Ancient and Modern!

Sermon preached 7 July 2019

Readings: Isaiah 66: 10-14  Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

 

Two headlines caught my attention this week:
the first read – “Mark Wood’s lucky touch symbolizes England’s change in fortune”. I really didn’t know I was so influential!

The second was rather brief and read simply:
“A good week for teenagers”.
Behind that article was the separate successes of two fifteen year olds. Firstly there was Alex Mann, who found himself quite literally plucked from the crowds at the Glastonbury Music Festival and hauled up onto the main stage where – for almost 5 minute – he performed flawlessly alongside his hero – a rapper called Dave; whom I’d never heard of, possibly because I’m not a teenager!!

And there was Coco Gauff, the American tennis player who astonished the crowds at Wimbledon by beating her own here – Venus Williams – and going on to win her match against the Slovenian Polona Hercog – so making it into the last 16.
For two particular teenagers, then, it was a VERY good week.
I heard something rather different on Thursday, however, at a meeting of the Local Youth Network – the group which advices the “Area Board” on which local initiatives deserve Council support.

In the middle of the meeting we wandered into the area of mental health – and our main youth worker suddenly said “You know, I think this is a really depressing time to be a teenager.” And seeing the raised eyebrows around her, she went on to explain why.

Although we may think that young people have more freedom, more opportunity, than we ever did, the fact that the school leaving age has been raised to 18 takes away some of the choice we had: if you really are not academically minded, you can’t now leave school and get started on a career – as previous generations could.
If you’re the kind of teenager who just doesn’t fit in at school – the prospect of living with that until you are 18 can feel like a life sentence. And of course there’s far more scope for bullying now – on and off school premises.
None of which is great for mental health and wellbeing.
Young people today are only half as likely to have a Saturday job as their parents’ generation – not because they’re lazy, but because the opportunities just don’t exist. Retailers don’t hire as many staff, Newsagents don’t have paper rounds any more, employment legislation designed to protect the young from exploitation makes them, in some cases, too expensive to employ.

And with that loss of opportunity to work comes the loss of independence – the sense of pride that comes from earning your own money and deciding what to do with it – the ability to go and do things for yourself without having to ask your parents for the money.

For many in our own area, that lack of freedom is exacerbated by lack of public transport: if you live down the valley in Fovant, or Compton Chamberlayne, or Dinton – you may well live in a very lovely house and a beautiful area – but if you want to get into town or to visit friends, you still have to rely on Mum or Dad to drive you.
And while their parents may well have got on a bike and ridden into town – today that simply isn’t safe.
On balance, it really isn’t clear whether today’s teenagers have greater or lesser freedom than their parents.
And when they do finally make it into the grown-up world of work – there will be the prospect of zero-hours contracts and other unpredictable employment systems that just didn’t exist 20 years ago.

The likelihood of being able to afford to rent a house, let alone to buy one, as many of us did in our 20s or 30s will be pretty much zero.
And the prospect of a decent pension at the end of our working life is seeming increasingly distant for MY generation, never mind the next one.

There is now much more freedom from some of the constraints that were imposed on us – at school and through social pressure beyond that. But even there the lack of an agreed social norm produces a new set of pressures – needing each of us to decide for ourselves what to regard as “normal society” and where we fit in.

So, a good time to be a teenager? Not necessarily.
As so often, it’s a question of perspective.
Of course teenagers are going to feel hard done by – they can’t remember any of the hardships or constraints their grandparents or parents faced, only the sense that NOW their elders seem to have all the power. That’s always been true to an extent.

But then, their elders generally see things through the lens of their own experience too.
We remember what it was like, don’t we – we’ve all been to school after all? Except that school life today is rather different than it was 10 years ago, is very different from when I left school in 1986, and completely unlike anything many of you would ever have experienced before then. And it’s easy to make assumptions which may actually rest on rather flimsy foundations.

I’m labouring this point rather, not to make us ALL depressed – but just to encourage us think about the way we do read the headlines or interpret comment in the media: do we make assumptions about people who are younger, or older than us, that really we have no right to make? Do we ever challenge those assumptions – whether made by us or someone else?

The question of “perspective” is there in our Gospel reading today – with its equally challenging picture of power-play and motivation.

The section we just heard comes at the end of a gradual unfolding – in Chapter 8, Jesus set out on his ministry of healing and teaching, then in chapter 9 he sends the 12 to continue this work, and now in chapter 10 he sends out “70 others”. They are evidently successful in their mission, and return excited and eager to tell Jesus all about it.
But he’s not interested in that; he’s more concerned that they have they eyes set on the future – on the coming kingdom of God. “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you – but that your names are written in heaven.”

What matters, it seems, is not the power we can achieve – the things we make happen, for good or ill – but the reason we do anything at all.

