Ebbsfleet Chrism Mass 2017 Sermon
Posted on the 13th Apr 2017 in the category Resources
Ebbsfleet Regional Chrism Masses, Holy Week 2017
Bristol, Exeter and Lichfield Cathedrals
Normally at this celebration we read from St Luke’s account of Jesus appearing in the synagogue in Nazareth and reading the prophecy we have just heard from Isaiah: ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me’. But this morning we’re scrolling back a little: back to the Jordan just after the baptism, and turning to listen to St John.
St John always seems to have a different story to tell. In the other Gospels the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus at his baptism to enable his mighty acts. But St John talks about the Holy Spirit rather differently. He doesn’t tell the story of Jesus’s baptism like the other gospel writers; instead John the Baptist gives us a ‘witness statement’ about it. And in that statement, it is said (uniquely in St John’s gospel) that the Spirit not only descended on Jesus but remained on him (Gk, emeinen: Jn 1.32).
Read the passage carefully and it becomes obvious that this is the central fact of John the Baptist’s evidence. The Spirit did not just visit Jesus but remained with him, and that is precisely how John the Baptist knew that Jesus truly was the one he’d been looking for.
This is how John sets out his evidence:
In John’s Gospel the Spirit does not come upon Jesus for a specific task or a special moment, as with the prophets and other spirit-anointed people of the Old Testament. Jesus becomes the unique dwelling place of the Spirit. The Spirit stayed with him permanently and filled him with all the potential (all the dynamis) of God’s wisdom and action and presence.
And there’s more. A little later in John’s Gospel, in Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus, this sense of the Spirit’s permanence is expanded by a sense of the Spirit’s abundance. The Spirit is given to Jesus ‘without measure’ (Gk ek metrou: Jn 3.34). Jesus bears the Holy Spirit in a permanent and inexhaustible way.
All of that is wrapped up in St John’s distinctively different allusion. St Basil the Great says that the Spirit was Jesus’s ‘inseparable companion in everything … every activity of Christ was unfolded in the presence of the Holy Spirit’. Jesus’s ministry simply cannot be explained without the presence and power of the manifold gifts of the Spirit.
All of this is, if you like, ‘poured into’ the Chrism oil from which this Eucharist takes its name, the complex perfumed oil which, in a sacramental way, will be used as a sign of the permanent and inexhaustible presence of the Holy Spirit – who is not only the inseparable companion of Jesus, but who becomes the inseparable companion of all those who are baptised and confirmed into Christ’s risen body – that is, of course, you and me. Another great Christian author, this time a modern Anglican, Austin Farrer, talking about confirmation, says, ‘the unity we have with Christ, both in receiving baptism and afterwards by standing by it, brings down on us the very blessing and the very Spirit he received. In so far as we are in Christ we are filled with Holy Spirit and the Father’s good pleasure rests on us; infinite Love delights in us.’
Christ’s relationship with his Father (Jn 17.10) has been enlarged to include us. The eternal relationships between Father Son and Spirit have become our home, our identity. At all times Christ accompanies us to his Father with our prayer and our praise, our penitence and our pain, whenever we wish, and whenever we need. This is our home, because it’s where Christ and the Spirit dwell, permanently and abundantly. And at this time of the Christian year, as we approach the Paschal three days, it’s especially important to be reminded these things do not change whatever difficulties and turmoil, whatever ‘sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity’ we may be experiencing. Regardless of turmoil or failure or suffering, or even death, the permanent and inexhaustible presence of the Holy Spirit kept Christ faithful to his Father and to us; and he keeps us faithful to too.
We find ourselves, of course, reflecting on these things in the midst of confusions and tensions in our church after Bishop Philip North’s withdrawal as bishop of Sheffield, made more acute by those who seek to sharpen the divisions in our life together. In such a situation—whatever is now being done to minimize damage, to heal hurts, or to strengthen mission—we need to trust the unshakable faithfulness of Christ and the strengthening power of the Spirit.
In one of his sermons St Bernard has something to say about such situations of turmoil, and the doubt and vulnerability that they create. He says, ‘I have sinned a great sin, and my conscience is like mud all stirred up; yet I’m not unsteady (not shaky) because I am mindful of the Lord’s wounds.’ And he goes on to say that the Lord’s wounds are like places he can hide in, like the cleft in the rock for Elijah, a safe place to hide until the storm passes.
Why, I wonder, might St Bernard refer to the Lord’s wounds in this way? I think that the answer lies in another surprisingly different feature of St John’s gospel, concerning the Holy Spirit.
