is the doorkeeper: we can only come through him. And secondly, that God’s favour towards mankind is demonstrated above all by Christ’s incarnation, ministry and death: “God commendeth his love toward us,” says St Paul, “in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So that Christ is in a sense the embodiment of God’s grace towards us. This gift of grace, unlike the gifts of the spirit named by St Paul in another letter, which are selectively given, is offered by God to all Christians who desire it and are willing to accept it.
As is implicit in our collect this morning, we need first the humility to recognise our need for help in using, and not misusing, the wonderful gift of free will that God has given us. It may seem a contradiction to say that keeping God’s commandments is an exercise of our free will, but Christians down the centuries who have tried it know it to be true: by his grace, his service is indeed perfect freedom. This is, if you like, a miracle, but one that is repeated every day in the lives of humble Christians, who turn back daily to God, the source of all life, inspiration and goodness.
And God’s grace is not limited to our lives in this world. As our reading from Romans tells us, the supreme act of God’s grace was our Lord’s death for us on the cross: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”; so that through faith in him we might have life: through him we have not only the means of grace but also the hope of glory and a sharing in the everlasting life of God himself. Amen.

Sermon 7 June 2020 given by The Reverend Canon David Reindorp, Vicar of Chelsea Old Church - Trinity Sunday
Readings: The Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 40: v 12-17, 27-31, St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13: v 11-13, The Gospel of St Matthew, Chapter 28: v 16-20
Today is Trinity Sunday.
At first sight the doctrine of the Trinity can seem as if the Church is being more complicated than it need be. What is being said is the nature of God as Creator, Jesus as the embodiment of the Christian life lived out, his death and Resurrection, pointing us to salvation. We are enabled to live out the Christ life by the power of the Holy Spirit. This could be confusing, but a moment’s reflection on ourselves makes us realise how complex we are. Our parents’ influence is always with us. We can recapture how we felt as a child and sometimes we behave in a childish way. Love we receive from our families and friends, so we begin to understand what is being said by the doctrine of the Trinity.
We hold in creative tension that we are created by God, that we are attempting to live out, sometimes well, sometimes not, the Christian life, all of this enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate gift God gives us is that we are created. We are human beings. God took another risk by sending his Son to also be a human being as we are. The events of Jesus’s life, his death and Resurrection, made the disciples realise two things: one, they had encountered God in him, and two, that which we celebrated last week as Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit which enabled them to live it out. The vehicle to do this was the Church, and we are still doing this 2000 years later. The history of the Church is a baffling mixture of success and failure. We can point to glories of the Church and terrible moments when the Church has utterly failed in living out the Gospel. We also reflect that in our own lives. 
The Prophet Isaiah, in our first reading, echoes this:
“He gives power to the faint,
And strengthens the powerless.
But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not be faint.”
In our second reading, St Paul echoes this:
“Brothers and sisters,
Put things in order, listen to my appeal,
Agree with one another,
Live in peace;
And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
These words have always been true but have a particular resonance as we emerge from lockdown. We will always have differences of opinion, but as a nation I would that we work together rather than argue and get lost in recriminations as to what has happened and how we deal with it.
Last week I said that Pentecost was the birth of the Church. Trinity Sunday is the day we give thanks to God the Creator, to Jesus Christ the life lived that we might live it also, and the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to do so. As our Gospel reading says:
“Jesus came and said to them:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
Baptising them in the name of the Father
And of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
And teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you,
And remember, I am with you always,
To the end of the age”.

Sermon for Sunday, 31st May 2020Written by our Reader, John Watherston CBE.  Whit Sunday (Pentecost)
Readings: (1) Acts 2.1-21; (2) John 20.19-23.
Today, Whit Sunday, is one of the great festivals of the Church’s year. It is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit to our Lord’s disciples a few days after our Lord’s ascension, as we heard in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. It was obviously an extraordinary event. Up to that moment the disposition of the disciples, even after they had been assured of our Lord’s resurrection, remained very subdued. They kept themselves to themselves, still fearful of what the authorities might do next. Then, on the feast of Pentecost, comes this wonderful gift of the Spirit, and the whole atmosphere changes. The apostles go out and preach Christ’s gospel boldly, in numerous languages, so that the many pilgrims who have come from all over the Near East to Jerusalem for the feast can understand them; and we are told that on that day 3000 souls were added to the Church. It is as if new life has been breathed into them all.
And that is not an inappropriate simile. In the Nicene Creed, when we declare our belief in the Holy Ghost, we also affirm that he is the Lord and giver of life; and it is from that day of Pentecost that he has inspired and guided the Church of Christ, and not only the Church as a whole but each of us individually who is willing to receive him. As members of the Church we are the body of Christ: we are his agents to do his will, but because we are human and fallible we need strength, courage, confidence, guidance and comfort: all the qualities we collectively need to preach Christ’s gospel and advance God’s kingdom and his truth upon the earth. All this will not come to us from some external source but from within, from God’s Spirit who will dwell within us if we are willing to receive him.
We can think of this, as C.S.Lewis once wrote, as a kind of “good infection”, which is perhaps an appropriate metaphor in a time when the country is suffering under a bad one. In our natural state, he said, we only have a biological life which will eventually run down and die. But if we let God have his way we can come to share in the life of Christ. We shall love the Father as Christ does and God’s Holy Spirit will dwell within us. Christ came to this world and became a man in order to spread to others the kind of life he has – by what I call “good infection”. This life of faith is not about a forced acquiescence to do God’s will but what becomes a natural instinct to do what matters to God. The Holy Spirit is an agent of transformation, renewing our hearts, minds and wills so that we gradually come to love what God loves. The Holy Spirit is God’s active presence in the world he created.
Down the centuries many theologians have tried to provide a summary of the work of the Holy Spirit of God towards us. I should like to leave you with one of the better known, written more than 1600 years ago by St Basil of Caesarea.
“Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of Heaven, adopted as children, given confidence to call God “Father” and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.”
Amen.

Sermon Sunday 24 May 2020 The Seventh Sunday of Easter, Sunday after Ascension Day (Easter 6)
Readings: The Acts of the Apostles Chapter 1: verses 6-14. The Gospel of St John Chapter 17: verses 1-11

It is always easy to be wise after the event. Hindsight is an exact science, especially if you know the whole story. That is why it strikes one as odd that the disciples, and even the Apostles whom we are told were all there, despite them experiencing at first hand the whole ministry of Jesus, the Last Supper, the events of Good Friday and Easter, still ask the question and in the presence of Jesus: ”Lord is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom to Israel?”
It is very tempting for us to observe how could they be still so obtuse. To understand from where they are coming we have to remember they were Jews, steeped in the Old Testament and the Psalms that all spoke of the triumph of Israel. It makes them human that they are still thinking in terms of a political kingdom.
Jesus doesn’t despair but says something that makes sense to us because we know the whole story. “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth. ”Then the Ascension happens. They described it as Him as being lifted up and a cloud taking Him out of their sight. It is always difficult to picture how events actually happened. I remember how, at my theological college, we celebrated the Ascension. After our service we all went into the college garden to watch the senior student fire a rocket from the roof of the college. No Health and Safety Executive then. This was followed by a champagne breakfast. Our non-conformist colleagues put it down to typical Anglican eccentricity and I think were a bit shocked.
But of course what we know, and the Apostles did not, is that they were about to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit. Again it defied description. It was described as a mighty rushing wind and a moment when Peter could be understood in all languages. It was at this juncture that they understood the whole. Their task was to live out in themselves and together what it meant to live out the experience of their encounter with Jesus’s life, death and resurrection.
It meant the founding of what we now call the Church of which we are a part, some 2000 years later.
Next Sunday we celebrate, in a very changed world, how we are the Church today.

