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Fr David's Sermon

Sunday 6th October 2002

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For Trinity 19 - Letters Now and Then

Fr David Shepherd

Over the last few weeks the Prince of Wales has caused controversy through his letter writing to his mother's ministers. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, whoever was the source of the leaks, Prince Charles is unusual in that he still commits his thoughts to paper.

Ours is not an age of letter writing, telephones and e-mails have seen to that. Future generations will be deprived of the literary letter and of historical evidence. Most of what comes through our letterboxes is junk mail or bills. Only rarely will we receive the special hand written message that somehow conveys the very person of the writer.

During the time of St. Paul it was very different. Epistles, letters were the only means of communication, save word of mouth. And they could take months to arrive after torturous journeys.

When St. Paul's letters arrived they were read aloud and they had the power to enthuse, bring to repentance, heal or create division. Indeed they still do. Much of his writing is full of great passion and strength of feeling.

Today's epistle comes from Paul's letter to the Philippians, an epistle of joy written from his prison cell. Like all his letters it is obviously only half the picture. He seems to be answering those who thought salvation was only for the Jews, not the gentiles, the uncircumcised. He is answering those who questioned his apostolic authority and who might have dismissed him because of his Christianty.

Most of us enjoy reading that special letter from a loved one. Paul's letters should be read like that. We won't agree with everything, we will be annoyed and challenged. We will be inspired and uplifted. We won't be the same again. We are called to treat all that we are and have, our credentials, our possessions as so much rubbish compared to the gift of knowing Christ. We are called to strive for resurrection life, for that life that the world seeks to deny and to destroy. We are called to put the past behind us and to embrace the dynamic future orientated life of the Christian.

So if you have not read Paul's letters for a while why not renew your acquaintance beginning with Philippians and rediscover the epistle of joy.


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Last updated 5/10/2002 19:30:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd