Monday, April 02, 2007

And the sermon for teh Sunday before - Passion Sunday which was used to offer my Vicar's report for our AGM held on teh same day...

Part 1: About 450 years ago, in the 1560s, English business people started kidnapping people from Africa. They treated them like luggage and took them to America in ships to be sold as slaves. The businessmen made a lot of money out of this and they didn’t care that conditions on board the ships were so terrible that up to 15% of the Africans they stole died on the voyages. As long as they made a profit on their human cargo that was fine by them.

Over the next 200 years between 10 and 12 million Africans were abducted and transported. Even the church was involved, with some Christian leaders saying that the Bible supported the slave trade. They said it was good for the Africans to go to America – they called it being civilized! They said that the slaves would get their reward in heaven.

Things began to change from about 1750 as more and more people in the church and outside it began to see how terrible slavery was, how unchristian and evil. In 1772 slavery was made illegal in England and Wales, and Scotland followed in 1778 – but that didn’t stop the businessmen who made all the money from continuing the slave trade with America.

William Wilberforce was a Member of Parliament. He was elected by the people of his home town of Hull in the north of England in 1780. In 1784 he became a Christian, and then he met Thomas Clarkson who was an Abolitionist – someone who worked hard to abolish slavery. Wilberforce was determined to put an end to slavery but he knew it wouldn’t be easy. He was right! For the next 18 years he asked the House of Commons to abolish slavery. He just kept on asking and working for change.

Eventually he did it! On 25 March 1807, 200 years ago, an Act of Parliament was passed to abolish slavery and slave trading in the British Empire.

He had won, but the story wasn’t over yet. The change in the law did not free those who were already slaves. It was 1833 before an Act of Parliament was passed giving freedom to all slaves in the British Empire.

Explain that we remember William Wilberforce as a Christian who believed passionately that all people were made equal in God’s sight, he knew a terrible evil when he saw it and worked tirelessly to end it.

He was passionate about his cause. Thing is, it wasn’t his cause... God is still passionate about each of us. He loves us enough to have sent Jesus his son to show us how much he loves us - even to die for us - to free all of us from slavery. All of us are slaves to sin - ignoring God’s will for us and others. He wants to right the injsutices of the world even today in just the same way.

Today is called Passion Sunday and it is a time when Christians remember Jesus getting ready for his death on the cross, today as we celebrate the beginning of the end of slavery because of the committed Chrsitian faith of people like WIlliam Wilberforce, let’s ask God to free us from the slavery of sin, and to work for the freedom of all who are still not free. PRAY

Part 2: Wilberforce was passionate about his cause. It is God’s cause. Pasion Sunday reminds us, as we turn our faces toward Jerusalem, God is still passionate about each one of us.

In this morning’s Gospel, Mary, Martha and Lazarus of all people knew of God’s passion for people in Jesus’ ministry - he had after all raised lazarus from the dead. In that context, Mary knew that Jesus’ own death was innevitable. She knew somehow that it was essential. Her gracious actions symbolically preparing for this. Judas missed the point - all he could see was a wasted opportunity to temporarily alleviate the suffering of some. He did not yet know that Jesus’ actions would alleviate the effects of our sin forever - freeing us into new relationships with each other and with God.
This same Jesus is passionate about this community too and longs for us to be freed into living relationships. Friends I want share a little of some of what that has looked like over the last 12 months.

Communicants on a Sunday averages about 90-100
Baptisms - 20 or so
Funerals 30 or so with an increasing number in church
Weddings - 15
167 (double that attending) communicants Easter
150 (Christmas eve and day) and 580 attending

Must be our main task - school - weekly act of worship, in church 4 times a year - support to pupils and staff alike. Assembly to afternoon - parents attending! Deepening relationship satisfactory Osted, excellent SIAS inspection - VC that thinks VA. Move from VC to VA status. Take 5, BBC etc. chair of Governors. School has a vison and a focus centred on Christian faith and a relationship with od and his church - last Sunday showed teh fruit of that.

FTF - 3 bible study groups, book discussion group, ftw. Renewed faith, vision and energy. Where do we go from here?

I have found this last year simultaneously rewarding and also extremely hard. I trust God that he is still passionate about us and he has shared a vison of priorities over the next few years:

Prayer - last 3 years have been about depening and nurturing faith, we need to be responsible for that ourselves. Prayer is at teh heart of a living relationship with God. prayer needs to be natural; our life blood. parish w/e away, pearls of life, spirituality school

small groups - Jesus’ most powerful ministry tended to be with individuals or small groups. place of nurture and care. Nt just 3 bible study groups, but others too. Meet with - encourage a social and a study.

lay ministry - virtue of baptism Christ calls all of us to follow and be his disciples. We each have gifts wich need to be used. Baptism is primary sacrament because it is not ordination or even concecration that calls you to service but baptism. King’s Langley. Building blocks now. visitng group (planning and leading worship, bereavement visiting, renewed emphasis on children’s work etc)

building - developping the resources of the building (trinity room revamp etc)

Trust God! On Passion Sunday - Jesus resoloutely turns toward embracing the cross and trusting God, his passion for humanity. Through all of the above we need to learn to trust God - so he is not last port of call in desperation, but the place where we start.

No comments: