Vicky Maunder

2 posts

Revd Vicky is our Vicar

Pastoral Principles: Fear and bypocrisy

Preached by Revd Vicky Maunder on Trinity 15: 12 September 2021

The girls and I watched the live action Disney film Mulan last week.  It’s about a young woman who is talented at martial arts.  She loves to practice outdoors, and it fills her with joy.  She is agile and energetic and adventurous.  But in her culture, she is expected to follow quiet indoor pursuits and to look to prepare herself to make a good marriage.  There is a very entertaining scene where she fails to perform a tea ceremony correctly!  She is desperate to use these wonderful gifts she has been born with so when every family is told to send a man to fight for the emperor against invaders, and because her father is elderly and frail, she disguises herself as a young man and secretly runs off to join the training programme.  And of course, she proves to be an exceptional warrior.  But she is always held back because she lives with this fear that she can’t tell them about herself because she’ll be rejected.  But eventually she speaks up and tells them who she is.   And she is rejected and banished.  But she doesn’t give up and because of the relationship of care and respect she had built up with the group of soldiers she was closest too, later they do accept her.  She has challenged the prejudice and pathed the way for others. 

Today is the second of a three-week sermon series where we are speaking about the pastoral principles which have been produced by the Church of England to help us live well together.  To be a community that is as Christ like as possible.

We are invited to consider six pervading evils which are often present in communities and which destroy the quality of relationships –  hurting people, holding back our growth as Christians, and creating barriers that stop our churches from growing into communities of welcome and belonging.  Last week Rev’d Linda spoke about acknowledging prejudice and speaking into silence and today I’m speaking about casting out fear and admitting hypocrisy. 

We may never have had to disguise ourselves as a member of the opposite sex but perhaps we have experienced times when we didn’t feel we could speak up and share something about ourselves out of fear.  Perhaps the fear of being judged.  Or challenged about our way of life.  Perhaps fear that we will be laughed at or that people won’t be interested in what we have to say.   Perhaps, if we are a member of the LGBTI community, fear of being rejected because of views about our sexuality.  We might also have fears of those who are different from us, who we don’t feel we understand or who don’t fit our expectations. 

Our Christian faith teaches us that every person is made in God’s image and immeasurable precious to God.  And Jesus tells us ‘to love one another as he has loved us’.  We are called to work hard at building a church community where everyone feels safe to speak.  Where there isn’t fear but trust, that whenpeople speak they will be listened to with love even if we disagree.  A community of welcome where we value each other as God’s children no matter how different we are, where we respect each other and treat each other with care.   We each need to play our part in working at this.  

Of course we are human, we sin, we mess up and need forgiveness and we need to continually recommit ourselves to this work.   What can really make a difference is prayer and our worship together.  Prayer shapes us.  Just making time regularly, perhaps at the beginning and end of each day for prayer, can make a difference. To be still, to listen to God, to say thank you for the gift of the day, to ask God to help us to be attentive to him as we go about our daily tasks, to ask God to help us bring his love and hope in some small way by our words and actions to the people we meet.

In our worship we are brought together in a special way as a community.  Our voices join together in praise and prayer.  And at the Lord’s table we are brought into communion with Christ himself and with each other as we share bread and wine or make a spiritual communion – though we are many we are one body because we all share in one bread.  None of us is worthy, we are all sinners, but through God’s grace and love we receive.   It is a bit different now because of covid, but before, everyone would kneel shoulder to shoulder at the altar rail and in my previous parish everyone stood shoulder to shoulder in a circle around the altar – both ways a beautiful sign of our togetherness as we receive, and of our equality as God’s children.  And at some point we will do this again. 

And that togetherness in our worship needs to flow out into our community life.  Perfect love casts out fear we read in the first letter of John chapter 4.  Can the love we receive at the altar, God’s amazing love for us shown in Jesus on the cross, help us to cast out our fear and build a community of love? 

