St Peter’s Church, Formby

Sermons

Summaries of Weekly Sermons

See below for a selection of weekly sermons delivered by Anne, Nathan and by our guest clergy.

Please feel free to download the full sermon by using the links after each summary.

Sermons

Sermon for 27th October 2019

Michael Pitts

Our Gospel reading today is taken from JohnJohn’s account of the Last Supper and the lengthy discourse that Jesus had with his disciples after his initial act of washing their feet and after Judas Iscariot had left the table to go to the high priests in order to betray him. In fact, these words are spoken in direct answer to a question from another Judas who asked: Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world? And this represents in effect the start of the Christian faith, because our faith hangs on the testimony initiall y of the five hundred or so Jewish disciples who saw our Lord both before and after his death and resurrection. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15. 14): if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has bee n in vain. How is it that this testimony has borne fruit over nearly two thousand years? Through the fact that the first witnesses loved Jesus and, with the help of the Holy Spirit given to them on the first Pentecost Sunday, kept his word; and that tha t word, the good news that they preached, has been passed down over the succeeding centuries. That is not to deny that there have been disagreements to put it mildly over the interpretation of certain aspects of the faith and of the scriptures passed down to us. But the core beliefs have survived in the Apostles ’and Nicene Creeds. These Creeds have nothing whatever to contribute to the current issues besetting the Anglican Communion such as sexual orientation; but they do set out the essence of our faith, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man for our salvation, was crucified, dead and buried, and rose again to life eternal.

29th September 2019 – St Michael & All Angels

Revd Nathan Thorpe

I only realised yesterday evening that the last line of our epistle reading is quoted by my favourite band, Iron Maiden.

And this reminded me of St Paul’s quote in 2 Corinthains that If I speak in the tongue of men, and of angels, but do not have love – then I am only making an awful noise.  Which is probably how most of you think Iron Maiden sound.

Seriously though, it is the feast of St Michael & All Angels, and I think angels – or what we think about them can tell us about God’s love, conscience, and protection.

I was amazed to learn a statistic from a poll that one in three people believe that they have a guardian angel – but just 25% believe in God. I heard this at a talk given by Peter Stanford, writer for the Sunday Times, Gaurdian, Observer, and Telegraph amongst others – on whether it is possible to believe in God or angels without the other. Another statistic, from Paula Gooder’s excellent little book on heaven – is that 31% of people in Britain believe in angels.


Amos – Sunday 22nd September

Revd Canon Anne Taylor

One of the greatest story-tellers was the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. One of the tales he told was about “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. It’s about a king who loved dressing up and two swindlers who posed as weavers and promised to make the king, for a price, a wonderful suit of clothes, such as had not been seen before. The only thing about this new suit was that it could only be seen by the clever and the wise. To anybody not fit for office, or stupid or ignorant, the new suit would be invisible.

And everyone, the Emperor’s ministers, his top officials, even the Emperor himself was taken in. Who wanted to appear stupid or incompetent? So they all went along with the lie, saying the new suit was so colourful, such a wonderful design, such a superb fit. But in fact, there were no new clothes – in fact no clothes at all! It was all a lie, all a spin, for which the so-called weavers were paid a handsome sum.

A great procession was organised for the Emperor to show off his new clothes. And everyone went along with the pretence. Again who wanted to appear stupid – except a small boy who blurted out, truthfully and honestly, that the king was “in his altogether, as naked as the day that he was born!” And everyone had to agree that the little boy was right. The young boy saw it as it really was.

A prophet has been described as someone who sees the present with x-ray vision – a person who sees things as they really are and honestly and truthfully proclaims it without fear or favour. A prophet is a person who sees through falsehood and pretence and can tell spin from truth.
A prophet today would have his head turned!

Sunday 22nd September Evensong

Michael Pitts

“I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” This quotation from the Book of Hosea is one of some sixty-five quotations that the gospel writer Matthew made from the Old Testament. His purpose in using so many was to show that the scriptures of the Old Testament form the basis for all teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven. Jesus came to earth as the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets which foresaw the coming of the promised Messiah. This quotation is just as applicable today to us as Christians, as it was to the Jews of Jesus’s time. What God was and is looking for from his people is what lies within their, our hearts, and not outward signs of seeming to follow in His ways. The Hebrew word translated “mercy” means “loving kindness”. The Pharisees who criticised Jesus for his fellowship with “publicans and sinners” were zealous in their wish to follow God but they concentrated on the minute details of the Mosaic Law and not on the overall concept of mercy and love. We should ask ourselves, do we hold deep in our hearts God’s compassion and love for all our fellow human beings at all times, or do we leave that compassion and love behind when we exit the church premises? Do we try to follow Christ’s example and his teaching in our everyday lives, or only when we come into church? We have the encouragement, through the testimony of those hundreds of early Christians who saw Jesus’s resurrection life, as we read in the New Testament, of knowing that, if we try to follow Jesus’s teaching in the way we live our daily lives now, whatever happens to us in this mortal life, we can look forward confidently to that day when our Lord will return and we are all changed into everlasting resurrection life.

Sunday 15th September

Revd Nathan Thorpe

Eariler this week, Anne, Ted, Poppy & myself were in Oxford for a conference. Now, I’m pleased to get the chance to preach this Sunday as usually Anne gets in there first with the best nuggets!