Sermon 17 May 2020 Easter 5 The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Readings:Acts 17 Chapter 17 verses 22-32. The Gospel of St. John Chapter 14 verses 15-21.
Our two readings today could not be more apposite. For they are both about expectations.
We are in the midst of this as we are making our way gingerly out of lockdown. 
We as a people, guided by our government, are wrestling with how we balance coming out into the world without infecting each other and risking another spike.
In our first reading St Paul is preaching the sermon of his life. The setting is Athens, at the heart of Greek philosophy. Greek culture meant listening to all views and St Paul cannot but have been aware of Greek philosophy that underpinned a great part of the ancient world, including the Romans whose empire had superseded that of the Greeks. The Greeks were anxious to cover all bases. St Paul had found an altar with the inscription “to an unknown God”, and St Paul goes for it and he lays out the Christian message. But it is when he gets to the Resurrection his hitherto attentive audience begins to mock. And we are told others said, “We will hear thee again of this matter”, meaning “We don’t want to hear anymore”. I am sure all of us have had polite conversations about our faith that have gone the same way.
In our Gospel reading Jesus is talking to his disciples. “If you love me you will keep my commandments and he will give you another advocate to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth.”
What he is talking about is the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit.
On Ascension Day, which we celebrate this coming Thursday, the disciples experienced Jesus as having ascended back to heaven. They must have felt in limbo. Because we know the whole story, we know they are about to experience the coming of the Holy Spirit.
That gives us assurance because we know that the coming of the Holy Spirit was felt to be the moment when the disciples were galvanised into the founding of the Church of which we are part some 2000 years later. We have to find Church in a new way, separated as we are from our physical buildings and our physical coming together. Our future is going to be different from our past. As the Church has trusted in the Holy Spirit in the past, we place our trust in the Holy Spirit for our future as we as a nation, indeed as a world, make our tentative steps out of lockdown.

Sermon 10 May 2020 The Fifth Sunday after Easter
Reading: The Gospel of St. John Chapter 14, verses 1-14
Whenever I feel that I have not lived up to my profession of faith I always take comfort from the fact that the disciples, who lived alongside Jesus and witnessed his Ministry, often got the wrong end of the stick. 
I am also comforted by the fact that when the crunch came and Jesus was arrested, tortured and crucified, they, almost to a man, fled. Peter, whom he called the Rock, actually denied meeting Jesus. And yet he was forgiven and became the founder of the Church.
In our gospel reading the disciples, yet again, are misunderstanding. Jesus says to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
And Jesus continues, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas says to Jesus, “We don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
The lovely thing about Thomas is that he always wanted to know the detail. You may remember that wonderful scene where the disciples say to him, “We have seen and encountered the risen Lord.” And Thomas says, “Unless I feel the holes in his hands and the wound in his side, I will not believe you.” And then there is Jesus suddenly before him, saying “Feel the holes in my hands and the wound in my side.”
Thomas would not believe until he had seen it for himself. We take it on trust.
In our reading, Jesus says to him, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Philip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
Jesus answers Philip by saying, “Have I been with you all this time Philip and you still do not know me?”
The disciples were God-fearing men. They had encountered in Jesus quite literally God being with them in the person of Jesus. That is why his death so puzzled him. Only after the Resurrection did it all make sense. They realised the whole and determined there and then to proclaim and live out their faith whatever the cost. They were prepared to live for it and if necessary, to die for it.

We rejoice to join in with that heritage. Without labouring the point, because you know and are experiencing it, we are now living in changed and troubled times. This week we have celebrated V.E. Day. Because my father-in-law was a prisoner of the Japanese V.J. Day, which is yet to come, is always in my mind. All those years ago, though in living memory, we overcame what seemed impossible odds. Being the Body of Christ here on earth, despite our buildings being closed, we take comfort that trusting in God we will come through, chastened, shocked, mourning, on the other side.

Sermon 3 May 2020 The Fourth Sunday of Easter
The Gospel of Saint John Chapter 10 v 1-10
We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. These words are from the Mattins service. The agricultural metaphors used in the New Testament do not always translate into our modern world, but we do feel like lost sheep at the current time because we all are scattered to our homes. One of the great privileges of my priesthood has been that my first parish where I was vicar was rural. The change in agriculture, and indeed in our world, was brought home to me by one of the first funerals I did in the village parish church. The man who had died was the last person in the village who knew how to make a stook of corn by hand. The village church was packed. The change in our world was made all the more poignant by the fact that on either side of the widow stood her strapping grandsons. The grandsons were both computer programmers. The grandmother could scarce comprehend the world of her grandsons. The daily life of their grandfather was to the grandsons, part of past history.This was shared in part by their vicar who still blushes at a conversation he had in the early 80’s with a man who said he was in software. The man was somewhat puzzled by said vicar asking about the world of cushions. The irony is that our present isolation is much ameliorated by our present much derided technology. We also in this country have a very different system of sheep rearing. Sheep in this country are herded by dogs. The shepherd is in the rear. I have never forgotten, whilst riding in my air-conditioned coach in the Holy Land and looking out of the window and seeing a scene from the first century AD: A shepherd boy had on a rope a camel which was followed by goats and a herd of sheep. The only jarring note that prevented it being wholly as Jesus would have known it was by the young boy having an enormous ghetto blaster on his shoulder. 

