September 9, 2020
Categorised in: Sermons
After years of work and dedication to the cause he had secured
a new curacy in London. It afforded him all he needed for his lifes mission.
Having been built to extend the churches service amongst the poor.
It was a worthy parish with a chapel at the heart of the slums,
And freedom to express his love of ritual and flair.
BUT— the journey, friends is never done till its done.
Mr Westerton, an opponent of the high-church worship at the chapel
, stood for the post of churchwarden in an attempt to bring it to a stop
and hired a man to parade up and down the street
wearing a sandwich-board canvassing for votes.
In what he later called “a moment of madness”
the promising curate gave money to the choirboys to buy rotten eggs
and encouraged them to pelt the board carrier.
And things were going so well!
As a result, the curate- who only moments ago was riding high-
was called in front of a magistrate and fined.
He was hauled in front of his bishop, reprimanded
and suspended from duty for six weeks.
Mr Westerton was duly elected.
It is a cautionary tale that is taken up in todays readings.
– when things are going well for us- it is all too easy to stop doing the things that have brought us to this point.
To abandon caution and humility, prudence or endeavour
to rest on our laurels, take it easy,
put our feet up, let our hair down.
We tell ourselves that we’ve made it. And this is our just reward.
We do it as a society-
we do it in our families and careers-
and we do it also in our spiritual journeying.
Its only when we look around and see that- whilst we’ve been sitting aloof-
the world has moved on around us.
The Psalmist was clearly doing just that and his Bride- of whom he wrote- must have been sorely tempted to do it too.
You’ve made it now.
All your sons shall be princes of the land:
Your name will be remembered through all generations;
therefore shall the peoples praise you for ever and ever.’
We all know what happened to David- who in his moment of triumph
Was brought very low again.
Perhaps Jesus had that archetype in mind when he proclaimed this woes.
The ugly sister of the beatitudes…
24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 ‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
None of which are meant to make us depressed, or guilty, or dejected.
But are to serve as a stark warning and save us from ourselves.
We might reflect on where we are with the Virus-
It seems- some of us at least- have been sitting on our laurels?
of taking our eye off the ball?
Isn’t it nice that things are getting back to normal…..?
Don’t speak too soon. We know here- and we should all know-
We are in it for the LONG RUN.
And in our own lives- in our devotions, and in our service-
have we taken the foot off the pedal
or do we remain open to God, ready for his call, receptive to his Grace?
Has the flame of our first faith dwindled? Or are we keeping pace?
The curate from my story learned this lesson well.
His name was Charles Fuge Lowder and in later life he became the founder of the SSC and a key leader in the catholic revival in the Church of England.
His ministry at the East End became the blueprint for that movements combination of a revivial in catholic practice,
(he is the a large part of the reason why we enjoy such ritual as we do)
And a humble and radical service amongst the poorest people in society,
(at the time the church was aloof from the needs of people in the cities and was widely regarded as being apart from their plight)
Lowders ministry – and his subsequent watchful and humble life-
had such an effect in the late C19th
that thousands lined the street for his funeral
and in the Church we remember him every year on this day f
as much for how he lived as a priest
as for how he helped change the Church for the good.
The GOSPEL expresses harsh words for those don’t remain as humble and watchful as he.
His is a cautionary tale and an inspiring example that we would do well to listen to.
Lowders memorial stone ends with the quotation that mirrors the psalmist
“though dead he still speaketh”
Let us hear him,
and learn from his faithful Christian witness
that we may avoid the pride that comes before a fall
and run the race set before us
humbly and watchfully as he.