The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

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Candlemas

On 29 January we celebrated Candlemas. Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 24Malachi 3:1-5, Luke 2:22-40.

Candlemas falls 40 days after Christmas, though the number of days may vary if we move the celebration to our Sunday worship as we have this year. It is a festival full of so many meanings that it can be difficult to take it all in. Perhaps for that reason it has acquired four names to somehow encompass as much as possible.

First of all, we remember the ritual ‘Purification of the Virgin Mary’. After the birth of a son, Jewish custom demanded that a woman went to the temple to be ritually purified, having been classed as unclean for 7 days and then required to stay at home for the next 33 days. At this time, the health of the child was also prayed for, as this was considered to be a time when mortal danger for the child had passed. Luke tells us that the customary sacrifice was made, being a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons. This was in fact the sacrifice given by the poor. Had Mary and Joseph been better off they would have offered a lamb and a pigeon. Mary, the Theotokos, the God-bearer, had to pay the reduced rate for those in straitened circumstances. Continue reading

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The Love of Christ compels us

On 22 January we joined with Christians in the Northern Hemisphere for worship on the theme of Christian Unity. Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  2 Corinthians 5:14-20Psalm 18:26-32, Luke 15:11-32.

This is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the Northern Hemisphere. Each year, a country is chosen to create the resources for this week, resources which are used all over the world. Just the very fact that churches use resources created in a different culture and by many different denominations speaks of a will to move closer to unity between Christians.

This year it was the turn of Germany to create the resources. It is an apt choice as this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s sending to his bishop his 95 theses about the problems he saw with the Roman Catholic church selling indulgences. This event was a key one in the Reformation of the Western Church. The Reformation led to changes so great that the Church split into Protestant and Catholic divisions. Since that time it has continued to split over matters of doctrine, styles of worship and other issues. The Anglican Church, of which we are part, is one result of the Reformation. Continue reading

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The Baptism of Christ

On 15 January we recalled the Baptism of Christ. Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 40:1-12Isaiah 49:1-7, John 1:29-42.

Today is the second Sunday of the Epiphany season. I suppose as we meet on Epiphany Island, we of all people should be aware of what Epiphany means. The Greek epiphaneia means manifestation or striking appearance. It refers to some kind of new insight and realisation which gives new understanding or a different perspective on a problem.

Archimedes benefited from an epiphany when he climbed into his bath and noticed the displacement of water (probably not for the first time) and suddenly made the connection to finding the density of an object. Newton must have seen objects dropping to the ground under the influence of gravity many times, but one occasion proved to be an epiphany for him when he was able to connect the fall of an apple with the force which kept the moon orbiting the earth. Continue reading

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Journey of the Magi

On 8 January we celebrated the Feast of Epiphany. Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 72Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12.

The sermon began with a reading of T. S. Eliot’s The Journey of the Magi

T. S. Eliot wrote this poem not long after he had come to a deeper faith and converted to Anglicanism. In it he fleshes out the story of the Magi from Matthew by allowing one Magus to remember the journey.

We get some idea of the difficulties of the journey. The weather was against them; the camels were grumpy and their drivers were even worse; places to stay were hard to come by; the places they passed through were unfriendly and exploitative. Is there any wonder that voices in their ears would suggest the journey was sheer folly?

Eliot is making assumptions in order to write his poem of course, but so do we all the time. With regard to the Magi, we make a whole set of assumptions all built on the flimsiest of evidence and perhaps a wish to fill out the story with a few more details. How do we know that there were three men who made this journey? We assume it from the number of gifts they brought. We often call them kings and give them names but where do they introduce themselves? Continue reading

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The Lord has made known his salvation

This year Christmas Day has fallen on a Sunday, so we gathered for our normal noon SLT service. Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 98Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4John 1:1-14.

Merry Christmas! How many times have you seen that written or heard it said in the past few weeks? It almost replaces ‘Hello’ as the greeting of choice at this time of the year. However, for many people this is not a merry time. They may be unwell, grieving the loss of a loved one, suffering unemployment and financial problems or faced with an important relationship which is going wrong. It seems that the first Christmas, the time when God became incarnate as a baby in order to bring salvation to the world, has really changed very little. Life is still hard and full of challenges.

The story of salvation is a long one running throughout the Bible. Even as God condemned Adam and Eve to a difficult life away from the Garden of Eden, he was planning to make things right again. He called Abram and Sarai to leave their home and relatives and journey into an uncertain future, uncertain that is apart from God’s promise that this was the beginning of a great nation. That couple was too old to have children and yet God brought about the birth of Isaac and the nation he promised grew from there. Continue reading

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John the Baptist

On 11 December we celebrated the Third Sunday in Advent. Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 146:4-10Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11.

You may be familiar with the story of Scheherazade. In the book of One Thousand and One Nights, the Persian king Shahrya found his first wife was unfaithful to him. In his anger and distress he married a virgin every day and had her beheaded the next day before he married the next virgin. This went on until he had killed 1000 women.

Scheherazade was the daughter of the vizier. She was very well read, having studied all that she could find about the previous kings and about famous people from the past. She was reputed to have collected 1000 books of history about kings and peoples. She had also learnt poetry off by heart and was well versed in philosophy, the arts and the sciences. She was a pleasant person with a good sense of humour.

Although her father naturally disapproved, Scheherazade volunteered to spend a night with the king, despite his bloodthirsty reputation. When she was taken to the king’s chambers she requested a chance to say farewell to her sister, Dinazade. Dinazade had been told by Scheherazade to ask for a story to be told to her. The king listened as Scheherazade told her story to Dinazade. As dawn was approaching she stopped speaking but the story was not finished. The king spared her life that day as he wanted to hear how the story continued. The next night she finished off the story and began another which she didn’t complete, thus living through the next day. In this way, Scheherazade lived for 1,001 nights, telling 1000 stories. When she no longer had another story to tell, the king had already fallen in love with her and her life was no longer in danger; she became queen. Continue reading

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Prepare the way of the Lord

On 4 December we celebrated the Second Sunday of Advent. Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19Isaiah 11:1-10Matthew 3:1-12.

Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Last week the focus of the week was on the Patriarchs, those early heroes of the faith who had first listened to God and followed his lead. This week the focus shifts to the prophets. Many of the Patriarchs were also prophets.

The word “prophet” is formed from a Greek word which means “to tell before”. It has two parts: “pro” is the before bit; “phemi” is “to tell”. It’s the word behind the English word “fame”. The Hebrew word for prophet, “navi”, comes from a phrase meaning “fruit of the lips” and means an inspired speaker. The inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit who puts God’s words into the mouth of the prophets. God wants his people to listen to him. Through his Spirit he can speak to people directly but he uses prophets to speak his words also.

The job of a prophet is to speak for God and in so doing he or she will warn his or her listeners, challenge them, remind them of God’s law and encourage them to respond to the message that they hear. Those chosen by God as prophets are people close to God, holy and righteous. It is this closeness that gives the prophecy the ring of authenticity which allows it to be recognised as coming from God. Continue reading