Biblical sheep were led by the shepherd who risked losing the lives of his flock and even his own life from wolves and even lions. 

In our Gospel reading, despite the difference in history, we wholly comprehend the task of the shepherd. It is to lead and name and know his sheep. The phrase, ”the Paschal Lamb”, which to Jewish ears would denote the physical sacrifice of a lamb, is made new in Jesus being the Lamb of God sacrificed for us by whose Resurrection our whole life and world and understanding of that world is utterly transformed. 

“So again Jesus says to them,
Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and bandits
But the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.
The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
The choice is ours.
PS Talking of modern technology the Family Service are having their Animal Service on-line. You submit your picture. Last year’s prize for the animal that looked most like the vicar was won by Sneeze, a pug!

Sermon Sunday 26 April 2020 Third Sunday after Easter
The Gospel of St Luke Chapter 24 v 13-35 The Walk to Emmaus

Follow the story in your own bible for the one thing we have in abundance is time.
It seems to belong to another age to be able to walk with somebody outside one’s family and to be joined by a stranger whom one welcomes to walk with one.
The two disciples are talking about the events of Easter.
The man, the stranger, asks them, clearly in ignorance, what they are talking about and they tell him.
Having just celebrated Easter ourselves, albeit in its truncated form, we know what they are talking about. The stranger seemingly does not.
Then, astonishingly, the stranger gives them a history lesson, beginning at Moses and the history of the people of Israel, and the place of the Messiah, and says to them, “Do you not understand?”
When they arrive at Emmaus, they ask the stranger to join them for supper. The stranger takes bread, blesses it and gives it to them.
They suddenly realise the stranger is Jesus. All that they have experienced of the Easter story makes sense, and then we are told he suddenly vanishes.
So excited were they that they retrace their steps, rush to the disciples, and tell them what has happened. The disciples too say that they have too experienced the Risen Lord.
Had there been a fly on the wall it would have told of their excitement, their amazement. They cannot have known at that stage what it would lead to.
The founding of the Church.
And here we are, 2000 years later, joining in their excitement and wanting to share our faith with others and what it means for us.
It may sound strange to say this when we are so constrained but we have discovered anew that being the Body of Christ here on earth is not about buildings because we are flourishing, though we miss each other and our buildings.
What I have found salutary this week was a comment in the Church Times from an Indian priest who said, “For us social distancing and washing of hands is a luxury we do not have”.
Food for thought. Indeed, we have food, and water. Let us never take that for granted.
Let us give thanks for being the Body of Christ, for the moment, in our homes and be grateful.

Sermon from our Reader John Watherston for Sunday, 19th April 2020  (Low Sunday)

