Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands -
O prosper the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:17)
Last Sunday, it was wonderful to see many of you at St. Luke's final service. We took the opportunity to express our emotions and gratitude to God for the many years of worship, fellowship, and ministry that we have experienced in this building. Through our Thanksgiving prayers and a short video, we reminisced about the memories we have made. Our reflections centred on Jesus, the gate of the sheep that can never be closed. He offers a pathway to a future filled with opportunities, freedom, and movement. As we concluded the service, we renewed our commitment to follow God's lead in navigating the future, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Lastly, we extend our gratitude to all who joined us for the service and for the cake that was offered at the end.
In light of the significance of today's historical moment, I would like to share with you some words written by Paul Woolley (CEO of LICC).
I hope they will serve as a source of inspiration for you today. You can find the coronation liturgy here
Today, King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey. This is a historic moment in the life of the nation and Commonwealth. King Charles will be the 40th monarch to be crowned at the Abbey since the Coronation of William the Conqueror, on Christmas Day in 1066.
The Coronation service is explicitly Christian, a powerful reminder of the way in which the Christian story has profoundly shaped our culture. The essential elements date back to the crowning of King Edgar at Bath Abbey in 973, when he became the first King of All England. In that service, as with Today’s, there was a procession, oaths, anointing, and investiture, followed by Communion.
The tradition of anointing kings with oil is grounded in the Old Testament where Samuel anointed Saul (1 Samuel 10:1). In Today’s service, following the invocation of the Holy Spirit, King Charles will prepare for his anointing in the middle of Handel’s great anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’. During the anthem, the King will be divested of his robes and ornaments of state. He will then move to King Edward’s chair where he will put on a sleeveless white garment and be anointed with holy oil by the Archbishop of Canterbury, as Solomon was anointed by Zadok.
The act of consecration is the most sacred part of the service. The King, like Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, has asked that the cameras turn away. This will give him a private moment to reflect on the significance of the events taking place.
We might not be a king or queen, or even support the idea of monarchy in a modern democracy, but the Coronation gives us an opportunity to reflect on our own relationship to God. Firstly, before God, we stand alone and are divested of all worldly goods. We play to an audience of one. We are ultimately accountable to ‘God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth’, not the world’s media, a nation, a boss, customers, or shareholders.
Secondly, all followers of Jesus are anointed by God, ‘sealed with the Holy Spirit’ (Ephesians 1:13) for a task: to make the invisible God visible by what we do and the way we do it, to show the world there is a better way of being human. And that it looks like Jesus, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16).
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (Joh 12:24)
Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his friends. (Joh 15:13)
At a Calvary near the Ancre
One ever hangs where shelled roads part.
In this war He too lost a limb,
But His disciples hide apart;
And now the Soldiers bear with Him.
Near Golgotha strolls many a priest,
And in their faces there is pride
That they were flesh-marked by the Beast
By whom the gentle Christ’s denied.
The scribes on all the people shove
And brawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.
(Two poems by Wilfred Owen)
It is Remembrance Sunday; it is an overwhelming service yet very special to us in the parish. During the lockdown in 2020, I remember having this service outside the church building. In addition to the national anthem, we were allowed to sing one hymn for the first time since Covid started. The hymn was 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.' It was a significant moment where our prolonged silence, which looked like "the silence of eternity!", was interrupted by our singing voices. It was an illustrating moment summing up what remembrance Sunday is. In our remembering, we dare to break the silence of the forgetfulness of death (the land of forgetfulness - Psalm 88:12). The Christian faith provides and equips us with the Cross of Christ in this daring mission. Jesus was the grain of wheat on the cross; unless it fell into the earth and died would remain alone and be forgotten. But if the grain accepts to fall and die out of sacrificial love, it produces many new kernels, a plentiful harvest of new lives in many coming generations (John 12: 24). It shall grow not old and age shall not weary it.
