The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

Leave a comment

A new story

On 15th April 2018, the third Sunday of Easter, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were Psalm 4, Acts 3:12-19 and Luke 24:36-48.

I wonder, what is the worst mistake you’ve ever made? What makes you cringe with embarrassment when you remember what you said or did at some time? What event or action overwhelms you with sadness or regret as you consider the outcome? How often have you revisited the event in your mind and thought: ‘If only I …’? There is often the accompanying thought that things will never be good again, life is blighted forever. Continue reading

Leave a comment

The gift of peace

On 8th April 2018, the second of Easter, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were Psalm 133, Acts 4:32-35 and John 20:19-31.

There are various occasions in the year when we might receive a gift from friends or family, even from our place of work. Christmas is a big opportunity for gift giving for many, particularly to children. Presents of all shapes and sizes often sparkle under the Christmas tree or bulge in sacks and stockings. Birthdays too provide a similar opportunity for all ages (though the older we get the less we may want to remember our increasing age!). Then there are wedding anniversaries, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, even Grandparents’ Day for those who qualify. At work people may get an annual bonus (particularly those in the banking world it seems) or a gift on retirement. Some may have received Easter eggs in the last couple of weeks. Sometimes we simply get a gift to say ‘Thank you’. 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

Leave a comment

Believing without seeing

On 23 April,  Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 16Acts 2:14a, 22-32, John 20:19-31.

Most people nowadays are very security conscious and protect their homes with locks and alarms. We’re probably quite unusual as a family because we keep our front door unlocked during the day (though not at night). People we know will just knock and walk in, which is pretty much what I remember from my childhood home: a knock and a call of “It’s only me” as a friend or neighbour walked in.

In our Gospel reading today we witness Jesus doing much the same thing. He didn’t ring the doorbell or knock. If he had done, I doubt if anyone would have had the courage to open the door. The disciples were meeting in fear of those who had killed their Lord. They were hardly likely to open up. For Jesus, that was no problem as he simply ‘came and stood among them’. Whereas other visitors might have brought fear by their presence, Jesus brought Shalom – an all-encompassing peace, a wholeness that only the risen Lord could give. If there was the slightest doubt about whether this was an imposter, Jesus showed the wounds he had so recently acquired during his crucifixion. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Individuals matter

On 16 April, Easter Day, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 118.14-24Acts 10:34-43, John 20:1-18.

After six and a half weeks of introspection and somewhat sombre readings in our services, after special services in which we retold the events of what had become the inevitable end of Jesus’ earthly life, today we celebrate.

Jesus died and rose again, defeating death. The tomb could not hold him, death was denied victory. Though for a while it seemed to have won, evil did not triumph. Today we say Alleluia! Today we rejoice in our freedom from condemnation as a result of sin. We are celebrating the wonderful action of God in Christ which has brought about our reconciliation to God. Today we recall what Peter told to those gathered in Cornelius’ house: “In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to God.” And, “Everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Continue reading


Hope amid despair

On 2 April, the fifth Sunday of Lent, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were  Psalm 130Ezekiel 37:1-14, John 11:1-45.

Those of you who know Charlie12string, who leads Morning Prayer here on Epiphany Island, will know that he has a somewhat irreverent sense of humour. He often follows up one of his comments with “One flash and I’m ash”. Every year, as Lent approaches, Charlie tells me that he’s “giving up Lent for Lent”. It’s quite an amusing idea and, to a certain extent, I can see his point.

Lent is a time for self-examination, for taking stock of our lives and being honest about our weaknesses and faults. I suppose most of us would rather accept that we are basically good people who have not done anything terribly wrong. It’s not a comfortable idea to consider purposefully looking for those things in our lives that are not as they should be. However, if we have the courage to look it can be helpful and even hopeful. Taking time to reflect on our lives can help us to see where we can make changes that may benefit us as well as others around us.

At this point in Lent, things become even less enticing. Death features strongly and that’s not a topic that most of us like to dwell on, but perhaps it’s not all bad news. Continue reading

Leave a comment

That we may come to believe

On 3 April, the Second Sunday of Easter, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were Psalm 150, Acts 5:27-32,  John 20:19-31.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.” John even says it later at the very end of his Gospel: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” I read these words and I wonder why John didn’t at least give the task a try. How can he tantalise like this, saying that there’s a whole lot more to the story and then keeping it to himself? I want to read the missing bits, I want to know all the extra things that Jesus did, I want a blow by blow account of every miracle, every piece of teaching, every confrontation, every journey of Jesus. But I am denied that. However, John says that what he has written is there to allow us, his readers, to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and to have life in his name as a result.

Despite my frustrations, which you may share, John obviously thinks he has given enough of the story of Jesus to achieve what he set out to do. John’s gospel seems to be the one that has been the most carefully structured to bring about the desired teaching. It’s John who builds much of what he writes around the seven ‘I am’ statements of Jesus, where he effectively uses the name that God uses for himself and so declares that he is the Son of God. John is a careful and thoughtful editor of the vast amount of material at his disposal. He chose to include this story about the disciples meeting Jesus in a locked house on two occasions. These are among the signs that are written so that we may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Continue reading