beautiful sermon was written by someone not knowing
the Kristin we all knew, Chris Hawkins read of
Kristin's death and was inspired to write the
sermon you see below. Please take the time to
read the beautiful words and may they give you
comfort and may we always remember the spirit
May the words of my mouth
and the thoughts of all our hearts, be acceptable
to you, Oh Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.
Today we celebrate the Feast of St Simon and St
Jude. Not much is known of these two saints save
that they are included in the list of the Twelve
Apostles. Simon is called “the Zealot”
and may have been a member of a radical political
group of the time.
There is even less certainty about St. Jude. In
the Letter of Jude, which may have been written
by him, he gives himself the title "brother
of James", which is the meaning of the name
Thaddeus by which Jude was also known. In the
opinion of some scriptural scholars, St Jude was
the full brother of St James the Less, who was
regarded as Christ's first cousin. On this reckoning,
then, St Jude too would be counted a first cousin
of Our Lord.
However, today Jude is known as the patron of
desperate causes, the saint of last resort - the
one whom you ask for help when all else fails.
(I understand that the Rector has rediscovered
devotions to St Jude since I became his Curate!)
A quick scan of the personal column of ‘The
Times’ reveals many acknowledgements to
St. Jude for prayers that have been answered.
During my research for this sermon, I discovered
a St. Jude website, which recommends special prayers
for those who are desperate. The site has long
lists of those who pray for relationships to be
salvaged and health to be restored.
Tradition has it that prayers were only made through
Jude, once all other saints had been tried first.
Christians were reluctant to utter his name, for
fear that it be confused with Judas Iscariot,
our Lord’s betrayer. Hence, Jude’s
position at the bottom of the intercessory pile!
Western tradition tells us that St Jude exercised
his apostolic ministry in Mesopotamia. Following
this, he joined St Simon in Persia, where they
preached together, made many conversions and were
martyred. One day an enraged pagan mob fell upon
the gentle and good Jude, and bludgeoned him to
death. That is one reason why St. Jude is today
pictured holding a club - in memory of his martyrdom.
The bodies of St. Jude and St. Simon have lain
in St. Peter's in Rome for many centuries. St.
Jude was a tireless and successful worker. He
gave of himself not only in life but in death
as well, in the service of the Gospel.
Well, this might have been where the sermon ended,
had it not been for the ‘Orlando Sentinel’.
When I returned from my recent holiday in the
USA, I brought with me, several copies of American
newspapers, partly because I had not had time
to read them properly, but also because they provide
a fascinating insight to the nation’s collective
psyche at this pivotal point in world history.
I am sure that today’s is only the first
in a whole series of ‘Orlando Sentinel’
sermons – so be warned!
I was taking a break from writing the sermon because
the inspiration just would not come, and was on
the verge of praying to St. Jude, when I started
to scan the obituaries column, or page as it is
in the ‘Sentinel’. I guess that gives
you some insight into my mental state at the time,
that even the obituaries seemed inspirational!
Well, just like everything else in The States,
they “go large” on obituaries.
You will see from this that photographs are included
and quite long write-ups, which acknowledge all
who have survived the deceased, their place of
work, their hobbies and interests and their religious
affiliations. It was very interesting and moving
to read the accounts of the lives and deaths of
these citizens of the Orlando area. Here, the
great and the small are celebrated side by side.
A “no-nonsense” hairdresser (I shudder
to think what that means) sits alongside a company
director; a “homemaker” rubs shoulders
with the school cook and the Supreme Court Justice.
As I read, I could not help reflecting how death
irons out the wrinkles of status and worth. Here,
in the obituaries page, there are no lost causes,
only lost and treasured loved ones. Yet, my eye
was caught by a particular tribute to a young
woman of 32, named Kristin. The reason it attracted
my attention was because the reader was invited
to “visit Kristin’s website”.
My goodness, I thought, even when you’re
dead in America, you can still have your own website!
I determined to take a look, wondering what mawkish
horrors would be revealed.
However, I was immediately chastened when I accessed
the site, for here was the story of a beautiful
and courageous woman. Kristin had been born with
severe Spina Bifida and the website recounts in
words and pictures, a life of struggle and determination
to beat her handicap. She had put the site together
herself and had given it the title ‘Overcoming
Spina Bifida to celebrate life’.
And, indeed, the site was a celebration of life.
Kristin, whom others would have written off as
a ‘lost cause’ at birth, had lived
32 years of life in all its fullness. She had
graduated from college with a more than respectable
qualification. She held down responsible jobs,
had appeared in plays alongside her more able
bodied peers, and had even learned to ski. Kristin,
it seemed from her own testimony and the testimonies
of those who had known and loved her, had taken
life by the scruff of the neck and refused to
be written off. She simply did not believe in
lost causes, for to her, everything was possible;
the God whom she believed in is the God of possibilities,
the God to whom nothing and nobody is a lost cause.
One of her favourite quotes, which she lists on
the site, says:
"There are no shortcuts to any place worth
going, When you have exhausted all possibilities,
remember this...you haven't".
I wondered what Kristin would have made of the
St. Jude website.
I have a hunch that she would not have used it,
even though she appears to have been a woman of
great faith. Yet, all those prayers and petitions
to St. Jude are, in a way, saying what Kristin
believed - that all possibilities have not yet
been exhausted; that there is a chance my prayer
will, even now, when things seem desperate, still
So, you might ask, should we actually ask the
saints for their prayers?
One often hears of people praying to a saint,
but that is misleading and unfortunate. In older
English "pray" simply meant to request
politely. In this view, praying to a saint is
simply the idea of asking a fellow Christian to
intercede with God on one's behalf. It is not
different in principle from asking any Christian
friend to pray for you. It could be more helpful
to think of St. Jude, for instance, joining us
as we pray to God for our needs, even those that
we deem to be lost causes.
Undoubtedly asking one's fellow Christians in
heaven for their prayers is something that can
be abused. It can readily degenerate into the
notion that getting what you want from God is
a matter of knowing what channels to go through,
what strings to pull. One ends up thinking of
heaven as a place like the seat of a corrupt government,
where favours are traded and deals are made. But
the fact that something can be abused does not
mean that we ought to give up its proper use.
Surely one of the most valuable truths of the
Christian faith is that God's love for us moves
us to love in return, not only God but also one
another, so that every Christian is a mirror in
which the light of Christ is reflected to every
other Christian and, indeed, to the world in which
we are called to live.
God wants us to owe our spiritual well being,
not just to Him, but also to one another. Hence
He has told us to pray for one another, within
the bond of Christian love, and this bond is not
broken by death. To feel myself surrounded by
the love of God and of my fellow Christians, living
and dead, is important. To love in return, by
praying for my fellow Christians as well as for
my own concerns, is important.
The book of Jude, the shortest New Testament book,
is written to defend the faith against those who
would distort Christian doctrines. The writer
understood the greatness of what had been entrusted
to him – the Good News of God’s love,
and he beseeches all Christians to tell and show
people of this love. In this, our joint task,
we value the prayers of our fellow Christians,
living and dead so that the God of possibilities
may be made known to all in this troubled world,
especially at this time when we are tempted to
think that human kind is a lost cause. In this
way, those whom we give up on, and those who consider
themselves to be lost causes, may be enfolded
by the community of faith and embraced by the
God who counts none as lost - neither the hapless
Curate struggling over a sermon, nor Kristin struggling
joyfully against all the odds to beat a crippling
genetic illness. Not even Osama bin Laden; not
even Judas Iscariot…
We who are gathered here today and in every other
place of Christian worship across the land, delight
in the knowledge that when we praise God, our
voices are part of a great chorus of saints -
saints still on their pilgrimage, and perfected
saints, among them St. Jude.
I end with this prayer from the book of Jude:
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling,
and to make you stand without blemish in the presence
of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our
Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory,
majesty, power, and authority before all time
and now and for ever. Amen.