Monthly Archives: November 2020

Advent Sunday

Advent Sunday – Year B – Rev Alison Way

Link to the Advent Sunday Service and video reflection:

Isaiah 64:1-9 and Mark 13:24-end

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight – O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen

The singing of  “O Come O Come Emmanuel” – with its reflections on the historic titles we give to Jesus and its lilting melody and unmistakable minor key herald the start of the new church year – and the start of Advent. Our time of prayer and preparation as the days shorten but with the light of Jesus once again shining in our hearts. As it did when he first came to earth as a vulnerable baby to save us over 2000 years ago.

Jesus came at that time – as the Messiah – promised of God – to sweep away the old and bring in a new way of all humanity being loved and cherished by God. Sweeping away the old – includes all the time that had passed with God working through Abraham and his descendants. Their journeys to and in the promised land – and the times of exodus and subsequently exile and eventual return to Jerusalem, and the building and then the rebuilding of the temple.

With the coming of Jesus – God is working in a new way – and our reading from Isaiah today is from those times after the return from the exile in Babylon. A lot of people much wiser than me have drawn parallels between the exile experiences of the people of God and our recent times with coronavirus. For example, Samuel Wells who is the vicar of St Martin in the fields along Maureen Langdoc came up with 10 practices for our Covid days inspired by theological themes from the exile. These are:


  1. Resist denial: practise truthfulness.

  2. Resist assuming control: develop patience.

  3. Resist the impulse to be right: discover humility.

  4. Resist anxiety: find courage.

  5. Resist fleeing from yourself: become your own friend.

  1. Resist the suffocation of technology: embrace joy.

  2. Resist the assumption of scarcity: celebrate abundance.

  3. Resist self-centredness: embody charity.

  4. Resist greed: realise simplicity.

  5. Resist despair: choose hope.

The reading from Isaiah starts with ‘O that you would tear open the heavens and come down’ – in its own way that is exactly what God did when Jesus came. It was not done in the dramatic way Isaiah imagines – no mountains quaking or fires, but through a young faithful woman – messages of angels, visiting shepherds, a travelling star and wise men from the east.

Isaiah is writing of the times when despite everything that has occured – when God’s chosen people have returned to Jerusalem after the exile, and are rebuilding the temple. Even after all that, still the importance of God in the lives of the people is not central.  Things are better than they once were so they have slipped back into apathy. God recognises something new and different is needed and it comes quietly at first – as Jesus is born as a vulnerable baby all those years ago.

I will come back to Isaiah – but we also get a sense of Jesus’ time on earth building to a crescendo in our passage from Mark’s gospel. In the action, this is not long before Jesus is taken to be crucified. He is trying to get across what he is there for. The language (as it is in Mark) is more hidden and mysterious – but there is clarity there. My words Jesus said – will not pass away. And indeed it is testament to their importance that we continue to study then and find new meaning for each passing generation. Jesus words here are a call for us to stay watchful and alert to the good news of Jesus. In our preparations for Christmas I think this must be a call to us to stay focused on what Christmas is really about – how God’s love came down to earth on that first Christmas for us all.

Back in Isaiah – one of the phrases that most struck me was in verse 8 – Yet, O Lord you are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.  Powerful words indeed – are we clay in our Father, the potter’s hands. Are we letting God shape us and guide us in these difficult days – are we open and malleable to his shaping. There have been moments in our journey through 2020 when some of the basic building blocks and things we hold most dear have been stripped away. This has been difficult and challenging – have we stayed open to the still small voice of God’s guiding in our strange and confronting times. Relying on God will give us through his Holy Spirit the strength for each step we need to take. Staying focused on each step also helps us not to over-reach.

I like a good plan – and I confess I have found it confronting and stressful that we cannot really progress in that way at the moment. I look at our plan for Christmas celebrations (which seem a pale imitation of what any of us would usually do or want to do) apprehensively knowing it could happen or it could not happen – or even something else quite other could happen. I have never quite known a time like this. Its more than doing a jigsaw puzzle with out the picture, its doing a jigsaw puzzle without the picture and with the pieces fading in and out and changing all the time!!!

What can we do in these circumstances – what we can do is practice what Jesus says in our Gospel – staying alert and watchful. Staying focussed in the present in the moment, looking for the good, being kind and thoughtful. Being thankful for each day and the presence of God with us. Being ready to do what God wants of us. And remembering all God has done for us – particularly in sending Jesus to us.

