18 posts

‘Do not be afraid; for see -I am bringing you good news of great joy!’

Preached by Carol Kidd on 25 December 2018: Christmas Day
Luke 2:1-20

Good News! We have arrived at Christmas Day!

At Church Alive we always start by asking if anyone has any news that they would like to share – usually it’s a birthday, or anniversary, something exciting, something to be thankful for, that we are not worried about sharing with everyone else. The person sharing their good news is invited to light a candle. Some of you may have been present when Abigail raised her hand high in the air really eager to be asked and so excited to tell Revd Linda in a ‘loud’ whisper of awe: ‘My mummy’s going to have a baby!’ Abigail was here at our crib service yesterday with mummy, daddy, her brother and her new baby sister.

For Abigail she was sharing good news of great joy, even mummy hadn’t been prepared to tell everyone just that soon – and we like surprises don’t we?

Good News indeed! Luke describes how first one angel then a whole host of angels appeared to the shepherds – very ordinary people whose job meant being with the sheep at all times, day and night – the ‘glory of the Lord shone around them… they were terrified’. No small wonder, for the sky was shining.

The message had three parts: ‘Do not be afraid’; ‘See, I am bringing you Good News of great joy’; and ‘For all the people’.

Most importantly the shepherds did three things. ‘They said to one another, let us go and see’ – in other words they worked together, by sharing what had just happened they helped each other. ‘They went with haste’ – they didn’t make excuses, didn’t hang back, they went as fast as they could. ‘They made known what had been told them’ – it was such good news it had to be shared!

How many of you have already shared Christmas wishes today? In person? By way of a phone call? Through a text or by social media? So many ways to send Christmas greetings. Who needs a heavenly host of angels when there are e-cards, the ability to skype and see and speak to loved ones far away, Instagram, Messenger, live stream video link and more?

Yet – how disappointed are you when you have great news to share and send out a message, wait eagerly for replies, expect others to respond with exclamations of happiness or a smiley emoji… and your phone remains silent, no ‘ping’ to indicate a notification has arrived, someone has responded – you wonder did the people you sent to get the message?

God knew then by the shepherds’ response that His message had been received. Sometimes – maybe often – 2000 years later when people are more interested in the social and commercial side of Christmas, does God sometimes wonder: are the people hearing the message today?

The angel told the shepherds ‘Do not be afraid. The baby born is the Messiah, the Lord’. They responded, they went, they shared. Their daily routine returned to normal, yet they would be forever changed by the experience. Nor would those with whom they shared the good news of great joy, for ‘all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them!’

God asks us to be like the shepherds: ‘to praise God for all we have seen and heard’. As it has been told to us by others, so we must pass it on and not be put off, not to be afraid if there is not an instant notification.

The Church of England ‘Follow the Star’ initiative this year has encouraged finding out more, deepening faith and sharing. They have used a new version of the famous Carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ by Will Todd. That Carol has the line ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’ – God takes all our hopes and fears and through the birth of Jesus he shares in our joys and sorrows. He is with us celebrating the good times, strengthening and comforting in the difficult days.

May we be ready to go out to share the Good News with the attitude of the shepherds: praising God for all we have seen and heard’.


The Best Laid Plans… On Being Prepared

Preached by Revd Linda Galvin on 24 December 2018: Midnight Mass
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11, 16; Luke 1:67-79

May I speak and may you hear through the grace of our Lord; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

It’s wonderful to see you all here tonight, on this most important of nights; this holy night; this night when we celebrate once more the coming of God in the person of his son, Jesus Christ to earth.

However, they say that you should be prepared for anything and at about 8 o’clock this evening, it was pointed out to me that the readings that are printed in your service sheet are actually the ones for Christmas Eve – Morning Eucharist. An easy mistake to make I keep trying to tell myself, as we start this service on Christmas Eve, but we end it on Christmas Morning. I suspect when I was preparing the Worship rota in October, this minor, but important fact escaped me – I should have turned the page in the Lectionary – and so when I came to prepare my talk earlier for this evening it was the these ones that I’d used on which to base it.

But I couldn’t let you not hear those beautiful readings from Isaiah and John, otherwise for some it would just not be Christmas, and I wouldn’t have got to read one of my favourite gospel passages from the bible – ‘the world became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory’ At least it also mentions John the Baptist…

It also wouldn’t be right to make you listen to both of the other readings as well, but please do glance through them so that you at least get an idea of where I’m coming from – the first one a message from God  through the prophet Nathan for King David and his kingship, and the second a song of thanksgiving, formally know as the Benedictus, and sung by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist which prophecies about the coming saviour and the part that John will play in that.

The fact is nothing ever really happens without some preparation and for weeks (or months even) we have been preparing our workplaces, schools and homes to reflect this celebration. Or have we? Nowadays, we have to look hard amongst all the trivial fripperies, the giant inflatable Santas, the cheese advent calendars and unicorn reindeer to catch a glimpse of the real story of God coming among us.

But he is there, and your being here tonight is a sign that despite all the tinsel and the glitter, the message he came to fulfil still resonates at the deepest level with our needs as human beings.

The preparations for Jesus coming among us, probably started the moment that Adam and Eve stepped out of the Garden of Eden. God wanted us back, to heal the relationship that had broken down, to restore his trust in us.

Come forward several eons and we find ourselves in the presence of Nathan, a prophet in the time of King David, now only one thousand years before the birth of Jesus. Now at first there doesn’t seem to be any mention of a saviour, but again God is working on his preparations and it includes building a house – not a physical house – although the temple would be established by David’s son Solomon – but a dynastic house.

To David, God has promised to ‘make for you a great name’. David, the unlikely king, a murderer, an adulterer, a drunken carouser – sounds a bit like he’d have fitted into the cast of Eastenders Christmas special, and yet a mighty warrior, a loving father and a great king. Originally a shepherd, one of the least amongst his society, yet an appropriate choice to be part of the lineage of Jesus.

Yet this was to be no ordinary royal dynasty – and if we want to be picky – the genealogical proof that both Luke and Matthew give us at the beginning of their gospels, that Jesus, in his humanity, was a direct descendant of Abraham and David through to Joseph, Jesus’ legally adoptive father and by birth, through Mary, is actually a messianic rather than a physical bloodline.

Come forward to another prophet, Isaiah, whose prophecy, ‘Unto us a Son is born, unto us a son is given….’ was a little premature – some seven hundred years premature to be exact, but it was further evidence of God’s preparations, before there began a silence…. A long silence… a very, very long silence…

Even at the next stage of preparations that silence was to continue as we now need to imagine we are in the temple, carrying out our priestly duties, we are called Zechariah and we have been drawn by lot to enter the sanctuary to offer incense. Zechariah probably wasn’t prepared for the sight of the angel that appeared to him, far less the news that his wife was about to embark on a geriatric pregnancy, hence why his incredulous questions rendered him unable to speak for the next nine or so months!

When he does regain his voice he uses it to confirm the child’s name and to break out into what we now call the Benedictus, his song of thanksgiving to God. It is this child that we hear about in his prophetic words, the child that will grow into the man John the Baptist, who will make the final preparations to announce Jesus’ ministry and the fulfilment of God’s promise.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;    
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.

Luke 2:76

But we’ve jumped too far ahead, because tonight we have come prepared for the Christ-child’s birth, in a stable, in the night, as a helpless babe. We’ve also prepared for it during the season of Advent, where each week we’ve watched and waited and thought about the reasons for his coming. Reasons, as I said, that we all instinctively know make the most sense for our lives but seem so difficult to achieve both on a personal and global scale.

The reason that he came to bring joy. A joy that was shared in the songs of Zechariah, of Mary and the angels; a joy that is heard in words and the music of the carols and songs that we sing tonight.` The angels that bent near to the earth, to bring glad tidings of goodwill from God, tiding of joy and of reconciliation. A joy that can be shared among us, in friendship and fellowship to all, not just tonight but every day.

The reason that he came to bring peace. An outward peace in a world where men and women need to hush the noise of strife and warfare and look for ways of working together for the common good; and an inner peace, through the message that John will share, that ‘the dawn from on high will break upon us to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace’.

