Sunday 29 June 2014

Homily for the Feast of the Apostles

I wonder if any of you here have been following the World Cup competition which has been taking place over the last few weeks, and which has now entered the knock out stages, unfortunately without England’s participation. I visited Bluewater Shopping Centre yesterday, and the Adidas store were inviting people to choose whether Brazil or Chile would win the match which took place last night as part of a competition to win some vouchers for their new store. I entered the competition and hoped that Chile would win. Of course I really wanted England to win, or at least progress further than they did. But for the sake of winning a few vouchers I was now a Chile supporter.

Friday 27 June 2014

Developing a Prayer Rule

Growing up as a committed evangelical Christian I always struggled to develop a regular spiritual life because I had no models to follow and received no instruction from my congregation. One of the great blessings in discovering aspects of traditional and liturgical spirituality has been to find a whole science of spirituality already described in great detail. Part of this includes the encouragement to develop a prayer rule, a spiritual regime tailored to our own experience and circumstances. Now we might well imagine that we should not set out on such a course unless we have a spiritual guide, and in the case where we are members of a congregation and have access to a pastor and priest, it is always best to seek such advice.

Necromancy and the Intercession of the Saints

There are those among Protestants who consider that seeking the intercession of the saints is the same as necromancy, and is forbidden by Deuteronomy 18 which says…

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
Now in this passage we see that the Jewish people were forbidden to adopt the practices of the nations around them. But let us be clear, there is no comparison between asking the intercession of those faithful Christians who have departed to be with Christ in Paradise, indeed asking them to pray for us before God, and all these vile and depraved practices which are forbidden.


Today has been fruitful and useful. I drove down to Farnham in Surrey to meet Chris, and to discuss the future development of Orthodox missionary activities there. I met him at the Anglican Church of St Peter, Wrecclesham, Farnham. It is an attractive Victorian building full of air and light. The sanctuary is very spacious and it is an ideal location for the Orthodox Way of Prayer event I am organising for Saturday, 26th July.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

The Diaconate in the Orthodox Church - Part 1

It might be tempting to begin a study of the diaconate with the canons of the councils and Fathers, or the history of the development of its various ranks. But this would seem to me to be a great mistake. Before considering the duties and categories of the diaconate it is surely necessary to consider the character and substance required in those called to such ministry. We must ask what sort of person a deacon, both male and female, should be, before we ask what they should do.

Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In this study we are going to consider the words of the prayer which our Lord and Saviour taught his disciples. It is found in both the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke, and we will examine the context in which it is placed. It is not random, but is in a section of each Gospel which is concerned with the character of the person who prays. In that of St Matthew Chapter 6 we find it in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. In that of St Luke Chapter 11 we find it just after the account of Mary and Martha’s different response to the presence of Christ as a guest in their home.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Homily for Third Sunday of Baouna

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11

I would like us to spend a few moments this morning considering the reading from the book of the Acts of the Apostles. I usually preach from the passage in the Gospel, but while I was considering the lections for this Sunday it was the reading from Acts which attracted my attention. The passage contains a description of a small part of St Paul’s missionary journeys in Asia Minor. He had been travelling through a number of towns and cities and found himself in Thessalonica with Silas, his partner in this apostolic ministry. They stayed in Thessalonica for three weeks and preached in the synagogue, as was their custom.

Friday 20 June 2014

Building a Spiritual Temple

The greatest of church buildings in East or West have the effect of lifting the soul to worship God. They are the most fitting locations for the gathering together of the Church in celebration of the Liturgy and to offer praise and prayer. But beyond the wonder of the most beautiful of architecture and decoration, the construction of the spiritual temple built together from the living stones of the lives of men and women, is that which delights the heart of God above all.

It is this spiritual temple which will last into eternity when even the greatest of churches and cathedrals have crumbled. It is this spiritual temple which is already the New Jerusalem in which God dwells, and which will be revealed in the last days.

Thursday 19 June 2014

The Great Delusions - #3 - Only Spontaneous Is Spiritual!

