Every Friday at the noon Eucharist, the sermon is given by a student in their final year of Seminary. On Friday 20th November, Mark Chambers stood up and gave his sermon. He has posted both the text and the audio of his sermon on his blog.
The sermon struck a chord with me as I tried to grapple with the events around the world last week. How do we, as ordinands, training to go out into the world to minister to people, to preach of God’s love for all God’s people, try to handle the horror we are being forced to witness. All the horror and chaos of violent attacks around the world. I felt useless, unable to do anything to help. I am grappling with the fact that I am at VTS being very well looked after,warm bed, plentiful food, enjoying going to lessons, meeting new people and worshipping in many churches safely.When not far from my homeland and all over the world, thousands of thousands of people are trying to find a home. Refugees are fleeing their homes and trying to find somewhere safe, somewhere where they will not wake up to gunfire, where they can get food for their family, a place they can try to rebuild and live their lives. I felt constrained that I couldn’t help in a practical way, that I couldn’t house a family or feed or clothe the many refugees. But when I reflected on these feelings with someone, they highlighted to me that being where I am right now is exactly where I need to be. Learning all That I am learning through my lessons and experiences, I am gaining the knowledge, I am preparing and I am getting ready for that day when I am in a parish and people turn to me to help them with dealing with all the chaos and need in the world. I am being formed in order to better help those who are suffering. For when I am in parish, I fully expect that there will be people who are in need, people who are hungry, people who need clothing, a warm, safe place to lay their head, who simply need a friendly face to visit. I will not be able to physically feed or clothe all the world’s refugees, but I can help. I have gained so much from my formation training and from my time at VTS that I feel I am much better equipped to face the faithful family of a parish and help us all to work towards enacting our faith, practising what Scriptures are teaching us, to go out and do all that Jesus taught throughout His life, ministry, death and resurrection. To love our neighbours. Through all this grappling and reflection, Matthew 25:35-40 keeps popping into my mind; “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
It was a shock and good to hear the sermon touch on some of the things that I am reflecting on making me realise that we are all grappling with these questions of how do we as future ordained ministers deal with the horrors that surrounds us in this world; “Last Friday ISIS terrorists attacked and killed many innocent people in France. Other attacks around the world like the airplane shot down in Russia, the bombing in Beirut, and the crisis in Syria have left us all grasping for answers and ideas as to what to do with the chaos that is all around us. The congregations we serve will be looking for the meaning and guess what, they are going to be looking to you and I for those answers.” There is much more reflecting and exploring, (I am sure this will be a life long exploration), and I am very privileged that I have the support at VTS and back home in order to continue to grapple with these issues.
Follow the link to Mark’s blog to read or hear the full sermon. I hope you enjoy and get as much from it as much as I did: