Sunday 2nd October 2022 - Martin Mowat
Readings: Genesis 12: 1 - 7 & Acts 8: 4 - 13
Sunday 18th September 2022 - Martin Mowat
Readings – Psalm 105: 1-9 & 42-45. Acts 7: 54-60
Sunday 11th September - Martin Mowat
Reading: Acts 6: 1 - 7
Sunday 4th September 2022 - Martin Mowat
Sunday 28th August - Martin Mowat.
Readings: Psalm 110. Acts 4: 32 - 37
Sunday 21st August - Martin Mowat. Service led by Paul Jobson.
Readings : Psalm 2 & Acts 4:23-31
Sunday 14th August - Martin Mowat. Presented by Jess Jephcott
Readings: Psalm 118, 1-4, 22-29. Acts 4:5-12.
Sunday 7th August - Martin Mowat
Readings : Psalm 8. Acts 3:-10
Sunday 24th July - Martin Mowat
WHAT IS CHURCH 3 – 24/07/22
Sunday 10th July 2022 - Martin Mowat
Readings: Matthew 16: 13-20 Acts 1: 1-5 and v9
Sunday 3rd July 2022 - Jess Jephcott
Readings: Mark 1: v 1-20, Acts 9: v 1-19
In Martin’s absence, I have, for the second time, been entrusted with speaking to you. This time, furthering and sharing my thoughts with you about our 2000 year Christian journey. I suggested the last time that there was much more that could be said about many key points in the story. So, in this instance, I want to look at the period that followed the death of Jesus, up until the time that the Roman Empire gave way to its pagan gods, and became fully Christian. We recently marked Ascension in our church calendar, where we heard how Jesus was taken up, to be with the Father, leaving the disciples to continue His work. After Jesus's death, the Disciples became known as the Apostles. Matthias was chosen by lots to replace Judas Iscariot. Peter, James the Elder and John became regarded as the Apostle’s inner circle. They were all present during many of Jesus’ miracles. St Paul is often included in the Apostles, because it was said that his deeds and passions equalled that of the original twelve. St Paul, born Saul of Tarsus, is believed to have lived from around AD 5 – 64, and as we should all know, was a Christian apostle who spread the teachings of Jesus during the first- century AD. Generally regarded as one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age, he founded several Christian communities in Asia Minor and Europe. According to the New Testament book Acts of the Apostles, Paul was a Pharisee. He participated in the persecution of the early disciples of Jesus, in the area of Jerusalem. Some time after having approved of the execution of Stephen, Paul was travelling on the road to Damascus, so that he might find any Christians there and bring them ‘bound, to Jerusalem’. As we heard in our second reading from Acts, chapter 9, read to us by …... We learn that, at midday, a light brighter than the sun shone around both him and those with him, causing all to fall to the ground, with the risen Christ verbally addressing Paul regarding his persecution. ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ As we read on, having been made blind, along with being commanded to enter the city, his sight was restored three days later, by Ananias of Damascus. After these events, Paul was baptised, beginning immediately to proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish messiah and the Son of God. In Paul’s letters we learn that, some three years later, he met Peter and Jesus’ brother James. From his base in Antioch, he travelled widely, preaching to the Gentiles. Paul’s ministry and religious views are known largely from his letters - or epistles, as they are called - some collected together in the New Testament, which are the first Christian theological writings, and the source of much Christian doctrine that was to follow. It was due to Paul, more than anyone else, that Christianity became a world religion. Fourteen of the 27 books in the New Testament have been attributed to Paul. By asserting that non-Jewish Disciples of Christ did not have to observe Jewish law, he helped to establish Christianity as a separate religion, rather than a Jewish sect. On a journey to Jerusalem, he aroused such hostility among the Jews that a mob gathered, and he was arrested and imprisoned, enduring this incarceration for two years. Today, Paul's epistles continue to be vital roots of the theology, worship and pastoral life in the Latin and Protestant traditions of the West, as well as the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions of the East. Surely, they contain what must be assumed to be Paul's own statements about his life and thoughts. Paul's influence on Christian thought and practice has been characterised as being ‘as profound as it is pervasive’, among that of many other apostles and missionaries involved in the spread of the Christian faith.