This brings me to our second hymn (which will sing near the end of this video service). This hymn captures the big picture of Jesus’ love for us in a sublime way – equally associated with this Advent Sunday. It is The Wesley classic (words by Charles music by John) – “Lo, he comes with clouds descending”.

I don’t know if you remember me saying at my licensing back in February here that “At the name of Jesus” – set to the tune Camberwell was my second favourite hymn – well “Lo, he comes with clouds descending” is number one in my book. This hymn is a mix of imagery of what Jesus did for us on the cross – a subject we talk about a lot and also imagery we talk about a lot less frequently  – watching and waiting for Jesus’ second coming – as the gospels and John’s revelation also predict. This is very much the stuff of Advent and Advent Sunday in particular. That challenging extract of Mark’s gospel we have just heard is also riddled with images of the second coming to. For example amongst the action described was the Son of man coming in the clouds.

Talking about the second coming of Jesus is quite tricky – and in the past this subject has been rather abused to engender fear and submission to inappropriate regimes. Obviously the gospel writers, wrote what they did expecting the ‘second’ coming to come soon.. This is reflected in the part of Mark’s gospel that says Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 2000 years on this leaves us a bit mystified, from the position where the second coming has yet to come. One of things this means we particularly need to do is get in touch with our mystical side and put down our reliance on logic and rationality. There are deeper things afoot here.

So what is this deeper meaning then. I think we need to acknowledge something of the awesomeness of God.  How God’s interventions such as when Jesus came in the first place can be very dramatic, unexpected and in ways beyond our comprehension. Also when God intervenes again as God will at some point when the way we live now inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus left us comes to end –  however this intervention comes to be from God– it will be dramatic, unexpected and beyond our earthly powers of comprehension

Understanding this, means living ready for everything and anything from God – surely something 2020 has taught us over and over again. With our eyes firmly on Jesus and the promise of eternal life. For Christians death brings the promise of intimacy with our loving God.  The second coming if it happened in whatever way it might in our life time, would bring this intimacy too and this is the hope we live our lives with. In that sense the second coming is not something to be feared, but something to be marvelled at and wondered about. The prospect of the second coming should be something that brings how we live our lives into sharp focus.

The guidance from Mark’s gospel this morning is this as Christians to expect challenging and difficult times and to face them in readiness, courageously and determinedly. We also need to be sure of our foundations, and not to place too much store on the things of this world. To concentrate on our relationship with God and the things to come.

Remember as I said earlier – Jesus said Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Jesus is asking us to be ever watchful, alert and ready and to pray for strength from the Holy Spirit. All of which is very sound guidance in how we approach our lives, when we think about what Jesus has brought to our lives now and what the second coming could bring. Fundamentally, this passage is a wake up call asking us to live with a real sense of expectancy – alert and ready to how God has intervened, is intervening and will intervene in our earthly existence. Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and forever. And how our priority must be to live clinging to God’s values and not our own. We need to live and pray as my favourite hymn Lo he comes ends –

Saviour, take the power and glory – claim the kingdom for thine own. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! – Thou shalt reign and thou alone. Amen


The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995

Christ The King

Christ the King

As this Sunday was previously known and loved as the Sunday next before Advent, often know as Stir up Sunday, I have included the words of the collect for today and the post communion prayer – which was formerly the collect here.  These well-known and well-loved words have always been for me a beginning of the anticipation of Christmas.  

God the Father,

help us to hear the call of Christ the King

and to follow in his service,

whose kingdom has no end;

for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, one glory.


Stir up, O Lord,

the wills of your faithful people;

that they, plenteously bringing forth

the fruit of good works,

may by you be plenteously rewarded;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 Collect and post communion for Christ the King

Common Worship.                  

Reflection for Christ the King

Ephesians 1: 15-end, Matthew 25: 31-end

For someone like me who preaches occasionally it is surprising how often certain occasions come more than once.  One example in my case is the feast of St Michael and all Angels and the other is Christ the King – in four years of preaching, they have both occurred 3 times.  It would be reasonable to assume that I have managed to acquire an understanding of them by now, but unfortunately, I am as much as sea as I ever was.

