Sunday Before Lent - 9am & Choral Eucharist

  • Preacher

    The Dean - The Very Revd Andrew Nunn

  • Readings

    2 Kings 2.1-12; 2 Corinthians 4.3-6; Mark 9.2-9

St Mary Overie, St Saviour, Southwark, over the river, a human haunt in stone, thousand years here, the sweet Thames well recalls. Who came?

That’s how the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy began her poem about this Cathedral, capturing something of its history and something of its humanity, something of its location, here beside the sweet Thames.  And that opening ends with a question ‘Who came?’

Well, we came.  We’re the human haunting of this sacred space, the people who make this not just a building but a church, not a place simply of old stones but of living stones, the household of God, in the now of London, the now of Southwark.

Jesus has taken his inner cabinet, his three best friends and disciples, Peter and James and John, up the mountain.  It was a moment reminiscent of Moses ascending another mountain to encounter God.  He made that journey on his own and the people remained at the bottom, fearful of the cloud into which Moses entered.  And as if to remind us properly of the significance of what is happening Moses appears on this mountain, the mountain of transfiguration, with Elijah, who himself met God in the still small voice on a mountain, and here in this mystical moment the voice of God is heard.

Peter is overcome by the power of what he and the others are experiencing and he wants to hang on to the experience for as long as he can.  But before he suggests building tents he makes this powerful declaration

‘It is good for us to be here.’

This is the final Sunday of our ‘Season of Gifts’.  Each year, in the first part of the year, we spend a period of time thinking about our life in this place and challenging each other about our priorities and our direction of travel and our commitment to the place and to God. Over the last two weeks you’ve been told about two of the priorities that the Chapter has set for this year – they both involve the concept of discipleship.

Unlike Moses, Jesus took three of his disciples with him into this encounter with God.  What he was to experience was not just for him but for them also so that, on the journey that they were making, the journey that from this point would direct them towards Jerusalem and to the events of Holy Week and Easter, they would understand a little bit more about what he was about and what they were about as people who’d left everything to follow him.

You may not have seen yourself as a disciple of Jesus and perhaps you still haven’t decided to what extent you want to follow him, or to leave everything else behind to focus on him alone.  That call to be a follower is a hard one and each of us responds differently and in our own way and that’s exactly what we want to be able to recognise, acknowledge and affirm.

And we also want to care for each other, to pastor each other on that journey, a journey in which there will be ups and downs, highs and lows, when we need the support of others and when we have the capacity to support others.  That’s what discipleship involves, being part of that family that gathers around Jesus, in love, and is prepared to embark on a journey with him.

‘Who came?’ asks Carol Ann Duffy – we came, for it is good to be here.  Some of you kindly told us what you value about this place, quotes that we put into the ‘Season of Gifts’ booklet

  • ‘It’s a community that warmly welcomes and embraces’
  • A place ‘of thoughtful and reverent worship’
  • A place that feels ‘like a bit of home where we can come, be still, pray and ‘re-set’.’
  • A place where ‘there’s always so much love.’
  • ‘A welcoming, inclusive, affirming community.’

It is good to be here.

These are your words, not mine – this is what you’ve told us about the place and what draws you back here, a place in which we encounter God and know Jesus, in each other, a place in which we worship, a safe place for young and old, for black and white, for people of all abilities, a safe place for gay and lesbian and transgender people, a place in which we don’t ask the wrong questions of each other but a place in which we affirm one another in the love of God.  It is good to be here.

In our Second Reading St Paul, writing to the Christians in Corinth, says

‘We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord’

When the disciples had that experience on the mountain Jesus told them to tell no one ‘until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead’. My bothers and sisters, that is the time in which we live – he is risen!  We are the Easter people, the children of the resurrection, the disciples of not a dead Jesus but a living Christ and we have good news to share.  We have good news about this place, this human haunt in which people like us come to be with God.  It’s good to be here but it’s particularly good to be here with you – it’s you who make Southwark the place that it is, you with your own special gifts, you making this an ‘inclusive Christian community growing in orthodox faith and radical love’ a place that shines with ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.’

Thank you to those of you who enable this ministry to go on, those of you who give of your time to come here to worship, those of you who share your skills and talents and passions with us.  Thank you to those of you who give regularly, of your money, to keep this place open to all who wish to come in, without charge, a place in which wonderful music accompanies wonderful worship, day in and day out.

Last year 27 of us increased our giving.  We are grateful to each of you who did that.  I was one of the 27 and I know others on the Chapter did the same.  I’ll be increasing my giving again this year.  I’m privileged to be Dean of Southwark, I never forget that, but even more so I’m privileged to worship here with you.  This is as much a safe place in which I can grow in my own discipleship as it is for you, my sister, my brother, and I put my money to the task as much as anything else.  Because we cannot do what we do and cannot do what we want to do without strong and generous and committed giving. 

There are almost 600 people on the electoral roll and only 27 managed to increase what they pledged last year.  I hope and pray that this year we can do even better.

The Church of England is thinking about its cathedrals – we’re the success story of the church, we’re the jewel in the crown, we’re the growing point of the church and for lots of reasons.  But cathedrals are also, in many cases in dire financial straits.  We, at Southwark, are more fortunate.  But that’s come through careful and constant financial management and scrutiny – but we still bounce along the bottom and are often unable to do what we know you want us to do simply because we do not have that opportunity surplus that we need. 

Duffy answers her question ‘Who came?’ by saying, we

to this same, persistent, changing space,

between fire and water, theatre and marketplace;

us, lighting our candles in the calm cathedral,

and coming open handed to God, to his table for all that God will give us, God’s own self in his son, the beloved, in bread and wine and in each other.

We have good news to tell, we have a journey to take people on, it is good to be here in this human haunt by the sweet Thames. So, be good news tellers, be journey makers, be disciples, be on that mount, be the transfiguring, special, God-blessed community that we know we are, who will work with God to transfigure both God’s church and God’s world, be bold, be Southwark Cathedral.