The readings on which these sermons are based can be found at:

s218e05 Lockleys St Richard Patronal Festival 26.6.05

"I have learned to be content with whatever I have". Philippians 4.11

For a monotheistic religion Christianity has an awful lot of hangers on. In times past much more was made of saints days. I was privy to a conversation recently about holidays and the fact that there are relatively few of them from now until October. There was a suggestion for a few extras we could have :-).

We do lead very fortunate lives. Some of us actually work a 40 hour week. For us in Australia, there are regular weekends, public holidays, annual leave, long service leave and sabbaticals -- unless of course you are self employed. The biblical injunction to keep holy the sabbath day is perhaps less important in our society where working hours are determined. People do have some time for rest and recreation -- well -- all except women, whose work is never done :-)! I often reflect that the wife is the one person allowed to work on the sabbath day, for someone had to prepare the food and put it on the table! These things can be taken too far. I was told recently of someone who, when they were a child were scolded on a Monday for cleaning their shoes before going to Church the day before. She should have done it on the Saturday. What a miserable religion this was!

The saints of the Church are supposed to help us appreciate the human side of the Church. The saints are people who made it, and therefore we, by emulating them, can make it as well.

But I rather wonder if their saintliness gets more obvious and their humanness more blurred as time passes. What is the saying: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"? So over time, even these human examples seem out of our reach. They might as well be divine for all the help they are likely to give. I wonder how easy it would have been to live with Moses, Elijah, St Peter, St Paul, St Augustine, St Richard, or Henry the 8th!!!

And it seems as if God and grace are receding, the carrot is always just out of our reach. This doesn't seem like good news to me -- an endless struggle with little or no reward along the way. Let me say that this is not what I believe, and nor would I commend it to anyone else.

The Book of Common Prayer (of 1662) lists: "A Table of feasts that are to be observed in the Church of England throughout the year .. All Sundays in the Year" .. (which includes all Sundays in Lent) and then goes on to list the Saints days. Only then does it go on to list the days of fasting.

So our faith is a lot about feasting and celebrating. Our faith is a lot about rest and recreation. Our faith is therefore a lot about our happiness and our health, provided only that this is not at the expense of someone else's health and happiness. Our faith is a lot about leading a balanced life.

I suppose that in times past the celebration of saints days provided the populace with necessary extra rest and relaxation that our holidays and long service leave are designed to do.

I began this sermon with the words: "I have learned to be content". We think that St Paul is referring primarily to material possessions, and it is good to tread lightly on this earth. But I wonder if he is not also referring to being content with himself. For all his faults and foibles, perhaps he has learned to smile at his own eccentricities and accept the eccentricities of others. If this is the case then he is most blessed, and we do well to try and emulate him.

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