Regarding the Kingdom Season – from All Saints Day to Advent, the Church of England says this about today: ‘The annual cycle of the Church’s year now ends with the Feast of Christ the King. The year that begins with the hope of the coming Messiah ends with the proclamation of his universal sovereignty. The ascension of Christ has revealed him to be Lord of earth and heaven, and final judgement is one of his proper kingly purposes. The Feast of Christ the King returns us to the Advent theme of judgement, with which the cycle once more begins.’ I should therefore take this opportunity to wish you all a happy new year, as our new church year begins next Sunday.

I often feel that to celebrate the kingship of Christ should be to point out something that we were aware of all along.  The book of Revelation makes it plain that however many battles there may have been or may be to come, and however often we feel that the forces of evil are getting the upper hand, the final victory has already been won and Jesus is most definitely reigning triumphant.  The original film of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has a repeated line in it which I like – ‘it will be alright in the end.  If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end’.

If we are to celebrate Christ the King, then what should His kingdom look like?  Jesus often spoke in parables, and while it could be said that all his parables relate to the Kingdom, there is a large group of them in which he specifically refers to the Kingdom of God.  In Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels, Jesus frequently gives an illustration beginning with the words ‘the kingdom of God is like…’.  We need to be careful about how we read these, as Jesus is not saying that the kingdom is like a mustard seed, yeast or a valuable pearl – more that the whole story illustrates something about the kingdom although I was interested to read only this morning that mustard grows almost as a weed in the Mediterranean world.  Rather as I suspect we think of horseradish or wild garlic, once you had mustard growing, although it was useful and good for the health, it was almost impossible to eradicate.  Perhaps the kingdom is like mustard seed after all – it seems to flourish most when under persecution and has not stopped spreading for 2000 years.

If the kingdom parables illustrate different aspects of the kingdom, our gospel readings since All Saints Day give us an idea of how inhabitants of the kingdom are expected to behave.  Over the past few weeks, we have read from the beatitudes and the parables of the wise and foolish bridesmaids and last week of the talents.  One thing that is plain in all of them, is that God’s kingdom is not something that is to come, His kingdom is now.

The season concludes today with the King sitting in judgement at the end of time.  The story is well known to us all, and never fails to make me feel uncomfortable – I don’t know what its affect is on you.   In biblical times, the handing out of justice was a task of leadership – the early leaders of God’s people were called Judges and you can read about some of them in the bible book of that name. The degree of justice depended very much on the calibre of the individual ruler.  We now have Magna Carta to thank for the beginning of the separation of government and the judiciary and the ruling that everybody, even the monarch is subject to the rule of law.  At the time I am writing this, the governments both in this country and the USA are in some disarray with what would appear to be power struggles, both in 10 Downing Street and in the White House.  This is despite the fact that numbers infected with and dying from Covid 19 are going up at an alarming rate, and the negotiations on Brexit seemingly nowhere near completion with less than 50 days to go before it happens.  It is at times like this that I am profoundly grateful that Christ is King, and the things of this world will pass away.

We have a hope – we are a people of hope, and our hope is wonderfully described in our reading from Ephesians.  I always enjoy reading Paul’s writing when he gets carried away with the glories that are to come, and seems to run out of superlatives to describe the wonders that God has in store for us.  Let’s hear it again:

‘with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all’.  I do hope that for the rest of the day, the hymn ‘At the name of Jesus’ will be in your head after reading that – I wish we could sing it now!

Head over all things for the church which is his body – the church which is made up of the saints on this earth.  The church which is us.  We have a hope, and we have a king.  May it be our constant joy to live as people of his kingdom.

2nd Sunday before Advent

In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Link to the online service of Spiritual Communion

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30

Talent is a word that has morphed somewhat!! We have a regular television programme – called Britain’s Got Talent, where acts from the sublime to the ridiculous show us their party pieces… More correctly a talent is special often an athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude for something. A natural endowment to something – Mo Farrah to running first, Katharine Jenkins to singing. In both those cases, they have trained and honed their gifts, but they have definitely been based on a natural disposition to run long distances or sing beautifully in the first place!

The truth is that everybody has talents! It can be in every day things like ironing, baking, gardening and listening. Or in more complicated things like: –

  • Owning and operating bits of equipment to do specific jobs

  • Expertise in specific areas

    Some people are great at hospitality or administration

  • In sport, creative arts, music,

  • With computers and

  • Even in prayer (we will come back to that)

Nobody in my opinion has no talents at all. I’m not very keen on how showbiz – celebrity stuff has overtaken the word talent either. We need to celebrate how God has made each one of us – different, unique and special.