If we are motivated by God’s love and concern for all people and all life, and a desire to make that love known and that life a rich experience for all, then surely we will develop a perspective that sees things from many angles – that sees the world in the way that others do.
And that, I think, is what Jesus is asking of us.
We somehow need to work for a practical vision of the future which both recognises and encompasses the mix of needs and perspectives across the generations and within each generation – to avoid generalisations about “young people” or “old People” or any other category of people and to see just “people”.

The world in which Jesus first preached the kingdom of God is as alien to us as life on Mars would be – 2000 years away and with social complexities that we simply can’t comprehend.
And yet that vision does speak to us, as it does in hugely different cultures around world and as it has throughout the intervening generations since Jesus first spoke of it.
That vision is one of inclusion, of justice, of love and forgiveness – it is a broad vision of life in all its fullness.

To all of us, then and now, Jesus gives an urgent call to action – to be labourers in the harvest of God’s people – and not to feel that we have failed when some refuse to see that vision with us. It’s not success that he asks from us, but our willingness to join in the attempt.

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Diary Dates July 2019

Monday 1st                                                                                                                                            10.00am Music Planning Meeting Rectory                                                                                      2.00pm Singing Outreach Primary School                                                                                      5.00pm Pastoral Committee Church Room
Weds. 3rd THOMAS THE APOSTLE
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Mothers’ Union Summer Supper Party 32 Waterditchampton

Thurs. 4th                                                                                                                                              6.30pm Local Youth Network Committee Church Room

Friday 5th.                                                                                                                                             2.30pm “Young at Heart” Community Centre

Sunday 7th 3rd Sunday after Trinity
8.00am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s 10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 8th                                                                                                                                             2.30pm Singing Outreach Primary School

Weds. 10th    All Day Diocesan “Clergy Day” Blandford Forum
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
2.30pm Mothers’ Union Service with Enrolment St Peter’s
fb tea at the Riverside café Garden Centre

Thurs 11th                                                                                                                                              11.00am Holy Communion St. Peter’s
3.00pm Town Team meets Pembroke Arms

Friday 12th – Sunday 14th “Pulse Camp” (youth) Hampshire Christian Trust site

Sunday 14th 4th Sunday after Trinity
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 15th Alabaré Veterans Complex – Official Opening
2.00pm Singing outreach Primary School

Weds. 17th Deadline for Wilton Educational Charity applications
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm PCC meeting Parish Church

Sunday 21st 5th Sunday after Trinity
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 22nd MARY MAGDALENE
2.00pm Collective Worship Primary School

Tuesday 23rd                                                                                                                                           2.30pm Holy Communion Pembroke Court

Wed. 24th                                                                                                                                  10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Educational Charity Trustees meet Rectory

Thurs 25th JAMES THE APOSTLE
11.00am Holy Communion St. Peter’s
2.00pm Primary School Service Parish Church
(School Term ends)

Sunday 28th 6th Sunday after Trinity
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 29th – August 9th Electrical work in progress Parish Church

Weds. 31st                                                                                                                                             10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Diary Dates May 2019

Diary Dates May 2019
Weds. 1st Ss Philip and James
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm MU – ‘Mapping the Community’ 14 Harnwood Road

Friday 3rd 2.30pm ‘Young at Heart’ Community Centre

Sat. 4th 10.00am Mothers’ Union Coffee Morning Community Centre
Sunday 5th THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s 10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Tuesday 7th 2.30pm Holy Communion Olivier Place

Weds. 8th 2.30pm Mothers’ union: “Action in the Community” Church Room
Weds. 10th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
2.30pm MU – Action in the Community Church Room
Sunday 12th FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.00am Sung Eucharist Parish Church
11.15am ANNUAL PAROCHIAL CHURCH MEETING Parish Church
1.00pm Parish Lunch

Monday 13th 2.40pm “Open the Book” Primary School

Tuesday 14th 11.00am Deanery Chapter Chalke Valley
2.30pm Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committee
3.00pm Holy Communion Bulbridge

Weds. 15th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Thurs. 16th 11.00am Holy Communion St Peter’s
6.30pm Youth Committee meets Church Room
Saturday 18th 12.30pm Marriage of Joseph Houston and Jade Moore Parish Church
7.30pm Concert: Cambridge Renaissance Singers Parish Church
Sunday 19th FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist with Holy Baptism Parish Church

Monday 20th 2.00pm Singing Outreach Primary School
2.30pm St. John’s Trustees meeting

Tuesday 21st 2.30pm Holy Communion Pembroke Court

Wed. 22nd 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Saturday 25th 2.00pm Marriage of Victoria Riddell and Darren Martin St Catherine’s
Sunday 26th SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church
12.30pm Holy Baptism Parish Church