And a very brief word about the pastoral principle of admitting hypocrisy. 

We read in Matthew 7:5 ‘You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye’.

We are reminded we need to look at our own lives first.  We can be quick to judge others, but what do I need to change?  

Generous Giving

Preached by Revd Vicky Maunder on 14 June 2020: First Sunday after Trinity

Today is the Sunday we are focusing on the ‘Generous June’ initiative so I’m speaking about giving.

I’ve chosen to stand here by the Mother’s Union banner in church which shows Mary holding the baby Jesus. And I’ve put the crucifix from the lady chapel here too for you to see.

When we think about giving, we start with God. God’s nature is to give, generously, extravagantly, and persistently. Last week we celebrated the Trinity, that God is one God, three persons, a communion of love. And that shared love is self-giving, and it flows out from God to create the world and to bless it.

This banner reminds me of God’s generous giving. God gives the gift of life, that we are all blessed with. Here is the mother tenderly cradling her new child. God gives the gift of the beautiful world for us to enjoy. And God gives us the gift of Jesus, who comes to save us. Here we see the extent of God’s self-giving love, emptying himself of his divinity to be born as a helpless baby and dying on the cross to redeem us (Philippians 2:7-8). Such sacrificial giving for us. Paul in our Romans reading today reminds us that we don’t deserve such love, that we are sinners, yet God’s love and generosity are so great.

I was struck in these two images by how vulnerable Jesus is. Generous giving makes us vulnerable. We are offering ourselves to others and we are exposed. We are giving something of ourselves, our time, our talents and we might be rejected. And sometimes that might happen but more likely our generosity will make a difference to others and be life-giving.

In our gospel reading today Jesus sees how in need people are. They are harassed and helpless, like so many of us today, stressed and unsure how to respond to the tough challenges of life. He sees their need for God, their need for the comfort and hope that only God can offer. And he has compassion for them but there is so much need. So Jesus calls his disciples and he gives them authority and sends them out as partners in his work. They are to cure the sick and to proclaim the good news.

I wonder how the disciples felt? It’s quite early on in Jesus’ ministry and they have so much to learn and many needs themselves. I wonder if they feel anxious, unsure and vulnerable about being sent out. But Jesus believes in them.

‘You received without payment; give without payment’ he tells them, reminding them they have received so much from God; forgiveness, love, life and Jesus himself, all freely given to them in love and in response they are to give sacrificially to others.

God also calls us to this work. Like the disciples, we are forgiven, loved, blessed. And there is so much need. Perhaps we feel ill equipped and anxious. But we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and help us, as we respond to God’s generosity by trying to be people who give, generously and sacrificially of our money, our time and our talent to share some of that abundant love that God lavishes on us. And this is a journey. It takes practise. We don’t change our habits overnight. We take small steps at a time. But there is always more we can give as we journey deeper into faith and follow Jesus.

Every day we make lots of decision about how we are going to live. This week I encourage you to take some time to review and think about how you spend your money, your time and your gifts. Yes, it’s a strange time and we are not in the normal pattern of living we are used to but is there ever a good time? Faith asks us to take each day as sacred and to use it wisely as a gift from God.

So think about how you spend your money. What does it say about your priorities? You don’t need to be wealthy to be generous with money. Look at the story of the widow’s mite – she had very little, but she gave generously out of what she had. Could you give a proportion of your income to the church and to charities to enable the vital work that’s done, if you don’t already? Is there an element of sacrifice in that giving? Sacrificial giving has an impact on your lifestyle. Could you give more?

Think about how you spend your time and your talents. Could you do more to reach out to those who might be struggling? Are there members of the congregation you haven’t seen for ages who might be lonely? Could you give them a ring or send an e-mail or card to lift their spirits? Even if you don’t know them that well? When you reply to an e-mail could you spend a little longer writing it and add in an appreciative comment to show you value the other person? How could you share some of God’s generous love today and every day through the resources you have been given?