Our reading today from St John’s gospel (Jn.20.19-30) tells the familiar story of our Lord’s first appearance to a group of the disciples on the evening of the day of his resurrection, and then an appearance a few days later when, unlike the first time, St Thomas was also present. On being told of the first appearance Thomas had said he would not believe that our Lord had risen from the dead unless he saw the physical evidence; and when he does see it and accept it our Lord says to him: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
In the way St John tells the story, and in our Lord’s words, there is an implied reproach to St Thomas for a lack of faith: he is unfavourably contrasted with those who have not seen and yet believed. But I suspect that most people today would sympathise with Thomas. Whether or not we are scientists – or lawyers, come to that – we are children of our age; we will have imbibed something of the scientific method and learned to ask for evidence, certainly if we are being asked to believe something very much out of the ordinary. Scepticism is often seen today as a virtue, a sign of intellectual rigour, by contrast to what, looking down from what we flatter ourselves is the superior height of our modern age, we may see as the foolish gullibility of earlier, pre-scientific ages; and indeed there is a hint of apology about St Thomas’s confession to the other disciples that without evidence he cannot believe. After all, he like the others had been with our Lord throughout his earthly ministry, which among many cases of miraculous healing had included at least three instances of the dead being restored to life; moreover, the virtue of faith was a constant theme of our Lord’s ministry.
But Thomas was simply being honest: he would not pretend to believe when he didn’t; perhaps the story was in his eyes too good to be true, without proof, that is. Moreover, after his death on the cross our Lord was no longer visibly there to perform the miracle; and it is certainly true that our Lord’s resurrection was unlike the miracles of raising the dead that he had performed during his ministry. Lazarus and the others would continue their earthly lives in the usual way and eventually die again. But our Lord’s resurrection was profoundly different: it was essentially God’s vindication of our Lord’s identity both as Son of God and (as St. Paul expressed it later in his first letter to the Corinthians (15.20,22)) as the first-fruits of them that slept . . . in whom all shall be made alive. Although neither St Thomas nor the other disciples could have fully understood all this at that time, this was the grandest of all miracles, and a vital ingredient of the Christian faith.
Thomas’s intellectual honesty extended to being open-minded enough to accept the evidence when he was presented with it, unlike those scientists and philosophers who dogmatically assert that Nature’s laws must always apply, with never an exception, and dismiss all evidence to the contrary – and there is a great deal of it, and not just from biblical times – as fraudulent or mistaken. As Christians we take a more judicious view. It is our belief, first, that Nature, together with its laws, has a divine creator, God, who is not part of it but who is constantly involved with it; and that he can intervene and bring about events that would not otherwise occur, such events being, as St Thomas Aquinas put it, outside the normal order of nature and constituting, not violations of it, but exceptions to it, Secondly that, humanity being what it is, there have been innumerable cases of mistaken or fraudulent claims of miracles, especially in mediaeval times; indeed the abuses were so great that they drove the Protestant reformers of the early modern period to make the unfortunate assertion that miracles ended with the New Testament. But none of that constitutes any kind of proof that miracles cannot occur; and on the other hand there is much good evidence of miracles throughout the Christian era. Third, it is right to be both rigorous and honest in examining the evidence for a claimed miracle: being foolish or gullible is no part of being a Christian. And fourth, as part of that examination, a guiding principle is that God will only perform a miracle for good reason, which, sadly, will usually be linked in some way with human weakness.
In amplification of that last point, let me end by quoting a few sentences from a sermon Austin Farrer, of Oxford University, once gave on this same text from St John’s gospel-
“That miracle is a concession to our condition who will deny? God will go no further in miracle than we extort from him. But then the whole work that God did in Christ and still does for our salvation is a concession to our condition, extorted by our need for his compassion. Every line, every page, of the gospel records the concession of divine wisdom to human folly.”
Amen

Canon David Reindorp’s Easter Sermon 2020 below

THE STRIFE IS O’ERE THE BATTLE DONE
My favourite Easter Hymn. In previous years there has been gentle banter with Andrew, the Director of Music, saying that ideally I would want to sing that hymn in all the hymn slots. I even once said I would want it at my funeral. It seems jest but which one of us has not contemplated in these last few days our own mortality?
A scourge that has affected the Prince of Wales, put our Prime Minster in hospital, makes us all equally vulnerable.
Our Government has had to make very tough decisions. Our Archbishops have responded to that discipline. We flout that at our own peril.
So let us be grateful for all that we have. Every morning I give thanks for my warm bath, food and loo paper and remember all those across our suffering world who have not what we take for granted. I daily give thanks and pray for all those in the front line, especially the NHS who bravely and sacrificially keep our world going.
By the wonders of modern technology this goes out, not just to us Chelsea Old Churchers, but to those of no faith and other faiths. It gives us a chance to share what it is we do this Easter Day. As Christians we believe in a God who took the risk of sending his own Son to be a human being like you and me. The Christmas story celebrates this miraculous risk.
At Easter, and in the days before we call Lent, we make real in our own lives the experience of Jesus, the son of a carpenter and a carpenter himself, who came to understand that he was the Messiah. Gradually those around him, who saw and experienced what he did and said, understood and recognised that he was the Messiah. They were puzzled because he was not what they were expecting. The religious authorities were appalled and terrified. They combined with the equally terrified civil authorities to publically put him to death. The Cross is so familiar to us that we don’t always realise how agonising it was. You literally drowned on dry land. It was meant to be terrible
The night before He died, at a meal we call the Last Supper, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and gave the Commandments to love one another and to do this in remembrance of Him. We Christians call this the Holy Communion. It would be good to record that his disciples were with him in His agony but even his best friend, Simon Peter, when the crunch came, swore foully that he had never even met Jesus. Then something extraordinary happened. Two women went to the grave and said that not only had the body gone but that they had met Him. Then the disciples themselves encountered the Risen Lord. What they said was that He was with them. And that is what they lived out and told the whole world and died for. They decided to live as a community and founded the Church.
2000 years later, in deeply trying circumstances throughout the world, Christians, wherever they are, will be celebrating that remarkable fact and living it out in their own lives. The fact that we cannot be in our church buildings brings home that the Church is not buildings but that we are, each and every one of us, the Body of Christ, wherever we are.
JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN TODAY, ALLELUIA
PS May I add a personal note. This week my daughter gives birth to her daughter. We celebrated her brother Archie’s third birthday this week. The puzzlement he experienced as to why his family wasn’t with him but were on telly was mollified by the realisation that his cake could only be eaten by him, His Grandpa could not take his usual generous share!
Curiously enough, Grandpa’s suggestion that the child be called Davidena seems to be gaining no traction within the family at large!
****

