"Since, then, we have such hope; we do not lose heart" - Bishop Viv's sermon at St Monica Trust

First published 28th February 2022

The Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, delivered a sermon at St Monica Trust retirement village on the Sunday before Lent, 27 February 2022. Valerie Peters was also licensed as a Licensed Lay Minister during the service.


Reading: 2 Cor. 3. 

"Since, then, we have such hope; we do not lose heart." Words which provide the beginning and the end of the second reading.

But this week of all weeks, our hope has been rocked as the horrors of war have returned to Europe, horror we have been able to follow minute by minute on the media as the Russian army rolled back into its former fiefdoms in response to Putin’s ideological, even religious campaign. Putin seeks to annex Ukraine, where, in 988 in the river Dnieper, led by Vladimir of the Rus, the people of Kyiv were baptised and the church we know as Russian Orthodox  was born. Now another Vladimir wants Kyiv and so the Ukraine must rejoin the Russian people. 

You will have had your own emotions this week. 

My mother grew up during the Second World War, was twice bombed out of the family’s Bristol home, and was sent away to Cornwall and safety, the sort of internal displacement which we have witnessed this week. The impact resonated through my family’s life. My mother, not mothered herself because of the war, loved people generally, but struggled to mother her children. But because she did love people generally, a love born of deep Christian faith, she was determined to enable her children to relate to all people, whatever their race, or nationality or faith or social status. We had international students staying with us. We had friends who were Chileans and Kurds, Russians and East Germans. Perhaps it was unsurprising I went to work in Liverpool on the faultline between Protestants and Catholics, nor that I worked in Czechoslovakia with the Conference of European Churches bringing Orthodox and Protestant Christians together before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

But the hope of that, and of so much more work in our international institutions, evaporated last week. How do I, how do we, find renewed hope in these dark days?

Firstly, we find hope rooted in Christ in majesty: whose glory, the glory of God, is the great theme of our readings today. And that glory, though transforming, even overwhelming, is not revealed in the perfect human form, but is revealed in crucifixion wounds. That is how we know the risen Christ who, in all his woundedness is alongside those Ukrainians who suffer today, is alongside us all in the pain of this world. 

Secondly, we find hope in our calling to be peacemakers, those whom Jesus calls blessed, the children of God. We are called to be peace makers, not just peace lovers. We are called to action. In the symbolic action of sharing the peace in this eucharist. And so much more. So some examples:

In response to Putin’s evil action, sanctions have already been imposed. They will need to be strengthened. And we will need to bear the cost of that, of higher fuel and food prices, perhaps power cuts. Are we valiant enough to bear that cost? And how can we support those who are poorest and can least afford the cost of this work of peace-making?

We know already that there will be a flow of refugees. We need, as part of our peace-making, to offer generous support for those countries adjacent to the Ukraine. But more than that. The Nationality and Borders Bill in its final stages in the Lords this week will make any refugee arriving in this country without a visa a criminal. This policy was always questionable, and the Bishops in the Lords have been good at questioning it. But now it is morally completely unacceptable. For many in this country any increase of inward migration is also unacceptable. Are we prepared to become unpopular by supporting easily accessible entry for Ukrainians not just to Poland and Moldova but to the UK? Are members of our government prepared to make unpopular decisions for the sake of those who suffer such great injustice? I will be working on this with colleagues in the House of Lords this week.

We find hope in the glory of the crucified and risen Christ. We find hope in our call to make and pursue peace. We, above all, find hope in prayer. 

What good can prayer do? Well, to start with, it changes us. It changes me. At the heart of the prayer that Jesus taught us is the petition ‘your kingdom come’ and therefore not the kingdoms of this world. ‘Your will be done’, and therefore not the will of despots and tyrants, not even my will. Prayer enables us to see clearly how the world could and should be and strengthens us not to give in to fatalism, cynicism, apathy or denial. 

I witnessed the fruit of this prayerful hope as I spoke in the last few days with Fr Kyril of the Eastern Orthodox Church here in Bristol, and we talked of his ministry amongst a community including both Russians and Ukrainians, and of the task of building peace in these dark days. I witnessed the fruit of this prayerful hope when I joined, thanks to the grace of zoom, an international prayer meeting for protestant pastors during which Ukrainian pastors in their cars fleeing from Kyiv prayed for their people, and for the people of Russia, and Russian pastors prayed for the people of Ukraine. And all prayed in unison, Lord have mercy.

And so I do turn to the words of a particular prayer which became so familiar to me during my six years on the staff of Coventry Cathedral. It was and is the focus of prayer in the ruins of the mediaeval cathedral, bombed in November 1940, with its still-charred cross and the words chalked on the wall: ‘Father Forgive’.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,


The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,


The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,


Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,


Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,


The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,


The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,


Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

In this faith we find our hope. And we do not lose heart.


Image: left to right – Revd Rod Cosh, Chaplain at St Monica’s; Valerie Peters, Licensed Lay Minister (who was licensed); Bishop Viv; Revd Simon Goodman. Credit Martin Gainsborough 2022

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