Sermon archive

SUNDAY 1st MAY 2022 - Martin Mowat

Reading 1: Psalm 23. Reading 2: John 10: 9 - 18

We’ve spent a few months studying Jesus’ ministry, and said that we would move on to something different. That’s quite appropriate now that Easter is behind us.

Or is it behind us? No, not quite. We’re in a sort of limbo, a time of 40 days when Jesus was alive again, he’d come back from the dead, and although he appeared and disappeared at will, almost as if he was a ghost, when people touched him he was real, he was flesh and blood, he ate meals with them. He was risen!

But what I suggest is that we look at all that when we celebrate his ascension in a few weeks’ time.

I said that we’re going to start looking at the topic of “church”, and I touched on it a few weeks ago. We were reminded that the church was Jesus’ idea, and he made it very clear that he was going to build it. If you remember, we worked word by word through Jesus’ statement “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

Four weeks ago, Jess also gave us a fascinating history of the church which caused me, for one, to ask the question “why”? “Why” have so many people, over such a long period of time, poured so much time, so much energy and so much money into the church? And not only that, they’ve fought for it, given their lives for it, divided families for it, gone into monastic orders for it. I could go on. If you weren’t here that Sunday, I’m sure that Jess will be only too happy to send you a copy, or you can find it on our internet site, as well as the Easter Day message.

Today, and this might seem a little bit “off the wall” I want to suggest that David’s 23rd psalm, so beautifully read for us by xxx, can give us a few clues about what church is and what it should look like.

Psalm 23 is certainly one of the best known, if not THE best known of all the Psalms and it starts off with those immortal words “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”. That’s the KJV, the NIV says “I lack nothing”, the God’s Word version “I am never in need” and the Good News even says “I have everything I need”.

This psalm is so rich, and so pertinent, so relevant to our personal situations, as well as to our church, any church for that matter, that I think we shouldn’t rush through it. So let’s just take our time today with the first few verses, and then pick up where we left off next time.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

“I want.” How many times have we heard our children and grandchildren say “I want”? Sometimes they go even further and say “I need”. “I need” an ice cream, “I need” a new pair of latest fashion jeans, “I need” an iPad, …. But let’s be honest with ourselves, we do it too, “I need” another drink, “I need” a bigger garden, “I need” a more powerful computer, “I need” a faster car, ….

As a parent we think we know and understand what children really need, and we try not to acquiesce to all the “I want”s, though sometimes that’s not as easy as it sounds, but let’s not digress!

As I’ve said before, I know, a shepherd knows his sheep, he really knows them, and he provides for them, sacrificially sometimes, so that they lack nothing, “no good thing”. That’s his job, it’s his mission in life, it’s his ministry, it’s the thing that brings him the greatest joy, the most fulfilment.

David was a shepherd himself, for many years. There was nothing about the life of a shepherd that he didn’t know intimately.

And David, the shepherd, had a shepherd of his own. “The Lord is my shepherd”, he said.

Jesus knew all about sheep and shepherds too, which is why he told that beautiful parable about the good shepherd who left the 99 to go out and search for that one lost sheep. She was brought back, safely, and was also able to say “I lack no good thing”. It’s a beautiful picture of what a church should be like.

In our second reading from John 10, we heard Jesus say “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and … so when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

He said that to warn us that unfortunately, in the church, there would be good shepherds and bad shepherds, that some church leaders would be uncaring, some would be controlling, manipulating, even exploitative. That’s bad news for the church, it’s totally counter-productive and it does no favours for its reputation. You may have come across some of those people, you may even have been hurt by one or more of those people, and if that’s the case, then I am deeply sorry. If you ever need someone to talk to about that, do please come and see me.

But Jesus is the good shepherd, and the true example for the leaders of his church. It’s because he is the “Good Shepherd” that church is possible. It’s because He loves and cares for each of us so tenderly and so completely that church is possible. It’s because he knows that sheep are wooly headed and wander off and so need rescuing and bringing home, need his love and his care, that church has a context, a raison d’être.

When I was a child, growing up on the farm, and we went to get the sheep from the field in order to take them to the farm buildings for one reason or another, we would go around behind them and goad them forward from behind. But the shepherds that Jesus was talking about didn’t do it like that. In the Middle East the shepherds lead from the front, and the sheep follow. They follow because they know that the shepherd loves them, cares for them, provides for them, and that he can be trusted, ABSOLUTELY. They know his voice, and when he calls, they come to him voluntarily, willingly.