GOOD FRIDAY Addresses; first, second and third cycles

Good Friday, 10th April 2020: The Three Hours First Cycle: Readings: 

1. The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan

2. Luke 22.1-38
Every year on this day, Good Friday, the most sacred day in the Christian calendar, Christians have commemorated the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is an event that lies at the heart of our faith. This year we do so in difficult circumstances: sadly we cannot gather in our church for this time of meditation; but let us remember that often in the past Christians have kept this day under much worse conditions. Other great days in the Church’s year – Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, All Saints and others – are occasions for rejoicing; but this day, though we rightly call it Good, we keep as a day of reverent meditation and quiet devotion, reflecting on the deep mystery of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, culminating in his death on a cross. We shall hear the story told in readings from St Luke’s gospel.

In the Nicene creed, the declaration we make of our Christian faith at every communion service, we say that Jesus Christ “for our salvation came down from heaven . . , and was made man, and was crucified for us . . .”; and among many familiar sayings of our Lord you will recall that he said he came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt.20.28); and again: I am the good shepherd . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep (Jn.10.14-15). That was his mission: the end purpose of his life and of his pilgrimage on earth.

I am sure we are all familiar with the idea of pilgrimage: if we have not been on one ourselves we will certainly know of someone who has. A pilgrimage is a journey in quest of a place of holiness or healing or for some similar religious or salutary end, the essence of it being the spirit in which it is undertaken. Down the centuries many millions of people of different religions have undertaken pilgrimages of one kind or another. Jerusalem itself was in our Lord’s day – as it still is – a place of pilgrimage, and at the time of the Passover and our Lord’s passion would have been full of Jewish pilgrims who had come up for the feast

In these instances pilgrimages have been literal or “external” journeys from one place on the earth’s surface to another. But the term pilgrimage is also applied to journeys that are figurative, or “internal” as they are sometimes called; and though the literal or external ones are likely to be physically less comfortable, those that are internal are likely to be more demanding, involving more self-discipline, mental effort and staying power: indeed a true Christian pilgrimage of this kind is life-long. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic description of such a pilgrimage, in which, as expressed in the full title, the central character journeys from this World to that which is to Come; but though the story describes a literal journey it is of course really an allegory of the figurative or internal journey of a Christian through life enduring, and by God’s grace surmounting, trials and hardships along the way. In the extract we heard a few minutes ago the Pilgrim’s journey has only just begun. It is to this kind of figurative pilgrimage that all of us as Christians are called.

In a similar way our Lord’s earthly life can also be seen as a pilgrimage, during which he had to endure temptations and hardships; but in other ways it was very different from ours. He was coming from the opposite direction, as it were. In the gospels we read our Lord’s parables of seeking what is lost – the prodigal son, a lost sheep, a lost coin – and the father’s or owner’s joy when he or it is found. Our Lord’s life can be seen in the same way, but writ immeasurably larger: his quest was nothing less than a pilgrimage by God in search of the whole of lost mankind; a pilgrimage whose end, as foreseen by our Lord, was a terrible one, culminating in a grim, but for us redemptive, death on a cross.

You will have noticed that near the end of the reading from the Pilgrim’s Progress Christian asks the character called Good-Will if he could help him off with the burden he bears on his back; to which Good-Will replies that he must be content to bear it for the time being. I shall return to that in the next address.

Good Friday 2020 Second Cycle: Readings: 

1. Peter 2.11-12, 19-25 2. Luke 22.39-71

The last address ended with a reference to the burden John Bunyan’s pilgrim Christian bore on his back. He wished to be rid of it but was told he must bear it for a while. The burden, of course, was the burden of his sins.