There is a widespread delusion, which has been introduced only in recent times, which suggests that liturgical prayer is not spiritual and that only spontaneous prayers are pleasing to God. This was certainly what I was taught. Spontaneous words came from the heart, it was said, while written down words at best came from the head. I have on occasion decided to spontaneously treat my wife to a meal in a restaurant. Unfortunately it usually happens that the restaurants we visit are filled with people who planned ahead and booked a table. It might appear that my spontaneity is more romantic and thoughtful, but while the less spontaneous couples are enjoying a candlelit dinner, my wife and I have often been left to spontaneously share a meal in McDonalds.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

The Great Delusions - #2 - It's My Opinion!

We all have opinions about everything. That's normal. During the World Cup taking place in Brazil at the moment, everyone has an opinion, often different to that of the referee or the TV commentators. The problem with opinions is that we can give our own views a degree of authority that they do not warrant and that can not only cause problems, but can be downright dangerous.

In most areas of life we know how much authority to give our opinions. We don't allow people to engage in brain surgery just because they have seen a documentary and have some firm ideas about what is required. If someone insists they know what to do, but cannot show any evidence that they have the requisite skill and experience, then they are very likely to be escorted out of the hospital, if not sent for treatment themselves for mental illness.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

The Great Delusions - #1 - I Want To Be Happy

We all want to be happy surely? Isn't it reasonable and completely normal for Christians in the 21st century to want to enjoy the Christian life and find it a source of happiness? Well it may certainly be a widespread aspiration among Western Christians, but it is hardly the experience of most Christians in the world, and throughout history. Indeed the search for happiness is a measure of immaturity and self-interest rather than a legitimate aspect of the character of the Christian Faith.

Friday 13 June 2014

The West needs Orthodox Mission - Part 1

Each day, in our Orthodox Daily Office, we pray to the one 'who does not wish the death of the sinner', and 'who calls all to salvation'. Indeed this same Lord is the one who commands his Apostles, 'go therefore, and teach all nations'. What is the will of God towards our own nation and towards the British people of whom we are a part? It seems to me that our Orthodox Faith clearly teaches us that God does not will that any British people should be lost in the true death of sin. More than that, it seems to me that our Orthodox Faith teaches us that God wills that the British people be called to receive the Gospel of salvation. This Apostolic injunction to go and teach applies to the whole church, therefore it is the command of the Lord that those of us who are Orthodox must teach the people of this nation, of our own British people, so that they also might receive this Gospel of love and life with joy and thanksgiving and become disciples themselves.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Dreaming of an Orthodox Mobile Mission Unit

When my father was a young man in the Plymouth Brethren he joined what was then an innovative organisation engaged in mission in the area around his home. It was called the South East London Mobile Evangelism Unit. It had existed for some years before he was old enough to be involved. But he still speaks warmly of his adventures in a converted Landrover, with a loudspeaker system wired up to allow music and preaching to be transmitted into the neighbourhood where the vehicle was driving or had been parked. As a young boy myself I remember another Plymouth Brethren ministry, Counties Evangelism. This also engaged in evangelism and I can recall being on a large village green in Kent somewhere while a great white marquee was being erected by various volunteers from our Brethren congregations. If I think carefully I can still bring back to mind the great, warm-hearted evangelist who would preach and teach in this tent and in our Brethren congregations.

Monday 9 June 2014

Homily for Pentecost

But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. John 15:25

Today is the joyful feast of Pentecost. It is the day in the year when we especially commemorate with thanksgiving the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Christ who had remained faithful, and continued to gather together both through the despair of the cross, the joy of the resurrection and the hope of the ascension. Of course it is also a time for us to give thanks for the continuing outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, and even upon each one of us, unworthy though we know ourselves to be.

Monday 2 June 2014

Coptic Orthodox Mission in the UK Report - June 2nd

During the first half of 2014 there have been many exciting developments in the Mission of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. God is at work in the UK and British people are becoming members of the Orthodox Church through our missionary ministry as God leads us and grants us the opportunity to explain our Orthodox Faith with those who are seeking the abundant life which God calls all men to enjoy. The British Orthodox Church was given the mission of bringing our Coptic Orthodox Faith to British people by His Holiness Pope Shenouda of blessed memory. This report focuses especially on the activities in which Father Peter Farrington is involved.