St Annes Buxton & John Fisher & Thomas More Chapel
Tel Buxton 23777, Chapel 813491

trees

FATHER GERRY’S HOMILY 

I love the drive from Buxton to Chapel on the A6 and Long Lane.  The shape of the Peaks, the quirky ups and downs, the ins and outs always engage me in moments of wonder.  The one thing I miss is the trees.
Living in Buxton is the first time I’ve ever lived in a place with so many trees.  They’re everywhere!
Many of the streets and roads are tree-lined.  The Duke of Devonshire’s design really shows.  It makes for a busy time in the autumn sweeping up the fallen leaves!

Here’s a story called “Why some trees are evergreen”.
When the plants and trees were first made the Great Mystery gave a gift to them all.  But first, he set up a contest to determine which gift would be most useful to whom.  “I want you to stay awake and keep watch over the earth for 7 nights,” the Great Mystery told them.
The young trees and plants were so excited to be entrusted with such an important job that the first night they would have found it difficult not to stay awake.  However the second night was not so easy, and just before dawn, a few fell asleep.  On the third night, the trees and plants whispered among themselves in the wind, trying to keep from dropping off, but it was too much work for some of them.  Even more, fell asleep on the fourth night.
By the time the 7th night came the only trees and plants still awake were the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, the ivy and the conifer.
“What wonderful endurance you have!” exclaimed the Great Mystery “You shall be given the gift of remaining green forever.  You shall be the guardians of the forest.  Even in the seeming dead of winter, your brother and sister creatures will find life by being protected in your branches”. 
Ever since then all the other trees and plants lose their leaves and sleep all winter while the evergreens stay awake.
This is a Cherokee Indian Creation Story.  It talks about greenness in the midst of barrenness and links this greenness with the ability to stay awake.  Staying awake is a standard code in all the spiritual traditions.  It means remaining aware of our connection with God even when outer and inner forces fight against it.  Light in the darkness reminds us of this and so does the green-leafed tree in the leafless forest
We all instinctively know this already.  That’s why some people have already put their Christmas Trees up both outside and inside!  We want to remind ourselves of life even in the winter!  That’s a part of what the Advent Wreath is about.  It’s green.  It’s made up of conifer, holly, ivy, green leaves and berries.  It’s showing us how to be green in barrenness, how to be alive in the dark of winter, how to stay awake when everyone else is falling asleep.
There’s one glorious line of poetry in today’s first reading from Isaiah that I really like “Oh that you would tear the heaven open and come down – at your Presence the mountains would melt.”
Well, God has torn the heavens open and has come down. Most of the mountains and peaks haven’t melted but we have!  
We’ve seen him.  We’ve experienced him.  We’re reminded of him each day in this season of Advent. 
Many people have fallen asleep.  We even do so ourselves. This is the season to stay awake.  So we’re invited to Wake up – to the God who became a baby in a stable
Wake up – to the prophet who ate with tax collectors and sinners
Wake up – to Jesus, the Son of Mary who was crucified on the cross
Wake up – to the God who comes to us today looking like bread, and tasting like bread, feeding us with new life
When you look at the trees this next month notice the green leaves on the evergreens.  We’re called to be green, to be awake even when everyone else has gone to sleep.

Fr Gerry
November 28th 2020.

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Don Lavery

THE REV DON LAVERY’S HOMILY

This week I was redecorating the bathroom. Over the years the mirror had become a bit rusty and dishevelled so we decided to replace it. When I’d hung it on the wall I realised that it wasn’t working properly. When I’d hung the previous one for the first time, that had shown a much younger and more virile man. (Quite handsome actually)

This one only showed a much older man with double chins and wrinkles - I may have to take it back.

The actress and great beauty Audrey Hepburn was once asked how she maintained her beauty into old age.  Her reply, which was read at her funeral is great advice for all women (and for men too) It resonates with echoes of the beatitudes.  And unsurprisingly it also fits with today’s gospel. 

Here are Audrey’s beauty tips.

To have attractive lips, speak kind words.

To have a loving look, look for the good side of people.

To look skinny, share your food with the hungry.

