Monday, 31 December 2018

Searching for Jesus

1 Samuel 2: 18-20, 26
Colossians 3: 12-17
Luke 2: 41-52
How one reads this gospel story depends on whose eyes you choose to look     though.
Seen from the perspective of Jesus, it is a quaint tale from his childhood, the only story from his childhood in the whole New Testament.
It shows that his greatness was evident from about the age of 12 certainly.
His wisdom and insight was amazing the priests and scribes in the Temple even at this early age and his unbroken perfect relationship with God is also evident when as way of explanation for him not being with Mary and Joseph on their return to Nazareth says,
“Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” referring to God as his Father even then.

Have you ever been in a crowded store with your children and you look around and they are gone – you are separated – and the feeling of blind panic that comes over you!
Every worst case scenario goes through your mind from them being kidnapped by a paedophile to them feeling so lost and alone they panic and run out the shop into the road to be crushed by traffic.
The sense of relief when you find them is probably the only thing that stops you giving them a damn good hiding for wandering off in the first place.
They’d been looking for Jesus in great anxiety.
And they didn’t understand his explanation either.
Our version of the story says that Mary treasured all these things in her heart but that is not apparently an accurate translation of what Luke actually wrote.
Actually she “keeps” these things, as you do when you have experiences like that. They stay with you and you keep re-playing them over and over again.
Our own spiritual journey can feel just like Mary and Joseph looking for signs of Jesus or God in our lives.
Even when we think we have all our ducks in a row, something can happen and suddenly we cannot find God in our life and we have to look for Him again in great anxiety.
Trying to find Him in our crowded lives is our private spiritual quest – looking for Jesus.
The comfort we can gain from this story is that He was(!) found eventually. But you have to be looking. You won’t find God unless you are actively looking.
Even when you find Him, you might not completely understand what He tries to tells you but relief at finding Him at all far outweighs that sense of incomprehension – like finding a lost child.
My strong advice is that if and when you do sometimes lose sight of Him, don’t give up the search.
He is there waiting for you to find Him.. From His perspective He is exactly where He is meant to be – in His Father’s house.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Preparing the way for Jesus

Zephaniah 3: 14-20. The themes of future promise and restoration course through this segment of Zephaniah
Philippians 4: 4-7. The classic New Testament passage about Joy and peace. This peace carries the force of the Hebrew "shalom", the total well being of which God is the only true source. 
Luke 3: 7-18. John's baptism of repentance is forming a people based on the response of lives lived in a manner appropriate to God's call rather than on the basis of inherited descent. This repentance looks to the future inbreaking of God but manifests itself in the details of everyday life. People are told to be responsible and unself-interested.

In many ways the role of the church is just like the role of John the Baptist; We are continually pointing to Jesus as he did – “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and we are also preparing the ground for His rule in people’s lives – “making His path straight.”

Our mission is to make sure that Jesus becomes the Lord of as many people’s lives as we can reach but how on earth do we prepare people so that they can make that firm commitment and turn to Christ?

The record of the church of England over the past century shows that we haven’t been very good at preparing that ground as our national decline bears stark witness.

There appears to be now in our secular culture a gulf of understanding between the “church” however one wants to define it and the great mass of the population.

If an unchurched person were to walk in to almost any Anglican church, they would have little idea what was going on and why and no clearly identifiable way of finding out either.

The questions would just flood out like a river bursting its banks; why robes? Why do we sing? What is prayer anyway? Why do we eat bread and drink wine? Why do we confess our sins – I’m a good person? What is a blessing? What and why is a creed? What is an altar? Why do you read from an old book? – that has all been disproved by science hasn’t it? What is that book anyway – who wrote it and why? Why do we shake hands in the middle of the service? And so on and so on.

If we want to re-assert the Christian view of humanity, our place in the world, our role, our purpose, where we come from and where we are going to, we have massive work to do.

The gulf is so great so we have to be fairly confident ourselves of our own understanding of the answers to those questions.

The biggest barrier is simply our most basic belief – that there is a God  - this is no longer universally commonly accepted premise and not only that  - that God actually entered human history as a human being.

That is before we start to say that He had to die obviously but that death won our freedom – how on earth does that work?

So I think our task is actually much harder than John the Baptist’s was. In the first century belief in God was a universally accepted fact which it is not now.

He was speaking into a vibrant Jewish culture that was primed to expect something. They were waiting for the Messiah. The type of Messiah God provided was a surprise, but they were expecting something.

We are speaking into a largely post Christian culture where Christianity is at best a tried and found wanting relic from the past in a pluralist culture where increasingly Christianity finds it hard to get a platform.

Educating people about the Christian point of view can’t be achieved in a morning service, it has to take place elsewhere.

This is the basic rationale of Alpha and every other similar course that has emerged in recent years; to try and meet people where they are and speak to them as one adult to another.

What has also been found is that the gulf in understanding does not just exist between the church and the people but between the church and their own congregations.

Wherever I have been, the most grateful recipients of Alpha has been the existing congregations who have always puzzled over all these questions also but never felt they had the opportunity to ask such questions or even believed that even asking a question cast doubt on their faith.

We all have questions and we all have doubts from time to time. We all have unanswered questions or half answered questions.

But before we have spread the gospel to others we need to be sure what it is ourselves.

We’ll never have all the answers but what we do have is a framework from which to ask difficult questions. Most people don’t even have the basic information or framework from which to start.

To make straight the way of the Lord in East Budleigh, or Budleigh or Otterton is a complex task that will take time.

No amount of extra or different styles of service will help very much on their own, nor will providing a broadly Christian education in our schools when it is also at odds with the prevailing culture.

Normalisation of the church and church activities is one obvious step we can take; that shows that we don’t have two heads at least; and that is definitely happening here at this church with all the new social events that have taken place.

Speaking sensitively and thoughtfully and truthfully about our own faith is the next step. Not complicated formulas about the Holy Trinity or the nature of Christ, but what our own faith means to us.

We can only give away what we have and what inspires us and keeps us going.

The road will be long and we will have successes and failures along the way but we’ll journey together, and we will pick up lots of our community along the way.

We shouldn’t be frightened of making mistakes. When you try things, it demonstrates our intent. Some things work; some things work for a while; some never get out of first gear; some things take flight and soar;

I’ve outlined some of the problems we face, but we also have massive resources.
First of all we have the power of God on our side; a God who is interested in our success ; who is interested in reaching the same people that we are trying to reach.
We have the knowledge and Joy of the salvation and love of God for all things and all people, not least ourselves to sustain us.  
We have experience of a God who identified with us, knows our frailties, and our sufferings and our mortality.

In identifying ourselves with Him we know that as we share his death we will also share his resurrection, given as a gift, simply because he loves us.

We are never alone with Christ. As a Christian we are joined to God Himself by His Spirit, and through that Spirit also joined to every other Christian in the world.

However sophisticated we think we have become, and however far removed the culture has moved from the church, people still ask the same questions they always have; about the meaning and purpose of life and questions regarding good and evil, suffering and death. 

We need to communicate our own views on these questions and explain why we are so optimistic and look with hope to the future?

We need to be able to help people to answer those questions or at least provide a framework for discussing them.

That is the best way we can prepare the way of the Lord and do what John the Baptist did 2000 years ago.

We need to pray and ask God for guidance in our joint venture; God and us together against an unbelieving world.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Radiating the light of Christ

Malachi 3: 1-4. The word messenger and angel are the same in Hebrew. The essence of this piece is that God will come to refine and sift so while people may look forward to "the day of the Lord" it will be a mighty uncomfortable process for many, particularly the priestly caste!.
Philppians 1: 3-11. A word of hope to a church that often seems to face a bleak future. Despite all outward appearances, the work started by God will be brought to a conclusion. The church lives in between the "first day" and "the day of the Lord" with all the personal and moral ambiguities that we face because that final completion and resolution lies in the future.
Luke 3: 1-6. Here John the baptist is unmistakably  fulfilling the role of a prophet. The deeper meaning of the text is that the people who think they rule this world do not. God is ultimately in control. The three themes introduced by this passage are the word of God, repentance, and God's salvation.

This Sunday has been designated Mission Sunday so how does mission correlate with the Advent themes?

As I said last Sunday the church lives “between the times” between the first and second coming and what we do in this in-between time has an eternal importance and significance.

We are the light on the hill radiating Christ’s light to a lost and hurting world.

So “How we radiate that light to the world is mission.”

That is my working definition of mission.

This naturally covers a wide range of activities and even a sense of being as a church.

Mission encompasses everything from sponsoring Heather and David Sharman in East Africa via C.M.S. and there will be a retiring collection for C.M.S.  to sending a Christmas card to the people in our area. Both are mission because it is a part of how we radiate the light of Christ.

How we see ourselves, our church, is vital to our understanding of mission. The very best way, the Biblical way is that we see ourselves as the body of Christ.

This involves a perception change. We no longer go to church – we are church.

It’s an important perception change because it means church is no longer something outside of yourself to which you can be a part of or not, it is an intrinsic part of your very self

We are the very presence of Jesus in the world. Who we are, how we act and behave, what we do, reflects directly on Jesus and is a projection of Christ’s will and purposes in this world.  

Mission then I have already said is how we radiate the light of Christ to the world.

It is an overflow of Love and gratitude for what God has done for us in our lives.

So supporting missionaries is an act of love. Sending a Christmas card is an act of love.
Performing Bible passages in the schools as they do in “Open the book” is an act of love.
Rendezvous and solos lunches are an act of love.

All acts of love are costly in some way, either in time money or energy which is why everything must be undergirded by prayer certainly but also supported by tangible signs like encouragement and support.

Mission then is not an added extra to the life of the church it is a by-product of who we are – the body of Christ.

Mission is a sign of the grace of God working in and through our lives.

I have already mentioned various of these signs; open the book; rendezvous, solos, loaves and fishes, the new church café in East Budleigh;

What else could we or should we be doing? To build a healthy church here in the R.M.C we need to ask for God’s guidance.

It is not important at the end of the day what I think we ought to be doing. We need to ask for God’s guidance on what He wants us to do.

A healthy church is built on embodying and proclaiming God’s will for us and our corporate life together.
In the new year, I want to organise an away day, or even a series of days away where we pray, talk, discuss, and through our interaction discern what God’s will is for the R.M.C.

Because at the end of the day this is not MY church. This is GOD’S church.     

How we build our church, how we witness to the people is not my endeavour it is OUR endeavour working with the will of God for our community but first we need to find out what God wants us to do.
Only as a community discerning His will together can we discover that.

Because God works through his people. He wants to work through us. If we allow Him to, He will.

Once we have reached a consensus on what God wants we can move forwards together with confidence.

God’s love already overflows in countless ways through this church to our community and it is time for us to seek afresh his will for us, without putting any pre-conditions in place.

The RMC, me, you, Karen, I guarantee will be surprised by what emerges as we build on what we already do, adapt some other things and strike in some directions perhaps that we may not even have in our sights at the moment, but God does – and He wants to reveal these things to us.

We don’t need to wait for that occasion to pray of course.

We can pray at any time, either in our private prayers or whenever we meet together in any groups, pray for God to reveal His will for the life of the RMC and I encourage you to do so.

You prayed for the right ministry team to be placed in situ here. Karen and I believe that we are in the right place at the right time and I believe that it is my role to lead us deeper into God by seeking Him as a community.

Mission is part of who we are. Let us rejoice in who we are and let our love and gratitude overflow to the community in which we are set.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Against an infinite horizon

Jeremiah 33: 14-16. A prophesy regarding the inbreaking of God into the world to fulfil the promises of God. A re-writing of 23:5-6 but here the emphasis is not only on a new and righteous king but on a renewed community which introduces a corporate aspect to the Advent hope.
1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13. A letter of delight and gratitude for the new Christian community. They have some concerns and problems but everything is generally going the right way. The “Advent” flavour comes from the fact that everything is done in the light of the “Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints”. This is not posed as a threat to keep the troops in line but is anticipated as the conclusion to the whole human story. Paul uses two words that should characterise the Thessalonians – Love and holiness. Love for each other and love for all. The love of God is inclusive. Holiness, is the other watchword which denotes the “set apart” nature of the Christian community. Holiness of course often implies a rigid code of life lived according to a strict code of ethics, but in the two prayers, one here and the other in 5;25 we learn that holiness is conferred by God alone, not attained by living according to a specific code. It is God’s gift and God’s initiative, like Jesus who came at Christmas and will come again.
Luke 21: 25-36. These discourses where Luke describes Jesus talking about “the son of man coming on a cloud” give no timetable for these events. “This generation” is used by Luke to describe anyone who turns their backs on God or His prophets. God comes as judge, but Christians can look up in hope rather than down in fear, because He comes to deliver us and Luke is more concerned with preparing us to live in a constant state of readiness for Jesus’ return.  

The church year starts on Advent Sunday, not January 1st.
It hasn’t always been this way. Originally it started on Easter Sunday as it still does in the East. Then in the fourth century after the date of Christmas had been established preparation for Epiphany baptisms started on St. Martin’s day which is November 11th and that season was called Advent.
Later it was shortened to the four-week period we have today starting on the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s day and I find it interesting to try and understand why we in the west think it is so significant.
I guess is that holds together both the beginning and the end of the Christian story and therefore our own beginning and our own end.
The season builds up not only to the first coming of God at Christmas in a stable in Bethlehem, but also looks forward to the what we have become accustomed to calling the  “second coming” when Jesus returns to judge the world and marks the reconfiguring of all things, even the creation of the “new heaven and the new earth” prophesied in Revelation.
The breaking in of God into the world was prophesied by Jeremiah today in our first reading set for Advent Sunday. This prophesy is actually carried twice in Jeremiah. The one we heard today is a re-writing of the same prophesy that appears earlier in chapter 23 but with important changes.
The most important change is that in the updated version the name “The Lord is our righteousness” is given not to the new king, as it was in the original version but to Jerusalem, which introduces a strong corporate element to our Advent hope and emphasises the graciousness of God to His people.
Righteousness is not so much a passive quality but an activity in which God put things right and upholds those who are loyal to Him.
Both the first and second coming are examples of God’s righteousness where God is putting things right and is speaking through His church to a hurting and waiting world.
We all know I hope what happened at Christmas, the first coming and in our gospel reading from Luke today we have Jesus Himself talking about his second coming. Second coming is actually not a Biblical phrase at all – it is an English translation of the Greek word “Parousia” which means “presence”, the presence of God. So in talking like this Jesus is predicting his death certainly but also his certain return – as certain as the fig trees which when they sprout leaves you know that summer is near.
“The son of man coming on a cloud” is an allusion to the Biblical prophesy in the book of Daniel, from where Jesus takes His favourite way of referring to himself – the son of man, coming with great power and glory.
But there is no timetable given for when these cataclysmic events are to take place. Even the phrase “this generation” can’t be used to imply any temporal application. “This generation” is a phrase used by Luke to describe any people at any time that turn their backs on God.
The most important point from this gospel passage is that God will come as Judge but Christians can look up in hope and not down in fear, because He is coming to deliver us and this passage is most interested in preparing us to live in a constant state of readiness for Jesus’ return.  
And that provides the perfect introduction to 1 Thessalonians – the earliest of Paul’s letters, which thus pre-date everything else in the new testament including the gospels. When we hear these words of Paul we are hearing the very first Christian words we have recorded.
The letter was a response to a report on the Thessalonians given to Paul by his helper Timothy. It was basically encouraging though there were some problems – including some who were agitated that Jesus hadn’t already returned while some of their friends had died in the meantime – revealing a feeling as old as Christendom – but is basically a letter of delight and gratitude in this community.
The “Advent” flavour comes from the fact that everything is done in the light of the “Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints”. This is not posed as a threat to keep the troops in line but is a fact anticipated as the conclusion to the whole human story.
Paul uses two words that should characterise the Thessalonians – Love and holiness. Love for each other and love for all. So the love of God is inclusive and so looks beyond the walls of the church whether physical or spiritual. Our concern is rightly for each other – and how we conduct ourselves will influence how we are seen – but we are also to be concerned about the physical and spiritual well-being of those outside the  church amongst whom we are set.
Holiness, is the other watchword which denotes the “set apart” nature of the Christian community. Holiness of course often implies a rigid code of life lived according to a strict code of ethics, but in the two prayers in Thessalonians, one here and the other in 5;25 we learn that holiness is conferred by God alone, not attained by living according to a specific code. It is God’s gift and God’s initiative, like Jesus who came at Christmas and will come again.
Advent looks forward to the end of the story and is meant to inspire us. The completion of God’s will and purpose for the entire universe.
Jesus will come in his glorious majesty at the end. So all our lives, as fraught and ambiguous at every level will be swallowed up in victory – the life immortal.
Do you see your life as a unity?
You are now the same person who was born with your name many years ago and you are at the same time the person who will liveforever in the kingdom of God. Your life has inexhaustible meaning and purpose which is why in this mortal life we are asked to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.  

Monday, 5 November 2018

A witness to the faith

This Sunday we are celebrating ALL SAINTS across the R.M.C.

Isaiah 25: 6-9. The salvation of souls here is characterised as a great feast, with rich food and wine, and where death is no more. The relief felt by a people who have all their tears wiped away results is obvious joy and rejoicing. 
Revelation 21: 1-6. That great culmination of God's plan for the whole of creation (with humanity at its centre) is here prophesied at the end of the New Testament in Revelation and is characterised as a wedding.
God is now with His people and there is now no mourning or crying or pain any more. A favourite at funerals!
John 11: 32-44. That God, working through Jesus is Lord of all life is the message of the raising of Lazarus and prefigures the resurrection of Jesus Himself - not to die again as Lazarus will have done - but born to eternal life. Joining ourselves to Jesus we have the assurance that that future "feast" or "wedding" is ours. 

What is a saint? Well that is quite easy if we divorce the original meaning in the Bible from later catholic accretions.

A Saint is a witness – a witness to the faith and it is a translation of the Greek word “Martyrios” from which we also get the word Martyr – which in English became a special kind of witness – one that paid the ultimate price for refusing to deny Christ with their own life.

But simply by being a member of the church – a witness to our shared faith in Jesus – we are all Saints – witnesses to the faith that Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the whole world.

You are witnessing to that faith by being here this morning.

When Paul addresses his letters to various churches in Rome or Corinth or Ephesus he invariably includes “to all the saints” in that particular place – everyone who profess with their lips and by their manner of life that “Jesus is Lord” of their life.

 The celebration of “all Saints” is a major festival of the Christian church precisely because it celebrates every single member of the body of Christ who has ever lived; that great communion of the Saints that we profess we believe in when we recite the “Apostles creed.”

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

That great credal statement from the Western side of Christendom first appears in about 390 A.D. and so on the one hand has nothing to do with the original apostles but on the other hand has everything to do with everybody who wishes to spread the message of the truth and mission of Jesus Christ, which I trust includes the original apostles and everyone who has come afterwards, including ourselves.

Of course many Christians distinguished themselves as being much greater and more inspirational witnesses than others and that tradition of placing “Saint” in front of their name to distinguish them from less distinguished members of the church became normalised.

It is I suppose only right and proper that people are remembered and revered and can continue to inspire other Christians that they should be remembered and marked out in some way, so long as we recall that it was never quite meant to be that way and that if they can inspire us to follow more resolutely in the way of Christ then they are achieving what I guess the system was devised for.

In Eastern Christianity, which is far less centralised and more local there are scores and scores of local saints some of which are barely known outside of their village or region.
But our readings today don’t touch any of this at all.

What our readings today convey is the faith and hope that binds all the Christian saints together both past and present.

They try and convey in words the almost inexpressible. The final consummation; the end of all life – of all human life, endeavour, all our hopes and dreams, when God will bring everything to a glorious finale;

When He will be with us forever, and we will enjoy his presence forever, where there will be no more tears, no more pain, and in our new resurrection bodies in a resurrected world will know death no more.

It is this vision, this end game, which has inspired Christian witnesses from the very beginning. You can call it salvation – you can call it healing – you can call it completeness – when all death decay and suffering and evil are defeated, and goodness mercy and Joy reign supreme forever.

It is in Proverbs where it says “Without a vision the people perish”(29:18)

It is this vision that draws us ever onwards. It is this vision that we are witnessing to and drawing people towards to share in this vision that is characterised by hope.

Hope in the New Testament is not a weak or wishy-washy thing. Hope is a certain expectation that these things, sometimes described as a feast as today in Isaiah, in other places a wedding between divinity and the created order as today in revelation will take place.

This is the substance of Christian hope.

That in the end “all will be well and all manner of things will be well” as Julian of Norwich wrote.

We are witnesses to that hope, joy, mercy, resurrection; witnesses to new life, when evil is defeated for ever.

So if I may paraphrase St. Paul;

To the church of God in the R.M.C. including all the saints in East Devon,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Continue to walk in the way of Jesus Christ. Be faithful to the tradition of the Apostles and prophets and witness to the faith within you to the people in our midst who are still far off.

So the most pertinent question that leaves us to ponder is this;
What kind of witness is the RMC to the people of East Devon?
What can we do to become better witnesses?
So All Saints Sunday is actually far from a simple veneration of what I’m sure are a wonderful collection of very inspiring but very dead super-Christians,
It is a call to reflection and a call to action for the church of today.

Monday, 29 October 2018

The Spirit of Sir Walter

Isaiah 28: 14-16. God is laying a foundation stone in Zion - Jesus Christ - a sure foundation for anyone who trusts in Him for the salvation of our souls.
Ephesians 2:19-22. The whole church ("Ecclesia" - a gathering of people - not a building of stone) is built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets with Jesus of course as the cornerstone.
John 15: 17-27. The church is called out of the world. This is the essence of Holiness. Being Holy means being separate, being different and distinctive.
One of the curses of the modern church is that the urge to "fit in" and "be modern" and "not to cause any offense" whatsoever is that we become invisible, so indistinguishable from secular society that people are left asking, why bother?

I would not have thought four months ago that I would know quite so much about Sir Walter Raleigh or been present at so many things in his memory.

But being present, and indeed vicar of the church which he attended as a boy, and at which his dad was church warden have changed all that for ever.

In this short time, I have realised there are several points at which our life stories overlap – and I don’t mean because I like chips and a good cigar!

It wasn’t long before I learned that as a young man, Walter, along with others from this area travelled to France to fight alongside the French protestants in the bloody wars of religion in France. The French protestants were known collectively as the Huguenots - and I am of Huguenot descent – Martin Jacques - in the French pronunciation of my name.

Indeed there was a French Huguenot vicar of this very church - Daniel Caunieres, who went on to become chaplain to Lord Clinton at Filleigh near Barnstaple.. It is no wonder I feel at home.

And at this point I want to acknowledge and welcome the present Lord Clinton to our service today.

In these ecumenical days it is easy to overlook or sideline the real differences in Western Christianity that so impassioned people that Sir Walter to go and fight and endanger his own life in defence on what he believed to be the truth of the gospel.

Some of the essence and background of that passion is carried in our Bible readings today.

There is no mention of a divinely ordained priesthood in our readings. In fact you will find that there is only one understanding of a high priest in the entire new testament and that high priest is Jesus Christ himself.

So what was Sir Walter prepared to die for exactly?

He was prepared to fight and very possibly be killed to defend the notion that we have only the need for Jesus Christ as our mediator between ourselves and God – not a divinely ordained priesthood organised and directed from Rome.

He was prepared to die for the notion that we are saved by God’s grace alone made effective by faith. St. Paul’s great revelation buried by the church and re-discovered by Martin Luther – a re-discovery that set Europe alight.

We cannot earn or work our passage to heaven – a doctrine enshrined in the selling of indulgences by the Roman catholic church. When we repent and believe the good news we are forgiven and saved completely.

Sir Walter Raleigh laid his life on the line to fight for and defend these beliefs.

Beliefs that guide and underpin the Anglican church to this day and always will because they are simply the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sir Walter was also a great seafarer and adventurer, and I am also pleased to welcome representatives from the Royal Navy’s training establishment – HMS Raleigh in Plymouth.

Here too is some overlap with my life. I was once a recruit at HMS Raleigh myself. My naval career was very short and inglorious, but I trust that that same sense of adventure, spirit and bravery that characterised Sir Walter’s life is being exhibited in the lives of these young people with us today. 

The buccaneering spirit of Sir Walter Raleigh – his bravery – his adventurism – his willingness to fight and defend principles that he knew to be true – these are all qualities that we could all do with a little more of in this world.

On the day we commemorate his execution – which he faced with the same aplomb that he lived his life – let us remember our most famous son with affection and respect.

Let us also remember that Sir Walter while he would have shown due deference to the social order of the day out of political necessity would have willingly bowed to no-one else than his lord and master – Jesus Christ our Lord.