Lesley’s Easter Sermon

John 20:1-18

Mary Magdalene – the first person to discover the empty tomb – she along with some other women. Some believe that there were two bands of apostles – a group of men and a group of women, and that Mary Magdalene is a natural leader, like Peter is in the male group.

She comes with spices to anoint the body of Jesus and finds him gone. The stone is rolled away – he’s not there. She came to the tomb expecting a body – she didn’t get what Jesus was saying about him being resurrected and now the body has gone she still thinks he’s dead – obviously – just someone has moved him. What does she do? She goes to find her opposite number on the male disciples’ team.

Peter and John rush to the tomb. Peter goes in. The linen is still there but no Jesus. The blokes – they saw and believed. Apparently. Not sure entirely what they believed but they believed something and went home. Perhaps they caught the end of the match on telly – I don’t know. They didn’t seem to explain it to Mary.

Now Mary – she thought Jesus was dead when she set off, she thought he was dead when she saw the stone rolled away, she thought he was dead after the male disciples had showed up, clocked the empty tomb, believed and gone home to put their feet up. Perhaps they had tried to explain it to her – but she had been at the crucifixion – perhaps she was traumatised – perhaps she didn’t believe in people becoming undead.

Let’s just stop a minute and work out what we know about Mary – in history she has been conflated with other Marys and with the woman who washes the feet of Jesus with her tears and so she has ended up being considered to be a loose woman. However, modern scholarship says that there is no evidence that she is any of these other people. With the exception of Luke’s gospel she is only mentioned at the crucifixion and in the resurrection stories. Luke tells us that she had seven demons driven out of her and that she was one of the women supporting Jesus out of her own means.

Part of me still thinks that she was the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with her tears. I am drawn to that idea. That she anointed Jesus for burial once and then comes again with the oils. I am also attracted to the idea because although I don’t believe in demons in the sense of the mediaeval ones – I do believe in demons in the sense of those terrible imps that sit on our shoulders and whisper in our ears
“You are no good”
“You should be ashamed of yourself”
“People treat you like dirt because you are dirt”
“You need to be afraid.”

And these demons don’t multiply in easy times, they come and roost through trauma and pain – I believe that Mary had suffered much and even that she loved much because she had been forgiven much.

But now she wept outside the tomb – it was bad enough that they tortured and killed Jesus, now they had taken his body away and she didn’t know where they had put it… and when she had asked the only people she could think of for help, they had been no use at all.

Next she looks in the tomb and sees to angels sitting where Jesus had been laid and asking why she’s crying. Does she think they are angels? No – I don’t think so – she asks “where have you put Jesus”. Finally, lo and behold – Jesus himself turns up and does she recognise him? No – she thinks he’s the gardener.

“Mary” he says. And then she knows, and then she clings to him, and then she believes, really believes, deeply believes.

Here – in this story is our story. If you want to know what Christianity is then the resurrection is the place to find it. But let me take you on a little digression for the moment.

I don’t know about you, but in my mind and my heart is the knowledge that soon we will have a curate amongst us. Will I be preaching next Easter or will our curate? Will I be helping with the Good Friday Crafts or will she? What can I teach her, what will she learn from us, what will bless her that we do and say?

I also have that feeling inside – I don’t know if you know the one – when you meet someone who is expecting their first child. Inside you are saying to yourself “You have idea what you have done, your life is never, ever going to be the same. Ever. But I can’t tell you this because I will scare you.” Does anyone else recognise that feeling?

I have it about our curate – in June she will be given a small bit of white plastic that will change everything. I’ve been reflecting on what it is that is so fundamentally different about being a priest and I realised that it is mostly the expectations of others, and often the misunderstandings that people have about Christianity. Specifically:

• People think that Christians are in the business of judging others and considering themselves ‘holier than thou’.
• People think that Christianity is all about being good and not doing fun things so that you can have pie in the sky when you die.
• People think that to be a good Christian you have to have unwavering beliefs about a whole list of things – you have to believe at least six impossible things before breakfast.
• Only squeaky clean people who have never done anything wrong in life are Christians and no one else is welcome.
• People think that going to church is like frequent fliers miles and ensures preferential treatment on earth by being bumped up to Business Class where fewer bad things happen to you.

Now the result of all this is that once you wear a dog collar people expect you to judge them, they expect you to not swear, not be bound by the typical hardships of life, never to doubt anything, not to wake up in a bad mood, not to have ever done anything wrong and be totally focussed on everyone getting enough brownie points to get into heaven. It can get wearing at times!

None of these things have got anything to do with Christianity. Instead we have a woman, who doubts and doubts and doubts until she doubts so much she summons Jesus and then she still doubts until he calls her name.

