A different kind of Annual Meeting

by Oct 29, 2020Sermons

Matthew 22:1-14

The parable of the Wedding Banquet

Today we will be having our annual meetings, but rather than the normal meeting in Church in April, we are having it 6 months late, and because we are waiting on a Covid-19 test result after one of my household woke up with a cough on Friday, we will be having the annual meeting entirely on Zoom. Normally at the annual meeting I would look back at the previous year, pick out some highlights, and look to the months to come and point out some challenges, some hopes and some aspirations for us as a community. I usually see the annual meeting as an opportunity to celebrate what we have done, and to focus ourselves on what’s next. Of course, I will do some of that, but I am also mindful, many of the things I would have said were next steps 8 months ago, seem like distant dreams at the moment. Many of the things I want us to celebrate from last year, are things which won’t look the same this year, if they have or will happen at all.

When the children were young I used to find the unpredictable nature of development incredibly difficult. An engineering system, a baby is not. You can set up the same environmental conditions,
you can provide all the same stimuli and inputs, and get completely different outcomes. Improvements aren’t linear either. I would find myself retracing everything I had done the one evening that led to a baby sleeping through the night. Assuming that I just needed to find the one variable that would get them to sleep through every night. Baby’s are not a simple system, and neither is 2020. The reality is I expect we have all struggled at some point in the last 7 months in some way with anxiety, depression, or any number of other mental health problems as a result of the increased stress of Covid-19. Feeling out of place – like things aren’t the way they are meant to be – like we’ve turned up wearing pyjamas to a party and we are about to be thrown out by the host in a scene that would make us feel nothing but shame.
Catastrophising when one thing we were expecting doesn’t go the way we were expecting, because so much is unreliable.

Today’s Gospel is a bizarre one. A parable in which the Kingdom is compared to a wedding some reject their invitation and some even persecute those who try to invite them to come along. The wedding banquet is opened up to everyone, And the hall was full – It is a clear reminder that fundamentally we are called to be gracious hosts – welcoming in everyone who would come – good or bad.

In the midst of this, Jesus recognises that at some point we will all feel like we are the one who isn’t worthy, who doesn’t fit, like any moment somebody with authority will come and kick us out – but Jesus is not the jealous King who sends out troops to destroy those who don’t come in the first time, or who grabs us and throws us into the darkness where there is gnashing of teeth, even if that is the catastrophe we dread.

Earlier this year, after a series of consultation events and an online survey the Bishop of London outlined what the core of the London Vision for 2030 would be.In a line she said that the Vision is for: Every Londoner to encounter the Love of God in Jesus Christ. There is more detail to come, but as vision statements go it isn’t particularly complex or fancy, it’s not wrapped up in deep theological study. And it is incredible broad – but fundamentally this is what the Good News of Jesus Christ is all about. The Kingdom of God has come near, it is there for each of us to encounter and to be welcomed into the love of God.

As we go forward, whatever happens in the coming months, we must always keep in mind that we are called to be a place, a gathering, a people, where the love of God is encountered through Jesus Christ in Child’s Hill. We must be a people of hope. Not because we don’t feel despair, not because we have our heads in the sand, but because we are realistic about where we can put our hope and our trust. Because we know that God’s love is steadfast, that great kingdoms have come and gone, for good or ill, but God’s love for all of creation has remained. Because we know we aren’t alone and can find help.

In 2019 we were fortunate to be able to demonstrate God’s love as we celebrated with Catherine in her licensing, as we gathered round and supported those who were confirmed by Bishop Rob last May, as we demonstrated our place at the centre of Child’s Hill by welcoming the community to take up parts of our space at the Christmas Tree Festival last December. As we established a youth group where our young people could come together and support each other. And as week in and week out we came together to pray, to socialise, to have fun and to support each other through personal strife. And so many more things, which are in our annual report.

2020 is not the same. But even then, we’ve continued to grow our mission to the local community with the establishment of a Food Bank which is now feeding 15 to 20 households every week. Our Youth work continues to be an important part of what we offer. Our online presence, alongside our physical, real world one, has provided an opportunity for people to join us and one another in prayer and social support. And as a community we have shown how we look out for and care for one another. Early on in lockdown I reached out to people I knew in almost every road in the parish and was touched to hear how people were supporting one another.

It is difficult to predict exactly where we will be needed, exactly what we will be called upon to do in the next 12 months. We will need to be flexible and creative,
prepared to find new ways of reaching out to each other and those in the community around us who need us. The face of our nation and our community will be changed. We will all be changed. There will be times when we feel desperate and alone, when we feel like the world is crashing down around us. But so long as we keep in our minds that God’s love is steadfast, as long as we remember to take a step back from the stress, and look for the support we need individually. So long as together we remember that we are called to be a community at the centre of Child’s Hill where the love of God can be encounter through Jesus Christ, and therefore that ultimately it is Jesus Christ, not us, whose love and mission we are a part of, we aren’t likely to go far wrong.

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

Weekly Services

Sunday Mornings

8.00am Morning Prayer in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School

Weekday Services

Christian Meditation Wednesdays at 9.10am
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Evening Prayer
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm

Please note that Public worship has been suspended, you can therefore participate in these services via Facebook live stream

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