The reason that he came to bring love. A love that is all encompassing, limitless and freely given. Which bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians. A love that brings its own peace from knowing that whatever situation we find ourselves in, whatever we might have done, there is forgiveness available to us, and because of that forgiveness we can be in a loving relationship with God again, and through our relationship with Jesus we can love one another better.

Finally, the reason that he came to bring hope; the realization of the Messianic hopes of the Jewish nation as they impatiently borne the yoke of the Romans, and continually sighed for the time when someone from the House of David would be their deliverer and to whom Zechariah was pointing in his prophecy. That same hope that is offered to all of us, regardless of age, gender, sexuality or ability. A hope that is everlasting, because of what Jesus would go on to do through his death and resurrection in order to bring us back to him at the end of time.

Zechariah wasn’t initially prepared to trust what God was going to do through him, and too often we can be so distracted by the world around us that we find it difficult to just accept what God might be saying to us, how he calls us into a relationship that demands nothing of us but to simply be prepared to open ourselves up to the possibility that his joy, his peace, his love and his hope are all that we really need.

So tonight, be open to hear his invitation to come and be prepared to receive him into your heart. Tonight, be open to share with others the things that you discover about Christ and yourself and be prepared to be that herald of good tidings. Tonight, be open to having your life changed by the child in the manger and be prepared to be transformed. Tonight be prepared for anything and everything.



Preached by Brenda Holden on 23 December 2018: Fourth Sunday of Advent
Micah 5:2-5a;  Luke 1:39-45

For us the waiting is nearly over. We have lit the fourth of the Advent candles this morning and for us, our Christmas celebrations are just a day or so away. The longed for event that has been advertised in our shops and on the TV for the past few months is almost here, but not for Mary in our story. Early in her pregnancy Mary felt the need to get away. She needed time to think and pray – to prepare for the birth.

Perhaps she needed to avoid questions from her neighbours. Perhaps she felt her parents needed time and space to come to terms with the situation. Mary was in a potentially shameful position as an unmarried and pregnant teenage daughter. A situation which became more complicated when the father of the expected child was not Mary’s betrothed.

The reality of the acceptance of her vocation to bear God’s Son was impacting on both Mary and her family. Mary chose to visit her cousin Elizabeth in order to let the dust settle – to give her parents time to hear God speak to them. The loving support of her parents would be necessary if the pregnancy was to come to a successful fruition.

What we have heard in our Gospel reading is two women, Elizabeth and Mary, who were both caught up in God’s drama. For both of them their lives were turned upside down- they were both gripped within God’s mysterious presence they were both part of a miracle. They were both discovering, first hand, God’s love and discovering a sense of direction in their lives to which they had no choice but to be obedient.

The conceptions of both John and Jesus were impossible in human terms. They were both miraculous. Elizabeth was beyond the age of bearing children – throughout her long married life she had been childless – she had inwardly yearned for parenthood but she was cruelly labelled as being old and barren.

Mary, on the other hand, was too young, unmarried and a virgin. She was not expecting to have her first child until after marriage. Mary’s pregnancy would make her a social outcast as Elizabeth’s would make her a laughing stock.

At the point of our Gospel reading it has been a while since Mary first agreed to the angel’s request with her words ‘let it be according to your word…’ . The reality the situation was becoming apparent. In the time that has passed she has quickly grown wise beyond her years. She has left behind her former innocent teenage self who was sheltered in the bosom of her family as she prepared for her wedding day.

The meeting of the cousins was a bridge of mutual recognition between two deeply religious women. It was an opportunity for them to find strength in the presence of the other away from hurtful comments. The two cousins could be at ease with each other as they prayerfully reflect on the miracles inside their bodies as they accept the challenges ahead.

When they met, their greeting was full of joy – hope and expectation bubble up inside them. Elizabeth tells Mary that her child is the Lord giving Mary assurance and confirmation of her role. Elizabeth’s delight and joy resulted in the baby leaping in her womb and Mary burst into a song of praise ‘The Magnificat’.

The choir has just sung the Magnificat for us instead of a psalm this morning. It is a familiar canticle in the Church which is said or sung daily as part of Evening Prayer or Evensong and the words have been set to many beautiful musical settings down the years.

The words have echoes of Hebrew Scripture. Hannah, another childless woman in the Old Testament, sang a song with very similar words following the birth of her son Samuel. Like Elizabeth and Mary she knew that she had been blessed to be part of God’s plan – Samuel would be a significant and well known character in God’s story.

The Magnificat is a song full of joy and praise and the words fit both Mary’s and Elizabeth’s situation.

The song speaks of the reversal of man-made situations for those who fear God. The proud are scattered; the mighty are cast down from their thrones and the lowly are lifted up; the hungry are filled with good things and the rich are sent away empty. These ideas resonate with Hebrew tradition associated with God saving his people and the expectation that he will do so once more.

In these last days of Advent it is so easy for us to be caught up in the frenzied busyness of our man-made preparations for Christmas. It has been good for us to be here this morning to pray and worship alongside Mary and Elizabeth.
This Christmas, may God come into our hearts, homes and communities to make a way in the wilderness of our neighbourhood and our nation. Amen.

Signs of hope and expectation

Preached by Brenda Holden on 2 December 2018: Advent Sunday
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36

The sycamore tree in our garden is a mixed blessing. As with so many trees in West End it has a preservation order on it and we are only permitted to remove dead branches that would be casualties of stormy weather.

My study window looks out directly on to the tree that I can observe through the different seasons of the year. We are now in winter and superficially it looks dead, but the spring buds are already formed. These are a sign of hope, a sign of future life and abundance! In fact the delight in the bare branches at this time is that any sunshine during the short days will not be restricted by the leaf cover absorbing the light. I am also able to enjoy the antics of the different birds on the tree that are hidden from view during the summer months.

This tree is a sign of hope and expectation as it prepares itself for the next growing season. In a similar way the season Advent in the church calendar, which begins today, is a sign that we are living in hope and expectation for the coming of Christ and for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

It is no surprise then that Jesus’ observation of the fig tree in our gospel reading was directing his disciples to look for signs in the world around them for the coming of redemption. The fig tree in Jewish scripture was associated with God’s promise of prosperity, and its productiveness was a token of peace and divine favour, but the irony is that Jesus is talking to his disciples just before his arrest and death. They were all aware of the building up of tension between Jesus and those in authority.

So, here we are at the start of Advent for Year C and the lectionary reading has launched us into Luke’s Gospel at a time of great uncertainty and anxiety amongst Jesus’ followers. What would the future hold for them?

The early Christian communities were expecting the ‘second coming’ of Christ. When Luke’s Gospel was written some time between AD75 and 130 a generation or so after Christ’s death they were still waiting and preparing for the expected second coming.They were looking for signs that would predict that second coming.

Down the ages since then some Christian folk have also, mistakenly, interpreted the signs of distress among the nations as a fanfare for the second coming of Christ – they have used the words recorded in Luke’s Gospel to support their theories. But none of us know when, or if, Christ will return to our world. If it does happen, the one thing we can be sure of is that it will be in the most unexpected way and at a time when we are least expecting it!

Jane Williams, the wife of the former Archbishop of Canterbury and a respected theologian in her own right, calls us to ‘intelligent waiting’ during Advent.

In our Old Testament reading from Jeremiah we heard some unusually upbeat words from the prophet. Jeremiah was typically a prophet of doom. He seems to have spent the whole of his life up until that point telling the people of Israel what they didn’t want to hear. They were facing the destruction of the nation and the division of the people and his prophecy came true. The city of Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians, the powerful foreign enemy. Jeremiah was imprisoned and just when the world was falling apart and all appeared to be hopeless for God’s people, Jeremiah suddenly begins to talk about restoration and his prophecy, which we heard in our reading becomes hopeful.

Jeremiah has a vision of the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah who was the righteous branch springing up from the apparently dead tree stump The righteous branch that will reconnect the people with the great promises given during the reign of King David.

Advent for us is a time for hope and expectation. The last few weeks have been tumultuous in political circles and the coming months are veiled in a cloud of uncertainty. We need to be alert for signs of recovery in our troubled world. What signs of recovery? What signs of hope can we see in our world? What signs point to the coming of the Kingdom of God?

It is hopeful that in the media we are now, regularly, hearing calls for an end to poverty and oppression. We hear calls for changes in our attitude to our fragile world. We hear calls for the safeguarding of the young and vulnerable in society.

