During our centenary year we are welcoming some guest preachers.
The first of these was Fr Martyn Neale who preached at our 10am Mass on 24th February 2008. Fr Martyn had been vicar at St. Michael's before Fr David and said how pleased he was to see many people he recognised but also to see many he didn't as a church is always changing. Afterwards there was a chance to talk to Fr Martyn over coffee.
Pentecost, Sunday 11th May
Fr Eric started his sermon with a brief history of what he had done since leaving St. Michael’s in 1976. He talked about his work in Christian broadcasting and the important distinctions between listening and hearing. He went on to talk about the first Pentecost and the gift of tongues to the disciples. He said he thought that it was likely that they were speaking in the many local dialects of the region and that people wanted to hear what they were saying and really listened to the disciples for the first time. He went on to talk about how words and situations could be misinterpreted and misunderstood by people. He told a story about a friend of his, Bishop Peter, who while traveling home from a church function and wearing his customary monk-like robes was the first person at the scene of a traffic accident in which a car had driven through a hedge of a country lane and which had ended upside down in a field. Bishop Peter had been trying to prize open the door of the vehicle when the unfortunate motorist had begun to regain consciousness. To reassure him he had said “do not worry, my name is Peter.” The groggy motorist, seeing the monk-like figure with a shepherd’s crook and announcing himself to be Peter, said in a shocked tone “It is all true then.”
Fr Eric went on to talk about other situations in which people felt close to God. He told a story of a man who had been in a hostage situation and imprisoned in a very small room for a number of years and often fearful for his life. After his return he would on occasion go and stay in a small, isolated cottage in the west of Ireland, a cottage with no electricity, gas or running water. While there on one occasion, with his sleep racked with nightmares he ran from the cottage, saw above him the clear sky full of stars, and felt in that emptiness and stillness the presence of God. He also spoke of time that he had spent in Sunderland at a time of high unemployment and hardship and the comfort that people had taken from the physical things they had around them, growing prize vegetables, racing pigeons and whippets. Practical things on which they could lavish care and love. He reminded us that Christianity should be a religion of the practical as well as the spiritual and reminded us that we all live in a secular world as well as a spiritual one, and that we should try to see God in the secular side of life as well.
Finally, he spoke about the Christian journey that all Christians make during their lifetime and he thought especially those people who had worshipped in St Michael's through the years. He reminded us that all people are affected by their personal circumstances and this, of course, affects their view of the world around them. He concluded his sermon by saying that we, in today’s society, should try to make our message that of the first Pentecost; we, like the disciples, should talk to people around us in ways that they can listen, and understand the message of God that is being brought to them.
Written by Sue