Waiting

An illuminating thread of hope. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons (“Christmas Greetings”)

We are waiting, still waiting, and not just for England to win the World Cup a second time.  You may be waiting for the start of your Christmas holiday.  You may be waiting to meet with family and friends that you haven’t seen for a while.  You may be waiting for some good news, a chink of hope at a difficult time. 

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Lamentation and Love

The altar within the Church of Dominus Flevit (Latin for ‘The Lord Wept’) in Jerusalem.

On All Souls Day (2nd November 2022) we remember those who have died, following remembering the Saints the day before on All Hallows Day. There are many people to remember, for me the death of my father on 3rd August 2022 is and was the most prominent memory.

At the annual All Souls Service on Sunday 30th October, I gave the following short homily after a reading from the book of Lamentations. I hope you find it helpful.

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Vulnerability and Scripture

Two placards at a demonstration in support of Ukrainians.  One says "We stand with Ukraine" and the other says "I'm waving this flag so the UK can waive visas".
Picture: My family’s placards at a demonstration in support of Ukrainians that took place in Bath, England on 5th March 2022.

On the First Sunday of Lent, 6th March 2022, I preached to both churches within the Benefice in which I serve my curacy. One of the lectionary readings for the day was part of Psalm 91, a psalm which is particularly challenging for Ukrainians and those who hope for peace to reign in Ukraine – that was certainly the case for me, as the son of a Ukrainian refugee. Through lots of prayer I was drawn to a sermon that challenged, even scared, me because it confronted when scripture is seemingly at odds with our situation. Delivering it to the congregations was equally challenging. Their response was humbling.

Afterwards people asked for a copy of the sermon to be sent to them. And so with that in mind I am posting it here on this blog, something I rarely do because are sermons mostly written for specific congregations and churches, and specific times. But I also rarely publish them because there are theologians, writers and preachers far, far better than me who will see flaws or errors within it that I did not – and that’s a scary and vulnerable place to be in too, but as this sermon does talk about finding ourselves in such places I have indeed posted the sermon below.

It is by no means perfect but I hope it is of help, if it isn’t please try to forget you read it!

Rev’d Andrew Avramenko, 6th March 2022

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A Sixty Second Sermon: Pentecost

Part of the reasoning behind my stole designs* is to create a theological dialogue without me saying a word. Here, on Pentecost Sunday of 2020, then is a Sixty Second Sermon speaking without words.

The music is an excerpt from “It is accomplished” by Peter Gabriel – part of his soundtrack album for the film “The Last Temptation of Christ”.

* see “My Ordination Stoles” for the reasoning behind this stole design.

A Rescue Plan for Humanity

Easter Sunday 2017

Celebrating the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday, 16th April 2017

Did you hear about the sheep who got his head stuck in a traffic cone and had to be rescued? The RSPCA said he was fine afterwards, although he did look a little sheepish! And did you hear about the Swan that was stuck on the roof of a restaurant? Apparently the bill was too much! Thankfully some firefighters rescued it and returned it to a nearby river. And finally, did you hear about a man and his dog who stopped a cyclist from disaster with some bread? It was a Matter of Loaf and Death! Three ‘strange but true’ rescue stories, okay two of them: Wallace & Grommit used buns not bread to stop the bike.

There is another true but far more dramatic and important rescue, one that really is a ‘Matter of Life and Death’: Jesus’s resurrection. Within Chapter 2 of the Book of Acts Peter helps people to see God’s rescue plan for humanity that the resurrection unlocked.

Acts is a book full of eyewitness accounts and pioneering ministry, and where church as we know it began. It starts 40 days after Jesus’s resurrection with an account of Jesus ascending into Heaven having spent the time in between visiting and being seen by a whole host of people (Acts 1).  10 days later the Disciples spoke in languages they didn’t know but those who witnessed it did.  They had received the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised.  It was the first Pentecost.

Peter stood up to explain what had happened and help make the connections that gave birth to the church we know today (Acts 2). Continue reading

Hope Echoes

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You are wondering through the cold winter night with the thoughts and worries of the year gone by running through your head and see a glow from behind some barn doors. Intrigued, you approach it. You notice it is ajar and as you peep inside you see a group of people gathered around something. They notice you and beckon you in. The warmth of the light and fire is matched by the welcome you receive. Your eyes take in the smiles before they descend upon a young couple who seem to glow with joy. They invite you to come closer. As you approach you become transfixed on a new born baby the lady is holding. She lowers the baby into your arms and he nuzzles into you: a new life full of new promise and possibilities, lying happily in your embrace.

The big cause for celebration that we’ve been looking forward to all year has finally come amongst us. Yes, the latest Star Wars film is now in the cinemas! The first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, is a tale of light overcoming darkness but the hope but we are counting down the days to celebrate the greatest gift of hope ever to have been given to us. And after the difficult year we are coming to the end of we could do with some hope, but the hope we have is not a new hope, it is a hope from the past, present and future.  Is a hope that Isaiah knew was coming, a hope that Joseph lived out when Mary most needed it, and a hope that continues to echo throughout the world to this day. Continue reading

The Joy of the Lord is our strength: choosing joy to rise above our troubles

In the film Inside Out 5 characters, representing different emotions, live inside the mind of a young girl who they help to cope with life. Joy is one of those characters and her incessant joyfulness becomes problematic as the child experiences a number of challenging and upsetting experiences. The character of Joy has to learn what it means to be joyful in the face of these challenges.

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The Good Shepherd and His Sheepdog

Whilst I was ruminating on Jesus being The Good Shepherd I found myself thinking about how people shepherd animals. It may also have had something to do with the fact that before I flew up to Scotland I came across an episode of Top Gear on the television. It was one where the trio of hapless presenters were trying to shepherd sheep using motorbikes. They failed miserably. A lack of communication and skill was their undoing on this occasion. Continue reading

Inside Out: the mission hidden within us

Have you ever noticed how Jesus often manages to do the expected and the unexpected at the same time?

Those on the look out for the messiah 2,000 years ago would have expected Him to have arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey, yet when he did few expected it.

Jesus was what went for a celebrity in His day.  There was no Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Periscope to spread a message or get your fix of news and entertainment.  Jesus’s social media was old-school word-of-mouth.  Those that saw, heard or were healed by Jesus told their friends and family about it, who told their friends and family, who told… you get it.

So word got out that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem.  Most people wouldn’t have known what Jesus looked like but it wouldn’t have taken them long to have figured it out: a man upon a donkey encircled and led by an entourage would have drawn people’s curiosity at the very least.

Crowds gathered.  Some were desperate to get some of the healing they had heard about.  Some were curious to see this person they had heard about and some would have been annoyed that He and the crowds he was drawing were disrupting their Passover celebrations.  Some in Jerusalem would have been suspicious, fearful and even angry.

Here He was, a saviour and a threat, being celebrated, cheered and sneered, a celebrity being welcomed. Continue reading

Producing the fruit of the Kingdom

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Gardening with God

Perhaps you have noticed how when a tree’s branches are exposed at this time of year they look like upside down lungs.  That’s just what God’s designed them to be: our lungs suck the oxygen out of the air and feed it into our bodies; trees suck in the carbon dioxide we breath out, use it and give us back the oxygen we need.

Like a tree takes the waste from our lungs, Jesus takes our rubbish, our sin, and transforms it into food to enrich us and the rest of the vine.  Like a tree connects each leaf, twig and branch to each other by virtue of it’s relationship with the trunk, Jesus does likewise with us.

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