All the way through John’s Gospel there is a mounting sense of expectation. The Spirit, who we’ve been emphatically told remains permanently and abundantly with Jesus, nevertheless can’t be given to the disciples because Jesus had ‘not yet been glorified’. Even at the Last Supper, Jesus had to explain, ‘I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Comforter who will never leave you – the Spirit of truth.’ Then, three days later, when the great climactic moment of the Resurrection arrives, and Jesus that same evening bursts through the locked doors where his friends are, he does three things:
There’s no hanging around fifty days for Pentecost with St John.
It’s clear that it’s only when Jesus’s body has been broken and lifted up on the cross—only after, in St John’s words, he’s been ‘glorified’—that the Spirit is free to stream out of his wounds and flood the lives of those around him. Without that failure and darkness, without those open wounds, the Spirit could not be shared. But after that darkness, from those wounds, the Holy Spirit ‘pours out for us to drink’ says St Paul (1 Cor 12.13): from those wounds flows the baptismal flood that brings into our lives the permanent and abundant life of the Spirit.
It’s as if the surface of our achievement, our specialness and attractiveness, has to be wounded before the Spirit can truly create holiness and communion between the followers of Christ. So not for the first time, our faith is revealed in a paradox: we experience the Holy Spirit most deeply not in strength and achievement and being successful Christians; but in moments of loss, times when we suddenly feel vulnerable and out of our depth. Even when those bitter moments of hostility or betrayal arise within the body of the Church, through those wounds, into that need, the Holy Spirit flows. And in that situation, as St Bernard suggests, though our consciences are ‘like mud all stirred up’; yet we are not unsteady because we are mindful of the Lord’s wounds, and the Spirit that flows from them.
‘Deep in thy wounds Lord, hide and shelter me
So shall I never, never part from thee.’
Having drunk of the everlasting, inexhaustible and renewing Spirit of Jesus—in this as in every Eucharist—we shall be able go out and overflow, in our words and our actions, in acts of compassion and service, because our own lives have been broken open and filled by God.
 On the Holy Spirit, xvi.39
 A Triple Victory: Christ's temptations according to St Matthew (London, 1965)
 ‘Peccavi peccatum grande, turbabitur conscientia, sed non perturbabitur, quoniara vulnerum Domini recordabor.’ (Sermon 61.3, On the Song of Songs)
Posted on the 14th Mar 2014 in the category Resources
The Bishop writes:
“Having begun our annual pilgrimage towards the celebration of Our Lord's death and resurrection, I send my love and greetings to you all the clergy and people of the Ebbsfleet episcopal area, and my prayers that this season will bring us closer to the reality of Christ's love and self-giving for us, so that, being drawn closer to his cross, we shall be more open to the Holy Spirit enabling us to share that love in the world.
It is a journey that finds its goal, as always, in the precious celebrations of Holy Week, among them the Chrism Mass when all the clergy – serving and retired – gather to renew their promise to serve Christ and his people, and the holy oils that we shall use in the coming year are blessed. I hope very much that, despite the travel involved, we’ll ‘not neglect to meet together, but gather to encourage one another’ (Hebr 10.25) and celebrate the priestly service of the whole Church.”
Three Chrism Masses are being prepared:
at Bristol Cathedral (by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter)
on Saturday 12 April, at 12.00 noon
at Birmingham Cathedral (by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter)
on Tuesday 15 April, at 11.30 am
at St Peter’s, Plymouth
on Wednesday 16 April, at 7.00 pm
Ebbsfleet Daily Prayer Cycle
Posted on the 31st Dec 2013 in the category Resources
Thankful always in every prayer
New Ebbsfleet 2014 Daily Prayer Cycle
In a book about prayer, one of today’s leading bishops of the Church of Greece (Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpatkos) says, “It is necessary that we live in Christ, the Word of God, and become Christ and the Word of God by grace. This is achieved when we live in the Church and participate in its holy mysteries ...”
Living in the Church and participating in its holy mysteries leads us to understand that prayer is the heart of all we do and are; and that we never pray alone. First because it is always Christ who prays in us, second because the ‘great cloud’ of his witnesses – the saints – are praying with us and for us, and third because we always pray in fellowship with all others in whom Christ prays.
As the Ebbsfleet people and priests, aware of our own calling to be saints sharing in this noble task of prayer, by which in union with the Bishop we exercise our love support for each other and our service of the world, may the following words of St Paul, which express the unity which is formed between us as we pray for each other, encourage us to pray for each other daily:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3—6)
Whether it is used in public worship or in private devotions – or in both! – it is hoped that this cycle of prayer will keep us all, clergy and laity alike, daily aware of each other.
Fr Ross Northing SSC, Stony Stratford
Please on the link below to download your copy.
Advice to Churchwardens during a Parish Vacancy
Posted on the 22nd Nov 2013 in the category Resources
Churchwardens & the Vacancy in the Benefice: Notes by the Hon Sir John Owen DCL LLM, lately Dean of the Arches, one of Her Majesty's Justices in the High Court, and a Churchwarden.
1. How does a vacancy come about?
A vacancy in benefice may occur through the death of the incumbent; by his resignation; by exchange (with consent of the respective patrons and Bishops); by cession (usually preferment/promotion); by deprivation; by compulsory retirement or by declaration of avoidance made by the Bishop after a serious breakdown in the pastoral relationship between the incumbent and the parishioners, caused by one or either or both over a substantial period.
2. What happens during a vacancy?
A. Churchwardens, together with the Rural Dean, become Sequestrators, i.e. trustees of the income and property of the benefice.
D. A vacancy does not relieve Churchwardens of any duties or responsibilities.
They continue to have responsibility to ensure the necessary steps are taken when a Faculty is required.
Although the books belong to the P.C.C. and should be in the custody of the incumbent, the Churchwardens have custody of the Church Registers during a vacancy. This may well necessitate ascertaining the whereabouts of these books and taking physical possession of them. Leaving them in the church would probably be a breach of duty.
In the absence of an incumbent, it is likely that the responsibility for ensuring that visiting clergy are available for the church services held in the church will fall initially on the Churchwardens although both the P.C.C. and the diocese may well be involved. If the Churchwardens have difficulty they should seek help from the diocese although normally the Rural Dean, as a fellow sequestrator should be able to resolve difficulties. Churchwardens should ensure that visiting clergy sign the service book.
Churchwardens should ensure that the necessary arrangements are made with visiting clergy to provide for the choice of hymns etc.
Churchwardens should take custody of the Parson’s keys. Any separate church hall is likely to be the property of the P.C.C. and under its control although the building will probably be vested in the Diocesan Authority. If the incumbent has managed the hall as Chairman of the P.C.C., the Council will have to make arrangements. A hall or room integral with the Church is likely to be part of the freehold and during a vacancy will be under the control of the Churchwardens and not the council. The faculty authorising such use will make the position clear.
Although the freehold of the Church and churchyard is normally vested in the incumbent, possession of both is vested jointly in the incumbent and Churchwardens jointly. This fact requires the Churchwardens to prevent entry to the Church by any person claiming to enter for any purpose not authorised by law. A vacancy might suggest to burglars that there would be easy pickings in the Church.
If an incumbent dies and there is a parsonage house attached to the benefice, his widow may continue to reside in the house for two calendar months, presumably, the widower of an incumbent would have a similar right. The sequestrators will need to ensure that the parsonage house remains insured, especially if vacant.
Under Canon F15 it is the duty of Churchwardens to maintain order in the Church and Churchyard especially during Divine Worship. Although they may remove persons disturbing or clearly intending to disturb a service provided that they use no more force than is necessary it would be wiser, whether there is a vacancy or not, to seek help from the Police.
It may be that the annual meeting of parishioners (often still called the Vestry) and the annual parochial church meeting become due in a vacancy. In such circumstances, there being no Minister, the Churchwardens should convene the first meeting and sign the notice stating the date, time and place etc. (Churchwardens Measure 2001), and the Vice-Chairman or Secretary of the Council or some person authorised by the Council should sign the second notice. Although the Churchwardens and such person are required to make these arrangements, the Chairman of the Meeting will in each case be chosen by the meeting.
If, when a vacancy occurs, there is in the parish a licensed curate, he or she continues in office. Churchwardens should appreciate that for the curate, the vacancy may present new problems and will certainly involve a much-increased workload.
3. Selection of new incumbent
· Patronage is the right to present to a benefice. Each diocesan registry should have a register of Patrons. All transfers should be recorded. In general terms the right to make a presentation occurs when a benefice becomes vacant, but before that can happen there are many procedural requirements.
· When the Bishop becomes aware of a vacancy or an impending vacancy, he is to give notice of that fact to the designated officer of the diocese - very possibly the Diocesan Registrar will be that officer, or the Secretary of the Diocesan Pastoral Committee.
