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Sermon for St Chad's Day Evensong - 2nd March 2014
Timothy 6.11b-16
Luke 5.1-11

This evening we mark several events. First of all, it is the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent - so it is only right to think about that season about to start on Wednesday of this week.
Secondly it is St Chad's Day - and therefore our patronal festival.

But also it is a day when we are dedicating a plaque in memory of Christine Harley - who for so many years was a faithful chorister here at St Chad's Church. And we give thanks to God for her and for all that she gave in many ways over the years to the life of this place and community. It is particularly good to welcome Alec and the family here tonight - and to have heard the choir's offering - Be Still for the Presence of the Lord - one of Chris's all time favourites I believe?

Now trying to fit all that into one sermon is a bit of a tall order - and I take it you do not want to remain here tonight till midnight? No? I thought not!

So lets begin by plunging into the middle and thinking a bit about St Chad - for whom this building is named. St Chad knew what family was all about. He was one of four brothers - all of whom entered the church.... maybe there were even more at home who did not, but we have something documented about Chad and his brothers who were also priests and monks.

One of the qualities that made Chad particularly loved and venerated throughout the Midlands, where he largely lived and worked, was his humility. Born in Northumberland and originally created Bishop of York, Chad's consecration was later called into question in one of those interminable arguments about church procedures that seem all too familiar today. Chad might have stood his ground and protested, but he didn't. He was content to give up high office and retreat back into relative obscurity at Lastingham in his brother's abbey and monastery, when someone else claimed they had a better right to his position than he did. And as a result when another post became vacant, he was top of the list to be considered and appointed as Bishop of Mercia with his Episcopal seat in Lichfield where he also died and was buried. But not before he became known and loved for his quiet service and humble manner. He preferred to travel on foot when he could - following the example of the apostles - although it was pointed out to him rather forcibly that they were not facing the length of journey or the difficulties of travelling the English countryside that he was!

Chad would have known all about keeping a good season of Lent of course. Lent - the time of preparation for the Church's great festival of Easter, has always been a time of prayer and fasting and almsgiving. A time of spiritual spring-cleaning if you like. Sweeping out all the dark corners of our lives and hearts. Shining the clear light of God's justice and mercy into all those awkward little crevices and crannies where our selfishness and self-interest gets such a firm hold if we are not careful.
Often people decide to give things up for Lent - but it is really not about being miserable - and certainly not about going on a diet! - Although I know that may be a by-product for some! The whole point about deprivation or setting aside something we are especially fond of, is to free out minds and thoughts and our resources for other, more holy purposes. So the money I might have spent on a chocolate bar, should be put to other use - maybe feeding a child in a refugee camp in Syria or similar. What might be a minor inconvenience to me, may be life or death to her.

Increasingly however today, we are encouraged to think not of things to give up - but of things to take up - acts of kindness and service to others to help focus our minds on God and on the Cross as we move through the six weeks of preparation leading to Easter. You can even sign up to receive a daily email suggesting ways of being positive in your Lenten observance. This is something I intend to try this year - and I commend it to you too. And from what I know of St Chad, I cannot help thinking that he would have approved the idea behind it - even if the technology would have had him speechless and fearing the worst sort of witchcraft in operation!

I think too that Chris might have approved of the practical nature of this new way of observing Lent. She too was someone who was no stranger to hard work and who worked away in the background - often helping out at our Lent Lunches for example - without ever being the person fronting it all up. But her presence and her help were invaluable. A lifetime of humble service and a love for the Lord expressed through her singing and love and devotion to her family - what more could we ask for a fitting conclusion to our St Chad's Day celebration. May she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.