Sunday 10th January, 2021, the Baptism of Christ – the Vicar

It’s been a week of drama and worry. The storming of Capitol Hill, the relentless rise in infections. We need to be reminded of God’s loving presence and to take heart. Let me distract you for a moment.

Slurp, slosh, pop, bang, screech, ding, dong: onomatopoeia. (My daughter’s name is Pia and “what’s the matter Pia?” rhymes with onomatopoeia so it’s a part of speech with which we are familiar at home). We had quite a lot of fun yesterday getting as many as we could, until it started to get a bit rude, so we stopped.

Onomatopoeia:Words which sound like the noise they are describing.

Let me give you another, but in Greek – schizo.

We are reading Mark’s Gospel. I like to think of it as our Gospel because Mark is our Patron and we come back to it every three years. Mark’s great skill is to get to the essence of things. He does not mess about in his telling of the story. It’s only verse 4 of the first chapter and where are we? We have come to the banks of the Jordan to see Jesus baptised. We gather that this prophetic character, reminiscent of Elijah, the prophet par excellence, is washing away people’s sins. John had announced that one was coming after him who will baptise not with water but the Holy Spirit. And Jesus, whom Mark tells us in verse 1 is “Jesus Christ the Son of God” does nothing else before he is baptised. He comes to John, and as Mark tells it, John baptises him without argument. And at that moment here comes the main bit of onomatopoeia: “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Quite literally Mark says the heavens were torn open schizzoed. The Greek word comes from the word which gives us scissors.

Mark uses the very same word just at the moment Jesus dies. Something was torn in two – you remember…. The curtain of the Temple.

Both these events are very linked. At the Baptism, a voice from heaven says “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. As Jesus dies a Roman centurion says “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

The key is in the tearing, and in the water.

Let’s start with the tear. This Crzzxd. At the start the heavens are torn open and God speaks. At the end the Holy of Holies is laid bare. It’s the same thing. The place of absolute holiness was absolutely holy – so holy it could not be touched, entered, known. Heaven, the place of God was beyond and out of reach, angels could at a push make an appearance, but they shouldn’t. It was inconceivable that Heaven should be torn open. The tearing that noise, the SCHIZO is meant to grate on the ear and terrify. Mark’s point at the start and finish is that heaven has come to earth. The heavenly man is in our midst so that heaven might be laid bare through him.

Jesus’s baptism is a prefiguring of what will happen on the cross. Let’s just look at the start of Genesis again. It’s so obvious we don’t see it.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”. The waters are not the seas which come later. They are the chaos out of which creation was brought to be. Water in the Hebrew mind was primordial, before anything. The waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Regent’s canal, are the primal waters of chaos, destruction and death. Jesus is sunk into those waters. Death is taken prisoner from the outset. His rising from them prompts this Epiphany, this manifestation of the fullness of God.

The Tearing is an end to distancing, veiling and hiding. We know about distancing, keeping apart from our loved ones and friends. The point is that God is undoing the distance between heaven and earth, the ultimate and the mundane, the beyond and the knowable. We have just blessed the canal – the symbolic reminder of the taming of chaos; we do this to remind ourselves that death has itself been taken prisoner, and that heavenly distance, God’s apparent absence, has been overturned in the Epiphany of our God. “Today things on earth keep feast with things above and things below commune with things above.”

 

Sunday 10th January, 2021, the Baptism of Christ – the Vicar

It’s been a week of drama and worry. The storming of Capitol Hill, the relentless rise in infections. We need to be reminded of God’s loving presence and to take heart. Let me distract you for a moment.

Slurp, slosh, pop, bang, screech, ding, dong: onomatopoeia. (My daughter’s name is Pia and “what’s the matter Pia?” rhymes with onomatopoeia so it’s a part of speech with which we are familiar at home). We had quite a lot of fun yesterday getting as many as we could, until it started to get a bit rude, so we stopped.

Onomatopoeia:Words which sound like the noise they are describing.

Let me give you another, but in Greek – schizo.

We are reading Mark’s Gospel. I like to think of it as our Gospel because Mark is our Patron and we come back to it every three years. Mark’s great skill is to get to the essence of things. He does not mess about in his telling of the story. It’s only verse 4 of the first chapter and where are we? We have come to the banks of the Jordan to see Jesus baptised. We gather that this prophetic character, reminiscent of Elijah, the prophet par excellence, is washing away people’s sins. John had announced that one was coming after him who will baptise not with water but the Holy Spirit. And Jesus, whom Mark tells us in verse 1 is “Jesus Christ the Son of God” does nothing else before he is baptised. He comes to John, and as Mark tells it, John baptises him without argument. And at that moment here comes the main bit of onomatopoeia: “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Quite literally Mark says the heavens were torn open schizzoed. The Greek word comes from the word which gives us scissors.

Mark uses the very same word just at the moment Jesus dies. Something was torn in two – you remember…. The curtain of the Temple.

Both these events are very linked. At the Baptism, a voice from heaven says “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. As Jesus dies a Roman centurion says “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

The key is in the tearing, and in the water.

Let’s start with the tear. This Crzzxd. At the start the heavens are torn open and God speaks. At the end the Holy of Holies is laid bare. It’s the same thing. The place of absolute holiness was absolutely holy – so holy it could not be touched, entered, known. Heaven, the place of God was beyond and out of reach, angels could at a push make an appearance, but they shouldn’t. It was inconceivable that Heaven should be torn open. The tearing that noise, the SCHIZO is meant to grate on the ear and terrify. Mark’s point at the start and finish is that heaven has come to earth. The heavenly man is in our midst so that heaven might be laid bare through him.