· The designated officer shall give notice of the vacancy to the secretary of the P.C.C. belonging to the benefice and to the registered Patron.
· Occasionally a Bishop or a designated officer has been known not to act in this matter as speedily as he should. This results in time consuming and unnecessary delay, which, in the light of the tight schedule which the 1986 Measure imposes, is to be avoided. The process of selection and presentation has to be completed within 9 months beginning with the date on which the benefice becomes vacant. Time can become a pressing consideration if the parish representatives or the Bishop exercise a veto or the Patron submits an appeal for review to the Archbishop of the province.
“Section 11 Meetings” of the Selection Process
Within 4 weeks of the secretary of the P.C.C. receiving notice of the vacancy the P.C.C. shall hold one or more meetings in order to:
a) prepare a statement (sometimes called a Section 11 Statement) describing the conditions, needs and traditions of the parish. Clergy seeking a benefice will no doubt decide whether they are still interested in the vacancy only after considering this statement, which should be regarded by the P.C.C. and the Churchwardens as of the utmost importance. The statement will need to include a collective view on whether or not the P.C.C. would accept a woman as incumbent or priest in charge of the benefice or as the minister who presides at or celebrates Holy Communion or pronounces absolution in the parish. The secretary must send a copy of this statement ‘as soon as practicable’ to the registered Patron and, unless the Bishop is the registered Patron, to the Bishop. If the P.C.C. would not accept a woman priest the P.C.C. should pass resolutions A&B from Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993, failing which, neither of the P.C.C. representatives may reject solely on the grounds that the suggested incumbent is a woman;
b) appoint 2 lay members to the P.C.C. to act as representatives of the council in connection with the selection new incumbent. No doubt the Churchwardens may be the 2 representatives but there is no requirement that this should be so. It is important that the lay members, whilst not delegates, are to be representatives of the P.C.C. and not only of their own views;
c) decide whether to ask the Patron to advertise the vacancy. If so it would seem appropriate for the P.C.C. to offer to pay the cost. The two representatives would make known to the Patron the views of the P.C.C.. Either representative may do exercise a veto of any proposed candidate for the vacancy;
d) decide whether to request a joint meeting (i.e. a “Section 12 meeting”) with the Patron and the Bishop to exchange views on the Section 11 statement. The Bishop or the Patron may also request such a meeting, even if the P.C.C. makes no such request, but only if the request is made within 10 days of receiving a copy of the S11 statement. If requested, the meeting must be held within 6 weeks of the request. At least 14 days notice must be given of the time and place of the meeting;
e) decide whether to request from the Bishop a statement describing, in relation to the benefice, the needs of the diocese and the wider interest of the Church.
It is in the interests of all parties to build up and maintain trust and open relationships and mutual respect between the Bishop, Archdeacon, Rural Dean and Lay Chairman of the Deanery Synod, all of whom must be invited if there is to be a Section 12 meeting, the parish representatives and the Patron. Patrons are sometimes unknown to the Churchwardens and members of the P.C.C. and a Section 12 meeting may provide an opportunity to remedy this. Such a meeting may well be difficult especially as the P.C.C. will be without the guidance of their previous incumbent - neither he nor his spouse may attend such a meeting. It is common practice for the Rural Dean, Archdeacon, or even the suffragan Bishop to attend meetings (and they have no right to attend Section 11 meetings) assume the chair and, for good or ill, take over the proceedings. This is illegal at Section 11 meetings and at Section 12 meetings. When even the Bishop will be present at a Section 12 meeting, it is still for the whole body of persons present to choose a chairman. At ordinary P.C.C. meetings no one other than members of the council may attend unless invited by the council itself to do so; and then they may be invited only to speak but not to vote or preside. The P.C.C. and the lay Vice-Chairman should remember that it is their meeting and act with firmness and courtesy.
It is said that some parishes, having passed resolutions A & B under the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1983, have nevertheless had pressure brought upon them to reverse those decisions. If those resolutions still represent the will of the P.C.C. it should stand firm against such pressure.
Even when the Patron has decided to whom he wishes to offer the benefice, he cannot make the offer without the approval of the Bishop and the P.C.C. representatives (the veto of one representative is sufficient to prevent the appointment). The Patron sends them a notice (Form 36 or 37) requesting their approval. If the Bishop wishes to refuse, he must do so by notice within 4 weeks from the date that the notice was sent. If the P.C.C. representatives or either of them wish to refuse, the notice of refusal must be sent within 2 weeks of the notice being sent. The representatives use form 37 and must give reasons for refusal. If the presenting Patron, within the time limits laid down, receives no communication, approval is deemed to have been given.
The Measure does not give any clear indication of the grounds on which a veto may be made. It is thought that even in the case of the Bishop they need not be such as would justify his refusal to institute the priest in question. It has been suggested that for example the Bishop or the P.C.C. representatives could withhold consent i.e. veto if the priest failed to meet some important requirement in the P.C.C. statement or the Bishop’s statement, particularly if the Bishop and the P.C.C. are agreed on that requirement. Another possible ground might be that the Bishop or the P.C.C. representatives feel that the priest’s personality makes him unsuitable for the parish and unlikely to be able to minister effectively in it. As already stated, unless a parish has passed resolutions A & B (see above) neither representative may reject solely on the grounds that the Patron’s presentee is a woman.
On receiving a refusal i.e. veto from either the Bishop or the parish representatives, the Patron may lodge a request to the Archbishop of the province to review the matter. The Archbishop is required to give his reasons for his decision in writing and to send copies to the Patron, the Diocesan Bishop and the P.C.C. Representatives. If the Archbishop authorizes the Patron to make an offer to the priest concerned he may do so.
It is comforting to know that little use has been made of this procedure. It seems that marital status cannot provide grounds for veto, which would be sustained on appeal to the Archbishop. Nor can race or age, although this last point may be of great importance to a P.C.C. as may marital status.
4. Presentation of new incumbent.
5. Admission is by institution.
Both the Patron and the presentee have a right of appeal against a Bishop’s refusal to institute. The appeal is to the Archbishop of the province sitting with the Dean of Arches or Auditor of the Chancery Court of York (the same person). There is no appeal from this tribunal. Objections by the Bishop at this stage are very unlikely to occur. However should a churchwarden for example have grounds for believing that the presentee is unfit as described in (c) above, he or she should inform the Bishop. Of a Bishop’s officer no less should be expected.
Before the incumbent is instituted notice of the Bishop’s intention to admit must be sent to the secretary of the PCC at least three weeks in advance and affixed to the church door, where it must remain for two weeks and the presentee must take the declaration of assent and take the oaths of allegiance and of canonical obedience. The churchwardens should ensure that the notice is displayed.
These notes were first published by the English Clergy Association, and are reproduced here with thanks. More useful information for Churchwardens and Private Patrons can be found on the Association's website at www.clergyassoc.co.uk
Bishop Roger Jupp's Sermon at the Chrism Mass, St Giles-in-Reading, 27 March 2013
Posted on the 14th Mar 2013 in the category Resources
Maundy Thursday is soon upon us. Already we have entered into the Great Week, which we name Holy Week, sharing deeply as we should in the mystery of Christ’s journey through suffering and death to the joy of the resurrection which is the focus of these holy days. On Maundy Thursday we shall gather in the evening to do as the Lord commanded: to eat his body and drink his blood which are the fruits of his passion, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes, as St Paul reminds us. As they begin that evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, many congregations receive the oils blessed by the bishop at gatherings of which this is but one, as many of you are, gathered with me around this altar today, and it is good to welcome you here in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Great High Priest.
These oils speak of the mystery of the salvation Christ offers us on the cross, a uniquely healing, renewing, strengthening, and consecrating action by which the Lord gathers the new Israel to himself, the chosen race which is made into a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. From his side on the cross flowed water and blood, a fountain of new life by which the Church was brought to birth because Jesus Christ came into the world to bring mankind the fullness of life. Each of these oils speaks of that loving purpose in its own way. The Oil of Catechumens is used at baptism as we prepare for our journey of faith. The fragrant Oil of Holy Chrism is used at confirmation, the ordination of priests and bishops, and the dedication of altars and churches, reminding us of Jesus Christ himself, the Anointed One of God who incorporates us into his Body, the Church, giving us a share in his Priesthood in different way. And the Oil of the Sick is used to strengthen and support the sick and send forth the dying into eternity with healing and pardon so that they might know that final and complete union with Christ of which their baptism was a sign in this life.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us Jesus Christ is both the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one living stone upon which we are all built into a living temple, “offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”, using the ancient image which the Apostle Peter gave us, having himself been commissioned by Christ to be the rock upon which the Lord would build his people. This reminds us, of course, of the new Successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, of his ministry of love which has just commenced. We pray that the anointing power of the Holy Spirit will be a special gift to him now as he prepares to bless the holy oils and remind him of his special calling as Shepherd and Pastor of the Western Church, as Servant of the Servants of God. So, too, within the providence of God, there is a new Successor to St Augustine at Canterbury. We pray for Archbishop Justin and seek the Lord’s blessing on his ministry as Primate. May he be reminded of that unique and daunting gift given to all bishops, that of being a guardian of the faith once delivered to the saints.