The burden that we bear has in fact a dual character. It consists both of sins we have actually committed and of our tendency or inclination to sin in the future, that is, our susceptibility to temptation. In our prayers we seek God’s forgiveness for the first – the sins actually committed – and provided we are sincere in our repentance (which may include putting right the wrong we have done) and in our desire to do better, we receive pardon and deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ. But the remembrance of our sins may still be painful, especially in cases where we cannot make amends.

The other part of our burden is that we remain subject to temptation. In the reading we heard just now from his first epistle St Peter admonishes us in forthright terms: “Beloved, I urge you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” The term “fleshly lusts” of course here means all the weaknesses of the flesh, not just sexual ones.

As Christians we believe that our ideas of right and wrong come from him who created us – that is to say from God – and above all from the teaching of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament. From him we learn two things. First, that we are called to participate in the nature of God, in whose image we are made, and that that nature is perfect goodness, and above all love, which is thus the supreme moral principle of Christian ethics. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord sums up one part of his teaching by saying: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5.48). 

And the second thing we learn is that moral conduct is not simply a matter of following a prescriptive rule-book – do this and don’t do that, as the scribes of our Lord’s day were apt to do – but of being guided by certain good principles; and this indeed accords with our experience of coping with the complexities of life, where the moral questions that confront us every day – mostly small but occasionally great – will often be matters of judgment, of weighing up conflicting principles and other considerations. It is not for nothing that prudence, or practical wisdom, is reckoned the most important of the cardinal virtues, and essential for regulating the all the other others. We need wisdom truly to discern right from wrong, and in particular to check our consciences, which are not infallible, to see whether they are misleading us. It is all too possible for us in good faith to condone actions that are wrong; or, conversely, maybe through a false sense of guilt, condemn actions by ourselves or others that are morally blameless.

And there is a third thing. God has created us with freedom to choose how to act. Though not expressed in so many words this is implicit throughout our Lord’s teaching: for example in his calls to repentance, and in his parables, where the characters must take responsibility for their actions. God has given each of us freedom to choose how to act. In any given situation there will be constraints, of course, but in principle it is for us to decide what course to take, for better or for worse. He gave us that freedom because, as we believe, he did not want us to be mere automata, programmed to behave in particular ways; but rather to be independent and (ultimately) mature and responsible beings who would be capable of love and all the other virtues. So why is it that we so often get it wrong; choosing the bad rather than the good? I shall return to that in my next address

Good Friday 2020: The Three Hours Third Cycle: Readings: 

1. Romans 5.14-25 2. Luke 23.1-26

Bunyan’s Christian pilgrim continues his journey. Before long he comes to a hill with a cross standing on it; and as he comes up to the cross his burden of sin falls off his back and tumbles away into a hole in the ground. That, of course, is good theology: it is indeed through the cross of Christ that we obtain remission, or release from our sins; but as we were reminded by the reading from St Peter’s epistle a few minutes ago, it is not the end of our difficulties. Nor was it for Christian, who still had a long way to go on his pilgrimage, and who on the way succumbed again to weaknesses and temptations. Where do these difficulties come from?

Every Christmas we hear read the story of how Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden succumbed to the serpent’s temptation to sin. We no longer regard it as historical, but rather as an inspired allegory which contains all the theologically essential ingredients; and from it in course of time was drawn the doctrine of original sin, which imputes the sin of Adam and Eve to the whole human race; but there are objections to that doctrine: not least that that kind of transferred guilt hardly seems to accord with divine justice. And even in this age of advances in the sciences of the mind and of human behaviour, the argument goes on and we are no nearer a conclusion about the origins of our wrongdoing. What we do know for sure is that we are constantly subject to temptation and that we too often succumb to it.

Even though we know in general terms what we ought to do, it is for each of us a sadly observable fact that we do not always do it. We call our lapses sins, and they constitute a burden for us – as they did for Bunyan’s Christian pilgrim – and a barrier between us and God. In one of our prayers of general confession we say of our sins that “the remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable”; and that may be no exaggeration. Even a great saint like St Paul suffered from this burden, as we heard in the reading just now (Rom.7.21ff):

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me a captive of the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