Advent calls us back to God from whom we come and to whom we will go. God never fails us. God will not abandon us. God’s Kingdom is near!   Amen

‘Do not be alarmed… the end is still to come: This is but the beginning of the birth pangs!’

Preached by Carol Kidd on 18 November 2018: 2nd Sunday before Advent
Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:14,19-25; Mark 13:1-8

May I speak in the name of Jesus who delivers us into new life, Amen.

If you have come to church hoping to hear good news – today’s a good day!

Look again at the gospel reading…

Here is Jesus in resolute ‘tell it as it is’ mode – no parable or miracle, no love your neighbour, no gentle words of protection – instead of instant comfort we hear prophesy of destruction, wars, rumours of wars, natural disasters and by the way that’s only just the start! His sermon continues from verse 9 onwards – it is the last, longest and probably most difficult discourse to his disciples.

So how can Jesus’ tough straight to the point speaking help us when there are so many alarming happenings reported day after day in the news?

At a time when many are facing uncertain futures can we like the psalmist truly have the confidence to declare that our fortune lies in the Lord’s hands?                            

The good news? Jesus said many will try to lead us astray but ‘Do not be alarmed’ at wars and rumours of wars, kingdoms against kingdoms, earthquakes and famines.

But it is not that simple is it? When we hear that Jesus says ‘do not be alarmed’ how does that work whilst threats of war are a reality and a fine line exists between nations respecting nations – when this very week, day after day, we have had before us the devastating effects of the Californian wildfires – the total destruction of the town named Paradise?

And yet – and yet – Jesus’ words can resonate as a positive message of God’s faithfulness, fully reflecting Jesus’ love and care for his disciples then – and us today.

Let me try to explain how I understand it:  

His message is clear: ‘don’t be troubled’… of course if we are concerned and told ‘not to worry’ more often than not we let it bother us a great deal – even scare us – and subsequently it can lead to our fear rubbing off on others.

Jesus says:
‘Do not be alarmed… the end is still to come:
This is but the beginning of the birth pangs!’

For over 35 years I had the privilege of walking alongside countless women and families, as a midwife I was a guest sharing their journeys of pregnancy and birth. An essential part of that role involved helping couples prepare for the ‘big day’ – providing information and choice so that rather than fearing what was to come there would be hopeful anticipation – a ‘looking forward to’ the birth process.

Any apprehension resulting from not knowing exactly how long or how painful the labour might be can be counterbalanced by the positive expectation of meeting and celebrating the new life coming into the world.

The name ‘midwife’ is relational and simply translates as ‘with woman’. Today’s readings very much follow the theme of ‘God with us’ sharing, teaching, warning, advising and reassuring. And he gives us choice – chooses us to be in a relationship with him – tells us clearly what to expect if we invite him as a guest into our lives.

Jesus had been teaching and healing in the courtyard of the Gentiles within the Temple compound. Herod’s Temple – immense in size and grandeur, majestic, visible for miles, clad with gold that reflected the sun’s rays. One of the disciples admired and drew attention to the stones of the incredible building – Jesus predicted its destruction and history tells us that within 40 years of Jesus’ death the Temple was trashed and burned by the Roman Army.

For the Jewish people the Temple represented the place where God dwelt separated from the ordinary people by the sanctuary curtain and only accessible to the High Priest. The time was fast approaching when Jesus would make the ultimate sacrifice and the curtain of the Temple would be torn in two. Mark records an eye witness account of Jesus privately meeting with Peter, James, John and Andrew: he gave them a warning – no not to frighten them but to prepare them for their future.

In labour early signs precede the active phase when the contractions are strong and there is hope that the labour will become established and lead to a birth. Applying this analogy can help us understand Jesus’ warning to the disciples then – and to us today: ‘Do not be alarmed’. There have always been and will be even more disasters resulting from forces of nature and tragedies of war caused by human error, greed and sin yet we can be assured that God’s kingdom will be established and the suffering and pain will end.

