09 January 2022

Sermon: The Baptism of Christ

Sermon: The Baptism of Christ

9 January 2022 – Archdeacon Mark Long

Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; and Luke 3:15-17, 21-22; NRSV 

The New Year is often considered a time for resolutions, which generally speak to our human desire to live better and more meaningful lives. In all honesty these resolutions are often either too simplistic or too idealistic to be of any impact, yet whether we embrace or eschew the tradition the beginning of a New Year is a useful place to consider our expectations, reflect on our lives, and explore our hope for the months that lie ahead. Bishop Geoff, in the conclusion to his sermon last Sunday, reminded us as we enter 2022 of a key resolution we need to make – and make daily – if we are indeed serious about our faith commitment. He said, “… I invite you, on this entry into a New Year, to take God's word seriously today. To surrender yourself to God once more, with all that you have and all that you are, so that in 2022 you may discover more fully the source of your life ‘in Christ Jesus’ and may be able to live more effectively ‘to the praise of God’s glory’.”[1] 

Our Gospel reading this morning echoes this invitation as we are drawn into the expectation and hope of the crowds gathered around John the Baptist who, Luke informs us, “… with many … exhortations, … proclaimed the good news to the people.”[2] This Good News was based on John’s proclamation of “… a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,”[3] a message of discomfort that spoke directly to the crowd’s expectation that it was time for God to act and that significant change would result. John warns the people that, “Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”[4] In response the crowd ask John, “What then should we do?”[5] and he responds with a call to a simple and honest and intrinsically just lifestyle, encouraging the crowds to be generous with their excess resources: only one coat is needed, give the rest away to those who have need of them; share your food with those who have insufficient; if you’re a tax collector, take no more than what’s due; if you’re a soldier, be satisfied with your wages.[6] There is something about a call to living an honest and generous and just life that is inspiring, and we see in the opening words of today’s Gospel reading that the expectations of the crowd were heightened, to the point where the people were beginning to seriously wonder if John may be the Messiah (a title that carried significant political overtones at the time, and it is not surprising that John directs this expectation to one more powerful who is yet to come). In Luke’s account John does not name Jesus as the Messiah, instead focusing the crowds on the signs that will mark the Messiah: the Holy Spirit and fire.

Luke, however, ensures we make the connection and we hear that after John’s arrest by Herod, Jesus, together with others in the crowd, is also baptised. As Jesus prays, Luke informs us that the Holy Spirit in the bodily form of a dove settles on Jesus, and a voice from heaven is heard, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”[7] Luke is ensuring we understand that Jesus is more than just the Messiah, he is Divine.[8] 

How does this speak to our ‘life in Christ’ today as we journey into 2022? 

The crowds drawn to John the Baptist had questions. What are our questions? They had expectations. What are our expectations? Those who responded to John’s message did so because they found answers in John’s call to the simple, honest, and just lifestyle he advocated and they were able to affirm their commitment to this God-focussed lifestyle by being baptised in water. Jesus, by being baptised, affirmed his commitment to this call, too, and it has remained an essential aspect (although too often ignored) of the Christian Gospel over the millennia. However, not only was Jesus baptised, but the Holy Spirit came on Jesus in bodily form, and a heavenly voice acclaimed Jesus the Son of God, the Beloved. What does this call us to in our own time and place, in our world of 2022? How do we respond? 

Those around Jesus, who saw the dove settle upon him, would have recognised it as a symbol of peace, sacrifice, and atonement; and Luke’s use of the dove connects the Holy Spirit to these symbols.[9] Sacrifice and atonement in the ancient Temple rites of Jerusalem required fire, and so we see a possible link to John’s comment that the one who is coming will baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire, that from John’s perspective baptism in the Spirit and with fire is about peace, sacrifice, and atonement.

We understand something about the nature of peace, and know that true peace requires sacrifice and restitution; that sacrifice in essence requires surrender, and in terms of faith more specifically surrender to God, to God’s will and purposes for our lives and our communities and our world; and atonement requires restitution if we are to be fully reconciled, to be fully ‘at one’ with God and with our fellow human beings. We also know that embracing such a baptism is discomforting, but necessary, and that for us as people of faith it plays out primarily in our relationship with God, but is formed in the crucible of our intimate, individual and community relationships. 

I have purposefully used the word discomfort this morning and in previous sermons. Part of my own journey as a person has been discovering that discomfort almost always brings growth and new hope, and is in actual fact God’s gift. It is not something I actively seek, but is something I have learnt to not turn away from when it is offered; and that in working through it I discover a new place of peace until such time as the gift is offered to me again. The tough part is embracing the fire, and all too often embracing the temptation to avoid it. But the gift of the Holy Spirit without the fire of the Holy Spirt, the gift of peace without sacrifice and atonement, is insipid and unsatisfying and short-lived. 

Along with John’s message and call to a simple, honest, just and God-focused lifestyle, our ‘life in Christ Jesus’ calls us deeper into right relationship with God by actively dealing with wrong-doing and unhealthy thoughts, which we are all guilty of at times; of not treating one another with respect and dignity; of not challenging the injustice we witness around us; of not standing up for the rights of those weaker than ourselves.[10]

I am praying that as we enter this new calendar year we all have the courage to answer both these calls, and to resolve to live as people of hope, as people of peace, as people of justice; and that such resolution my be neither simplistic nor idealistic, but authentic and robust; and that we will take the necessary time to reflect so that our actions will be directed and wise and filled with grace. 

A closing prayer today by Brec Seaton, Practitioner and Trainer at Place for Hope, a peace-building community in Glasgow, Scotland. Let us pray, 

The quiet whisper of injustice that goes unheard
Let me be still to hear this voice
The roar of the powerful that fills the sky
Let me find the space between 

The place where I am called to speak
The space where I am called to be
As the dove rests upon my shoulder
As I look inwards and then out
Let me find my voice
And the fire within
To speak out against injustice
To strive to be a peacemaker
At one with my Lord
At one with myself
At one with the world.


[1] Bishop Geoff Quinlan, The 2nd Sunday after Christmas: Living to the Praise of God’s Glory

(Ephesians 1:3-14; John 12:44-50), Sunday 2 January 2022

[2] Luke 3:18; NRSV

[3] Luke 3:3; NRSV

[4] Luke 3:9; NRSV

[5] Luke 3:10; NRSV

[6] Luke 3: 11-14; NRSV

[7] Luke 3:22; NRSV

[8] Messiah was sufficient acclaim for Jesus in Jerusalem, but in the Roman world in which Luke is writing (where Roman Emperors claimed divinity, often connected to the claim of a virgin birth), acclaiming Jesus as the Son of God, as the Beloved, was important if the Christian message was to be taken seriously.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

26 December 2021

Sermon: 1st Sunday after Christmas

My sermon for the 1st Sunday after Christmas is available in video format this week, and can be accessed at https://youtu.be/lxx9DcO-IMI 

It is based on Colossians 3:12-17 and Matthew 2:41-52

25 December 2021

Christmas Greetings

Dear Friends 

A blessed and joyous Christmas to you all as we end another difficult and trying year. On a positive note, we have at least “just” had to handle more of what 2020 threw at us, and we have become that much more proficient at holding unexpected change and all the heartache and hardship Covid-19 continues to cause in our world. I am thankful for the strength and resilience of each one of you, and for God’s healing and life-giving presence in our midst. 

My personal thanks to our Churchwardens, Debbie and Janine, and to our Parish Secretary, Bev, for their ongoing selfless dedication and commitment to us all at St Andrew’s; and to Stephen, Bishop Geoff, Elizabeth (Confirmation) and Penny and Diane (Children’s Church), along with the Layministers and Parish Council as we have adjusted to a hybrid world of both online and in-person worship and gatherings during the course of this year. 

May we all experience God’s deep peace in Jesus as we enter the New Year, one that we know will still demand much of us, but also one in which we seek to throw off the shackles of isolation that Covid-19 has cloaked us in, and learn to live afresh, with greater confidence as we embrace the reality of this time. 

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.” (Isaiah 49:13) 

With our love, Mark and Dawn

Sermon: Midnight Mass

 Sermon: Christmas Eve

24 December 2021 – Archdeacon Mark Long

Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, and Luke 2:1-20; NRSV 

Tonight’s Gospel reading begins with a reminder of the power of secular Government: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered[,]”[1] a decree that in Luke’s account disrupts the lives of people throughout an entire Empire, and has a peasant population in Galilee and Judea (and doubtless elsewhere in the Roman Empire) needing to use scarce resources to travel to their home region to register. You and I meet online tonight for Midnight Mass because of a Government decree that requires we close any gathering by 11pm in order to ensure the midnight curfew is fully observed, a decree that for a second year running disrupts our worship life as a Parish. There is something particularly beautiful, and again missed, about gathering in-person late at night to welcome the Christ-child as one day ends and a new day begins. 

The disruption to our lives tonight is minor in comparison to the disruption taking place in Joseph and Mary’s life and many of their compatriots in Luke’s narrative, but the broader disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic globally and the variety of National regulations that have governed our lives since March 2020 are perhaps comparative. Such disruption creates uncertainty, even fear, for what this may mean for the future, and what economic impact it will have on our resources. Joseph and Mary would have been in no doubt that the only meaningful impact of the census would be an increased tax burden on their already scarce resources, and we know that Nazareth – their actual home – was a small, struggling village reliant on subsistence farming for any income.[2] It is not difficult to imagine the uncertainty, even fear, and the growing anger of Joseph and Mary’s broader social context. 

We join the narrative tonight as Joseph and Mary reach Bethlehem, not out of choice, but because it is required. It is a costly inconvenience and doubtless also a health risk for a young woman reaching the end of her pregnancy. Luke mentions no donkey,[3] despite the tradition, and it is likely a heavily pregnant Mary has walked the 150km distance. It is no surprise that the Christ-child is born the evening of their arrival. 

While Luke introduces the birth narrative in the context of Rome’s power over the people of a distant land on the edge of the Empire, he also weaves into in another story, a more ancient story, and we hear that, “Joseph … went … to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.”[4] Luke began to weave this story in at the annunciation, the Angel Gabriel informing Mary that the child she will bear, “… will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.”[5] We discover that “God’s story [is] interwoven with Caesar’s power right from the start”[6] and Zechariah, the husband of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, confirms this when he prophesies after John’s birth and before Jesus is born that “[God] has raised up a mighty saviour for us in the house of his servant David.”[7] “From the might of Caesar to command the whole world, to the swaddling of a newborn in a room shared with the household’s animals, Luke leads us into a world, our world, where we discern God’s power at work to keep all the promises cherished by Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79),”[8] promises as we have heard reflect hope in the midst of uncertainty, and joy in the midst of growing social discontent. In the midst of the harsh reality of life and Empire two children are born: John to Elizabeth and Zachariah, Jesus to Mary and Joseph; John, the prophet of hope; Jesus the Saviour of the world.[9] 

As we continue in Luke’s narrative this hope is reflected in the visit of the angels to the shepherds and the shepherds’ joy in finding the child and discovering the message they have been given is true. I have been quite harsh in my portrait of the shepherds in previous years, indicating that they were considered social outcasts, but in fact more recent scholarship[10] indicates “They were indeed among the “lowly” (1:52), but in their diligent work modeled the way of God with God’s people.”[11] Luke informs us that the “The shepherds put things together well enough to become jubilant. They’re promised a baby, they see a baby, and they recognise that the rest of what they have been told is true.”[12] The shepherds return to their fields and responsibilities, and by implication they return to their social reality, to the uncertainty, the fear, the growing anger among the Galilean and Judaen peasants, with a transformed outlook; they “… returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”[13] 

Our faith calls us to ongoing transformation through our faith in God and our trust in Jesus, the Christ. The temptation is always to spiritualise this journey, to disconnect it from daily reality in order to ease the discomfort of the change it demands of us. The Christmas Gospel, the Christmas Good News reminds us that our faith and daily life are intricately intertwined, and that while a relationship with God includes a deep personal aspect, God is concerned with the fullness of life. Luke’s introduction this evening to Jesus’ birth reminds us that the secular and the sacred are interwoven, and that God is always concerned with the daily nature of life and the human condition. Luke reminds us that despite the disruptive power of the secular, the sacred continues to undergird our lives and gives us a concrete hope for salvation. 

How does this speak to us, to you, in the context of life as we experience it today? What are the anxieties and fears that disrupt and constrict our daily experience? What is the nature of the hope and salvation we require in this moment? How do you see this reflected in the lives of people around you? Are we awake (perhaps not an ideal question close to midnight) to the hope and salvation God may be offering? And even more than this, are we like the shepherds willing to make the effort to look at the salvation we are offered, are we sufficiently courageous to share what we are hearing, and does it fill us with jubilation? 

That’s a lot of questions, and doubtless our answers are varied and even conflicting; and that is ok. Luke reminds us that, “… Mary treasured these words and pondered them in her heart.”[14] We, too,  need time to reflect, and allow what God is asking of us and calling us to to grow in us. Jesus was nurtured in Mary’s womb for a period, and then forcefully ejected into the reality of human life. While we ponder and nurture God’s word in us, a time will come when it is also ejected into the world and into the reality of daily life. This Christmas marks those birth pangs, and 2022 will see its birth. You and I, like Zachariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, bear God’s purpose; and like John we are called to be prophets of hope in our world, and like Jesus we are called to be the source of God’s salvation to others. 

Let us draw strength from Luke’s narrative this evening, let us trust that God always prepares the road ahead of us, that the angels are close, and that God’s Spirt is present. 

A closing prayer by Pádraig Ó Tuama, Irish Poet and Theologian. Let us pray, 

God of fear,
God of the night,
God of the expectation,
You visited shepherds in the night
with songs and sights of joy.
In all our nights, turn us
towards hope, because
hope might just
keep us alive.

[1] Luke 2:1; NRSV
[2] Reza Aslan, Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
[4] Luke 2:4; NRSV
[5] Luke 1:32; NRSV
[6] Sarah Henrich, Ibid.
[7] Luke 1:69; NRSV
[8] Sarah Henrich, Ibid.
[9] Pray as You Go, Friday: 4th Week in Advent – A Real Hope
[10] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke
[11] Sarah Henrich, Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Luke 2:20; NRSV
[14] Luke 2:19; NRSV
[15] Pádraig Ó Tuama, Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community (Day 1)

19 December 2021

Sermon: 4th Sunday in Advent

 Sermon: 4th Sunday in Advent

19 December 2021 – Archdeacon Mark Long

Micah 5:2-5a, Luke 1:46-55 (in place of the Psalm), and Luke 1:39-45; NRSV 

Today we begin the fourth week of our Advent journey, and accompanied by Luke’s Gospel we are reminded that the Advent journey is a prophetic one in which we move  progressively from a broad vision of the future towards a more specific focus on Jesus’ birth, which we will celebrate in our Christmas services at the end of this week. 

We began our Advent journey with Jesus’ prophetic words of his second coming, encouraged to be awake to the signs of God’s presence in our world, to be expectant and – despite the overwhelming nature of these signs – to be hopeful. The past two weeks have focused on John the Baptist as the one who both prepares the way for what God is doing and who calls God’s people to turn from disobedience to lives of loving service.[1] 

Today we are presented with Elizabeth and Mary, an encounter marked by Elizabeth’s joyful affirmation of the special blessing of God’s presence with Mary and the child she carries. It is an encounter that elicits a prophetic song of praise from Mary, which we know as the Magnificat and which has taken the place of the Psalm in today’s lection. Mary’s song of praise is intriguing in terms of our understanding of prophesy, which we often expect to be about what God is going to do, as Mary actually reflects on what God has already done, activity that Jesus’ birth and subsequent ministry will affirm. Mary’s song is prophetic in that it asserts God’s nature, and does so in a way that is likely to leave us discomforted when we look carefully at what Mary proclaims. It is not a comforting message for those who are privileged and resourced, “… the Mighty One has … scattered the proud … brought down the powerful … and sent the rich away empty.”[2] The Good News is reserved for the lowly and hungry, and we hear that “…the Mighty One has … lifted up the lowly … filled the hungry with good things …”[3] 

Mary’s song is, however, more than just a comment on privilege and poverty as it also embraces faithfulness: our faithfulness to God and God’s faithfulness to us and to his promises. We hear that God’s “… mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation”[4] and that God “… has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever”[5]. For me this is an important and critical point of connection, and I find myself asking, “What does this mean for me as a person of faith, as a person who seeks to be faithful and yet is privileged and resourced?” I ask it also for us as a community, and you may have asked this question at some point, too? I am aware that I all too easily mould an answer to deflect my unease, and I do wonder how much of our theology avoids this question? 

What Mary’s song does do is solidly root the injustices of the day in the awareness of God and calls the faithful to ensure that their experience of God’s mercy is lived out in just action. Stephen[6] reminded us in his sermon last week that comfort, joy, hope, and peace are what we share as we wait together for the coming of Christ, and we need to reflect on what these gifts look like in the context of the Magnificat, in the context of what God has already done and in the context of what God has affirmed in the birth and ministry of Jesus. For you and me it is the need to reflect on how we translate our privilege and resources into just action in lifting up the lowly, in filling the hungry with good things, in ensuring that these gifts of comfort, joy, hope, and peace are equitably shared in our world and contain meaning beyond our own desire for freedom from constraint. 

None of this is easy, and perhaps that is the first necessary step: acknowledging that it is difficult to be vulnerable, difficult to step away from our desire to protect our privilege and resources, difficult to truly acknowledge the needs of others in such a manner that their need is justly addressed. John’s baptism required honesty from God’s people, a willingness to move from being self-serving and thoughtless towards others to being loving and caring in service of others and of God. Can you and I find the courage for such honesty? And beyond such honesty, what is the depth of our desire to see our world healed? The gift of the pandemic has been the manner in which it has highlighted so clearly the rifts in our global society, and we cannot claim in any form or manner to be unaware of these fissures in our social fabric; as Elizabeth and Mary would not have been unaware of those of their own time. Today the Gospel of Luke invites us to join with Mary and Elizabeth in acknowledging and celebrating that God looks on us with favour, and calls us to build a more just and merciful society where comfort, joy, hope, and peace actually mean something because they are supported by the just actions of faithful people. 

In closing, a brief anecdote and challenge from my personal guru, Irish Poet and Theologian, Pádraig Ó Tuama: 

There’s an old anecdote that an order of nuns were expelled from a certain country because their morning recitation of the Magnificat was deemed to be a challenge to a dictatorial government. It’s probably not entirely true, but I think there’s truth in it nonetheless. Many orders of religious women have spoken truth to power and have found their home in the Magnificat, a prayer they pray by heart every morning. Recite the Magnificat and consider how it’s a psalm of challenge, of resistance and of hope for a changed order.[7] 

And likewise, a closing prayer by Pádraig. Let us pray, 

God of the ground,
in Mary’s words
we hear a vision that could change the world
and through Mary’s life you changed, too.
Give us the imagination to believe
that even though we are not mighty
you can raise up songs from the dust
that change powers for good.
Because you did this
through the yes of one woman.

[1] The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Lectionary: Advent 2021 to December 2022, Year C, page 8-9
[2] Luke 1:49-53; NRSV
[3] Ibid.
[4] Luke 1:50; NRSV
[5] Luke 1:54-55; NRSV
[6] Stephen Middelkoop, 20211212 advent joy SM
[8] Ibid.

28 November 2021

Sermon: Advent Sunday

 Sermon: Advent Sunday

28 November 2021 – Archdeacon Mark Long

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, and Luke 21:25-36; NRSV

Welcome to Advent Sunday, always a multifaceted celebration at St Andrew’s: today we welcome in our new Liturgical year, which will be felt most perhaps in a shift from a focus on Mark’s Gospel to that of Luke; we begin our four week journey of expectation and hope towards the coming of Christ, which we will celebrate at Christmas; and we celebrate our patron Saint, St Andrew, with a seemly more mundane focus on our financial commitments to the life of the Parish in the coming year. 

We meet in a particular context today, for me most clearly marked by the advent of a new COVID-19 variant that again has our world running scared while our scientists race to discern its potential impact on our health while governments around the world secure their borders once more and we await possible additional curbs to our own freedoms in South Africa. Our growing complacency over the past few months towards the virus, along with our hopes for a return to greater freedom of association and what we mostly still define as ‘normal’, is suddenly under threat once again. I recognise in my own personal response to this a heightened emotional and physical reactivity that says ‘I can’t anymore’, yet an awareness on the edge of that response which says, ‘In God I can and I will.’ I am deeply thankful in times like this for the gift of faith and a sustaining relationship with God, and for all those who have helped nurture this gift within me over the years. 

As we acknowledge a difficult context that will hold varied experiences for us all, we need to be asking , ‘Where is God in all of this?’ As I have said before, this is not to suggest we have lost God in all of this, or that God is missing in action, but it is rather a question of awareness, a question designed to wake us up to what God is asking of us in this moment. For Elijah, having faced down the prophets of Baal, in Elijah’s exhaustion God was not in the fire and thunder, not in the noise, but in the silence; and it took Elijah some time to awaken to this awareness.[1] We have today’s Scripture readings that may prove helpful, or there may be other more mundane aspects of our lives, of our relationships, which God needs us to explore in asking this question. 

