“the gospel according
to st francis”
a sermon for st francis’ day and the start of the university term
A sermon preached
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Lk 12:34)
Oct 4th - the day in the Church year
when traditionally we remember St Francis.
Legend portrays Francis as a sort of former day Dr Dolittle,
who talked to the animals and preached to the birds.
We may take that with a pinch of salt,
but there is much we can learn from Francis -
about reverence for nature,
respect for the planet
and care for the poor and needy.
Followers of the Franciscan way still show reverence for all creation:
I read recently of a friar in modern Assisi
who kept a wonderful vegetable garden.
But one corner was filled with a disorganized tangle of plants.
What are you growing there? he was asked. “Ah”, he said,
“they are our sisters the weeds.
I let them grow there because they too are daughters of God
and they sing the beauty of God”
[Leonardo Boff, St Francis, a Model of Liberation, SCM 1985 p4]
I am reminded of the great Christian missionary Albert
who like Francis worked alongside lepers shunned by society, and
who like Francis had huge concern for the world of nature.
Schweitzer would be out walking on an African track
and would suddenly stop to attend to an insect
ensnared in the waters of a tropical puddle -
carefully he would lay a leaf or a twig so that the creature
might the better haul itself to safety and dry land.
ask me to justify these sorts of actions -
growing weeds and rescuing insects -
in terms of ethical logic or ecological benefit -
but as a discipline, as way of approaching creation,
as a way of practising humility in the presence of the creator of all,
it demands thought.
very simplest - If every time I pulled up a weed or swatted a fly
I stopped and reflected on the life I was destroying -
and if I lived my whole life with that sort of constant awareness
of the precious nature of the whole natural order I share -
how much more care would I take in my treatment of the world in general
and my fellow human beings in particular?
Of course you can go too far
Do you know of Hawker of Morwenstow?
He was a highly eccentric Victorian clergyman here in North Devon.
Hawker’s Church services were frequently attended
by a number of his many cats -
indeed he is said not only to have welcomed them all,
but to have confirmed them all as well, -
only to be forced to excommunicate one for catching a mouse on Sunday -
silly end of this shouldn’t lead us to forget
the ox and the ass alongside the intellectual elite of the far east
at the Bethlehem manger,
nor the donkey with palms at his feet and hosannas in its ears.
reading from the Psalms reminds us,
all creation is given to us by God and caring for all creatures is God’s work.
Over the centuries there has been much debate about what
with the remains of the consecrated bread left over after communion.
In some Churches, the presiding minister consumes all that is left.
The Methodist tradition simply says that the bread
should be disposed of reverently.
That means we don’t throw the left-overs in the bin -
but we can and often do throw them to the birds -
For as Francis would have recognized, that is a way of showing
God’s love and sharing God’s bounty with all his creatures.
Did you see the news item this week
about the young girl who decided to sell her granny on Ebay?
Apparently she described her as “cuddly but annoying” -
and got a number of offers before Ebay withdrew the posting
because apparently they won’t let you sell grannies on ebay.
good joke - at least as long as we remember those human beings
who are genuinely trafficked even in our so called enlightened age.
Parson Hawker lived in a 19thC rural community
where a man who wished to be shot of his wife
might not be beyond yoking her like a beast of burden
and taking her to market to sell like an ox.
we as a race have treated animals like dirt,
and then treated humans like animals -
all the way from the Roman circus to cattle trucks of Auschwitz.
We need to learn Franciscan care for all of creation.
And that includes care for the very planet itself.
feminist theologian Chung Hyun Kyung
puts it like this:
“Walk softly on the earth - massage it with your feet -
because when you are walking, you walk on your mother’s face”
not sell our granny, but do we despoil mother earth -
and indeed in so doing rob our grandchildren of their birthright?
week some young women dumped a great pile of manure
on Jeremy Clarkson’s front drive in protest
at his careless and dismissive attitude to environmental issues.
On St Francis Day (and also as
it happens Global Warming Sunday)
we need to think about our environmental responsibilities:
John Polhill has written these modern ecological “Be-attitudes”:
Blessed are those who use low
energy light bulbs
for theirs is the light of God’s wisdom.
Blessed are those who travel by
for their lives are on God’s track.
Blessed are those who choose a car
with low fuel consumption
for they are in God’s fast lane.
Blessed are those who insulate
for theirs is the warmth of God’s love.
Blessed are you when you put yourselves out
to use energy from renewable sources,
for you have kindled the flame of the future.
