Assistant Priest - Revd Canon Wendy Robins
Proverbs 8:1. 22-31; Colossians 1:15-20; John 1:1-14
Nothing, and I do Literally mean nothing, sends more of a tingle down my spine or touches me more profoundly than the final reading at the Cathedral Carol Service in the week before Christmas when one of the clergy here stands in the middle of the tower space in the darkened Cathedral and reads the verses that we have just heard from John 1
This year I was sitting with a friend in the north transept – just one row back – and as Canon Leanne’s Welsh lilting tones read the words ‘In the Beginning was the word’ and moved through the reading onto ‘we have seen his glory’ was literally n tears. For me the visceral effect of these words speaks of the sense of awe and wonder that I – who like to think of myself as tough and because of my job not a little bit cynical – feel when confronted with the wonder of the sense of God who created all things and sent his Son into the world to save us.
I can’t explain that sense of awe and wonder more than that really because for me the words conjure up an intellectual and emotional moment which causes me to want to gesture rather than speak; to pray rather than explain.
I wonder what creates that kind of moment for you or how you would explain it? Perhaps that’s something that you would like to take away from this sermon and think about: what is it that most stirs you when you contemplate God and all that God has done? What makes this most alive for you and what do the feelings and intellectual challenges that ensue cause you to do?
I ask you to think about this for two reasons: firstly, we are welcoming two new members into our community today and part of our role both as Martha and Lucy’s parents and Godparents and as the Christian community here is to think about how we nurture them in the faith that we share and help them to grow in it as children and come to a real and personal faith of their own and secondly because this week in our season of Gifts we are thinking about discipleship and how each of us grows in our discipleship of Jesus Christ.
The material in the booklet in the Season of Gifts envelopes at the back speaks of us all being ‘on the same journey but at different stages and tells us how this needs to be reflected n the life of the Cathedral.
Last week we heard about how we want to be more intentional and focussed in the way in which we pastor people who are part of the Cathedral regularly or simply occasionally and this week we want to think more about discipleship and volunteering. In essence about how we deepen our faith and the opportunities that this brings to each of us to life out our faith in the things that we do and especially in the volunteering that we offer.
Our plans are laid out in the booklets inside the envelop but I want to draw some things to your attention whilst at the same time encouraging you to take an envelope away, if you have not already done so and to study its contents carefully and prayerfully as you think about what you want to do in order to deepen your faith and understanding and what you can offer to God in this season of gifts in thanks for all that God has done for us. And that’s the beginning of it all really: as our response to God grows and deepens; as we learn more about what it means to be a disciple then our desire to serve will also grow because we will want to respond thankfully to the wonder and majesty of God and all that God did for us in sending Jesus into the world to die upon the cross.
Now Martha and Lucy are a bit young for all of this yet but we hope that the plan that we have will encourage them as they grow older so that they too will want to be disciples. That’s why we are taking ever more seriously the need to provide opportunities for our children and young people to grow in faith. So, we have plans for what we will do for them: from Lent JX1 will be using Diddy Disciples, and JX2 will continue to use parallel materials. YX has begun to use the Youth Emmaus course material.
In addition, the ages for Admission to Holy Communion and Confirmation have now been reduced which we hope will encourage young people in their discipleship. And more than that we are looking to develop the role of a Families and Young Peoples Minister.
But it is not just young people who can be helped to grow in faith and discipleship which is why the Pilgrim Course will be offered from this very day for those wishing to explore Baptism and Confirmation. We will also offer the Pilgrim Course for members of the wider Cathedral community in October and we are considering whether or not which should look at the possibility of running an Alpha course and will consider this with Jay Colwill our new Canon Missioner when he arrives in April.
This all works alongside the Lent and Advent courses we have been having and the Lenten retreat with John Bell which is planned all of which we hope will lead us to think more about what it means to be Jesus’ followers and to be those who have received him.
Part of thinking about how we are disciples is through the way in which we serve those around us in all sorts of different ways. Sometimes that is through the roles we might take on here at the Cathedral or it may be some of the volunteering opportunities which we can come to in the community through the Cathedral. In the pack you will find all sorts of details of volunteering opportunities. So many, in fact that I am not going to go through them but urge you to look through the booklet and see what you would like to become involved in.
As Martha and Lucy’s parents and Godparents watch them grow and develop it will be their job to encourage them to think about how they live and how they seek to make a difference to those around them.
As we spend time in the next week or two considering what God is asking of us in terms of using our gifts both of time, talents and money here at Southwark Cathedral it is important always to remember that we are those who know ourselves to be God’s people who have recognised and been touched by the word made flesh.
450 people already volunteer here and many on in in the opportunities to grow in discipleship and you could join them. We hope in the fullness of time that Martha and Lucy will want to be involved too!
I pray that as we learn together our hearts and minds will be touched by all that we hear, experience and learn so that we might become ever more aware of God’s love for us and for our world and want to be more involved in showing God’s love and care for others. I pray too that we might all become ever more obviously those who know that ‘In the beginning was the Word ……and that….what has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. And that that light shines into the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. Amen