Monday 25th School on “half-term” this week

Weds. 29th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Thurs. 30th ASCENSION DAY
11.00am Holy Communion St Peter’s

Diary Dates – April 2019

Tuesday 2nd 2.30pm Holy Communion Olivier Place

Weds. 3rd 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Lent Meditation St John’s Priory

Thursday 4th 6.15pm Wilton Beavers visit Parish Church

Friday 5th 2.30pm ‘Young at Heart’ Community Centre

Saturday 6th 10.00 – 12.00 Spring Clean Parish Church

Sunday 7th FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
8.00am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s 10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church
3.00pm Holy Baptism Parish Church

Monday 8th 5.00pm Pastoral Ministry Team Church Room

Tuesday 9th 3.00pm “Bulbridge” Holy Communion

Weds. 10th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
2.30pm Sudan, a talk to Mothers’ Union
by Revd Canon Ian Woodward Church Room
7.30pm ‘Behold the Man!’ Contemplative Prayer St John’s Priory

Thursday 11th 11.00am Holy Communion St. Peter’s

Saturday 13th 11.00am Thanksgiving Service Parish Church
for Rita Stephens

Sunday 14th Palm Sunday
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist and Procession Parish Church

Thursday 16th 2.30pm Holy Communion Pembroke Court

Weds. 17th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Stations of the Cross Parish Church

Thursday 18th MAUNDY THURSDAY
11.00am Chrism Mass Salisbury Cathedral
7.00pm Eucharist of Maundy Thursday Parish Church

Friday 19Th GOOD FRIDAY
9.00am Mass of the Pre-Sanctified Parish Church
11.00am The Way of the Cross Parish Church
to St Peter’s
11.00am Meditations on the Cross St Catherine’s
2.00pm The Liturgy of the Cross Parish Church

Saturday 20th HOLY SATURDAY
No services are held, reflecting the stillness of Christ’s tomb.
The Parish Church will be open for private reflection.

Sunday 21st EASTER DAY
Midnight Liturgy and First Eucharist Parish Church
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Wed. 24th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Thursday 25th 8.00pm Local Youth Network meets Church Room

Sunday 28th SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 29th 10.00am Standing Committee meets The Rectory

Diary Dates March 2019

Friday 1st St David
2.30pm Service for “World Day of Prayer” Baptist Church
2.30pm ‘Young at Heart’ Community Centre

Sunday 3rd SUNDAY NEXT BEFORE LENT
8.00am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s 10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church
3.00pm Holy Baptism Parish Church

Monday 4th 11.00am Admin. Meeting Parish Office
2.40pm Open the Book Primary School

Tuesday 5th 2.30pm Holy Communion Olivier Place

Weds. 6th ASH WEDNESDAY
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes Parish Church

Thursday 7th 10.00am WMSET Trustees’ Meeting The Rectory

Sunday 10th FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 11th 2.00pm “SInging Outreach” Primary School

Weds. 13th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
2.30pm MU meets at the Trussell Trust Ashfield Road
7.30pm Meditations for Lent St John’s Priory

Thurs 14th 11.00am Holy Communion St Peter’s
Friday 15th 2.30pm ‘Young at Heart’ Community Centre
Sunday 17th SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 18th  2.40pm Open the Book Primary School

Tuesday 19th St Joseph of Nazareth
2.30pm Holy Communion Pembroke Court
7.30pm Wilton Educational Charity meeting The Rectory

Wed. 20th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Meditations for Lent St John’s Priory

Friday 22nd 7.30pm PCC Meeting

Sunday 24th THIRD SUNDAY of LENT
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 25th THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD
10.00am Music Planning meeting The Rectory 2.00pm “Singing Outreach” Primary School

Wed. 27th 10.00am Mothers’ Union Spring Council St Francis’s, Salisbury
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Meditations for Lent St John’s Priory

Thurs 28th 11.00am Holy Communion St Peter’s

Sat.30th 10.30am Posy Making Workshop Church Room
12 noon Wedding of Stuart Rutt and Kim Hayden Parish Church

Sunday 31st MOTHERING SUNDAY (4th Sunday of Lent)
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Mothering Sunday Service St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

“Like tears in rain”

Sermon preached 24th February 2019
Back in 1982, the film producer Ridley Scott gave us the science fiction film “Blade Runner” –
which predicts life in 2019.

And, as is always the case, some of those predictions proved more accurate than others.
At the time we were pretty amazed by the idea of computers that you could just talk to and they would instantly work things out for you – today “Alexa” always seems to have an answer for everything.

On the other hand, there is no sign yet of the flying cars which captivated some of us at the time.

There ARE signs that we have messed up the earth’s weather patterns, as the film predicted.