Jesus told a parable in our readings today about talents too, and this gets to the point where we are clearer about how this word talent has changed its meaning. A talent in Jesus day was a sum of money. In fact, an awful lot of money! One commentary I read said that 5 talents was the equivalent of being a multi-millionaire in those days. Another said one talent was the equivalent of 15 years wages for a labourer. When Jesus told the parable he was talking about high finance and not so much gifts and abilities.

The story is about a wealthy man who invested his money by loaning it out to members of his staff. Three of them were lent huge amounts of capital and told to trade with it. Two of the three were remarkably successful. They returned the initial interest and the profit to the boss and in return they were moved on to better things, to administer a larger section of the boss’ business.

The third was intimidated by the task and chose not to rise to the challenge and buried the money, made no profit and returned it untouched. He received a pretty severe telling off and was punished for his timidity and lack of imagination. It ends badly with weeping and gnashing of teeth – which is never good in Jesus’ parables.

In the parable the sum of money could represent our knowledge of God. The Jews learnt from their scriptures about a God, who loves us, save us and cares how we treat each other. but they were given this knowledge, not just for their own benefit. They were expected to spread it to others too. To keep our knowledge of God to ourselves is selfish– timidity won’t get us very far. We need to spread around what we have learnt of God’s love to our families, friends and neighbours. That is one basic meaning of this parable

It is also tempting to apply it to our gifts and abilities too and the word talent in the wider sense we use today. What we are good at or clever at becomes what we are talented at. We mustn’t bury the talents we all have, and we must put them to work serving God as God intended. Everybody can do something perhaps not brilliantly well, but sufficiently well to be appreciated.

I challenge us all today to review how we are using talents our gifts and abilities a fresh. Particularly how we could use them to show our love for God and to put them to work to serve his kingdom. Talents are not to be left at the bottom of the wardrobe of our lives like that unwanted Christmas present from our Great Aunt. We need to use them to help us all show how God loves the world and how much we love God especially in our pandemic times.

Another thing we can all  work on is our practice of prayer. We all have different gifts in prayer, and being prayerful is a deep seated natural instinct. The Archbishops have asked us to pray every day (at 6pm if we can). I wrote about this in last week’s newsletter and circulated the resources and it will be mailed out this week to those who need it. I would like to take this opportunity for you to read what they said… From 4th November so a little time has elapsed but still plenty of days ahead to pray in!!

Please read the Archbishops letter…… 20201104 Joint letter ABC ABY to the nation

To finish I found a very short story, which illustrates the point of the parable of the talents rather well. Somewhat surprisingly it is about 2 frogs! We may not think that frogs have a lot of talents. But if they live up to their “frogginess” which includes their talent to swim, it can make a huge difference to the outcome as you will see. It begins….

Two frogs fell into a tub of cream. The one looked at the high sides of the tub which were too difficult to crawl over and said, “It is hopeless.” So he resigned himself to death, relaxed, and sank to the bottom.

The other one determined to keep swimming as long as he could. “Something might happen,” he said. And it did. He kept kicking and churning, and finally he found himself on a solid platform of butter and jumped to safety. Amen

References: Story from

Remembrance for Wincanton – Rev Alison Way – Nov 8th

Link to Act of Remembrance for Wincanton

Link to the Service for Remembrance for Wincanton

Matthew 5:1-12, John 14:27

In the name of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Poppies – We wear poppies for Remembrance. Alongside these simple paper and plastic poppies – are newer products like wristbands, and glittery poppy brooches, or poppies for cars and lorries. This year in our strange COVID times we have been encouraged to print, colour and display poppies in our windows by the British legion (or to make poppies from plastic bottles/paper plates to display).

As I am sure you know – The poppy was chosen as the symbol for Remembrance because of what happened in the battle scarred lands where World War One took place. When the battles moved on and the land stopped being used – that soil that had formed the trenches contained thousands of poppy seeds, all lying dormant. They would have lain there for years more, but the battles being fought there churned up the soil so much that when the conflict stopped in an area the poppies bloomed like never before.