The second chapter of the first letter to Timothy, was, and still is, used by many churches to deny women a vote in church affairs, to stop women serving as teachers of adult Bible classes, to prevent them from serving as missionaries, and to generally disenfranchise women from the duties and privileges of church leadership. Women, as with the Suffragettes in more recent times, and their demand for the right to vote, have fought in recent times against this rejection and suppression by the church. Some churches have acceded to their demands. Some have not. You women have a lot to answer for! Let’s not even venture into how Jesus, or Paul, for that matter, would have viewed the modern day ‘phenomena’ of gay marriage or women bishops.
What would Jesus have said about it?
The death of St. Paul.
The circumstances of Paul’s death are unknown, but it seems likely it followed on from the destruction by fire in Rome by the Emperor Nero, a time when there was much persecution of Christians. ------------ After Paul the Apostle, St Paul, as he was re-named, and as we have come to know him, the most important event in the first hundred years of Christian history was the preparation, in about AD 70, of the book now known as Mark’s Gospel, the first of our readings, read to us by ……, giving us a taste of the first chapter of Mark, bringing in an element of the Old Testament as well. This was later to be followed by the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John. Each of the four gospels give us different stories about Jesus, some contradictory. That is the problem that we have here, some 2000 years after Jesus, what is fact and what is supposed fact, as there are clear differences between the four gospels.
What to believe?
Aren’t we constantly looking at what is written in scripture, to learn, to get a better understanding, to interpret - to challenge, in some cases? That is something that could have got you burned at the stake as a heretic, not so many years ago. Indeed, the very act of translating the Greek original scripture into English, by whatever route, must have needed a degree of interpretation of the true meaning of what was written. ‘Lost in translation’, is a phrase we often hear. The New Testament was completed by AD 100 and those texts were either written by an apostle, or by someone who received it from an apostle and could be verified through eyewitness testimony. That was the standard for historians in the day. In the main, we have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, St Paul - and various other writers, to thank for the scriptures that have survived and have been passed down to us via the Bible. Modern scholars may question what they see, but surely, weren’t the ancient scholars the best placed for accuracy? Just because you don’t agree with what was written all those years ago, does not mean that it is wrong. Today, the Bible is subjected to the same questioning, interpretations and downright misrepresentations. We study and we learn from the scriptures, we worship, and some of us go out and spread the Word to any that will listen. We must conclude that the writers of the day trusted in what they were writing, in the knowledge that their contemporaries would be watching them closely – ‘fact checking’, in modern parlance. Without the advent of Mark, and the New Testament gospels that followed, Christianity might have remained a niche religion spread by wandering missionaries, each giving a different slant on Jesus’ life, and with no great success. Mark’s gospel was a jewel of Christian literature, because this was the first narrative account about Jesus the Nazarene. It told a compelling story and told that Jesus would return on clouds of glory, within the lifetimes of many in the audience.
A growing church.
At this time, the church was growing, and deacons and presbyters were appointed to individual Christian communities, which continued to worship in house and home ‘churches’. By the second century, it was deemed necessary to appoint bishops as overseers in larger Christian communities in the eastern empire and, eventually, in Rome and Lyon, in the western empire. Christianity spread because its message promised a better life for its followers—when, that is, they weren’t being killed or tortured for it. The Roman Empire was not tolerant in the modern sense of allowing something one disapproves of. What Rome did was to absorb the gods of the people they conquered, and simply add them to the Roman system of pagan worship. That is why there are Roman names for all the Greek gods. If the practices of your religion were compatible with Roman practices, you could continue worshipping your god—they would just now have a good Roman name. Christianity became just one more of the thousands of native cults throughout the Roman Empire.
So, who continued the early Christian ministry right after the apostles and Paul had died?
After the apostles (including Paul) had died, the men, who are called ‘The Early Church Fathers’, took up leadership in the Church in the 2nd century AD. Men such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and so on, all playing their part as Christianity spread across the land. There are countless others, many whose names have been lost to history, but who continued Christian ministry into the next century, and beyond.
So, here we have St Paul and the Emperor Constantine, both receiving a visitation of God that changed each of their lives, in a major way.
Amidst much persecution of Christians by the Romans in the 3rd century AD, various Roman generals issued local edicts of toleration, in an effort to recruit Christians into the legions. Not many Christians took up the offer, it would seem. In particular, the Edict of Milan of AD 313, granted Christians throughout the Empire, toleration and permission to meet in their assemblies, so legalising the Christian movement. Christian property that had been confiscated or destroyed was to be returned, or compensated with funds. By AD 300, there are estimates that, out of a total population of 60 million in the Roman Empire, 3 million were Christians. (Jews still numbered 11 million). Some contend that Constantine was smart enough to foresee the winds of change. He may have perhaps been pre-programmed for some of his beliefs, having been exposed to Christian teachings in his travels with his father. It is written that his mother, Helena (later to become St Helena), was a Christian, before her son’s conversion, although actual evidence of that is hard to find. She is the patron saint of my home town, and a statue to her stands high at the top of the Town Hall tower. Legend tells us that she returned to the Holy Land and discovered the true cross, as well as other holy relics. More a medieval fantasy than fact, probably. Constantine was not baptised as a Christian until he was on his deathbed. Perhaps, waiting to the very end to have your sins forgiven, made perfect sense in his world. Despite the delay of his baptism, throughout his reign he was quite open about his Christian convictions in his letters and speeches. He favoured Christians, both financially and theologically. As their supreme patron, he endowed Christians with funds to build their basilicas and to acquire property, returned confiscated property, named Christians to high-ranking offices, and exempted Christian clergy from taxes. In theological support, his position as head of the Church, as well as the empire, contributed to Christian unity of belief. Constantine inherited a vast empire, where he expected loyalty from all citizens. He couldn’t abruptly eliminate the traditions of the ancestors which were incorporated into daily Roman life. In fact, the native cults would not be outlawed until the edict of Theodosius the First, in AD 381. In AD 324, he defeated Licinius and became the sole Roman emperor. In that position, he essentially expanded the ideas of Aurelian, in that he could now enforce, ‘One God, One Emperor, One Church’.
The First Council of Nicaea.
A major challenge came in AD 325. A presbyter in Alexandria, Arius, had been teaching that at some point, God had created Christ. Riots had broken out in several cities, and Constantine brought the bishops together at the city of Nicaea to resolve the issue. The Council of Nicaea resulted in the Christian doctrine known as the Trinity, which articulated the relationship between God and Christ. The council voted to claim that Christ was of the identical essence of God, present at the creation, and incarnated on Earth as Jesus of Nazareth. Until Christ returned, the now Christian emperor, stands in for Christ, and so carries the identical power of God on Earth as he rules. He is also credited with determining the date for Christmas. Christians in Rome celebrated the event during the festival of Saturnalia in December. 25th December was also the birthday of the Roman gods Sol Invictus and Mithras, and this may have been utilised in attempts to unify the festivals. Indeed, we know that, in the year AD 336, in Rome, Christmas was celebrated on December 25th. ------------------------ So, finally, to conclude, you can see how Constantine’s activities were the building blocks for church life in later centuries, leading to a Pope as head of the Roman Catholic church, a primate as head of the Eastern Orthodoxy - and perhaps, in a smaller way, also with our British monarch being the head of the Church of England today. Christianity had, and has, spread out from its homeland, winning converts, particularly amongst the poor and the disenfranchised, with a message of love, hope and inspiration. The love of God and a promise of a personal saviour in the form of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, across the world today, Christians are still being persecuted, as indeed are those of the Jewish faith. Whole Christian and Jewish communities have been eradicated, or forced to flee, in many parts of the world. ……but that is a story for another time.
Sunday 26th June 2022 - Martin Mowat
Readings: Psalm 23 & John 10:11-18
Sunday 19th June 2022 - Martin Mowat.
Readings: Psalm 23 & Matthew 4: 1-11
Sunday 12th June, 2022 - Martin Mowat
Sunday 5th June, 2022 - Martin Mowat.
Readings: Psalm 23 & Ephesians 1:1-10
Sunday 1st May, 2022 - Martin Mowat
SUNDAY 17th APRIL 2022 - EASTER MESSAGE - Martin Mowat
Reading 1: John 20: v 1 - 10. Reading 2: John 20: v 11 - 18
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