I may have told you that, at night, to protect the sheep from predators, and so that the shepherds can take it in turns to get some sleep, they will often put several flocks into the same stone-walled enclosure. You would think that the sheep would get all muddled up, and they do. But in the morning, when each shepherd calls his sheep, they split up and follow their own shepherd. I can imagine that it’s an amazing sight.

The Lord is MY shepherd. This is personal. Jesus knows you, he loves you, he cares for you, he knows what’s best for you, he will go ahead of you, he will lead you, and you will not want. And that brings us onto the next verse of our psalm.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. Sheep need a sheepfold, somewhere where they are protected, and where they feel secure, and that’s why Jesus said that he would build his church.

The green pastures that David is talking about, though, are not church, but they’re a place where church is possible in an atmosphere of love and safety.

Safety is a rare commodity these days. Wars, famine, politics, abuse, poor parenting, psychological disorders, ill-health and an overloaded health-care network, the list is endless of things that rob us of our security and safety, of a feeling of well-being.

The Lord is my Shepherd, he makes me lie down. David’s psalm is a wonderful word picture because, interestingly, sheep only lie down when they feel safe. The Lord has created a safe space, just for you, because he loves you. It’s a green pasture, a place where you can lie down, rest, de-stress, chew the cud, feel valued and protected, spend time with Him.

It’s a place where you can see the world from a different perspective, from His perspective, from a place where there’s nothing to fear, a moment when you don’t have to go anywhere, do anything, make any decisions, where there is peace, where you are safe.

It’s a place where you feel God’s love for you. It’s a place where you KNOW his love. He has led you here and he just wants to “love on you” as the Americans would say, to spoil you, to let you know how precious you really are to him. A place where you can take off that burden you’ve been carrying around, you can release that hatred and unforgiveness, you can enjoy the grass and the wild flowers, the birds and the insects, enjoy the view, enjoy the company, sleep and dream.

It’s a place of spiritual healing, a place where you can reorientate your life, a place where you can begin to grow again.

And finally for today, He leads me beside quiet waters.

I don’t know this for a fact, but I would be very surprised if it were not true that sheep prefer to drink still water.

All living beings need fresh clean water to drink. And while some of the younger generation might contest this statement, all living beings need peace and quiet, need to be still from time to time.

The place beside still waters is a very special place. It’s a place of refreshment along life’s path, a place where your spiritual thirst can be satisfied, it’s a place away from the turmoil, it’s a place of beauty.

Charlotte and I like to take holidays in the car. We even drove to Venice for our honeymoon. Well, of course we didn’t drive around Venice itself in the car! Believe it or not the car broke down as we were driving into London on our wedding night. The clutch went, and so our drive to Venice was delayed 24 hours while we got it fixed, but that’s another story. The point of my telling you this is that on the way back through the Alps we stayed in a hotel on the edge of a lake. While we were having breakfast in the hotel dining room, overlooking the lake, there wasn’t a breath of wind and the lake was perfectly still as an Osprey was catching his breakfast too. It was breathtakingly beautiful, so peaceful. The surface of the lake was a mirror reflecting the mountains and the sky.

Still waters, a reflection, a glimpse of heaven. Dare I say that church could, should, be a glimpse of heaven too.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.

Isn’t this a fabulous psalm? And it has a lot more for us. Do please read it at home.

SUNDAY 17th APRIL 2022 - EASTER MESSAGE - Martin Mowat

Reading 1: John 20: v 1 - 10. Reading 2: John 20: v 11 - 18

Christmas Day and Easter Day are clearly the two biggest events in the Christian calendar, and for very good reason. Christmas marks the birth of Jesus, of the Messiah, of God incarnate, come to save his people. And Easter, even more gloriously, celebrates the accomplishment of EVERYTHING that he came to do and to achieve.

Those of us who have been working through the Lent Study Course have been reminded that Jesus, although divine, was also VERY human. He felt and experienced everything that we ever will, and far more. We saw the mounting pressure and stress on him during his last weeks and days evidenced by the way that he snapped at the poor fig tree that had no fruit. We considered the bitter-sweet of the last supper, the pain of the betrayal, his anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, and finally the desperation of the cross.