This makes many writers and poets link the cross of Christ to the battlefield of the World War. Many had discovered in the cross the antidote of death, silence and forgetfulness. One of the examples is the English poet and soldier Wilfred Owen, one of the leading poets of WW1. Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918, a week before the war's end, at the age of 25. "At a Calvary near the Ancre" is a poem he wrote as a reflection on two notable battles in 1916 by river Ancre and river Somme. It is not an easy poem to read for your comfort as he uses double meaning as a crossroad to provoke the readers to choose where they stand at the cross of Jesus and the conflict of our world. For example, reference to the Soldiers could point to those who mocked Christ on the cross; or those following him in his war against evil and the beast. The same is true for the disciples, those who deserted Christ or stood with Christ in his suffering.
Finally, if this crossroad confuses us, and if we are in doubt which road we shall take, let the greater love lead us, and shape the road we will walk. Because where there is love, there is God as God is love.
…"Once more, I will shake the earth. I will also shake the heavens.”
… what can be shaken can be taken away… Then what can't be shaken will remain.
‘We are not living in an era of change but a change of era.’ (Pope Francis)
We are living through a shaking moment in history, and this is happening across the whole globe. One that is challenging leaders in Politics, Business, and, not least, Religion. A telling recent example of this was the resignation of Liz Truss to go down in history as the shortest-serving prime minister. She has been in office for just 46 days. In the words of Pope Francis, 'We are not living in an era of change but a change of era.'
In his recent article, Paul Woolley (LICC CEO) describes our shaking moment in the UK, saying,
"The last month has been a turbulent one. Days after Truss became PM; Queen Elizabeth II died after 70 years on the throne. Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng then spooked the financial markets with his mini-budget. Three days later the pound hit an all-time low against the dollar." And he added, "It's not just the last month. The last six years have been turbulent. We are arguably witnessing the slow collapse of the political, economic, social, and cultural model that has underpinned our common life for a generation."
Woolley's and Pope Francis's words made me reflect on the question -
what should our response (people of faith who trust in God's story) be on our everyday frontlines? I want to briefly reflect on this question in the following lines, but more importantly, I would like to leave this question with you to keep reflecting on.
First, we should not lose heart, as our security is not located in the shakeable things; but in the unshakable and unchanging God. God is mightier than our chaos, His love for us is everlasting, and his one main desire is to be WITH US.
Second, we should re-examine our ways - turn away from all that is leading to more chaos in our personal or public life and turn to all that is most redemptive and life-giving in any given situation.
Thirdly, it is becoming more evident than ever before that we cannot go through all this alone. We need to go through this as a community that takes care of each other loves each other sincerely, and seeks God's kingdom of life, peace and love to come on earth as it is in heaven.
According to the promised future in God's grand story, once the ungenuine things that are shakeable all fall apart, the authentic and life-giving things will only grow. Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).
SHARING GOOD NEWS
I asked you through one of this month's sermons to share the good news that happens in our lives - and here is one story that was given to me to be shared:
I live in Old Windsor, and Revd Adel Shokralla has encouraged me to share my testimony.
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Fibroids, an illness of the womb, this was causing uncontrolled menstruation, and I bled continuously for weeks. Consequently, I was very anaemic with low energy, sleeping for hours and hours and not functioning well.
I was followed by a medical professional and had already had two to three surgeries. I also prayed a lot about it with friends and family and attended healing services, but nothing was happening. I was unwell and went to A&E when things were bad.
One day I went to the service, and the minister was preaching about a familiar story of the bleeding woman in the bible and talked about her faith and made a statement that many here are not receiving healing because they don't have faith in God's healing. I was agitated because I wondered how someone could make such a statement when I had been praying and doing everything about God's healing.
That Sunday, I was very sad and couldn't control myself at night. I was crying and thinking about my possible lack of faith. I cried for a long time in my bedroom. I was truly troubled by everything and decided to write a letter to God. As I continued crying and telling him about all the prayers I had been making and asked many other questions, I told God that I trusted Him and can He tell me if I lacked faith. Suddenly I felt like my pen started responding to my questions on the paper. It happens very fast, and what stayed with me until today was, "you don't like being ill". This seems understanding, but the main message I understood was that my upsets and moans were blocking my faith. Then I was on my knees, fighting with myself and crying until I fell asleep.
The following day, I woke up, had this incredible energy, and went for a long walk. I walked for hours, which I could no longer do for months and felt like my mind had renewed and I was no longer upset. I wouldn't say I liked the rain, but I was walking and laughing in the rain. Since that day, I don't mind the weather. I take each day as it comes, I was grateful for the gift of life, and by then, I realised that God had visited me that night.
My condition improved overnight. I was no longer tired, I didn't feel sleepy anymore, and gradually, I was bleeding less and off iron tablets. I also kept all my medical appointments until the doctors didn't need to see me again. God healed me here in Old Windsor. I hope my testimony will encourage someone waiting for God's help.
I know that my Redeemer lives
and he will stand upon the earth at last
and after my body has decayed
yet in my body I will see God
I will see him for myself
yes and I will see him with my own eyes
I am overwhelmed at the thought
job 19: 25-27
"As we grieve together, we know that, in losing our beloved Queen, we have lost the person whose steadfast loyalty, service and humility
has helped us make sense of who we are through decades of extraordinary change in our world, nation, and society."
By these words, Archbishop Welby started his statement after the announcement of the Queen's death.
Undoubtedly, by her death, one of the world's most famous and faithful Christian leaders, we mark the end of an era. It will take a long time to come to terms with the death of our beloved Queen Elizabeth. So, wherever we may be, and whatever we may think about the institution of monarchy, these last two days, millions of people around the globe are lamenting the loss of a woman whose public service and Christian witness shone brightly for more than 70 years.
At times like this, the right words are hard to find. However, we at the parish of Old Windsor are most honoured to have the Queen as our parish’s patron. Moreover, and on a more personal note, as I was celebrating my 7th anniversary since I started in the parish (7th September 2015), I consider it an exceptional honour to receive my letters of appointment from Her Majesty. At the beginning of my ministry, I remember a book published under the title " The Servant Queen and the king she serves." It was an attribute for her majesty’s 90th birthday. This book said a lot…it said it all. As a minister for Christ and His church, I was uplifted to see the beloved Queen as an outstanding whole-life disciple of Jesus, someone whose faith shapes all they do and say. She never hesitates to speak out about her faith and trust in Christ and the difference he made in her life. She was God's gift to the nation, Commonwealth and indeed the global community, a beacon of humility, grace, good humour, generosity, and deep faith – God's woman, God's follower, God's Queen.
In the following, I would like to recall two occasions from the Queen's life, out of many, that speaks louder than many sermons.
1. On Christmas Day 1952, the new 26-year-old monarch of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth nations, spoke for the first time to the world in what was to become her annual Christmas broadcast.
“pray for me,” she asked, “that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve him and you, all the days of my life.”
It was a prayer God answered. Elizabeth would make a series of solemn promises 6 months later at her coronation, which she kept faithfully for the next 70 years. The newly crowned queen promised three things: to govern appropriately, to maintain justice, and to profess the gospel of Christ. All this she surely did until her final breath.
2. In her Christmas broadcast of 2000, the Queen reflected on the Millennium year with complete honesty about the importance of her own personal faith
“For me,” she said, “the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life.”
Almost 22 years after that speech, we witness contemporary leaders failing and falling all around us at an unprecedented rate. Notions of duty, promise-keeping, and accountability to God can seem old-fashioned and even naïve. But at such a time Queen Elizabeth's lifelong example of consistency in private faith and integrity in public service is both startling and inspiring.
May her majesty rest in peace and rise in glory
And may each of us rise to the challenge of her glorious example.
"I have never noticed these details in this icon before."
This was Ursula's comment while we were staring at the icon of resurrection by the choir area. Ursula wood and her friend Lynne were contemplatively trying to draw two icons of our parish windows while a group of us were working hard to ensure the churchyard was ready for “the history walk” on Sunday afternoon. This left me wondering how often I glanced at this icon but failed to see it. How could this be possible? What other vital things in life did I get used to glancing at them without really seeing them? Why this is such a common experience among us humans (maybe not all of us!)? One possible answer is because “we are busy” - to be more precise, we are busy managing our anxiety.