[John Polhill © Eggs and Ashes, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow.]
course if you care for the planet and all life on it,
then that includes caring for human society -
and particularly those most at risk - the poor and the destitute.
The British Aerospace deal with Tanzania
has been in the news this week because of the alleged bribery.
But bribery or not, the whole contract -
apparently pushed through by Tony Blair
against the opposition of the Minister for Overseas Development -
raises terrible questions.
It seems we sold highly sophisticated military air traffic control systems
to one of the poorest countries in the world
which hardly has money to feed its population.
we think we doing?
What are our values as a nation?
our pockets with money which should have been spent
by the Tanzanian Government on helping its people?
how to live our lives?
Gaining economic advantage at any cost?
Some of you here are just setting out on new University
If that’s you, let me ask you this -
though maybe they are questions we all need to answer:
· What are the values, the aims, the visions which drive your life?
· What lifestyle choices are you going to make?
· What will you try to do with your learning and experience?
are tempted to answer
“I am doing a course to get a good job and get rich” -
well full marks for honesty -
But think about today’s scripture which tells us
that worldly wealth has no ultimate value -
what we need to seek is heavenly treasure -
that is the love and joy and peace and fulfilment
which we find in the service of Christ and of our sisters and brothers.
Francis did not go to Exeter University
(nor am I sure what he would have made of it had he done so).
But as a young man he too set out on life in a world which
assumed rather than argued that material wealth
and comfortable living was the true measure of success.
Francis rejected that - rather dramatically actually -
he took off all his rich clothes and ran naked into the woods.
Maybe we don’t need to do that -
But like Francis we need to turn away from
a life of economic and military violence and self interest
in order to stand by the weak and the vulnerable,
and care for the whole of all creation.
If we do that, we will not simply walk with the saints,
we will walk with Christ.
And if our heart is with Christ,
there shall we find our treasure also!
Order of Service
Sunday 4th October 2009 Start of University Term
Service of Holy Communion led by Rev Andrew Sails
Reading: Psalm 104:1,10-24 (Church Bible p.606)
Choir: “Cantique de Jean Racine” – Faure
Reading: Luke 12:22-34 (p.1045)
Hymn “I the Lord of Sea and Sky”
Prayers of Intercession and Lord’s Prayer
[The people greet each other with a handshake and the words of peace]
[Members of the Korean Fellowship and members of Young
join the main congregation]
Hymn 215 “Amazing Grace”
[during this hymn the collection will be taken and brought forward]
1. 나같은 죄인 살리신 주 은혜 놀라와
2. 큰 죄악에서 건지신 주 은혜 고마와
3. 이제껏 내가 산것도 주님의 은혜라
4. 거기서 우리 영원히 주님의 은혜로
[The congregation remains standing.]
Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Minister: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them to the Lord.
Minister: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Minister: We praise you and we
bless you, holy and gracious God, source of life abundant. From before time you
made ready the creation. Your Spirit moved over the deep and brought all things
into being: sun, moon, and stars; earth, winds, and waters; and every living
thing. You made us in your image, and
taught us to walk in your ways. But we rebelled against you, and wandered far
away; and yet, as a mother cares for her children, you would not forget us.
Time and again you called us to live in the fullness of your love.
And so this day we join with Saints and Angels in the chorus of praise that rings through eternity, lifting our voices to magnify you as we now sing:
People: 거룩 거룩 거룩하신 주 전능하신 하나님
(sing in 거룩 거룩 거룩하신 주 전능하신 하나님
English or 어제도 계셨고 오늘도 계시며
Korean) 이제 곧 오실 거룩하신 주
Holy, holy, holy is the
holy is the Lord God almighty!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord;
holy is the Lord God almighty!
Who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!
Minister: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take this and eat it. This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.’
People: Christ has died. Christ is risen.
Christ will come in glory.
He is Alpha and Omega,
the beginning and the end;
the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Minister: Like those that
look for the morning,
so our souls wait for the Lord.
People: Be known to us in breaking bread.
[The congregation sits to sing (Tune HAP 295):]
People Spirit of the living
God, fall afresh on us
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
Melt us, mould us, fill us, use us,
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
of the living God, move among us now,
Make us one in heart and mind through our bread and wine:
Taking, breaking, blessing, sharing,
Spirit of the Living God, bless our bread and wine.
[Bread and wine
are shared – please come forward when the steward indicates.
All who so wish are welcome to receive bread and wine]
All: We thank you Lord, that you have
fed us in this sacrament,
united us with Christ,
and given us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet
prepared for all people. Amen.
Hymn 267 “Love Divine”
Korean and English Blessing