In the Jeremiah reading this morning we are reminded that God has made promises that contain hope, that the Advent journey is about embracing these promises and celebrating their outcome, specifically that in Jesus there is justice and righteousness, in Jesus there is salvation and safety. We are reminded these outcomes exist and are a reality, and that we as people of God are called to look them out, hold them up, and implement them in our lives and communities. Like Elijah, we may find that a tough ask, but we will be sustained and fed by angels in the desert of our experience, and we will hear the voice of God again in the occasional silences of our lives calling us back into the fray.[2] 

In today’s Gospel reading we are reminded that the events that seemingly overwhelm us, even terrify us, are just signs … they are not to be feared. They point to something greater, the imminence of God in our world. Jesus reminds his disciples that as daunting as the signs of the times can be, we have the ability to interpret them, the ability to awaken to what God is doing, and the strength and resilience to be party to the implementation of God’s reign in our lives and our world, and in the enormity of Creation itself. Jesus uses the simplest of examples: when we see a tree budding new leaves we all know Summer is coming; the coming of God into our world is no more difficult to see and the signs no more difficult to interpret than this. However, we do need to be awake and that is often our obstacle. To ask the question, ‘Where is God in all of this?’ is our wake up call, and Luke’s Gospel will affirm over and over again in the next few weeks of our Advent journey that we have the resources within our relationship with God, within ourselves, to respond. 

There are three words, highlighted for me during a Bible Study interaction at our Diocesan Synod this last week: hope, authenticity, and generosity. These words speak to me of what it is to be Church, to be God’s people, in our time.  They are a call to counter-cultural living, and they are definitive of what it is to be a person of faith, and what it is to be a community of faith; and they are words easily applied to the life and ministry of Jesus. People in the Gospels are drawn to Jesus precisely because they saw these principles of relationship alive in him. I am drawn to Jesus because these principles visible in his life and ministry inspire me, stretch me, and keep me coming back for more; keep me wanting more of Jesus, of God, in my life; they keep me connected, keep me inspired, keep me serving. 

Expectation and hope are key aspects of the Advent journey we embark on again today. However, expectation and hope – hope especially – only come alive when they are lived with authenticity and generosity; and these are practised in the mundane aspects of daily life and commitment. Some of you may be guessing where I am going with this … and you may be right! As we also celebrate being St Andrew’s today, and the 126th anniversary of becoming a Parish in our own right, how are we as a Christian community demonstrating our hope, our authenticity, our generosity? I am suggesting that this may be in taking a few minutes to fill in the online financial commitment form for 2022, which in all honesty really does seem rather mundane, but it is a starting point: it speaks to our authentic desire to see this Church thrive despite the challenges of the times, and our generosity in helping Parish Council base a budget on specific financial commitments for next year helps put in place a foundation from which we can be about the work of God in our community and beyond, and to go about it with hope, and to do so authentically, and to be generous in ways far beyond just money. I am not in anyway wanting to say we are not hopeful, authentic and generous, because our history is testimony that we are all of this and more. However, we are in unprecedented times and our stability as a community is in ensuring we do the small things well in order that we can do the big things with confidence. We have seen some big dips in giving over the past two years, and I appreciate that Covid-19 has made life for many of us a whole lot more difficult, and remain deeply thankful for the generosity and faithfulness of many at St Andrew’s that has enabled ministry to continue confidently despite a pandemic that has ravaged our National economy and left many people’s lives devastated in its wake. 

And so holding all the above, I do wish us all a blessed Advent journey here at St Andrew’s as we embrace again the Christian hope of the Coming of Christ. In closing I leave you with a quote by Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153), who summarised the theology of the Advent season as the three comings of Christ, past, present, and future. He says, “In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and our consolation.”[3] My sincere prayer for us all is that we we find rest and consolation in the weeks ahead. 

I close with a prayer of blessing for our financial commitments and our St Andrew’s day collect. Let us pray, 

Dear Lord, 

we thank you for your continual blessing of our finances in this Parish, 
for the generosity of our people, 
and your ongoing provision of us 
in these difficult and trying economic times. 

May you bless the commitments we have made 
towards the financial health of the Parish in 2022, 
to enable ministry and mission 
to ourselves and to our world. 


Lord God,

by your grace the Apostle Saint Andrew
obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ
and followed him without delay:
grant that we may offer ourselves to you
in joyful obedience;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


[1] 1 Kings 19:1-18; NRSV
[2] Ibid.
[3] The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Lectionary: Advent 2020- December 2021, Year B, page 71
[4] The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, An Anglican Prayerbook Book 1989, page 315

Sermon: The Baptism of Christ

Sermon: The Baptism of Christ 9 January 2022 – Archdeacon Mark Long Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; and Luke 3:15-17, 21-22; NRSV   The New Y...