Whether we like it or not, we live in an anxious time, and if they call the 20th century the age of anxiety, I wonder what should we call our recent three years! It is primarily hidden and silent anxiety that most of us deal with as we watch what is happening around us. Sometimes without noticing, such anxiety steals too much of our energy to see things and be attentive to relationships around us. it blocks
our awareness of God and the world because it distracts our attention.
This Sunday's gospel is about Martha & Mary's story; we see Mary at the feet of Christ, attentively listening to him, but she seems unproductive. While Martha, in her zeal to welcome Jesus into her house, is so lost, distracted and driven away mentally in activity. She completely lost sight of Jesus. Her unhospitable attitude has less to do with workload and more to do with internal anxiety. While she called Jesus "Lord", she laboured to become the landlord of her own being, her own plan, instead of listening to him about his plan.
The true gospel is good news that Christ has already accomplished our salvation; therefore, be calm, trust him and follow him as a disciple in what he has already accomplished. Then Christ will be our primary need to break free from our anxiety. While the false gospel - the gospel of self-reliance - is bad news because it is always about me and what I can accomplish, leading to more stress.
May the Lord, through the power of his spirit, continue to grow us in his freedom where we not only look but see, not only hear but listen. So we become His eyes and ears to our community.
Into a dark world
a snowdrop comes,
a blessing of hope and peace,
carrying within it a green heart,
symbol of God's renewing love.
Come to inhabit our darkness, Lord Christ,
for dark and light
are alike to you.
May nature's white candles of hope
remind us of your birth
and light our journey
through Lent and beyond.
It is a new season here with its fresh grace and mercy. Lent is a space for spiritual growth and stretch. It is an act of stretching which usually we do before we wake up from sleep. The word Lent itself comes from a root meaning the 'LENGTHENING' days of spring. This space is set by the church every year as an invitation. To benefit from this space, one must first accept the invitation willingly. It is an opportunity to reach down more deeply into God and His Good News and reach up to more fully into the new life it brings.
Many of us "give up" something for Lent each year. Chocolate, wine, television, Facebook. The goal of these fasts is to sit with our hungers, wants, and desires and learn what they have to teach us. What is the hunger beneath the hunger? Can we hunger and still live?
Lent is the time to listen to these inner voices and learn what we are hungry for. If we listen intently and offer ourselves and this space to God, we may hear the spirit whisper into our heart such divine invitation "come and see".
May in our giving up, being silent and slowing down, we embrace new blessings from our beloved Father, hear the voice of Christ anew, and begin a new dance with the Spirit. Let Lent in, and may the dance begin!
Please use this space of Lent as it suits you. In addition to our regular Sunday services,
we are offering Thursday quiet Communion and Lent course called character for you to use it with yourselves.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
Happy new year! I know it is a late greeting, but this is the first time I am writing to you in 2022. I hope and pray for a good year for all of you where you are able to receive what is in God's heart for you. The new beginning is always full of hope and energy to move toward new and better things. May the Lord gladden our hearts this year and continue to lead us together and empower us to be his church on earth, an icon and sacrament for his love and hope to all people around us.
I want to thank you for your prayers and condolence messages for my mother's passing away. This is why I had to be away from the church these recent three weeks. Praise God for his sure hope in the risen Christ. My comfort and consolation are that my mother is with Christ, whom she loved dearly. She was the first person to teach me the love of Christ.
It is a Candlemas Sunday tomorrow where we recall when our Lord and Saviour entered the temple as a baby (40 days old) with His parents. This feast is an in-between time, a hinge from Epiphany to Lent season. We continue to unfold Christ's mystery of who Jesus Christ is while we begin to look ahead to his passion. We are closing the season of Epiphany, but let's continue opening our expectations to be surprised by Christ and his mystery. May the Holy Spirit, by quieting our noise and freeing our heart, help us live attentively in the present to see what is hidden, not only what is obvious and overt. To see what we ought to be seeing, and not only what we expect to see. May our eyes be opened to discover that we already hold the baby.
Come with me to a quiet place and find rest for your soul.