Horseman's Sunday II: "To the Horses"

The Revd Brutus Green

Horses in the bible are always key to victory. Famously ‘thrown into the sea’ with the chariots, as the Israelites made their escape from Egypt and in today’s reading it is the white horse and riders who overthrow the armies of hell, led by the naughty four horses of the apocalypse. It is doubtful that Scottish horses contributed to the saving of the Union this week but I’m certain if their opinion had been asked the response would have been ‘neigh’. Not what Richard III had in mind when he famously begged, ‘a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’, but in his case the answer was also no, which leaves us with the Union in tact and Richard freshly buried in Leicester.

And the theme of today’s service is also that we are better together, as we celebrate the continuing life of horses and humans in London. Today’s reading is a metaphor for the good news of God speeding out with the strength, speed and duty of the horse throughout the world. St Augustine wrote that ‘will is to grace as the horse is to its rider’, and it takes both, our will and grace, to achieve this good news and the sort of society, like ours, that is a pleasure to live in.

So as we celebrate our partnership of horse and rider we remember also how we are charged to serve our neighbours, including those animals we live alongside. Not to be like the waiter who when beckoned by the horse, sat in his restaurant, replied, ‘Sorry, no, that’s not my stable’.

But much of what is good in our community here is in evidence today and a testament to the generosity and work of all who live and work here, most especially in the hard work of Ross, Kirsty and their stables which have run this event for nearly fifty years. We do not look this gift horse in the mouth, nor need we have any fear in this case of those who come bearing gifts for our tombola today.

This year of course we are also honouring those of this parish who gave their lives in the First World War, including Captain Lord Hugh William Grosvenor, grandfather of the Duke of Westminster, who was stationed in Hyde Park with the Household Cavalry, and died less than 3 months after war was declared, just over 100 years ago. Again we are reminded of the virtues of service and excellence that horse and rider have performed for their countries together, and the cost of war to all of creation. And even if Field Marshall Hague’s prediction in 1926 that while ‘Aeroplanes and tanks are only accessories to the men.. I feel [that] as time goes on you will find just as much use for the horse - the well bred horse - as you have ever done in the past’ has perhaps exaggerated the military importance of the horse, we can see the variety of functions horses still perform in London today.

But I shall stop flogging a dead horse from my high horse, and with thanks for our continuing partnership together commend horses and riders all to the vicar’s blessing in the hope that we may continue serving those whom God has saddled us with, in joyful fellowship to his glory.  Amen.