One of the most famous bloom of poppies was around Ypres, a town in Flanders, Belgium. This was crucial to the Allied defence. There were three battles there, but it was the second, which was calamitous to the allies since it heralded the first use of chlorine gas in the conflict. This brought forth the poppies in greatest abundance. Even from the deepest of calamities, new life can and did grow in the poppies. The poppies inspired the Canadian soldier, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, to write his most famous poem in 1915 after seeing poppies growing in battle scarred fields..

In Flanders Fields            

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872 – 1918)

An American woman Moina Michael from Georgia, was the first person to wear a poppy in remembrance. In reply to McCrae’s poem, she wrote a poem entitled ‘We shall keep the faith’ which includes the lines:

And now the Torch and Poppy Red – We wear in honor of our dead.

She bought some poppies, wore one, and sold the others, raising money for ex-servicemen.  Her colleague, French YMCA Secretary Madame Guerin, took up the idea and made artificial poppies for war orphans. It caught on. In November 1921, the British Legion sold them for the first time some 99 years ago

Remembrance is important – We have been handing the baton of remembrance using poppies from one generation to the next since then. Remembrance is about walking in the footsteps and through the stories of those who have gone before us. Standing shoulder to shoulder with them and living learning from their experience. It is important to keep passing the poppy baton on to our children and our children’s children. As we look at our poppies – lets explore the different facets of remembrance.

Think first about the black centre – a bit like a big full stop. Each full stop in  each poppy marks a life lost, lost in conflict in service of their country. Private William Deane is the youngest of the fallen from Wincanton in the first world war. Just 18 years old – a young life coming to an abrupt full stop – and we could feel strongly that it was a young life that had hardly started. From Tony Goddard’s “More than just names” – Both William’s parents died when he was young, so he and his brother Charles were brought up by his Auntie Mabel living in South Street. William lied about his age and joined up at just 17 in Yeovil in 1915. He died in Roeux Wood near Arras on 3rd May 1917 just 10 months after arriving in France.

More recently between 2008 and 2014, I lived and ministered in villages close to now Royal Wootton Bassett in the days of the many repatriations. This brought home to me in a new way the cost to many families today of conflict. Parents and grandparents who had lost children, children who had lost a much loved parent. Friends and families now living on treasuring the memories of someone so dear. Let’s also use the full stop centre of our poppies to help us also to remember those who died in more recent conflicts and those living with that loss and grief today.

Let’s next think about the redness of the poppy’s petals. The redness reminds us of danger and harm. In our mind’s eye let’s remember those still involved in conflict today. The petals as a visual reminder of the blood spilt. Injuries sustained in and through conflict change the lives of those impacted for ever. Thinking back – we remember particularly the impact on the whole person of shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. Things after the first and second world war that the society of the day did not understand in the way we do today. Things that caused hurt and stress in family and community life.  And in our present – Help us also to remember too those who have been injured in more recent conflicts and those living with significant challenges and disabilities today, and those who support them.

Next we turn to the stalk of the poppy – reflecting on it as the peace in which we stand. Peace won for us by the actions of those who have gone before us, those known to us and those we never knew. Help us to learn from the past and do all that we can to make the world a better place to live in for the future. To always have hearts seeking reconciliation and peace.  In the sermon on the mount Jesus said Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. Let’s resolve afresh today to live as peace makers and peace bringers to those around us. In our difficult covid days let us lean into the peace of God that passes all understanding. Peace that Jesus spoke of and peace Jesus has left with us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, if your poppy has a leaf, let’s use that to signify our walk together and our growth together as a community in this place – loving our neighbours and caring for those who are most vulnerable. Remembrance reminds us of the sacrifice and the selfless example of our forebears. Help us to learn from this the need above all to work together for the common good as they did.

As I conclude these thoughts with a prayer – We may wish to put our hand over or around any poppy we are wearing as we pray – Let us pray

God of life, from generation to generation you have held all creation in the palm of your hand. As we cradle our Remembrance poppies: hold us close to your heart this day as we remember those who died in conflict, particularly those who lived before us in this place.

God of life, as we cradle our Remembrance poppies: may the persistence of your healing love continue its work in the lives of individuals and communities still living in the aftermath of conflict particularly our veterans, and all those who have lost loved ones or those living with the impact of life-changing injury. Surround and protect them with your life-giving Spirit.

God of life, as we cradle our Remembrance poppies  – Grant us the strength to always work together for peace and for the common good. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.



More than just names – the Wincanton Roll of Honour for the Great War by Tony Goddard

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995

Prayer adapted from