We finished up by looking at the reaction of some of the people who actually witnessed all of that play out, the spectators, the soldiers, the other two poor victims, the centurion who said “Surely, this man was a righteous man”, Jesus’ friends and family.

But all of that is behind us now. A new day has dawned and the tomb is empty.

Mary Magdalen, Mary the mother of James and Salome had gone to the tomb, taking spices to anoint his dead body, wondering how on earth they were going to be able to shift the great stone that had been placed, and sealed, across the entrance. But they needn’t have worried, of course, because what did they find? The grave was wide open, the grave cloths empty and laid neatly where the body had been, and an angel. What a sight for their poor eyes!

Mark 16:9 tells us that “when Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared to Mary Magdalen, out of whom he had driven seven demons” and that she then went and told the others.

‘I have seen the Lord,’ she exclaimed. ‘I have seen the Lord!’

A simple statement, but it says so much.

Jesus had told his disciples to meet him in Galilee. On his own way there he met up with two believers, Cleopas and his friend, who were on their way home to Emmaus, about 12 kilometers from Jerusalem. This is a particularly lovely story, so real, and it’s only Luke who gives it to us.

They had seen everything that happened 3 days earlier, and one can only wonder about what was going through their minds. We know that their faces were downcast, so was it disappointment, was it even despair, or was there still an element of hope?

As they walked, they discussed these things with each other, and then Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him, the Bible says.

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they were told that Jesus was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”

They mentioned the fact that it was the third day since the crucifixion had taken place, so must have expected something to happen. They had heard that the women had found the tomb empty, and had seen angels who had said he was alive.

Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

They were obviously enjoying Jesus’ company and his teaching them about all the messianic prophecies, so much in fact that they persuaded him to stay with them overnight so that their conversation could continue over supper.

When he was at the table with them,” Luke tells us, “he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Then apparently, they got up at once and returned to Jerusalem in order to find the remaining eleven disciples, and those with them, and tell them that it was, after all, true! The Lord had risen, he had walked with them, he had talked to them, and he had broken bread with them.

‘We have seen the Lord,’ they exclaimed. ‘We have seen the Lord!’

Let’s consider also John’s story about Thomas.

On that same evening, the disciples were cowering behind locked doors for fear of the Jewish leaders, when Jesus came and stood among them and showed them his hands and side. Needless to say, they were not only astounded but overjoyed when they saw him.

But Thomas, for some strange reason, was not with them, so, when they saw him later they told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But you’ve heard the story. He wouldn’t believe them unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes. He wanted to be able to say for himself “I have seen the Lord!”

But it was a whole week later that Thomas, with the disciples again behind locked doors, did in fact encounter the risen Jesus, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” he was told.

Thomas hardly knew what to say, “My Lord and my God!” he stuttered, and Jesus responded, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

What was it that Cleopas said to his friend? “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road”.

It’s perhaps unlikely that any of us will see Jesus this side of the grave, though sometimes we can catch a glimpse of him in each other, but we can hear his voice, and it will burn within us when we do so. As we pray, as we read his Word, he will speak to us, reveal himself to us, teach us, encourage us, ….

Let’s listen carefully, and then even if we can’t say, like Mary Magdalen “I have seen the Lord”, we will be able to say like Cleopas “I have heard the Lord”.

SUNDAY 3rd APRIL 2022 – Jess Jephcott

Reading 1: Psalm 2. Reading 2: Matthew 16 v 13 – 30

2000 years of Christian Belief: Why are we here, in this building today? Why do Christians, all over the world, gather to worship God in buildings like this? Well, didn’t Jesus asked Peter to build his church? Well yes - and no. The New Testament was written in Greek, the authors of it wrote in Greek even when it wasn't the language they spoke, thus ensuring that their manuscripts could be widely read and passed on to future generations. The personal name of Peter comes from the Greek word ‘petros’, a pebble or stone. Jesus pronounced a blessing upon Peter and proclaimed Peter's answer as having been derived by divine inspiration. He then stated (Matt. 16 v 18), “And I say also unto thee, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” In a tradition of the early Church, Peter is said to have founded the Church in Rome, with Paul, served as its bishop, authored two epistles, and then met martyrdom there, along with Paul. Known to us today, of course, as St Peter and St Paul. For 2000 years, scholars have been analysing, interpreting, conjecturing, pontificating perhaps, about the true meaning of what is written in the Bible. It can’t have helped our own scholars that the Bible wasn’t written in English, so there has always been that possible ‘lost in translation’ factor.

RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD: Over these two millennia, Christ’s church has grown enormously, with Christianity arguably the largest religion in the world, with some 2 billion followers. It is closely followed by another of the three main Abrahamic religions, that of Islam, with an estimated 1.8 billion adherents. In terms of adherents, Judaism follows along behind. We have come a long way, for sure.

CHRISTIANITY: As we all know, Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Its largest groups are the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Protestant churches, and Christianity’s sacred text is the Bible. Christ’s teachings have spread across the world, often through missionaries and colonisers, but has also been embraced by people whose ancestors had been violently removed from their countries and sold as slaves in the Americas.

WHAT HAVE WE DONE IN THIS TIME?: So, what has happened during this span of time, as we prepare to celebrate Palm Sunday next week and, the most important of all festivals in the Christian calendar, Easter, the following week? What I would like to offer here is a commentary on Christ’s legacy; an insight into what we have done with almost 2000 years of our incredible Christian heritage. We cannot be sure of precise dates; we can’t even agree on the year that Christ was born, let alone the day of the week. The Bible doesn’t tell us. Astronomers have even sought to pinpoint the date through the movement of the stars. We take this year of 2022 as that number of years, ‘anno domini’, since Christ’s birth; it is a numbering system that has been faithfully used ever since, and adopted by most countries in the world today. We know that Jesus died at the age of 33, because the Bible says that Jesus started to serve and teach at the age of 30, and that he served for three years, which means that he was 33 when he was sacrificed. Pontius Pilate served as the prefect of Judaea from 26 to 36 AD. So, there is no precise dating evidence to be had there either. Again, I am not here to add to the dating confusion of the ‘ancients’. What I really want to share with you is an overview of what we have done with Christ’s legacy during these two millennia.

AFTER CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION: As we know, after Christ’s death, his disciples went into hiding, fearful of being accused of being one of Jesus’ followers. As Jesus foretold, Peter would deny knowing him, three times, before the cock crowed. Peter was, of course, forgiven. While the gospels of Matthew and Mark end shortly after the Resurrection, Luke and John provide extra detail about what Jesus did during the time between his Resurrection and his ascent into Heaven. Matthew and Mark both close with the “Great Commission,” Jesus’ instructions to his disciples to go out into the world and spread the good news of salvation: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV) This passage has long been the basis of the Christian emphasis on sharing the Gospel with the world through evangelism and missionary work. 3 Mark and Luke describe Jesus’ departure from Earth into Heaven, “taken up into heaven”, after speaking to his disciples one final time. It is clear, from the gospel accounts, that the story of Jesus, reaches its culmination with the Resurrection. But the scraps we do get about the post-Resurrection days, not only satisfy some of our curiosity about how Jesus’ Resurrection was received by his followers, but also give us the evangelistic direction that guides Christians to this day.

ST PAUL: St Paul brought Christianity to people some time later. His conversion was, according to the New Testament, an event in the life of Saul of Tarsus/Paul the Apostle that led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus.

THE CHURCH OF ROME: Both Peter and Paul, regarded as the chief apostles, are generally recognised as founders of the Church of Rome, and therefore also, its line of bishops. Why Rome? Why not Jerusalem? The Romans had destroyed the Jewish (and Christian) temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, followed by the building of a Roman colony over the ruins; the building of a temple to the Roman god Jupiter was built on the Temple Mount, and a statue of Venus was built on Calvary. Every effort to wipe out the memory of the city as Jewish (and Christian) was made. Had this not happened, it is likely that Jerusalem, not Rome, would have maintained primacy. At the very least, it may have been regarded as co-equal. Of course, Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire and that was the reason for the Church of Rome being where it was, and still is today. It wasn’t until the death of the Emperor Constantius in the 4th century AD that his wife, Helena, a Christian, persuaded her son Constantine, the new emperor, to embrace Christianity and to make his new empire, Christian. No more worshipping of pagan gods. I could talk much more about this time in our Christian heritage, but perhaps we should save that for another day - the Nicene Creed, the fall of Jerusalem to the caliphate in 630, the development of doctrine and practice of the Holy Roman Catholic Church that ensued, etc, etc. Here, in Mirepoix, in a region that became known as the Land of the Cathars, we are in a building dedicated to the Roman soldier, St Maurice, which had its foundation stone laid in 1298. Its beginnings more than seven centuries ago. The people of Mirepoix have been celebrating our Christian heritage continuously, here, since that time.