We can sense in those words St Paul’s rage and frustration with himself, and I expect we all sometimes feel like that; but he is also making an important point. He speaks of being a captive of the law of sin which dwells in his members, or in other words that a tendency to sin seems to be part of his very being. Some sins – the worst ones – arise from human malice, and they are usually consciously committed; but most spring from human frailty, from the bad, self-interested or self-indulgent habits of mind or body that come all too naturally to us and that we have slipped into over the years, so that they have become part of our character. We may even have become unaware of them, and in that regard live in what Keble called “the deadly peace of the unawakened conscience”. Those that we fall into most often we used to call besetting sins. Christina Rossetti, whose conscience was certainly not unawakened, saw the very problem clearly and wrote this lovely prayer for grace and strength to deal with it:

“Lord, give us all, we beseech thee, grace and strength to overcome every sin; sins of besetment, deliberation, surprise, negligence, omission; sins against thee, our self, our neighbour; sins great, small, remembered, forgotten – Amen.”

From The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan 

So in process of time Christian got up to the gate. Now over the gate there was written: “Knock and it shall be opened unto you”. He knocked therefore more than once or twice. At last there came a grave person to the gate named Good-will, who asked: Who was there? And whence he came? And what he would have? 

Christian replied: “Here is a poor burdened sinner. I come from the City of Destruction, but I am going to Mount Zion, that I may be delivered from the wrath to come. I would therefore, sir, since I am informed that by this gate is the way thither, know if you are willing to let me in.” 

Good-will said: “I am willing with all my heart”, and with that he opened the gate. . . . So when he was got in the man of the gate asked him who had directed him thither. Christian replied: “Evangelist bid me come hither and knock (as I did) and he said that you, sir, would tell me what I must do.” “An open door is set before thee, and no man can shut it,” said Good-will. 

Christian then tells of the troubles he has encountered, of his fall into the Slough of Dispond and of his being tempted aside by Mr Worldly Wiseman; and he continues: “Why I truly do not know what had become of me there, had not Evangelist happily met me again. . . . But now I am come, such a one as I am, more fit indeed for death . . . than thus to stand talking with my Lord; but O what a favour is this to me, that yet I am admitted entrance here.” 

To which Good-will replied: “We make no objections against any, notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither, they are in no wise cast out; and therefore, good Christian, come a little way with me, and I will teach thee about the way thou must go. Look before thee; dost thou see this narrow way? THAT is the way thou must go. . . 

“But,” said Christian, “Is there no turnings nor windings, by which a stranger may lose the way?” “Yes,” said Good-will, “there are many ways butt down upon this, and they are crooked and wide; but thus thou mayest distinguish the right from the wrong, the right only being straight and narrow.” 

Then I saw in my dream that Christian asked him further if he could not help him off with his burden that was upon his back; for as yet he had not got rid thereof, nor could he by any means get it off without help. Good-will told him, “As to thy burden, be content to bear it, until thou comest to the place of deliverance; for there it will fall from thy back itself.”

Thoughts from the Reverend Canon David Reindorp, Vicar of Chelsea Old Church on 29 March 2020

Dear All

The Archbishops have made a tough call and have asked that no services be streamed from churches. So this comes from my home.

The readings today could not be more apposite. God is talking to Ezekiel: ”Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say our bones are dried up and our hope is lost. We are cut off completely.” This last is true, but our bones are not dried up and our hope is not lost.

The Gospel reading is about the raising of Lazarus. That reminds us that our Easter journey is about victory over the grave. The raising of Lazarus clearly astonished the onlookers and terrified the Pharisees who must have reported it to the Roman authorities. Because we know the whole story, the raising of Lazarus doesn’t surprise us. Our whole Christian hope is bond up with the Resurrection and that we are the Body of Christ here on earth is a result of that Resurrection.

Our churches are closed. That is a sadness and a deprivation. But the Church is more than buildings, however beloved ours is. We can still pray and worship in our own homes and in our hearts. This is a time to love our neighbours as we are commanded. Through the miracles of modern communication, we can keep in touch with all.

This week I rang my old nanny. In my mind she is ageless though she will be 80 this year. She said she had never nannied such a gifted and beautiful child (if you believe that you will believe anything!) These are serious times. We face an external and unknown enemy which literally seeps into our lives and the anxiety creeps into all our hearts. It is a time for trust in God and each other. We are the Resurrection people.

God bless you all and stay safe.
P.S. I was amused to overhear my youngest son, who is with me, talking to his sister who is expecting a baby in the next fortnight. She is in isolation. She was saying how difficult it was to keep a two-year old amused
My son said: “You think you have it tough? I’ve got Dad!”