Jesus’ message for the disciples can strengthen us. When we see all the traumas of the world and cry out to be led safely through life’s difficulties, he will hear our worries and guide us in the way that leads to new birth as children of God. From personal times of trial and darkness, illness and loss, to world events of devastating proportions, it is when we are in a trusting relationship with Jesus that he will guide us, empower us, present us with choices and deliver us from pain and anguish and transform our lives.  God has promised to be faithful and asks us to hold fast to the hope we place in him as an encouragement to others.

‘Do not be alarmed… the end is still to come:
This is but the beginning of the birth pangs!’

The birth pangs should not frighten for they herald the incoming of God’s kingdom. When a labour reaches its fullness the baby is born – the new arrival is announced! With any new birth comes a sense that yes life will be changed with new journeys, new challenges ahead – so we are blessed with the offer of sharing in a loving relationship with Jesus confident in the new and living way he has opened up for us.

Even when warned by Jesus of turbulent times yet to come we can find assurance in his message and the words of today’s post Communion prayer summarize our desire:

‘Gracious Lord…..bring us at the last to that fullness of life for which we long.’ Amen

A new heaven and a new earth

Preached by Brenda Holden on 4 November 2018: All Saints
Psalm 24:1-6; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44

The clocks in the UK have gone back one hour and we have to adjust to the daytimes that will become increasingly shorter and darker – time for thinking ahead to warmer sunny days- our holidays when we might possibly visit islands in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece. The writer of Revelation was on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, but he wasn’t there for a holiday – he was there as an exile. He had been forced to be there either by choice to escape, or by the authorities who wanted him out of the way. He might be in the sunshine, but spiritually he was aware of the darkness around him.

While on the island he had visions – some of them seem very strange to us. The one we heard about in our first reading seems to hit the spot for where we are in our world today. It was a vision of a new heaven and a new earth looking forward to a time of order and stability in creation. In the absence of the chaos of the sea, God’s ownership and Lordship over creation is finally asserted once and for all and the damage wrought on creation by humanity is undone. This new creation is a renewal of that which has been damaged. Creation ends where it began as the perfectly restored work of the one who is both the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end.

The damaged creation is something that we cannot fail to be aware of today. The news items about global warming, the pollution of our land, our sea and our air have at long last entered the realm of our popular media – for some of us who were scientists and attended university in the early 1970’s we have been all too well aware of the damage mankind has been inflicting on God’s creation over the last 40-50 years – detailed research has been ongoing, but it has been politically silenced. We should be truly grateful for the incredible book ‘Silent Spring’ written by Rachel Carson that was published at the end of the 1960s that halted the exponential use of pesticides –without that book our springs and summers by now would indeed be silent without the sound of insects and birdsong!

What the writer of Revelation is saying is that there is hope – God is in charge. On the island, reflecting on the chaos of sporadic persecutions of Christians by the Roman authorities, he was having a vision that death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.

God is saying, ’See I am making all things new’!

What, you might be thinking has this got to do with the Christian Festival of All Saints that we are celebrating today?

Saints are those who are to come into God’s presence. In fact, in the New Testament, saints are the community of believers who share a faith in Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. Everyone has the qualifications to become a saint – we don’t have to own a halo and be pictured in a stained glass window!

Fortunately for all of us – we are all welcomed into God’s presence. Many of those who by worldly judgement were thought to be unqualified in Jesus’ time eg the tax collectors and sinners were deemed worthy, perhaps more worthy than the religious dignitaries of the day.

In fact, the Gospel reading chosen for today does not highlight someone whom we would necessarily regard as a saint in the usual sense. Lazarus, as a young man in the household of Martha and Mary, was not considered to be the head of the family as we would expect. Lazarus, who was loved by his sisters and by Jesus, had died and was bound in his grave clothes in his tomb, but he was given life as a free gift from God.

We, like Lazarus, as Christ’s disciples, are called to emerge from our former lives to enter God’s new creation and join in the worship in God’s presence.

This brings us to the Psalm we heard this morning – it also was about ‘Who is qualified to come into God’s presence – who is a saint who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?

We are invited to join the singers of the Psalm. They are gathering – coming from far and near like a football crowd merging together towards St. Mary’s stadium to watch the Saints play. We are here to worship the King of Glory. We are all welcome to join the multitude of the saints in the new heaven and the new earth. Amen