The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

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International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

The first day of November is a special one in the Church Year. It is All Saints’ Day, a day to remember the communion of saints, that is all who have lived or are living the Christian faith in their day to day life. It is also the first day of the Suffering Church Action and Awareness Week, when we remember those who suffer today because they are following the Christian faith. The readings at the noon service in the cathedral on Epiphany Island were Psalm 34:1-10; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 5:1-12. The sermon is given below.

Did you have a good Hallowe’en celebration yesterday? I think in the UK there was not much happening because of the various degrees of lockdown in different areas. I think it was the first year that we have had no one knocking on our door. Although it’s not a celebration I am very keen on, the quietness was yet another reminder that this year is not like others in many ways. Young people knocking on the door would have been the old normal, not the new normal everyone seems to talk about.

Yet, the Church Year rolls on just as it has done for centuries. All Hallows’ Eve is followed by the festival of All Hallows or All Saints, and here we are, celebrating as the Church has done since the 4th Century. At first the day was used to remember the many Christians who had been martyred for their faith. Now it is used to remind us of the communion of saints which is made of two parts, unless you are a Roman Catholic when there are three parts. The Church Triumphant is the great gathering of people who have lived their lives as Christians and now enjoy safety and happiness in God’s presence. Those of us who are living the Christian life now on earth are the Church Militant; we are still involved in fighting the good fight of faith, as Paul urged Timothy in his first letter.

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To whom can we go?

Jesus can never be accused of hiding the implications of following him. He made it plain to his followers that his way was one of suffering and that his disciples should expect the same in their lives. For many this was too much and they no longer followed Jesus. For others there was no turning back. There is no doubt the journey is tough but we have at our disposal spiritual armour to help us in our fight against the forces that would oppose us.

The readings for the 26 August service in the Cathedral were Psalm 84, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69. My reflection follows.

This is the fourth Sunday that the church has allocated a reading from the second half of John 6 as the Gospel for the day. This is obviously far too important a part of the New Testament for it to be quickly glanced at. It is parcelled out in small chunks to be digested with care.

During this long discourse about the Bread of Heaven the setting and the audience may have changed. Initially it was the crowd from the feeding of the 5000, presumably not all of them, who headed across the Sea of Galilee in search of Jesus who had disappeared. They found him in Capernaum, the town he seems to have made his base, and began a discussion with him. There is no indication where Jesus was as he talked to the people but it’s quite easy to believe that he was found near the shore as verse 25 says ‘they found him on the other side of the sea’.

When we reach today’s reading, John makes it clear that the discussion was happening in the synagogue in Capernaum and that Jesus’ audience comprised many of his disciples, so not just a random crowd. It’s easy to forget that there were more followers of Jesus than The Twelve, as they are referred to here. It seems that many people chose to follow Jesus, including several women. As much of what Jesus had been saying had caused confusion and misunderstanding, it could be that quite a few people had drifted away in despair of ever working out what was going on. Some may have gone as they were angry. Jesus seemed to be saying that he came from Heaven but his family and origin were known to many in the crowd. He came from Nazareth as far as they were concerned and not from Heaven. Even worse, Jesus had begun to say that the people must eat his flesh and drink his blood, something that if taken literally was absolutely impossible for the Jews. Continue reading