ST AUGUSTINE: But, we are the English Speaking Church of Mirepoix, so we are inevitably more familiar with our British Christian heritage. My home town of Colchester is the location of the earliest known Christian church in Britain, dating from the 330 period, from when Constantine became emperor of Rome. Archaeologists noted how, before around that date, the north to south facing burial traditions of the pagan Romano-British people that populated the colonia there, changed to the east to west orientation used by Christians, facing Jerusalem, as it still is today. Old habits die hard, and some of those early Christian burials were found to have grave goods for the afterlife, more associated with pagan worship. The Jewish Sabbath was no longer to be used as the day of rest. Instead, Sunday was chosen, as it involved an easy change for the sun worshipping pagans. Christmas Day was decided as working well with the winter solstice, another pagan festival day that would be an easy swap. Easter wasn’t so easy to fix, and we all know it today to be a ‘moveable feast’ day! In AD 597, Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived on the coast of Kent as a missionary to Britain. He came from Rome, sent by Pope Gregory the Great. It is said that Gregory had been struck by the beauty of Angle slaves he saw for sale in the city market and despatched Augustine and some monks to convert them to Christianity. Gradually, Christianity was spreading across Europe, and beyond. So much so that, around 663, was held the Synod of Whitby, a meeting held by the Christian Church of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, to decide whether to follow the Celtic or the Roman Christian usages. The decision led to the acceptance of Roman usage, rather than the Celtic form of Christianity that had developed over the centuries. To cut a long and interesting story short, the bishops were squabbling; the Pope in Rome was not happy. Their big problem was, how Easter was being calculated in Britain, in a different manner than that used in Rome. Iona, Lindisfarne, St Columbus, St Patrick, Bishop Aidan, Bede, etc, etc. Monasteries, friaries, nunneries, Augustinians, Benedictines, Greyfriars, Jesuits, etc. began to find their own styles of worshipping God. So, Britain had deferred to the Church of Rome’s direction – until Henry the 8th started to have marital difficulties. But, that is another story.

What would Jesus have made of it all?

LANGUEDOC: Nearer to us here, in the Middle Ages, France was convulsed by a crusade between the Catholic church and Christians, who called themselves Cathars. The Cathars rejected many core Catholic beliefs. Indeed, today, we live here in France in what is known as ‘The Land of the Cathars’. And so it was that the Pope Innocent the third declared a crusade again Catharism. It was a brutal business. The massacre at Beziers in 1209, brought about that famous reply from the Abbot of Citeaux, who, when asked about saving the Catholics that were in the city along 5 with the Cathars, replied, ‘kill them all; God will know his own’. Some 20,000 people were slaughtered and the city destroyed – in the name of God. Indeed, only three years earlier, Mirepoix was visited by some 600 Cathars - that is, where Mirepoix used to be located. In 1289, a dam in nearby Puivert burst, and old Mirepoix was destroyed by the ensuing flood. Thus we have our wonderful cathedral here, as a result, built in many different stages over the ensuing centuries. A magnificent example of the many cathedrals and churches that were built by rich and powerful Christian men, all over Europe. We think of the Crusades as a Christian versus Muslim thing – but it was also a Christian versus Christian affair. In the Baltics and Russia, Catholic knights fought the Eastern Orthodox Church. While in modern Turkey, the Fourth Crusade saw crusaders smash up the Christian city of Constantinople. Even today, we have Christians killing Christians in Ukraine. But perhaps the most terrifying of all, was the pope’s decision to crush the Cathar heresy, here in southern France.

What would Jesus have made of it all?