The assumption made that we would all be chain-smoking cigarettes, however, has proved as wide of the mark as the predicted fashion in clothes.

Central to the film’s plot are a number of “Replicants” – highly sophisticated robots or androids which are made to mirror human behaviour very precisely and marketed with the slogan “more human than humans”. In the “real” 2019, that’s something we don’t have, yet, but which are perhaps not so very far away.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) coupled with research aimed at developing robots with more human, physical, traits have led to the anticipation of precisely this kind of “non-human being” not only in more recent films but in the real worlds of science and commerce.

Back to the fictional world of Blade Runner and, as so often when art imitates life, the story-line suggests a deeper reality about our human nature. And that is the ability to “reflect” – to look back over our lives and consider: could we have done things better, is this the way we are meant to live, is there more to life than this?

As far as we know, we are the only species that has this faculty – the others being more concerned with survival and the challenges of the present moment – and, in some ways, it’s a mixed blessing.
The fictional Replicants of Blade Runner, being “more human than humans” also have this ability. And being also more intelligent than humans – are rather better at it.

They also have only a very limited life-span – being designed to function for just 4 years – and so it is that one of them, named Roy Batty, delivers a rather poignant monologue as he senses that his time is drawing to a close: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe”, he begins, offering a couple of examples,
and then concludes that “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain”.

At that point I have to remind myself that this is just a line from a science fiction movie. Those of us who necessarily find ourselves reflecting on life, death and the meaning of both, will recognise that sense that –
no matter how powerful or challenging our own experiences may seem to us, there WILL come a point when they are “lost in time” – when we and those who knew us are gone – and all that we have seen and felt will simply be absorbed into the vast ocean of human history – “like tears (lost) in the rain”
But then, not all lives are forgotten.
Some people go on to far greater significance after death than ever they achieved in their own lifetime.

That’s certainly true of the composer J.S Bach.
And it’s also true, I think, of the poet/priest George Herbert, whose commemoration falls later this week.

Having achieved some prominence as public orator at Cambridge and as a Member of Parliament, he then came here as Rector of St Peter’s Church and of St Andrew’s at Bemerton and died in relative obscurity. And yet, more than three and a half centuries later, he’s considered one of the giants of English Literature, a celebrated hymn-writer and his writings on pastoral care were still referred to in training clergy well into the 20th Century.

So why should his words and deeds live on in a way which is not true for most people? Why are his tears still visible in the rain?

One thing is certain, it wasn’t due to the length of his life: he ministered here for just 3 years, dying at the age of 40.
And so perhaps it’s more to do with the quality of his life – the way that he lived – which has secured his place among the notables of human history.

Like the best film-makers, and artists of every kind, Herbert took careful note of what life was really like for those around him – the good, the bad and the mundane.

His book “The Country Parson”, records some of the challenges he faced in church – from persuading parishioners not to talk or sleep during services to rebuking the gentry who purposely arrived late for services, so as to avoid their poorer neighbours.

Herbert did not simply pretend that all was well – either in church or in the backbreaking toil of rural life at the time: His hymn “Teach me, my God and king” serves as one example of his attempts to give meaning and purpose to those experiences of daily life.

Herbert was clearly not so caught up with the visions of heavenly glory that he was obsessed with the life to come after this one, or that he saw faith as some escape from it. He used his learning and his Christian faith to engage with that reality and to improve things where he could.
Yes, of course, he must have had some sense or vision of how things could be – and a conviction of how things should be – but underpinning that was a willingness to start with and appreciate what was already there.
Bizarrely then, I’m left wondering if the legacy of George Herbert might be an encouragement to be “less humanoid than the humanoids” (thinking back to Blade Runner’s “Replicants”) and to become more like the rest of the animal kingdom! By which I mean that we should try to live more fully in the present moment – neither allowing ourselves to be hamstrung by disturbing experiences in the past or by anxiety about the future.

Instead, we might allow that animal instinct for survival – to help recognise the things which threaten our well-being and the sustainability of the planet – whether those threats come from other people or from our own patterns of behaviour – and then to act on that instinct to drive us to change the behaviour that threatens us,
and also to sense when we might be interfering in someone else’s territory, and leave well alone.
If our human capacity for reflection can then help us to accept that we will never see all that there is to see in this life; that the world will never be exactly the place that we might wish it to be, and that there will always be others who see things differently, then perhaps we can learn to appreciate all that is around us, and live with gratitude for the good that is already there, and neither regret nor fear what might have been or what might yet be.

To live fully is to live each moment in thankfulness to the God who sees each raindrop – not just the rainstorm – who knows and accepts each one of us more fully than we do ourselves, and to whom we will always be significant and precious, throughout this life and beyond.

May God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.