Brutus Green

St Michael & All Angels: "Goodbye To All That"

The Revd Brutus Green

"We are approaching the close of the year. And we are approaching also… the close of my ministry among you.” Thus began the vicar of St John’s, Paddington, as this church was called, the Revd Dr Edward Goulburn’s penultimate sermon of December 1866. You may think that September is a little early to quote ‘the close of the year’, but for Bryan, our administrator, who begins his count down to Christmas each year at Epiphany, or in excitable years on Boxing Day, September 28 is most of the way there. Interestingly, Goulburn’s farewell sermons are on almost identical subjects to his successor Gilbert Karney’s, 40 years later; issues which at the time were dividing the church. So if it amazes you that the church can tear itself apart for 40 years over the same issue, do not be surprised. There is great precedent played out in the very church you are sitting in.

Horseman's Sunday I

The Revd Brutus Green

10 years ago on the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, the Princess Royal unveiled the Animals in War memorial just a short walk away on Park Lane. Its most famous inscription reads almost like a Hollywood tagline: ‘they had no choice’; a strange choice. The British army of that war was until 1916 entirely voluntary, the second largest volunteer army of all time, but there were certainly many humans who felt through the war a lack of choice.

Horseman's Sunday II: "To the Horses"

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.

Trinity: "Setting Our Minds on the Heavenly Things"

The Revd Brutus Green

Within the first months of beginning my life as a priest at St John’s, five years ago, I had two experiences that capture the contrary life of the ordained. In the first, on a sunny day, I was pulled off the street over towards Bayswater by a desperate man who told me that he was about to kill himself and launched into a moving story about the death of his mother. I was utterly unprepared for such a conversation but talked to him for some time, told him to drop by at St John’s, and tried to give him some reassurance. He didn’t ask me for money, and I’ve never seen him again.

Trinity: "The Problem of Evil"

The Revd Brutus Green

One of the problems that exercised the early Church, and philosophers going back to the ancient world, is the so-called problem of evil. After centuries of persecution the first generations of Christians had plenty of first-hand experience of the evil of men, not forgetting their own founder’s. As Pascal affirmed: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” And yet the Christians worshipped a God, categorically defined as good, who had alone created all things from nothing. Where then does evil come from?

Trinity: "Of Beyonce & Bishops"

The Revd Brutus Green

‘It’s God’s church and he gets to make the rules.’  The pronouncement of a disgruntled male conservative after the consecration of women as bishops was finally approved by the Church of England on Monday.  The statement sounds a little bit too close, to my mind, to ‘It’s my church and I get to make the rules’; perhaps it was deliberate but it’s hard to miss the masculine pronoun from someone arguing against women bishops - claiming that in God’s church he gets to make the rules.  Of course he would say that.

Trinity: "Out of Joint"

The Revd Brutus Green
 Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
 Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
 By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
 Believing where we cannot prove;
 Be with us now and always.  Amen.

Everyone will have known moments when ‘the time is out of joint’.  Times when the extremes of human emotion pull you out of day to day living into a new unfamiliar world.

Easter: "Let it Go"

The Revd Brutus Green

You will doubtless know the story about an ordinary man, stuck on his roof as some West Country flood gets higher and higher, praying to God for salvation. While he’s praying along comes an old woman in a rowing boat and offers to take him away. The man politely declines claiming boldly that the LORD will provide. A few hours later, a team of Navy Seals surface with a submarine inviting him to jump below - to which, again, he politely declines. Finally, as he’s tip-toeing on his chimney, Tom Cruise abseils from a helicopter wanting to pull him away to safety but again he angrily insists, “the LORD will provide”.

Easter: "Happily Ever After"

The Revd Brutus Green

It’s a story every child knows from the age of Sunday school. The lead character is forced out into the wilderness, gathers a troop of odd followers, before being betrayed by someone they should have been able to trust, and left for dead. Then when all seems lost and the body is laid out for death - the miracle of love brings resurrection. The handsome prince kisses Snow White back to life, the twelve, sorry seven dwarves rejoice, the wicked step-mother, whose serpent-like apple betrayed Disney’s first princess, falls off a cliff, and she marries the handsome prince.

War V: "Italy & America, 1918"

The Revd Brutus Green

In November 1916, at a time when more than a million casualties had accrued and the war was costing £5million a day, Lord Lansdowne asked if the British government might consider negotiating peace. If the war had ended then, and if, as the Americans had later tried to negotiate, the war had ended without winners and losers, history would have been very different. The October revolution might not have happened, Britain would not have ended the war bankrupt, nor the borders, finances and morale of Europe in so many ways broken. Without guilt, reparations and patched together new states, the history of the twentieth-century would have continued very differently. As it was Britain got its victory, as a Foreign Office memorandum put it: ‘We have got all that we want - perhaps more. Our sole object is to keep what we have and live in peace’.

State of St John's Address: 2014

Today’s readings are about resurrection. The dry bones of Ezekiel, the spirit that brings life to our mortal bodies in Paul’s letter to the Romans, and the raising of Lazarus in the Gospel. When I think of resurrection, my first thought is of a sort of zombie apocalypse with the dead pulling themselves out of the ground from the Mount of Olives and hauling themselves towards Jerusalem: ‘Dies Irae, Dies illa/ Solvet saeclum in favilla’ - ‘Day of Wrath, that day/ will dissolve the world in ashes.’

The Eucharist: Part III - The Liturgy of the Sacrament

If you’re looking for a name for an expected child why not consider Anamnesis. It’s a beautiful name for a girl meaning ‘remembrance’. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus’ words at the last supper. The words with which we bless the bread and wine. “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is Dom Gregory Dix, an old Anglican monk, writing the year the war ended:

War II: Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1915

In August 1914 Dean Inge of St Paul’s wrote in his diary of how people had three things on their minds: ‘their summer holiday, the danger of civil war in Ireland and the abominable outrages of the suffragettes’. The war was a surprise to many, but it also occurred at, and accelerated, a time of widespread change in the vanishing Victorian/Edwardian Britain.

War III: France 1916

was at a dinner in the city last week for a company for which I have a sort of sinecure position. Essentially, there are a number of functions throughout the year with some wonderful food and some very fine wine, and to earn my supper I merely have to say a grace beforehand. Frequently I have made reference to the seasons of the church and so on this occasion I reminded my brothers and sisters of Christ’s forty days in the desert, at the outset of an extremely nice four course meal in an extremely opulent hall.

War I: England 1914

The Revd Brutus Green

In May 1913 George V, Nicholas II of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany met in Berlin at the wedding of the Kaiser’s daughter. It was the last time the cousins met. The borders and wealth of Europe stood in a very different position in 1918, and perhaps the worst was still yet to come. But why are we remembering the War in church? What has the church to do with war at all? You perhaps heard today of a church selling a Civil War helmet and asked yourself why on earth would they want to keep it?

Before Lent: The Parable of the Sower

The Revd Brutus Green

I tried to work out this weekend how many times I’d preached since coming to St John’s. I estimated it at around 150 sermons. Steve has been here nearly three times as long as me so you’re probably pushing towards 500 from him. That’s a lot of words. Probably, if you’ve not missed a single one of either of our sermons, you’ve sacrificed a full week of your life to listening to the seeds of the Gospel we have, so liberally, sown amongst you.