And this woman… I believe she was intimately acquainted with the pain and hardship and humiliation and cruelty of life. I don’t believe that she was squeaky clean, I expect she had been cruelly used by people all of her life… and I believe that Jesus healed her of layers of pain…. Seven layers, perhaps.

We are the body of Christ – all of us, here today and we are the crucified Christ – in this church we know, between us, pain and humiliation and betrayal and fear… but we are also the resurrected Christ – you and me – we are resurrected such that those things are changing, like they were for Mary, changing and transforming, for us too, we are in this together, we are being resurrected together and as the resurrected Christ we are here to offer hands of healing to our broken world… scarred hand that bear the mark of the nails, but resurrected hands all the same. This is Christianity. This is our faith.

Christ has risen
He has risen indeed Alleluia.

Bishop Andrew’s Maundy Thursday Sermon

The Maundy Thursday Service at the Cathedral is perhaps my favourite service of the year – where we renew our commitment to the promises that we made as priests and receive the oils that we will use for the forthcoming year. I enjoyed the sermon from the bishop and the encouragement and the challenge of the service. I came away revitalised for another year in ministry.

Below is the sermon:

Guildford Cathedral, 2016

Luke 7, 36-50​

“The whole thing was an outrage. The behaviour of Simon the Pharisee was completely beyond the pail!

The woman – well, she behaved impeccably throughout. True, she was classified as a ‘sinner’ – possibly a euphemism for the town prostitute – but she’d heard Jesus, she’d seen him in action, and she loved him – so what better way to show that love than impulsively buying an expensive pot of perfumed ointment, gate-crashing a private party, wetting Jesus’ feet with her tears, kissing them and wiping them with her hair, then decanting the contents of her pot as lavishly as she possibly could? The whole thing seems perfectly reasonable: I’m sure you and I would have done just the same in the circumstances.

And what of Jesus? Well, he appeared completely untroubled throughout. Having the local prostitute letting down her hair in his presence; allowing her to touch him and anoint him with her ointment and tears in full view of Simon and all his nice Pharisaical friends; even holding up that woman as a role model, as an example of what great love really looks like. Well, that was quite reasonable as well, of course: just the sort of thing that happens to us all the time, in fact, whenever we host a meal for our nice Pharisaical friends.

But Simon: well, he behaved outrageously. He never gave Jesus a proper greeting – a welcome kiss, a little oil on his head, some water for his feet – he quietly seems to have snubbed his guest, doubting whether he was really a prophet at all. His motives in inviting Jesus along in the first place were distinctly mixed. Even the woman had a thing or two to teach him about gratitude, holiness and the love of God.

Read the rest of the sermon here

Incredible Edible Hale

Incredible Edible is a food growing movement that started in Todmorden in west Yorkshire in 2007. It shows what difference a small number of people with creativity and generosity can make. Two women in the town, Pam Warhurst and Mary Clear, were really worried about their community and also about the terrible state of the environment. They both had grown up children and they could see that something urgently needed to change if their grandchildren were going to have any kind of future. However, they knew that the authorities were slow moving and that lots of people felt powerless about the environment.

So Pam and Mary decided they needed to do something that would catch people’s imaginations, get them asking questions and then get them taking action together to create a greener, stronger, more resilient town.

They decided that what they should do was grow food. So Mary, whose garden is in quite a prominent place in the town, dug up all her roses and replaced them with vegetables and a sign that said ‘Food to Share. Help Yourself’.

Meanwhile Pam had gathered some more supporters and within a few months, vegetables began to pop up in some rather unusual places. Runner beans in the cemetery, for example. Sweetcorn outside the police station. Cabbages beside the main road. And every plot had a sign saying ‘Food to share. Help yourself.’

Recently, a group of enthusiasts gathered at St Mark’s Church, and decided that we will give it a go in Hale. We will start small and see if it grows! Farnham Town Council will let us have three large planters – one at St Mark’s, one outside the school and one at the war memorial. There is compost at the Town Council’s greenhouses and a local charity that serves disabled children can provide seedlings for us to plant. The food that will be grown will be free for all. Everywhere where food is grown we will write “Incredible Edible Hale: Food to Share, take some, it’s free”

You can find out more about Incredible Edible here: http://incredibleediblenetwork.org.uk/

Climate Change Meeting to meet with our MP

Jeremy Hunt, South West Surrey MP and Secretary of State for Health, was unable to come to St George’s Church on March 12 to discuss climate change with his constituents as we had originally hoped, but this turned out not to be the problem that many of us had thought it might be.

In fact, it gave the 30 or so constituents who gathered at the church that morning the chance to have a focused meeting to discuss what questions should be put to him at a meeting to be held later, something that he has promised. Indeed, Mr Hunt has said that he wants “an ongoing conversation” about climate change with his constituents.

Helping us to understand the issues were representatives of Hope for the Future, a group born out of the Church of England and which helps churches across the UK to lobby MPs and parliamentary candidates on climate change.

