The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

Leave a comment

Trinity Sunday

On 11 June, Trinity Sunday, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 8Isaiah 40:12-17, 27-end, Matthew 28:16-20.

I wonder how often you have said or heard: ‘in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ or ‘one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ or ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ or ‘Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever.’ In a liturgical church such as the Anglican church, these set phrases trip off the tongue almost without thought. They are a formula we just learn off by heart from early in our faith journey as we hear them repeated week after week, or if you say the Daily Office as we do in the chapel here, day after day.

Today is Trinity Sunday. The church has celebrated this day since it was fixed as the Sunday after Pentecost by Pope John XXII in 1334. It is not a day like many others in the church year when we focus on a particular part of the story of Jesus or his disciples. There are no special rituals for the day. It is a day to remember who God is – his being not his doings. It’s a time to actually think about what we believe about God, what our experience has shown us, what the learning and writings of others have helped us to understand. It’s a day when the ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ formula should not trip off our tongues without thought but should cause us to pause and think, even if only for a moment. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Speaking in tongues

On 4 June,  the feast of Pentecost, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 104:26-35Acts 2:1-21, John 7:37-39.

Many years ago, I followed a correspondence course on the Christian faith. It was provided by a Pentecostal church with a very strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit. I had a tutor to whom I sent the responses to the questions in the course. She sent feedback to me.

At one point in the course, there was a question about being baptised in the Spirit. It assumed that evidence of that event would be speaking in tongues. In my response to the question, I was honest and wrote that I had not experienced speaking in tongues. The tutor was rather perplexed as she considered that my previous answers on the course had shown evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Her theology considered that if the Holy Spirit had been received by a person they would most definitely speak in tongues. I had to confirm that that had not been my experience. Perhaps she went away from our correspondence and had a rethink. Who knows? What I do know is that I didn’t fit what she had been taught. Continue reading

Leave a comment

I will not leave you orphaned

On 21 May,  Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 66:7-18Acts 17.22-31 , John 14.15-21.

In February, my mother died at the ripe old age of 100. A couple of days later I went to help remove her possessions from the care home where she had been living. While there, my sister made the comment that “we are now orphans”. Of course, that is true. We no longer have living parents, but the statement didn’t really mean a lot to me at the time.

In today’s Gospel reading, we continue to find out what Jesus said to his disciples in his last long conversation before his arrest. He was trying to prepare them for his absence and to give them hope in the face of such a huge change. Perhaps because of that statement by my sister, what stands out for me is the statement: “I will not leave you orphaned.” Continue reading

Leave a comment

Trust in me

On 14 May,  Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Acts 7:55-endPsalm 31:1-5, 15,16, 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14.

Something which praying regularly with others in SL has given me is a broader scope for my prayers. When you pray with others from around the world, issues which might once have seemed remote suddenly seem much nearer and more relevant. With the whole world to pray for, there is certainly plenty to bring before God each day.

It is not necessary to look further than the newspapers or international news broadcasts to know that the world is not a very secure place. Tension in North Korea has been high on our list of concerns. Famine and war is affecting many countries in Africa. Refugees are beginning to cross the Mediterranean again on inadequate boats and people are losing their lives. Elections are being held in various parts of the world. Wisdom is needed for world leaders as they deal with the complexity of domestic and foreign policy. Fires have been burning in Florida while lack of rain is affecting the UK. Although some girls from Chibok have been released by Boko Haram, there are others to pray for. Natural and man-made disasters lurk around the corner for many of the world’s population; fear is their daily lot. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Shepherd and Guardian

On 7 May,  Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Acts 2:42-47Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10.

Sheep and shepherds are the theme in the readings today. They crop up a lot in the Bible as keeping sheep was a common occupation, which is perfectly understandable. Sheep give milk, wool, meat and leather. They are very good at finding enough to eat in quite rough terrain. They are a very useful animal for a family to keep. They continue to be very useful to us now.

For city dwellers, it’s hard to connect with rural images, unless they have grown up or spent holidays in the countryside. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a small market town. I could see fields from the windows of our house and used to love watching for the first lambs to appear. My mother’s family were all farmers and so I had opportunities to visit farms. I also saw sheepdog trials. These are competitions where a farmer and his sheepdog have to complete some tasks with a group of sheep which they haven’t worked with before. I was always fascinated by the way the dog would lie low in the grass and then move in response to various whistles from the farmer. The dog could round up the sheep in a bunch and drive them into a small pen, usually with a little help from the farmer. Often at least one sheep would have other ideas and decide to try to go in the wrong direction but, in the end, all would be collected up and placed in the pen. It was amazing how man and dog could work so well together, understanding one another and achieving a task even if the sheep were uncooperative. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Active remembrance

On 30 April,  Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17Acts 2: 14a, 36-41, Luke 24:13-35.

I wonder if you have come across the special word for remembering ‘anamnesis’. Perhaps it’s all Greek to you, and the word is indeed Greek. Our English word remembrance is not strong enough to explain it properly. ‘Active remembrance’ is a better description. Christians have learnt this idea from the Jews.

Those of you who can recall the early parts of the Old Testament might remember that God told Moses in Exodus 12 that the Passover was to be remembered forever by the people of Israel. God gave precise details on how this remembering should happen. The month of the Passover was to be the first month of the year, so the calendar was involved. Just as the people were told to kill a lamb on the night as they waited for God to pass over their houses in Egypt, people were to kill a lamb each Passover and eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The bitter herbs are a reminder of the bitterness of slavery. The unleavened bread speaks of the rush to get away once the Lord had passed over, leaving no time for the dough to rise. The festival of unleavened bread was to last for seven days. In these ways, the food of the people was involved in remembrance over an extended period. And so, to this day, the Jews keep Passover and tell the story in their families. As they tell it, they consider that they themselves were rescued from slavery just as their ancestors were. This kind of remembrance, more than just pious thoughts, brings the past vividly into the present where it has an effect on the people, transforming their understanding of themselves and their relationship to God.

The Church does this kind of remembering particularly each Sunday when we celebrate the Last Supper. Unfortunately, we have moved away from remembering in the context of a real meal which would make the memorial even stronger, much more as though we were really there at the time. Here in SL we do not celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist. Instead we take what opportunities we can to participate in other services which vividly recall the past and make it real to us today. During Holy Week, together we processed on Palm Sunday, shouting our Hosannas. We marked the gathering darkness of Holy Week on Good Friday by reading the Gospel of John’s description of Jesus’ arrest, trial and burial. We extinguished the candles to remember how dark that time was. The sim remained set on midnight. On Holy Saturday, we watched as the new fire was lit and chased away the darkness; we listened to the story of salvation and waited for the dawn when we could shout ‘Alleluia! Christ is risen!’ Those shouts of Alleluia continued through Easter Day both here in the cathedral and by the empty tomb. That has been our anamnesis in this season, our entering into remembering as fully as we can. It’s possible to just turn up on Easter Day for the party, but it all becomes more real if we have fully experienced the days before the resurrection.

Remembering is very much the theme of the walk to Emmaus which we have just heard about. Cleopas and his companion, some think it was his wife, were walking a sad seven-mile journey from Jerusalem. Perhaps they talked as they walked, perhaps they were silent, but their minds and hearts were full of the events of the previous three days. Then a stranger joined them who seemed oblivious to the events in Jerusalem. To the two walkers it seemed amazing that anyone could have missed knowing what had happened to Jesus. However, for a bereaved person the cause of their bereavement fills every part of life with pain; they are blind to everything else; they cannot imagine normal life continuing for anyone. Bereaved people often need to talk time and again about the one they have lost. In this stranger, Cleopas and his companion found a willing listener as they poured out their terrible experience in every painful detail right down to the troubling and puzzling news that their Lord’s body had disappeared and some women in their company were having hallucinations.

Once they had said all they needed to and lapsed into silence, the stranger filled the space with other memories. However, these weren’t recent ones; they were the stories of the Jewish ancestors; stories from hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Every one of the stories had some connection with the Messiah who was hoped for. They told of where he would be born, what his character would be, what his actions would be, how his life would end; it was all there for those who would see it. As they later realised, his listeners experienced anamnesis. The stories and prophecies were no longer ancient words in dusty scrolls, something for rabbis to pour over and preach on. The scriptures were no longer closed in terms of meaning. They were open and gloriously alive, vivid and relevant, so much so that Cleopas and his companion later described their response as having their hearts burn within them. Suddenly the reality of all God had been doing and saying from the beginning of time up to their time in history was burnt into their memories indelibly. It meant something to them.

However, the stranger was still a stranger who was offered hospitality as the evening was drawing on and darkness was falling. There was nothing special about the meal they shared. As usual it was accompanied by bread. However, when the stranger broke the bread that simple act brought the recent past, the Thursday of the Last Supper, fully into that house on Sunday night in Emmaus. Suddenly the blindness of bereavement was gone and Cleopas and his companion saw Jesus sitting there, but only briefly because then he was gone. Gone from sight perhaps, but there as real as any solid object for those two disciples. Nothing could erase that moment. It would be with them for life, as would the certainty of the resurrection. Jesus gathered the past of their people together with his life and resurrection to bring a future hope for those disciples and for all who would come after them.

Sometimes, when a person is about to preach, they will be introduced and the congregation will be told that the preacher is going to ‘break open the scriptures’. There are echoes of the Emmaus road journey in that phrase. As he talked to Cleopas and his companion, Jesus broke the seal on the scrolls so that what was locked away in their meaning became plain, real and alive. He also broke a loaf to reveal himself as real and alive. He was no longer locked in a tomb behind a vast stone; he was free, active, alive and making an impact on his disciples and those who would follow him as a result of the witness of the apostles.

It’s my prayer for each of us that when we read scripture alone or in daily prayer together; when we meet in offline or online church Sunday by Sunday; when we experience special services and ordinary services, that we will also experience anamnesis. The past will come vividly into the present and transform us, giving us hope and maturing us spiritually. I pray that our hearts will burn within us and that the flame will never be extinguished.

Helene Milena – Lay Pastor

1 Comment

St George’s Day on Epiphany Island

The Sunday after Easter Sunday is traditionally called ‘Low Sunday’ in comparison to the high feast of Easter which is the peak of the year for Christians. Perhaps, also, people feel a bit low after all the excitement of the week before (although we keep plenty of Alleluias in our services and continue to celebrate).

This year there was no chance to feel low as we had a wonderful first for Epiphany Island. We were joined by members of Second Life’s cub and scout group for the celebration of St George’s Day. Around a dozen scouts came to Epiphany Island and marched around the cathedral with their flags before lining up to greet worshippers by the door of the cathedral. They then joined us for a time of worship. You will find the sermon from the day on this blog also, but below are some photos of this special event. Continue reading