Sermon preached on Easter Day (27 March 2016) by Revd Canon Michael Hampel, Precentor

Worship
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7:30am Morning Prayer
8:00am Eucharist
11:00am Family Carols
1:00pm Doors open for sightseeing
4:00pm Last entry for sightseeing
5:00pm Choral Evensong

Sermon preached on Easter Day (27 March 2016) by Revd Canon Michael Hampel, Precentor

We will find God somewhere - everywhere - says Canon Michael

There was a fourth wise man.

His name was Artaban, a priest of the magi – a Mede from Persia. Like Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, he saw signs in the heavens that a king had been born among the Jews. 

He sets out to join his fellow magi and takes with him his gifts: a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl of great price.

On his way to join the caravan which will take the magi across the desert led by the star of Bethlehem, he stops to help a dying man. And, as a result of his delay, he misses the caravan which has long set off on its quest across the desert with only three wise men, and not four.

He can’t undertake what is likely to be a long journey only on his horse so it is at this point that he is forced to sell the first of his three gifts – the sapphire – so that he may acquire his own camels and packmen and supplies necessary to get him to his destination safely and with the two gifts which he now has left to give to the king.

But he arrives in Bethlehem too late.

He is told by a woman whom he meets that the holy family has already fled into Egypt for fear of Herod’s soldiers who are slaying the children of the Jews. She tells him this as she clutches her own baby boy to her breast. Just then there is uproar in the street as the soldiers invade the neighbourhood. Artaban blocks the woman’s doorway against one of the soldiers and holds out his ruby to him and tells him that there is no child here at which the soldier grabs the jewel greedily and speeds off.

The woman blesses him and he continues on his journey, heading for Egypt in the hope that he may yet kneel in homage to his king. But he travels for 33 years, at every stage meeting disappointment but continually moved to do good for those whom he encounters.

Eventually he returns to Jerusalem and hears of a great man who is to be put to death that day. He hears too of this man’s life and teachings and is convinced that he has at last reached his goal. He still has the pearl of great price and he believes fervently that he may be able to trade the pearl for the life of this great man. 

But, on his way, he meets with a troupe of soldiers dragging a young girl in chains who is to be sold into slavery. She begs him for his help and mercy and he knows what he must do. He takes out his pearl – looking more radiant and luminous now than ever – and exchanges it for the girl’s freedom.

He has nothing left – no gifts and no energy; no hope and no goal – and knows that he is too late. He collapses with grief and exhaustion but then suddenly in his half-conscious state he hears a voice which speaks directly to him and says, ‘Verily I say unto thee: inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.’ 

He looks up and sees his king, dying upon a cross, and knows that his journey and his gifts have been accepted and he has found his king.

We are not Cephas nor James, Jesus’s brother, nor one of the five hundred brothers and sisters, nor Paul himself; we are not one of the Twelve, nor Mary Magdalene, nor either of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. 

Christ has not appeared to us in the way of the Gospel accounts of what we glibly call the resurrection appearances but not a day goes by when we don’t have the chance to serve our crucified and resurrected Lord. 

And, although we will find him somewhere – everywhere, we cannot predict the moment nor craft it to our own convenience or liking. It may be soft beneath wooden pilasters of quire and organ as the singers with voices lifted up to God sculpt the mighty voice of Bach; it might be summoned to the desperate side of the drug addict who wants to speak to a priest; it might be in our own time or at a time when time is ripe; but we will see him face to face – and, with all or nothing left to offer, he will receive us into his grace and we shall be saved.

HAVING been tenant long to a rich Lord,
Not thriving, I resolved to be bold,
And make a suit unto him, to afford
A new small-rented lease, and cancell th’ old.

In heaven at his manour I him sought:
They told me there, that he was lately gone
About some land, which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possession.

I straight return’d, and knowing his great birth,
Sought him accordingly in great resorts;
In cities, theatres, gardens, parks, and courts:
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth

Of theeves and murderers: there I him espied,
Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, & died.

George Herbert