THE NORMAN CONQUEST: The Norman Conquest in England in 1066 saw the building of many cathedrals and churches, my old church in Fordham, Essex, being mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. With them, the Normans brought great change. The Danes became Normans, adhering to Christianity and abandoning their prior pagan traditions and nasty habits. The English language today is predominantly Norman French, with some German and Old English thrown in. Arguably, the Normans brought order to a troubled isle. In the case of their church, one of the ways that William the Conqueror got the pope to go along with his conquest of England was by promising to impose a complete reorganisation of the English Church and reform the ‘irregularities’ of the Anglo-Saxon Church, which had developed its own distinctive customs. Even though bishoprics existed, worship was very ‘localised’, with many small Saxon churches serving the local population. After the conquest, not only were the vast majority of clerical positions filled by Normans but they built massive stone churches, to imply that their spiritual power was as great as their temporal one. William’s first Archbishop of Canterbury, a monk named Lanfranc, instituted reforms within the priesthood itself as well, including requiring celibacy of all priests. The next few centuries brought the whole of Europe thousands of wonderful Gothic style church buildings, just like the one we are sitting in today, with its largest in France, central arch. Westminster Abbey, the cathedrals of Salisbury, Gloucester, Worcester, York Minster, etc, in England. Beauvais, Rheims, Notre Dame, etc. in France. A beautiful Christian legacy to be enjoyed for many more centuries, we must hope.

THE ENGLISH BIBLE: William Caxton brought the printing press to England in the 1470s, which paved the way for the ordinary man and woman to be able to own a bible, written in English. William Tyndale’s Bible of the 1520s, was the first English language Bible to appear in print. During the 1500s, the very idea of an English language Bible was shocking and subversive. For centuries, the English Church had been governed from Rome, and church services were by law conducted in Latin.

DISSENT: Martin Luther, a German monk, forever changed Christianity when he nailed his '95 Theses' to a church door in 1517, sparking the Protestant Reformation. He wanted to place the Bible into the hands of ordinary Christians. He translated it from Latin into German. Our own Henry the Eighth was a devout Roman Catholic who, as we all should know, had six wives. Unfortunately, the Pope didn’t agree with Henry over the matter of divorce, and so Henry separated from Rome and created the Church of England, placing himself at its head. Not surprisingly, this caused a great deal of upset in Europe, which led to wars and many deaths, not least with a few heads of wives and enemies being removed. He was responsible for the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the emergence of many different non-conformist sects. Quakers, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, Puritans, New Jerusalemites, Muggletonians (look it up), to name but a very few. Not to mention, of course, those deemed as heretics and burned at the stake, martyred for their Christian faith, by Christians who believed they were doing God’s work. What would Jesus have made of all this - all done in His/God’s name? We had Huguenots, who were French Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who followed the teachings of theologian John Calvin. Persecuted by the French Catholic government during a violent period, Huguenots fled the country in the 17th century, creating Huguenot settlements all over Europe, and further afield.

HYMNS: Without a doubt though, a steadying factor in all of this Christian turmoil was the appearance of hymns, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer. Isaac Watts, born in 1674, was arguably the Father of the Hymn, an English Congregational minister, hymn writer, theologian, and logician. We have been truly blessed with the hymns that we have to sing today, thanks to the divine inspiration of generations of hymn writers that have followed in Isaac Watts' footsteps. On that note, pardon the pun, I will start to draw this discourse to a close. Some of you may think I have left out some important historical figures during it - great preachers, such as, Wesley, Spurgeon, Billy Graham, etc. who, together with the great hymn writers, have shaped the way that English speaking Christians worship God today. Let us reflect on how 2000 years of Christianity has changed the world and us. How, despite the many evil acts done by evil men (and occasionally women) along the way, it has overwhelmingly triumphed by bringing God’s love for us through it all, for us to learn from and to enjoy, to thank God for, and for us to pass on to future generations. When I first mentioned the theme of this talk to my lady, she, very quickly, suggested Psalm 2, for our first reading today. Insisted even. An uncanny relevance? No. A Divine relevance. This psalm is God speaking to us. Guiding us. Teaching us. So, this is why we are here today, in this beautiful chapel? Are we not here in solidarity with God’s teaching, through his son Jesus Christ, our saviour? We faithfully come to hear the word of God, to learn, to confess our sins, to ask forgiveness, to share communion, as Jesus asked his disciples to do all those years ago? So, in anticipation of our forthcoming celebration of the persecution that befell Jesus, at this time that we all know as Easter, all those years ago, I will finally close this talk this morning with the last words written in the NIV Bible, Revelation chapter 22 verse 21. The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen