The Parish Church of Sarum St. Martin, Salisbury Wiltshire

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From the Priest-In-Charge of Sarum St. Martin’s

12th Sunday in OT 2017

There are many and great reasons for travelling on Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, not least of which this last week was the glorious weather, Mary’s weather as we usually say while enjoying the sun as rain sweeps the country!  This last week this parish together with St. Paul’s Weymouth and St. Peter’s Devizes took the Pilgrimage road from the Diocese of Salisbury to Norfolk and were blessed by Mary's  weather, though it did rain during a walking of the Stations of the Cross on Tuesday morning.  But we were blessed much more by Mary’s prayers that we might grow closer to her Son, and explore ways in which we might make Him known in our lives. After Communion today we will sing the hymn that begins ‘We have a gospel to proclaim, Good News for men in all the earth’.  This last week at the holy Shrine we were confirmed in that Good News and given an insight into how we might proclaim it.

Our pilgrimage began with Bishop Jonathan of Ebbsfleet opening up to us a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in which the apostle writes, ‘I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith’.  And as the study sessions continued under the direction of Fr. Damian Feeney, the priest missioner of the Diocese of Lichfield, a theme emerged,  ‘ … feed the disposition’.  Now a disposition is defined in the dictionary as, ‘the predominant or prevailing tendency of one’s spirit, a characteristic attitude’.   Bishop Jonathan had used similar words to these about God, ‘God cannot but love; it is His characteristic attitude’.  And this is so self-evident.  At the very heart of God the Holy Trinity is love a love almost beyond imagining, except of course for Jesus.  Jesus is God’s love come down to earth to draw all of humanity into the heart, the love of God. And at Pentecost the love of God in the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles that they might be the agents of that drawing of all humanity into the heart, the love of God.  In our turn, as Bishop Jonathan reminded us, in our Baptism and Confirmation we have all been given everything by God that is necessary for us to live in God’s love.  But not as robots, not as automatons, not as dolls, but a human beings, the same human beings that God chose to become in Jesus.  And here is the wonderful point: if Jesus showed the love of God, in fact proclaimed the Good News, then so can we! And so must we!  Now at this point you might ask, but How?  How can we be like Jesus in proclaiming the Good News of the love of God for all humanity.  And my answer, which is the answer given to us on Pilgrimage to Walsingham under the influence of Mary’s prayers for us, is, ‘feed the disposition’.  Make your life such, under God, that the predominant or prevailing tendency of your spirit, your characteristic attitude, is to love as God loves you in Christ.  It really is that simple!  And it really is that simple in answer to the next question, ‘And How do I do that?’  By being faithful in the Church.

The Church can be called many things, but what it must always remember of itself is that it is the Body of Christ on earth.  This Body of Christ on earth is given the task of proclaiming the Good News.  And so that this Body of Christ might do that proclaiming it is fed by Christ himself in the sacraments.  Let me be quite clear with you, as Bishop Jonathan and Fr. Damian were with us pilgrims; being part of

Fr David Fisher

the Church is not an option, it is an essential.  We cannot be Christians without being part of the Church.  We can be charitable, we can be kind, we can be loving outside the Church, but we can only be Christians if we are inside the Church.  And that is not to denigrate anybody, it is rather to speak as Jesus spoke and as the apostles taught in exhortations, in sermons, in letters.  And why is that so? Because it is only inside the Church that human beings can meet and know and grow in their love of Jesus.  Jesus gives Himself to us continually in the life of the Church in the Holy Sacraments, the way in which the Grace of God, that gift which changes us, is given to us.  In the Church in the sacraments do we meet Jesus, and in the two sacraments of growth, as it were, are we enabled to ‘feed the disposition’.  And those two sacraments are, the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession and Absolution.  In the sacrament of Confession and Absolution does God not only wipe away our sins but strengthens us to carry on our lives without sin.  In the Holy Eucharist does God feed us with the Good News of Jesus, feed us with the sacramental Body and Blood of Jesus that does indeed ‘feed the disposition’.

As pilgrims from this Church looked for our lamp by the Holy House we were reminded that at St. Martin’s we don’t do services rather we do eucharist.  We don’t do any old thing on a Sunday morning, cobbled together on the hoof. Rather we worship God in the beauty of our liturgy, for that is God’s due.  We do eucharist: we give thanks to God that God might feed us with the Body and Blood of His Son.  And in that way does God ‘feed our disposition’ to be as Jesus is.

So, there it is.  A week on Pilgrimage to a holy shrine in Norfolk.  A journey away from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  In the extraordinary, the prayers of Our Lady that we sought that we might grow closer to her Son and explore ways in which we might make Him known in our lives were opened out to us, that the mystery of the Good News and the mystery of our part in the proclaiming of that Good News might be a reality. Then a journey back from the extraordinary to the ordinary enriched in our love of God to continue to sing by our lives, ‘We have a gospel to proclaim, Good News for men in all the earth’.  That now is our disposition which is defined in the dictionary as, ‘the predominant or prevailing tendency of one’s spirit, a characteristic attitude’.   As we continue in our life in God’s Church we pray that strengthened in the Grace of God in the Holy Sacraments our ‘characteristic attitude’ might indeed be that we live Christ life here in Salisbury.


Almighty God, you have made us members of Christ and of his Church in this parish. May we as a congregation reach upwards to your throne in worship and adoration: inwards to one another in understanding and fellowship; and outwards to the world in evangelism and social compassion. Make us like a city set on a hill whose light cannot be hidden, so that men and women may find Christ as the Light of the World, and his Church as the family of the redeemed, and eternal life as the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

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