People, even more than objects, need to be fixed, spoiled, awakened, wanted and saved: never give up on anyone.

When you become old, you will discover that you have two hands, one to help yourself, the second to help others.

 The beauty of a woman [or a man] is seen in their eyes because that is the door open to their heart, the source of their love.

Thinking of actresses, cinema and all that led me to think that if there was a movie being made about the church’s year what would you choose as the final climactic scene?

Would you pick the Annunciation when Gabriel proclaims that the promise made to the chosen people thousands of years past is about to be fulfilled? 

Or Christmas?  With the stable and the birth of the Messiah- he has come at last. That might be good…

What about Good Friday when we witness the price being paid for us all - for our redemption – being paid by the innocent one on the cross?  Although I think that that has been done. 

Better maybe, might be Easter Sunday when in the early morning the glory of God spreads out in a golden light as Christ rises from the tomb - proof indeed that our debt has been paid.

But the church doesn’t pick any of these.  Quite deliberately it chooses today as the finale of its year. The last day of the year towards which all the others have been pointing.  The end of the year, the end perhaps of all time - and the end towards which we too point. Christ as King. Christ as head of his kingdom. 

It was not always so. The feast was only introduced by St Pius XI in 1925.  That was just three years after Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy and his fascist government came to power. The Pope in his encyclical which instituted the Feast of Christ the King said“…chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind is labouring….and the manifold evils in the world, were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus… and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics:  and ..as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there would be no real… prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ…” (Pius XI Quas Primas 1)

For most of the year, we have been reading about and thinking about the coming of the kingdom.  Every day and sometimes several times a day we pray ‘thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ We know that as the kingdom of God is not in the world, not in time, that we enter it by doing God’s will; by walking in the Spirit of God and producing the fruits of the Spirit, such as love, joy, peace, and especially mercy. We enter, by striving every day to a little bit less of my will and a little bit more of his will. 

But it is a most unusual kingdom. The greatest in the Kingdom are the childlike. The weak conquer the strong, the foolish confound the wise and frequently a camel simply pops through the eye of a needle.  We increase our wealth by decreasing ourselves.  We multiply everything that is of value by dividing it among all who are in need.  In the Kingdom of God, there is only one law, the law of love.  And most strange of all the King is the servant of all.

Yes, he is a pretty strange king; he is a crucified King and just in case we should miss the point, he has the words ‘King of the Jews’ pinned above his head. Jesus’ idea of kingship and power is totally opposite to the world’s idea of kingship and power. That is why the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer in today’s Mass describes Jesus’ kingdom as a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

The king, not only of the Jews but of all peoples, the universal king, from his royal throne on the cross, extends his invitation to all his subjects:-“If anyone will come after me he must pick up his cross daily and follow me.”

There are no states within this Kingdom that are more perfect than any other.  

No person who is more perfect than any other.  Everyone is called to use the talents that they have been given: to reach their full potential.

 The end of the old year is also the beginning of the new and with it comes the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps we could do as Audrey Hepburn suggested and strive to remember that ‘People, even more than objects, need to be fixed, spoiled, awakened, wanted and saved: We must never give up on anyone.

Or perhaps to do as Pope Francis said during his Year of Mercy ‘Small gestures of love, of tenderness, of care, make people feel that the Lord is with us. This is how the door of mercy opens. God has caressed us with His mercy. Let us bring God’s tender caress to others, to those who are in need.’

Then one day, we may hear the Servant King say to each one of us …

Come you who my father has blessed take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you… for I was hungry and you gave me food:  Thirsty and you gave me drink…

Rev Don Lavery

November 21st, 2020. 


 

“A GIN AND TONIC?” 

As the days shorten and the nights draw in Radio 4 listeners have been asked to share something that’s been brightening up their days and helping them to get through the lockdown restrictions.

This morning a 92-year-old woman called June Tibby shared her golden daily moment.  She said, “my moment is at half-past 5 every day.  Part of the pleasure is in the ritual which goes like this:-
Slice the lemon
Drop it in a glass with 2 ice cubes
Add a large measure of gin
Listen to the blissful fizz of the tonic
Um.....um then
Light a candle
Sit and sip my drink
Watch the flame of the candle and count my blessings:-
Family, friends, health, and the radio,
Cheers!
Um.....um  Magic.   
Then she giggles. 
The radio presenter added “June should be available on prescription to everyone in the country.  She’s better than the vaccine!”

