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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's sermon

13th June 2004

Fr David Shepherd

Trinity I

Each morning at the newsstand you can view the full range of front pages, from the sober headlines of the broad sheet to the more salubrious ones of the tabloids. Our press reflects the diversity of political views in our society.

It is a visible and outward expression of the increasingly tolerant nature of our age, particularly in the area of personal morality. And yet under the surface the unrelenting, unforgiving nature of journalism is present. All that counts is the good story even if that comes at the expense of the individuals involved. Thus there is a double standard. Apparent broad-mindedness hides a cold Puritanism that judges others in an unloving and unforgiving way.

It was ever thus. In today's Gospel, Luke records the encounter between Jesus, Simon the Pharisee and the woman traditionally identified as Mary Magdalene. It is all about the interplay of love and forgiveness and therefore of our place in the Kingdom of Heaven at the heavenly banquet.

We have considered the three main characters in the passage, but there is more. Each of us, individually and collectively are there too. If we are honest most of us are more like Simon than Mary, outwardly religious and devout, correct and proper but a little cold and unwelcoming with a tendency to judge. We all know people like Mary, often envious of their natural spontaneity. They seem to have all the fun and are fun to have around, yet we feel we must disapprove of them. How can they have a place in the Church?

Because it is open ended, Jesus' challenge to Simon crosses two Millennia and comes to us. Are we prepared to acknowledge our sinful nature that in saying no to God and to life actually cuts us off from him? Can we receive his forgiveness in such a way that our love reaches out to others? Do our churches mirror Jesus' many meals where both the Simon's and the Mary's of this world hear and receive the Gospel?

Significantly the reformers disliked Mary Magdalene despite her being a biblical saint. Cranmer dropped her from his second Prayer Book but she was there in his first of 1549. So to end the Collect for her feast day: -

Merciful Father give us grace, that we never presume to sin through the example of any creature: but if it shall chance us at any time to offend thy divine majesty; that then we may truly repent, and lament the same, after the example of Mary Magdalene, and by lively faith obtain remission of all our sins; through the only merits of thy son our saviour Jesus Christ.


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Last updated 13/06/04 13:00 Author: David Shepherd