The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

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Living Water

On 19 March, the third Sunday of Lent, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 95Exodus 17:1-7, John 4:5-42.

The Samaritan woman at the well is probably for many of us a well-known character in the gospel narrative. I wonder what you think when you hear her mentioned. Do you see a much maligned and ostracised woman whom society had rejected? Do you see a terrible sinner who lured men into her bed and then cast them off? Perhaps you see a bold woman who is prepared to set aside the conventions of society and dare to debate on religious matters with a Jewish rabbi.

What we actually know about this woman is not very much. She was drawing water at noon, which is unusual. The evening would have been more likely, when the heat of the sun had gone, or early morning to get fresh supplies for a new day. At noon most people would be keeping in the shade if possible. It could just be that on this occasion the woman went at noon for an extra visit for some reason or it could be that she wanted to avoid the other women of the city. The reason for avoidance could have been that the man she was living with was not her husband in a legal sense. She’d had five husbands but this seemed to be what we might call a common-law husband. Even without the complication of this sixth man, perhaps the woman felt shame due to the ending of her previous marriages (Jews considered that no woman should have more than three husbands) and so avoided the other women. Of course, in those days when life was more precarious than now, all five husbands might have died but I suppose even that might have made tongues wag. Continue reading

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Under cover of darkness

On 12 March, the second Sunday of Lent, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 121Genesis 12:1-4a, John 3:1-17

Feeling like a thief in the night, Nicodemus walked from deep shadow to deep shadow through the narrow streets of Jerusalem. Bright patches of moonlight were too revealing. He didn’t want to be seen. What would people think if they looked out of their doors at this time of night? All decent people were in their homes with family and friends, catching up on news with visitors who had come for the feast of Passover. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, an important person, someone to be looked up to, a wise and respected teacher. It wouldn’t do for too many questions to be asked by people and especially by other members of the Sanhedrin.

Nicodemus’ wife thought he was mad, risking so much to visit a travelling rabbi from Galilee. Weren’t there enough great rabbis he could talk to and debate with in Jerusalem? Why this one? What was so special about him? But Nicodemus couldn’t rest. He’d been there when Jesus had stormed through the Temple, scattering the merchants and their animals in all directions, spilling coins for the alert to quickly pocket. Of course, most people had been indignant, well most people of any standing anyway. The ordinary people seemed to really like this Jesus of Nazareth. They seemed to sense that he understood and cared for them. Nicodemus had heard talk of healings taking place, but many of these simple folk were easily taken in. Charlatans turned up regularly, fleecing people of their money in exchange for bogus cures and medicines. Continue reading

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The Power of God’s Word

On 5 March, the first Sunday of Lent, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7Psalm 32, Matthew 4:1-11.

For some of you listening, Queen Elizabeth II is your head of state. Some of you may have another monarch who rules over you. For others, the idea of a royal family is fascinating even though you don’t have one yourselves. For some in the UK the wish is to be free of a royal family, seeing it as an expensive luxury which serves no useful purpose. Whatever your point of view or country’s political structures, I think you will be able to appreciate that when Queen Elizabeth greets someone from another country at Buckingham Palace or when she goes to visit another country, she is representing not herself but her country, or the Commonwealth in general.

A sovereign or head of state represents their nation and that was certainly the case in Old Testament and New Testament times. Jesus is the descendant of David and was born ‘king of the Jews’ as the wise men said to Herod. As King he represented Israel and in so doing he was able to rectify what Israel had got wrong. God had wanted Israel to be blessed in order to be a blessing to other nations, to be a light to those walking in darkness. In Jesus God’s calling to Israel was finally to be realised. Continue reading

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Ash Wednesday

On 1 March, Ash Wednesday, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Joel 2.1-2, 12-17Psalm 51:1-18, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.

The Ash Wednesday liturgy we are using, taken from the Church of England resources, is rich in content. There is barely any need of a reflection if you pay attention to the words of the liturgy. I will therefore confine myself to a few words which highlight what Lent is about, to remind those who are familiar with the season and to inform those who aren’t.

Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. To go straight to Easter without preparation is rather like seeing the view from the mountaintop without climbing the mountain. That can be done where trains or cable cars take people to the top but there is something missing from the experience if you have not got there by making some effort.

Lent is a time to consider just why Easter is part of the Christian story at all. By focusing on our own mortality and sin, we see clearly that only God is able to save and restore us, which he did through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is the supreme act of God’s grace, to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

Lent (which comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for Spring, when the days lengthen) is a period of 40 days, beginning today on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Eve. For those who are interested in the arithmetic, the Sundays of this period are not counted as part of Lent. They are little celebrations in anticipation of the great celebration of Easter. Continue reading

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Majesty revealed

On 26 February Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 99Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9.

It’s tempting to believe that our world in the 21st Century and the world of the New Testament, which is the 1st Century, are very different indeed. In two thousand years many things have changed, obviously. There was no internet – can you imagine that? In the first century, communication technology had reached the level of pen and parchment. Transport was hazardous and slow. Health care was rudimentary. Life was cruel and short for many.

Yet there were many similarities to our world also. Culture and knowledge flourished: art, sculpture, drama, sport, architecture, law, geometry, astronomy, philosophy. The Romans provided administration, government and technology such as road building and aqueducts to provide fresh water to communities. The culture, however, was Hellenistic. Most people spoke Greek as one of their languages, much as English is widespread now, and this enabled trade to be conducted between countries. Continue reading

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Minding our own business

On 19 February Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 136: 1-9, 23-26Genesis 1.1-2.3, Matthew 6:25-34.

Recently I read an account of how at King’s Cross Station in London, which had a quarter of a million people passing through it every day, a small fire in November 1987 was able to grow so fierce that it killed 31 people and injured many more. Five days after the fire Desmond Fennell was appointed as a special investigator to study what had happened. In order to find the truth, he held public hearings over a period of 91 days where he interviewed and cross-examined many witnesses. After a year he published a 250 page report on his findings.

What Desmond Fennell had discovered was an institution, the London Underground, which had systems that were sure to lead to disaster at some point. Over the years a culture had grown up which meant that no one dared to stray out of their area of responsibility in any way. Each department had clear boundaries on what it did and would not accept advice or interference from anyone outside the department. Continue reading

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Different kinds of love

On 12 February Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 119:1-8Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Matthew 5:21-37.

You’ve still got a couple of days (or just one if you live ‘down under’) to go and buy red roses, chocolates, a heart-shaped balloon and a card for the one you love. Or perhaps you prefer to let Valentine’s Day pass you by.

Valentine’s Day is big business for many. Flowers, special meals, chocolates, wine, cards, trips to Paris: if it can be marketed as something romantic, you can be sure it will be. Despite the commercialisation of the day, many really want to take the opportunity to say ‘I love you’ to someone special in their life.

For Christians, love should feature highly every day of the year. Not necessarily the romantic love, the ‘eros’ (interesting that that is an anagram of rose!) of the commercial Valentine’s Day, but the other kinds of love. Continue reading