I enjoyed June’s delight in sharing her ritual with us all but she threw me at the end.  I was surprised when she combined it all with “counting her blessings” .  She mentioned her family, friends, health, the radio.

The first two servants in today’s Gospel count their blessings, the Master has entrusted all his property to them.  It’s worth a bomb!  Even the one talent is the equivalent of 20 years salary – half a lifetime’s work.  The servant who received 5 times that really has won the lottery!

These two servants go and trade with their treasures.  It doesn’t mean they start up a new business.  Trading here means they count their blessings, they share their blessings, they risk giving their blessings to everyone both near and far.  They share the trust the Master has in them with those around them.

I felt sad about the servant who dug a hole in the ground and hid his Master’s money.  Maybe he’s afraid of failing and has never been shown how to trust himself?  The meaning of the gift is hidden from him and he buries the treasure and then blames his master for being too demanding.  He could be Donald Trump at the moment, blaming everyone else except himself.  Instead of treasuring the gift he accuses his master of severity.
Do we count our blessings enough?  During this month of November we’re especially deepening our sense of gratitude to God for all the people who have died who have been part of our lives.  What a blessing they are!

I wonder whether June Tibby, 92 years old knows that she’s praying when she lights her candle, sips her gin and counts her blessings every evening at 5.30 pm.  Giving thanks, being grateful, savouring the blessings of life is a golden moment for all of us each day.

It’s funny how the more we do it the more thankful and grateful we become and that spills over onto all the other moments of the day.

Fr Gerry
November 14th, 2020

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“MARRYING JESUS!” 

I once did a wedding at Taddington with the Young Farmers.  Paul was a farmer at Whatstandwell who used to give our Briars students a day’s work experience and he asked me to witness his marriage.   We had a Young Farmers Guard of Honour.  About a dozen of the local young farmers brought their pitchforks and wellies and made an arch for the bride and groom to walk beneath coming out of the church.

We all like going to a wedding.  We like to get involved and share the joy.  We often find the couples love and commitment is contagious and we each catch a little bit of it. Certain people get the important roles, Chief Bridesmaid, Best Man, walking the bride down the aisle, making a speech.

It’s funny that there’s always something that goes wrong at a wedding.  Famously in the Gospel, they run out of wine at Cana in Galilee.  In today’s story, the bride and groom are late coming back to his house for the ceremony.  The story highlights the bridesmaids who form the guard of honour and light their lamps to escort the couple to their home. 
In gospel stories, we are always being invited not just to attend, not even to take important roles like bridesmaids and best man.  No, in these stories more is being asked of us.  We’re being invited to take the main part, to be the centre of attention.  We’re invited to marry Jesus, to pledge our commitment to him, to deepen our falling in love with him and say “’til death do us part”.  There are echoes of the wedding service where we promise “to have and hold each other, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish each other ‘til death do us part”. 
What a promise!  What an impossible dream!  How could anyone ever live up to it?

The miracle is we do! Slowly, gradually, haltingly, with many mistakes and trials and errors right to the very end.  We put oil in our lamps.  We discover each day that God loves us more deeply, more lavishly than we realised the day before.  We grow and change, we learn and mature.  We learn how to make sure there’s always oil in our lamps, love, compassion and gratitude in our hearts.  We deepen our faith in God’s presence beside us, between us, within us, and beyond us.

During this lockdown, we’ll all make that special time each day to pray.  Light your candle whether you’re alone, together, or with your family.  Put the light you see outside in your candle inside the lamp of your heart.  Remind yourself we’re invited to be on the top table of God’s wedding, invited to be a bride or groom.  Remind yourself of God’s promises to us and of ours to him.  We’ll prepare our lamps, we’ll make sure there’s plenty of oil in our hearts to meet both the everyday and the unexpected demands and challenges of this next month.

Fr Gerry
November 7th, 2020