Sermons from St Faith's
'The Singing Bird Will Come'
Paula O'Shaughnessy, April 7th, 2013
Today's Gospel offers a
vision of what it means to have a faith in and to
follow Jesus. And it is not just one way of
serving him – it all depends on what God asks us to
do. There's Thomas, who is invited by Jesus to
have faith and to leave aside any doubts. The
other apostles each have their own role.
There's the Beloved Disciple – who is often identified
as John. His role is to live long and to give
witness in the writing of the Gospel. Having faith is
not enough – as we know that the disciples are hiding
in fear from the Jews. To build the church and
spread the Gospel, they need to have courage to
venture out into the world. In the passage which
follows today's reading from scripture we learn about
Peter. Peter questions Jesus about John's role
and what it is to be. Jesus admonishes him and
reminds Peter that he needs to concentrate on his own
Peter's task is to spread the Gospel, build the Church
and to suffer and die for his faith in Christ.
Jesus tells Peter he is to be girded by another and be
taken where he does not wish to go.
In the declaration Peter makes three times, of his
love for Jesus, he is refuting the three times denial
he made, prior to Jesus' resurrection.
If we understand anything by this, it is that we need
to have courage and wisdom. We all know that
moment well – when the right action becomes clear and
inescapable. That still, small voice of
conscience that says what we need to do. This Lent, we
have had the chance to reflect and renew our faith and
better understand what our Christian witness and
actions need to be.
I have been watching the 1970s drama series,
'Colditz', which, apart from being a fantastic piece
of theatre, also offers the chance to hold the mirror
up to human nature. If you haven't watched it, I
would urge you to.
The dynamics of the World War 2 Prisoners of War
Allied Forces of officer class, held in the fortress
in Germany are fascinating. The camp Kommandant is an
honourable Officer of the Old school, non-political
military force (the Wehrmacht). He is distinct
from the ideological and politically aligned Nazi
forces – the SS and the Gestapo. The Senior British
Office, Colonel Preston, is a man who operates
flexibly and pragmatically, under difficult
circumstances. He follows a code of honour,
discipline and right action. Often the spirit of
the law prevails, rather than the letter of the
law. Colonel Preston secures fair treatment for
his men, but realises the limits of his powers.
There are unlikely alliances; Colonel Preston and the
Kommandant work together to prevent the death of a
Polish officer, at the hands of his own people,
following a court-martial. The Pole had been
passing information to the German guards, after being
threatened by the Gestapo with the lives of his wife
and children, during an earlier stay in hospital. This
was a case of the Kommandant and the Senior British
Officer joining forces, to save a man's life, who
would otherwise have been a victim of the madness of
The prevailing theme is that one needs to adhere to
self-discipline, the greater good, honour and right
action. It is not a matter of blindly following
convention, giving int to pressure, or following
orders, without applying reason or logic.
In the Anglican Church tradition, the prevailing
influence of moderating forces, realiance on reason,
not just faith is a great legacy for us. We
inherit a tradition of tolerance and moderation, from
16th century thinkers such as Richard Hooker.
It is our duty to be true to our faith, to have
courage, but to make sure we also have compassion and
understanding. In our everyday lives, in every
encounter we have, within our church and outside of
it, we are Christ's witnesses. We need to make
sure that we offer a warm welcome, one from the heart
– where we are in tune with the feelings of others,
how we connect and the effect our actions have on
We, as Christians must welcome all people – being all
encompassing and non-exclusive.
An image which may help us in this is the old Chinese
proverb: 'If we keep a green bough in our heart, the
singing bird will come'.
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