So, I was feeling quite hopeful until Paula Gooder, Dean of St Paul’s & New Testament scholar stood up and began her lecture by saying ‘Preaching the Parables – like the 2 we have today – are a bit like explaining a joke – it misses the point’.

Because Jesus told stories that had an impact – that grabbed people’s attention. His stories either did this via their heads – making them think & imagine – like the parable of the Good Samaritan. Or they went by way of the heart – provoking compassion & love – such as the Prodigal Son. Or, if he really wanted to worry people – he went by way of the wallet – like the tale of the 3 servants and the talent, or the rich young man.

We have two parables this morning and it is the second one that grabbed my attention this week – aiming not to ruin the joke but add some nuance. Because stories, especially funny ones are important.

Consecration Sunday 21st July

Revd Canon Anne Taylor

Someone once wrote “A people without knowledge of past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. And in our very mobile and transitory society, more and more people are interested in their roots to give them identity and help them to understand who they are. Not only history channels and magazines but programmes like ‘Who do think you are’ are among the most popular. There is a U3A family history group who meet in our hall. Family history has become quite an industry. In our baptism register Bea who will be baptised shortly will have her name recorded along with her parents, their occupations and her godparents – I wonder if any of Bea’s descendants in years to come will want to view the register.

There is a piece of history literally looking at us this morning. And it’s even older than this church building. It’s the royal coat of arms of Queen Anne. She was on the throne from 1702 to 1714, a few decades before this church was built in 1746.

The original St. Peter’s Church was not here but beside the sea, near where St. Luke’s church has since been built. The original St Peter’s church was destroyed in a storm in 1739. Which was a blessing in disguise as it was felt that the church was too far from the village and apparently wasn’t in good repair. A report says it was so “ruinous and deranged” that services couldn’t be held in it.

It was decided to build a new church, further inland and opposite a pub – which the Old Vicarage used to be. Our present church was consecrated on 19th July 1747.

7th July 2019

Peter Paine

Allow me relate a cautionary tale I heard recently. There was a person who thought it would be clever to open the Bible at random and do whatever it said. So he opened the good book and read: And Judas went and hanged himself. As that didn’t sound very promising, he thought he’d try again and alighted on the parable of the Good Samaritan where he read: And go and do thou likewise. Third time lucky he thought and read Jesus’ instruction to Judas, Do quickly what you have to do. At which point he gave up.

And now for the healing of Naaman’s leprosy where we read: “Then he returned to the man of God, and he came and stood before him; and he said, “Behold, I know there is no God in all the earth but in Israel”.”  Naaman was a great general, the best in the Syrian army. He had the ear of the king and the king depended upon him and his soldiers. He had his choice of Ferraris and BMWs, secretaries and colourful uniforms. But there was just one problem – Naaman was a mighty man of valour – but he was a leper.

St Peter’s Day 2019

One of the most famous churches in Britain, if not in the world, must be St. Martin’s in the Field in Trafalgar Square. On the one hand, it is renowned for its Academy and for the quality of its music, yet on the other hand it is famous for the ministry it has to tramps, drug-addicts and down-and-outs. Two contrasting claims to fame!

One of its well-known vicars was Canon Austen Williams, who was himself a character of contrasts. He was said to be distant, yet warm and personal; assured yet self-doubting; shy yet a showman; laid-back yet driven, sophisticated yet simple; an establishment figure yet deeply suspicious of institutional life.

So, it’s not surprising, perhaps, that he once wrote a prayer entitled “I am two people”
I am two people
One is longing to serve you utterly
And one is afraid.
O Lord have compassion on me.
I am two people
One will labour to the end
And one is weary already.
O Lord have compassion on me.
I am two people
One knows the suffering of the world
And one knows only its own.
O Lord have compassion on me.

Pentecost 2019

Revd Nathan Thorpe

O the temptation to stand in this pulpit and announce a sermon with 6 points in honour of a certain football match that happened last week! Never fear, we did manage to watch it in Uganda – and even have the Manchester United supporter amongst the group to thank.

Yet that match, as well as the England vs Scotland women’s world cup match this afternoon – showcased the hype and expectation around big games of football. It also got me to thinking about Pentecost – the churches birthday – that we celebrate this morning.

Because, like fans before a big game – the disciples too were feeling a sense of anticipation, excitement and expectation in our reading from Acts. They were expecting a promise to be kept. In the weeks following their experiences at Easter, they had prayed together, and the result had been a gradual growth in wisdom and understanding and a deepening sense of peace and joy. God was at work in them and through them, bringing work a long time coming to fruition.

2nd June 2019 

Michael Pitts

In the opening verses of chapter 4 of his letter to the Ephesians Paul starts to encourage his hearers to walk in a manner worthy of their calling; to lead a life “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  This is a timely reminder to us, as we witness the behaviour of some of our elected representatives in the self-seeking and consequent wranglings over current political issues.  Where is that longing and determination to seek what is best so as to keep together our United Kingdom as a whole, and not what suits the individual interests of those wanting power?  So also in the church, the assembly of all God’s people, the body of Christ, it is up to each of us as members of that body to seek the growth of that body in love. As Paul again reminds us, “There is one body and one Spirit, …….one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”

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