Thinking about the Oil of Chrism, from which this celebration traditionally takes its name, reminds us of those stones which are marked with the cross and chrismated when a church building is dedicated and set apart. We are thinking, though, of people. And the priestly people of God consists of those ordained and set apart for a specifically priestly function of sacramental and pastoral care and preaching and teaching, and all the faithful who have a vocation and ministry graced by God through baptism to be disciples and fellow-workers with Christ because within them the image of Christ’s glory has been quickened. We are these living stones of the Church, priests and faithful together forming a priestly people, sealed for all time by the Holy Spirit with the fragrant Chrism of prophets, priests and kings.
The Chrism Mass this year has a special and urgent significance for us clergy as we gather to renew our ordination vows, surrounded by our people. This is, first of all, a priestly occasion and is meant to manifest the communion of priests with their bishop. The sign of this is the concelebration of this Eucharist as priests stand with the bishop at the Lord’s table. In addition, today, there is another sign: priests share with the bishop in the consecration of the Oil of Chrism, as you will see from your order of service, and they do this because they share in the sacred calling and office of the bishop in building up, sanctifying, and lovingly guiding and shepherding the people of God. This celebration is meant to be a clear expression of the unity of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ which continue to be present in the Church. That, of course, is how it should be but, alas, as we know all too well we are beset by so many issues and concerns which impair and fragment that unity. But, as always, we do the best we can and pray for better times.
This service is one of significance, of course, for the bishop who comes to encourage priests to faithfulness in the fulfilling of their office. But he, too, seeks encouragement in faithful service. He asks for the prayers of all “to fulfil the office of apostle”, to become “more like our High Priest and Good Shepherd, the teacher and servant of all” and in this way being “a genuine sign of Christ’s loving presence” among the people. The bishop is a bridge. His work springs from what he is. The one service in the year in which he does not wear his ring or carry his staff, those two very visible signs of his pastoral office, is the Good Friday celebration of the Lord’s Passion. That, I think, is very significant. Jesus Christ, and him crucified, is the one true bridge-builder. His name means Saviour, the one who comes to meet us and spans that divide between God and mankind caused by sin. He alone is shepherd, brother, friend; he alone is prophet, priest, and king because he is Lord and Life and Way, Alpha and Omega, the author and finisher. He alone is the teacher and servant of those in the apostolic office and we must humble ourselves before him so that he may increase. In all that we say and do, then, as pastors of the sheep, we must ask whether we reveal Jesus the priestly servant who has entrusted so great a treasure to us, Christ’s own flock, bought through the shedding of his blood on the cross.
But this service also has profound meaning for that flock – the people who come from different congregations within this diocese and beyond - which are both living stones in the holy temple of the Church as well as the sheep for whom the shepherd has sought with such love and care. Together with us, your ministers, you share in the task of witnessing to the world where many are indifferent to and ignorant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not a few are aggressively opposed, sometimes violently so. You must find joy in and through this celebration, seeking confidence in the working out of your faith and your daily Christian living in your parishes and communities despite our unhappy divisions.
What is it the Lord asks of us, then, as we come together today, perhaps uncertain and apprehensive of the future that may seem dark before us, the shadows of which may cloud our vision? The Lord asks all of us during this great week as we gaze on him in his passion to hide ourselves deep in his wounds where we will find shelter and healing as well as courage in our sorrows and anxieties. His wounds are our salvation and our healing, the balm which he offers so that we might find hope and new life by sharing in his resurrection. Nothing can separate us from his love; that we must know and lay hold of even more firmly if we feel that we are brought low. One thing only is really needful for us all as we gather at this and every Eucharist and that is that we live in union of heart and will with Jesus Christ and that, by so doing, the image of Christ may be formed in us. Out of whatever desert we may find ourselves, Jesus the Saviour will lead us together, pastors and people, toward the place of life, toward friendship with God, toward the One whose desire has always been that we might have life, and life in all its abundance. This Eucharist is food for that journey and these oils are signs of the Lord’s grace along that way. To him be glory for ever.