St Margaret’s Day

.A sermon for St Margaret’s Day from my husband:

Revelation
21.9-14:

9 ¶  Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls
full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I
will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10  And in the
spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the
holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 11  It has
the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper,
clear as crystal. 12  It has a great, high wall with twelve gates,
and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the
names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; 13  on the east three
gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the
west three gates. 14  And the wall of the city has twelve
foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles
of the Lamb.

 

 

 

Hebrews
12.18-24: 

18 ¶  You have not come to something that can be touched, a
blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19  and the
sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that
not another word be spoken to them. 20  (For they could not endure
the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the
mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” 21  Indeed, so
terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with
fear.”) 22  But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of
the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in
festal gathering, 23  and to the assembly of the firstborn who are
enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits
of the righteous made perfect, 24  and to Jesus, the mediator of a
new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word
than the blood of Abel.

 

 

 

Matthew
21.12-16:

12 ¶  Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were
selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the
money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13  He said to
them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of
prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” 14  The
blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15
But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things
that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple,
“Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16  and
said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus
said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of
infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?”
17  He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the
night there.

 

Today is the dedication
festival for this church.  We thank God for this building and St.
Margaret for her prayers.

 

 

 

For
our dedication festival we have three readings from the Bible,
readings that sound strange.  Readings about heaven and angels,
temples and cities.  Stories of strange places.  Unreal places that
glow, like sunlight through precious jewels.  Stories of blazing
fire, places of deep darkness power and fear.  Of places so powerful,
that to touch them is death.  

 

 

 

Strange
and puzzling readings.  But reading with at least one common theme.
And the common theme that comes to me is
holiness.
Holy means set apart.  Set apart as God’s, as perfect even.  Set
apart from the greed, the cheating, the violence and the hatred that
infects so much of this world. 

 

 

 

That
is what this building is.  It is a place set apart.  A place to meet
God.  A place to let God heal us from the infection, to heal us with
love, to fill us with love, and to send us out to share love and its
healing with the world.

 

 

 

A
holiness that our readings make clear is more powerful than any evil
in this world.

 

 

 

This
place is holy.  This is a place where the walls are thin.  Not the
thick physical walls but the walls between earth and heaven.  This is
where we come to get a taste of heaven, a little holiness to take
heaven back out into the earth.

 

 

 

You
see, outside of here; even though God is intimately involved with all
his creation and all his creatures; outside of here, the walls seem
very thick. 

 

 

 

The
love of God, the holiness and the power of the heavenly kingdom seem
so far away.  The world, and the people in it need places like this,
holy places, places where they can come close to God.  They also need
us to take that holiness into ourselves, then into our world.  To
break down some of those walls and bring God into people’s lives.

 

 

 

Holiness
is so desperately needed in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

A world where there is
famine in Africa;  wars and bloodshed.  This is a world where a lone
bomber can blow up innocent people in Norway.  Then drive over to an
island full of teenagers;  take out guns and walk around shooting
everyone he can find.   I read estimates of about 10 people dead from
the bombs, and around 80 young people shot dead.   There will be
many, many more injured physically or mentally.

 

 

 

And
its not just places far away.  Yesterday, I read this, “A teenage
schoolgirl died after throwing herself under a train received a
“gratuitously abusive” message on a social networking site
just before her death.  The body of 15-year-old Natasha MacBryde was
discovered on Valentine’s Day, on a railway line just 150 yards away
from her home”.  There is local evil.  There is also petty evil,
that nevertheless can ruin peoples lives; petty evil, like bullying,
and malicious gossip.

 

 

 

And
all of this evil, should not be.

 

 

 

This
world is a beautiful place.  Crammed full of God’s presence
everywhere.  But there is an infection, a sickness that affects the
people.  Us too.  A sickness that left untreated will turn our
generosity into greed, our love into hatred, our freedom to live as
God’s children, into a slavery to things we don’t need, but somehow
cannot live our lives without.

 

 

 

That
is why this building and each of you are so important.  This is God’s
holy place here in Hopton and you are God’s holy people in this
place. 

 

 

 

Now,
if you are anything like me, you will hear words like that, shake
your head and think, “No”.  No, …….., No, I know myself, and
I am not holy.  I am not special.  I am as sick as all the rest. 

 

 

 

And
I look at you and say, “No”.  

 

 

 

No,
you are wrong.  You are holy:  At least a little bit! 

 

 

 

A
little bit holy.  But that is all that is needed.  It little bit of
holiness can go a long way.  A little bit of holiness can lead to
small acts of love.  That little bit of holiness can grow and grow in
us, slowly but steadily.  But to help that holiness to grow we need
holy places.

 

 

 

We
are often weak.  So we need places where God is close.  Places where
we get a sense of the immense power of God; places filled with the
Spirit.

 

Places
to sit quietly with God.  Places to be sad with God, places to be
happy.  Places at times to shout at God.  Places to sing to God.
Places where God’s love and power can seep up from the floor, out of
the walls:  Places where we can breathe in God’s love and power with
every breath.  In short:  Places like this. 

 

 

 

Look
around you at this newly repaired building.  Look around you and see
a holy place, dedicated to God.  All here is holy, you are sitting on
holy ground, breathing the air of a holy place. 

 

 

 

Have
a good look around.  People of Hopton look at your church, let its
holiness seep into you.  People of Hopton, look at this holy place
and realise this is your home.

 

 

 

People
of Corton, realise that this is your home too.  All holy places are
your home, they are the places where you are closest to your Heavenly
father, closest to all your Christian family.  And, when you go back
to St. Bartholomew’s, take a moment to realise the holiness of that
place too.

 

 

 

But
for now we celebrate the holiness of this place, dedicated to the
holy martyr, St. Margaret.  This is a place to bring the problems of
the world to God and God to the problems of the world.

 

 

 

So
finally,

 

 

 

This
place is a spiritual well. 

 

 

 

So
fill up you buckets.  Fill yourself with holiness;  And water the
world outside, bring God’s love to a world that needs it so badly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the name of the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

Amen.

 

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