Pentecost: Old Law, New Covenant

The Revd Antonio Garcia Fuente

The Liturgy today gives us two readings where the Holy Spirit descends over the Apostles, the first one from Acts (2:1-21), the second one from the Gospel of John (20:19-23). They are two different events that strongly relate to each other.

The first one, from the book of Acts, happens during the feast of Pentecost. First century Jews, such as the Apostles, would not have missed an all important detail about this date: Pentecost. If Easter is the feast that celebrates the epic event when Israel crosses the Red Sea being freed from Pharaoh (cf. Ex 14), Pentecost is the feast that celebrates the moment in which God gives the law to Moses in the Mount of Sinai (cf. Ex 19ff), the law of the old covenant. Pentecost was the day in which the Apostles received the fullness of the new law, the new covenant.

Ascension: "Looking to the Horizon"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

‘Why do you stand looking up towards heaven?’

I remember being told of my grandmother’s death. It was long expected, but I can recall sitting in my college rooms, in the chapel and on the wall by the river, staring into the distance, looking towards the horizon. Towards a hope for better times. I think, there have been many people staring into heaven, or into their hands, or into the distance, this week. In anger, or desperation, and even in hope.

Easter: "A new musical tradition"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
'“Well, sir, if things are real, they’re there all the time." "Are they?" said the Professor; and Peter did not quite know what to say.'

C.S. Lewis actually refused to accept the idea that his children’s books were allegorical in this way. Undoubtedly he used them to wrestle with philosophy and beliefs with particularly Christian ideas. But they were not a direct allegory of the Christian Narrative.

Easter: "What is in a name?"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

What is in a name? Well not so much the name itself, but knowing it, and the person who it belongs to? When I was around 18 years old I started volunteering in the summer travelling around Quebec and Ontario, running Day Camps for young children, and being a ‘camp counsellor’ at a residential camp for younger teenagers. It was then that I developed skills with working with children, not by having my own or doing a degree in theology.

Easter: "Bread Broken, Given, Shared"

The Revd Antonio Garcia Fuente

Simone de Beauvoir, the famous French feminist and existentialist philosopher and her partner, the fellow existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, used to meet regularly with Raymond Aron and other philosophers in a trendy Parisian bar of the early 1930s, the Bec de Gaz. It was there, according to her autobiography, when, after a few cocktails, some of the key ideas of existentialism would came to be. These thinkers thought that philosophy had become too theoretical and they wanted philosophy to return to the true deep human experiences. Allegedly, one day Sartre himself, took an apricot cocktail (his favourite) and raising it in his hand said: “You can make philosophy out of this cocktail!”

Easter: "Faith, to the moon and back again"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

On the 20th July, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. I’ve been reading Moon Dust a book by a journalist, Andrew Smith, who interviewed 9 living moonwalkers to hear their stories. Among the many revelations, I’m struck by the way these Astronauts put their faith in the fledgling technology, equipment and people who put them on the moon.

Lent: "Anything but Lasagna"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

This sermon is part of our Lenten series on how we serve one another. Last week the vicar talked about the importance of the servers ministering around the altar. The week before Margaret spoke about how we all must look to welcome each other and especially new comers into our community. This week I am talking about those who volunteer to offer hospitality after the service over coffee or tea.

Lent: "There's a Knack to it (but no k's)"

The Reverend Margaret Legg

A familiar reading from Matthew’s Gospel – or is it? St John’s is a familiar church – or is it?Our Lent sermon series on worship at St John’s begins with ‘welcome’ because each Sunday there are worshippers for whom this is a new experience. How we relate to them while they are here, how welcome they feel could well determine whether or not they ever repeat their visit to a church.

Before Lent: "The Times are a Changing"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

This week I caught sight of a video of an old friend making her final journey. BAC Alpha Foxtrot or British Airways Concord 216 - The last Concorde to take off or land anywhere made her final trip, without even leaving the ground, across the runway in Bristol, where I used to work, to take her place in a brand new museum built to recognise the history of Aircraft in Bristol.

Epiphany: "A Homily on Faith"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

The formation of the Book of Common Prayer came out of what would have to be described as a stormy time in Europe. The Reformation, which marks it’s 500th anniversary this year, was a time of great upheaval and change.  Torture and capital punishment, religious war and a series of bloody monarchs. Uniformity in worship, good teaching and authority were desperately important for maintaining stability as the dust settled. Today’s world is a million miles away from that, though it is still pretty stormy. 

Epiphany: "Come and See"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

I realised this week that I have once again missed a major cultural trend. And this one was quite surprising. I would have thought I, of all people, would have noticed. I was reading books to Meredith in the library when I realised that there has been a shift from the clean shaven Mr Brown in Paddington Bear or the dad in the Tiger who came to tea or even Alfie’s dad. Now all fathers in new picture books are hirsute men. Out with the clean shaven fathers and in with the bearded dads with typical Hipster whiskers. 

Christmas 2: "Not just about happy families"

The Reverend Margaret Legg

Christmas is not only about happy families, as the secular world would increasingly have us believe. It is about reality. And the reality of life, I suggest, is that we are all prone to do what we shouldn’t. Those in power are particularly prone, especially when they wield that power by force, not consent.

Advent: "Words matter"

The Reverend Margaret Legg

Words matter, our words matter. In Advent, one way to prepare for the arrival of another voice, that of the Word made flesh, is to pay attention to our words. From which part of us do they spring. From our own vanity, by which I mean more than pride. It includes fear, shame, resentment, emotions that spring from our own egos. Or from God, from that divine spark deep within us, our God centres

Christ the King: "Mind Changing"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

A couple of weeks ago I led an assembly at our school. The topic was - ‘people changed by Jesus.’ I decided to talk to them about how we change our minds about how something works or what we want to do. Then one of the children suggested that being forgiven could change their mind or behaviour.

Trinity: "Jazzy Improvisation"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
Jazz Mass

Singing was first used in services, by monks, to carry the sound through large abbeys. Over the years these chants became more complicated, in an attempt to glorify God with the very sound of the words being read. Until church authorities, disapproving of this human influence, had the music simplified or removed all together. The authorities trying to limit the creativity of the people. And this cycle repeats throughout history.

All Saints: "Causing a Paradigm Shift"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

As a child I fell in love with the character of Atticus Finch, at the age of 10 I thought I’d name my first child Atticus. The character from To Kill a Mockingbird was a lawyer challenging the basis on which society judged guilt and innocence of a black man in the 1930s Southern USA. One of the primary lesson which was conveyed to the narrator, his daughter Scout, and to us readers, was that you can’t understand somebody ‘until you have stood in their shoes and walked around in them.’

Trinity: "In search of life"

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

One of the great things about being a parent in London is the fantastic collection of museums which are free to visit. It’s great to see children suddenly caught by a painting or a display that catches their imagination in some way. And of course, the great thing about it, is that as a parent it is an enjoyable place to spend an afternoon. But, if I get caught looking at something for too long, my 2 year old daughter is off. When that happens - All the great works of art and fascinating information must be left behind. The only thing that matters is locating her.