The meeting acknowledged what many of us feel – that it can seem overwhelming, that we can do little to help in the face of melting ice-caps and sea levels rising so high that they will flood and destroy places like the Pacific nation of Kiribati or cause the soil in parts of inland Bangladesh to become so salty that nothing can grow there, and in the face of a leaked report saying that the UK is set to miss by around 25 per cent its obligations to get 15 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

The meeting also emphasised that there are things that can be done. In particular, as one participant, Clive Kiley, said: “When we all come together, we have a more powerful voice.”

Having a voice and expressing our opinions was central to the day, a fact borne out in the introductory session when Hope for the Future recounted the way the group had helped constituents in Cheltenham to persuade their MP, the Conservative Alex Chalk, to challenge his party on the climate change bill.

MPs, as elected representatives of the people, are duty-bound to consider what constituents are asking them to do, if enough agree, so the more that constituents lobby about climate change the better. However, it makes sense to narrow the focus so that real action is possible.

The discussions on what would be most useful to concentrate on when talking to Mr Hunt were wide-ranging and included many issues that were important to constituents such as transport, planning, building on flood plains, pedestrian safety, solar energy, recycling, local food production, care of the woodlands and much more. However, an effective way of moving forward in discussions is to identify issues that all parties care about and two areas that particularly concern Mr Hunt were identified – the pedestrianisation of Farnham and, of course, health, and he has expressed particular interest in supporting those with dementia and their carers.

The plan was to structure a conversation with Mr Hunt, looking at measures that would both slow down the rate of global warming and have a positive effect on health. For instance, a Health Protection Agency report states that the cost to the British economy of pollution is £16 billion. Emissions from burning fossil fuels cause pollution which causes global warming. Pollution also causes health problems. The pollution in Farnham would be reduced if there were fewer vehicles being driven through and more people were able to walk or take public transport. Walking, too, is good for the health.

Hope for the Future took away with them all the suggestions that we had given them and will now help us formulate questions that we can ask at a meeting that Mr Hunt has assured us will take place soon. With the right questions the church could have a real impact.

Stella Wiseman

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Easter Services

Holy Wednesday – 23rd March
19:30 at St John’s

Maundy Thursday – 24th March
19:30 at St George’s
19:30 at St John’s

Good Friday – 25th March
9:30 Crafts at St Mark’s
9:30 Service at St John’s
10:00 Crafts at St George’s
11:00 Informal service at St Mark’s
14:00 Devotions at St George’s

Easter Eve – 26th March
20:00 at Guildford Cathedral

Easter Day – 27th March
9:30 at St John’s
10:00 at St George’s & Easter Egg Hunt
11:00 at St Mark’s & Easter Egg Hunt

Climate Change questions to ask our MP

The climate change meeting on the 12th March at 9:30am at St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, will be going ahead with constituents meeting to network and formulate environmental questions to ask our MP, Jeremy Hunt. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, Jeremy is unable to join us on that day. However, we plan to meet with Jeremy on another occasion when we will present him with our core environmental concerns and look forward to having a focused meeting on an important issue.

For further information please contact Lesley on 01252 820537 or revdlesley@gmail.com.


Please come and join us on the PCC

Please read on – don’t think “This is not for me”!

I have served on the PCC on and off (more on than off!) for the last … years. When I first became a member of Badshot Lea PCC Rev Paul Holt was the vicar and Mervyn Webb was PCC Secretary. We seemed to spend most meetings discussing the lawn mower! Then we went to The Crown and talked about interesting things over a drink!

Some PCC Chairpersons have been better than others but hours have been spent over the years with sometimes not a lot in the way of an outcome. I know many of you will empathise with this comment and probably think you would avoid joining us for this reason.

Nowadays this is certainly not the case. Rev Alan chairs the meetings gently but no time is wasted. In advance of the meeting he circulates papers which need to be discussed and any background information which is relevant. This means we can think about what is involved in advance, talk about it with other members or the congregation if we wish and make decisions in a timely manner at the meeting. We can then spend time on discussions about more spiritual matters.

In the last year we have made real progress in many areas which you can read about in my report in the Annual Booklet.

I am asking you to consider joining us as we have several vacancies and it is important to have a wide range of views and representation of all people in the Parish.

Meetings start at 7:30 and finish on or before 9:30. There are eight meetings per year and the dates of the meetings following the APCM are: 23/4, 11/5, 22/6, 19/7, 13/9, 18/10, 29/11, 18/1/2017, 28/2/2017.

If you are free on those dates (or most of them) please think about whether you could spare a couple of hours eight times a year and serve the Church in a very important way.

I am happy to talk with anyone who might be interested as I am sure would everyone else on the PCC.

Gemma Brown

PCC Secretary