Event Name Sermon given at the Sung Eucharist on the Eighth Sunday after Trinity 2016
Start Date 17th Jul 2016 11:15am
Description

The Very Reverend Dr Victor Stock, Priest Vicar

"...She had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus's feet, and heard his word."

Well we know this story. It has a timeless immediacy—the capable, busy Sister, always busy—"cumbered about much serving" as the King James Bible has it—and the other sister just sitting there. It's so annoying.

A lot of you are on holiday and especially if you are Americans you are here today, Paris tomorrow, Rome Tuesday it's all such a rush and frankly a bit of a blur. But this bit of St Luke asks us which way we are facing?

If you are going to Amsterdam I recommend an exhibition at the Hermitage about Catherine the Great. This remarkable enlightened autocrat, friend of Diderot and Voltaire, wanting a new future for her hopelessly backward Russia bought the Breteuil Centerpiece made by Luigi Valadier between 1770 and 1780 to underline her credentials as the successor of ancient Rome—because on her dinner table her guests could marvel at the most important monuments of Imperial Rome made in costly and precious Jasper and Agate .By looking back the Empress looked forward away from the barbarism of Asia (most of Russia) towards the world that mattered—eighteenth-century Europe.

England has just had a momentous Referendum which to many by breaking-with the EU has felt like a new dawn—or a return to the past. If you are visitors you find us more deeply divided than at any time since the Civil War in the seventeenth century. We are much "cumbered about."

Gestures speak louder than words. A cross on a ballot paper decides our future. What can St Luke teach us? As Martha was busy, Mary was listening.

Catherine the Great, a German Princess from an insignificant little place called Anhalt Zerbst became one of the greatest most influential rulers in history because she listened to Diderot and Voltaire and looked forward to a future for Russia on the world stage—she looked towards Europe and made friendships. Some of us here fear we have turned away from our friends and others see the opportunity to revive old relationships as well as forge new ones. We are much cumbered about with competing anxieties. We need to listen carefully to each other and this is very demanding.

If you are visitors make time to sit in Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park or take the District Line to Kew and just sit down for a while. You don't have to be a Martha. Make a space for Mary before it is too late. "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

Gestures speak louder than words. In a moment the priest will take the consecrated bread and break it. When it has been broken—but not until—it will be given to us in Holy Communion, and such is our faith, somehow we shall be united. If this is not to remain the kind of stuff you hear in sermons at Westminster Abbey, but is to become reality we shall need to sit like Mary at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he may say.

© 2017 The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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