Fr Peter Beck presided and preached at the 11am mass, his last with us as Interim Priest-in-Charge. We are deeply grateful for his service to us over this time!
We were also happy to have the Young Voices with us and to have our first two readings read by students from St Michael's Church School.
Our Gospel reading, the Magnificat, is found at Luke 12: 13-21.
Read on for the sermon and a video of the service.
Today I take my leave of you as your Interim Priest in Charge. It has been a rollercoaster six months and I am hugely grateful for the kindness and forbearance you have shown to me. I thank God for all that God has been doing and being amongst us, for all you have given me, all I have been learning in my faith journey, and above all the aroha and sense of the presence of God as we have worshipped together and embraced the opportunities and challenges which are distinctly ours as St Michael’s Parish and School. Thank you.
[Thank you our wonderful wardens, our vestry – just great dedicated people to work with. And to all of you in our sanctuary, our servers and sacristans- what a team! – it has been holy and it has been fun working with you. Penny and the board staff and pupils of our school. So many to thank – all of you who share with me in ministry in this parish and school. And that’s all of you, all of you of us who are devoted to praying for our world, our church and the needs of others. Thank you.]
God is good! Now you pray for God’s guidance in your search for a new vicar. I am absolutely sure that God has someone in mind and look forward to being with you when you welcome him or her when the time comes. Remember though that the community of Christ is a team ministry, and each of you are an integral part of the Body.
I think it’s rather appropriate that my last Sunday as your Interim Priest in Charge should be on a day when we celebrate Mary, Theotokos, the Mother of God. Mary holds a special place in my heart as she does for all of us too who find our spiritual home within our Anglo-Catholic tradition.
In the Feast of the Assumption, the Church honours Mary assumed into glory at the end of her earthly life of faith. The Feast is an expression of the enormous significance the Church puts on her life and witness and devotion to Jesus and to the Gospel. Mary is exalted not only because of her privilege of being the biological mother of Jesus but also because – as Jesus said – she listened to His Word and lived by it.
Mary is glorified because she followed the footsteps of her Son in giving her life in his service and in her care for others. For centuries in patriarchal societies where men held authority over women [and in far too many places they still do], she was depicted as the passive vessel for the incarnation of Jesus. She was described a ‘meek and mild’. But Mary was no passive vessel. She was clearly, a spunky, brave young woman. She certainly did not hold back in fear. Her’s was a constant journey into the unknown, a courageous confrontation with life’s many uncertainties. The birth narratives in Luke, the flight into Egypt in Matthew, the years of living in exile, the constant challenge of her son ‘s mission, the agony at the foot of the cross…. Mary knew the pain and the joy of motherhood and more.
The Magnificat is Mary’s song of conviction in the God of love and justice, of praise to God. In it we see the foundation of her life of faithful and courageous discipleship. You can see that she was anything but a fearful, passive, uncommitted woman. The God she served was one who filled the poor with good things and sent the rich empty away. Mary was committed to justice, compassion, to raising up the fallen, loving the unloved and advocating for the defenceless. Just as in the life of her son, in Mary we witness the passion for the coming of God’s Kingdom.
Mary lived in solidarity with the marginalized and rejected. And even in lighter moments she stood up for those who were missing out. Remember it was Mary at the Wedding of Cana who approached her son telling him to do something about the lack of wine for the wedding reception!
In her life of discipleship she showed us an example of advocating on behalf of others. She accompanied people in crisis. She stood up and spoke the word of hope for them. Her attitude was quite a contrast to the often fearful reaction of the disciples.
As Christians we cannot remain neutral bystanders in the triumphs and tragedies that are part of our world. We cannot excuse ourselves from channelling the energy, love and hope of God to all people. We are called as Christian to speak and act on behalf of those considered dispensable and even disposable by our society. We are called as best we can to follow the example of Mary as a Mother, protecting, safeguarding and enabling every person, as children of God, to achieve their full potential. Here in the heart of the city, this is our task.
Today’s celebration fills us with hope because it anticipates the final victory of God over evil, violence and death. In the power of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we partake of God’s love, which is stronger than death. As we gather to honour the Assumption of Mary today, we give thanks for her maternal care and protection. Some words of Pope Francis:
Mary lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other. She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword. Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others. She teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us.
May Mary help us to be carers and protectors of those who have been entrusted to us. May she guide us in our Christian discipleship as we seek to be salt to the earth and light for the world.
Father Ron, I ask you to lead us in saying the Angelus.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death.
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done to me according to thy word.
V. And the Word was made flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord, Your grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Your Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Cross and Passion be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.