Jesus’s baptism is a prefiguring of what will happen on the cross. Let’s just look at the start of Genesis again. It’s so obvious we don’t see it.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”. The waters are not the seas which come later. They are the chaos out of which creation was brought to be. Water in the Hebrew mind was primordial, before anything. The waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Regent’s canal, are the primal waters of chaos, destruction and death. Jesus is sunk into those waters. Death is taken prisoner from the outset. His rising from them prompts this Epiphany, this manifestation of the fullness of God.

The Tearing is an end to distancing, veiling and hiding. We know about distancing, keeping apart from our loved ones and friends. The point is that God is undoing the distance between heaven and earth, the ultimate and the mundane, the beyond and the knowable. We have just blessed the canal – the symbolic reminder of the taming of chaos; we do this to remind ourselves that death has itself been taken prisoner, and that heavenly distance, God’s apparent absence, has been overturned in the Epiphany of our God. “Today things on earth keep feast with things above and things below commune with things above.”

 

Sunday 19 July 2020 – Trinity VI Proper 11 – William Gulliford

Jesus’s remarkable style as a teacher was to use pictures to capture his audience’s attention. Last week’s Gospel was the Parable of the Sower, which anyone in an agricultural society would have grasped immediately. And I thought in that vein I might use some pictures too, which while not of wheat and tares, are of furnaces of fire! Continue reading

Pentecost 2018 St Mark’s  – William Gulliford 20 May 2018

Yesterday, Lady Jane Fellowes, sister of the late Diana, Princess of Wales read at the wedding of her nephew, Prince Harry, from King Solomon’s Song of Songs:
Set me as a seal upon your heart, a seal upon your arm, love is as strong as death, passion as strong as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame…” Continuing reading

A letter from Revd William Gulliford to the new Bishop of London:

“Dear Bishop Sarah, My Lord Bishop,
I think we still address you formally as Lord, but it is significant that we can greet you personally and by your name. I don’t know how many Bishop Sarahs there have been in the life of the Church, but certainly you are the first for London. Alleluia! …”Continuing the reading

The Theology of the Land with a focus on Reconciliation

A keynote address by Dr. Clare Amos at the conference: ‘Homeland? Exploring the heritage of the Balfour Declaration’, 21st October 2017
There is a wonderful saying of Archbishop Michael Ramsey that I often find myself drawing on when I want to encourage lay people to believe that they, or should I say ‘we’ – as well as clergy – have the right and duty to reflect on questions of theology. Continuing the reading

Revd Dr Matthias Grebe, Remembrance Day,  November 2016

“The Battle of the Somme raged for 141 days. More than a million men were killed or wounded, making it one of the bloodiest battles in history. And this year marks the centenary of what has been seen as the beginning of modern all-arms warfare.
As a German working as a priest in the Church of England, ‘Remembrance Day’ always arrives with rather mixed feelings..” Continue the reading

Revd William Gulliford 16 October 2016 Trinity XXI 

“I’d like you to hold in your mind three fight- related images which are presented to us in today’s readings. First from today’s Old Testament reading the night time wrestling even between Jacob and the un-named man. Second, the picture from this morning’s Gospel reading of the importunate widow addressing the unjust judge, and then her punching him in the eye. And third that picture which this morning’s Old Testament reading gives us of Jacob, newly named Israel, holding his hip in pain, limping away from the scene at Penuel”. Continue the reading

Revd William Gulliford, 22 May 2016, TheSunday after the Ascension

“And behold, I come quickly.” Rev 22: 12 . This Sunday after the Ascension is the opportunity to look back at the moment of Our Lord’s departure from the sight of his Disciples and the sending of His Spirit, on the Feast of Pentecost, which we mark next week, and which concludes the Easter season.
And so this is something of an in-between moment, a pause, a time of waiting. Continue the reading

Good Friday – Caiaphas

Jesus before his Jewish and Roman judges is both judged and judge, condemned and the one who himself condemns.I want to reflect with you on one person in particular with whom Jesus has to do in these final hours. Spare me one or two moments of improbable exploration on this journey, just so as to excavate these familiar yet dense narratives. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters next week, will not have a liturgy of this kind. They wait until the Evening of their GoodFriday and then instead of pondering the nature and significance of Our Lord’s death, as is customary in the West, instead using the burial rite of the dead, they adorn an ornamental shroud with as many flowers as it can bear and process it around the church,before as it were burying it on the altar.
The person of the High Priest, Caiaphas, and connected with him his father in law Annas holds a particular fascination for me. Perhaps it is because I spend part of my life interviewing potential priests that the character of the High Priest who tried Jesus intrigues me. Continue the reading 2015-03-03 Good Friday – Caiaphas

01 March 2015 – Sermon for Lent II Readings: Genesis 17.1-7, 15, 16 Romans 4.13-25 Mark 8.31-38 by William  Levanway

“Righteousness comes by faith not by the law. The law brings God’s wrath, but faith brings righteousness, justification, the promises of God made real in our lives. What are these words: ‘faith’, ‘righteousness’, ‘justification’, ‘wrath’? What do they mean? What do we mean when we say them? What does Christ mean when he gives his blunt judgement: ‘Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.’ (Mark 8.34b-35)? “Read entire LentIISermon