Sermon on Tom Twisleton preached in Settle Church on the Feast of Christ the King 26 November 2017

Christ the King   Holy Ascension, Settle 26th November 2017

The 22nd verse of the first chapter of the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians: God has put all things under Christ’s feet.

Page 84 of Tom Twisleton’s poems in the Craven dialect:

Come unto Jesus, all ye who are weary,
Heavily laden, down-hearted, distress’d,
If the journey be rough, and the pilgrimage dreary,
Then come unto Jesus - He promises rest.

On Life’s rugged path, toil unaided no longer,
With your sorrows untold, and your sins unconfess’d;
Cast the weight of your burden on One who is stronger,
And come unto Jesus - He promises rest.

He debars not the poor, He excludes not the lowly,
All who earnestly seek, He will gladly receive;
He is loving and merciful, truthful and holy;
And His rest is for all who repent and believe.

Amen - I could sit down!  My first cousin twice removed has preached in rhyme as good a sermon as you could preach on the Feast of Christ the King.

I won’t sit down just yet - but the rest of what I say won’t add anything to those deeply Christian sentiments of local bard Tom Twisleton. The sentiments have stayed somewhat hidden so far over this weekend celebration of his Centenary so it's good to quote them in Settle’s pulpit. They were written for a local pulpit, Zion’s most likely, though Tom was friendly with a Vicar of Giggleswick in his day. He’d been baptised in Giggleswick Church shortly after his birth in 1845 but his funeral in 1917 was conducted by a Free Church minister from his last home in Burley where he’s buried in God’s Acre cemetery. His life story is a reminder of Christian diversity and spur towards repairing fractures within the body of Christ that hinder our mission.

Tom Twisleton’s poems have been at the centre of this weekend in which the parish Church has partnered Settle Stories, the Museum of North Craven at the Folly, Craven District Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund in a celebration of dialect and poetry at the end of a year in which young people have given the lead. We obtained funding through Settle Stories for a heritage project officer in the person of Hazel Richardson. There’s a Centenary book for Tom just published which I commend to you, in which I provide the Foreword and, alongside the young people’s poems my own Ode to Tom which centres on the topical subject of Truth-telling. I read it in Church yesterday at Tom’s Memorial Service and there are take away sheets with it on at the back of Church.

I wouldn’t be in this pulpit speaking on Christ the King, not to mention cousin Tom, without the example and prayers of my father, Greg Twisleton, buried in the Churchyard and my mother, Elsie. Greg was born in 1900 above his parents shop near Car and Kitchen in the marketplace and knew Tom when he was a lad. Elsie was born in Hellifield, influenced by the parish priest Christian scholar Ernest Evans, who baptised me, and dedicated his book A Reason for the Faith to Elsie’s family. Later on both Elsie and I were impacted by Ernest’s friend, Hilary’s predecessor as Vicar, Fr Eric Ashby of blessed memory. Formerly a pillar of this Church Elsie, now 95, moved to Sussex in 2010. She lived first with Anne and I at Horsted Keynes and then, since 2013, at St Anne’s Convent home in Burgess Hill near our own retirement home in Haywards Heath. I have a short greeting from her to play for you recorded two weeks ago for the Twisleton family reunion yesterday at the Royal Oak, and for her friends here at Holy Ascension.

It will be uploaded later to the Back in Settle Facebook group which now has 2400 members, almost as big as the population! Here she is to speak to you:

As the oldest of the local Twisleton clan so to speak it is a great pleasure to be able to speak to you all on this Tom Twisleton Centenary weekend with the aid of modern technology. Being part of this community of Settle and Giggleswick was a very good time in my life. Happily married to Greg for nearly 30 years I know the importance of family celebrations and I’ve always valued Tom Twisleton’s poems. I regret not being with you in person but look forward to keeping in touch. May you all have a safe trip home and share future blessings. Elsie Twisleton.

Now back to St Paul and Christ the King. God has put all things under Christ’s feet.

Jesus is Lord – three words sum up the Christian faith.  

Jesus is Lord.  The carpenter born in Nazareth who shows the world the love, truth and power of God – he is Lord. It is his name that brings heaven to earth and earth to heaven.

Secondly Jesus is Lord.  A human life of 33 years lived at the start of our era continues the same yesterday, today and for ever through the power of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7v16b).  

Thirdly Jesus is Lord which means he is right above all that is or has been or will be.  Jesus is God’s final word to humankind. He is also to be the very last word over all each one of us.   
                                                                                                                 
This is what it means to believe in Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father who has put all things under the feet of Christ his Son. In Jesus a human being lives over all things in God.  Nothing gives more hope for the human race this. Here is the place heaven and earth come together.  
As Pascal said Jesus Christ is the centre of all, and the goal to which all tends.

Or, moving the challenge of Jesus closer to the soul, Thomas Merton writes: As a magnifying glass concentrates the rays of the sun into a little burning knot of heat that can set fire to a dry leaf or a piece of paper, so the mystery of Christ in the Gospel concentrates the ray of God's light and fire to a point that sets fire to the spirit of man.

Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1v17-19 is mine and yours on this morning’s Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the Universal King: I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

Tom Twisleton again - his ‘Poetical Finish to a Sermon’, verses written at the request of the Preacher based on Matthew 11:28 ‘Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest’:

Come unto Jesus, all ye who are weary,
Heavily laden, down-hearted, distress’d,
If the journey be rough, and the pilgrimage dreary,
Then come unto Jesus - He promises rest.

On Life’s rugged path, toil unaided no longer,
With your sorrows untold, and your sins unconfess’d;
Cast the weight of your burden on One who is stronger,
And come unto Jesus - He promises rest.

He debars not the poor, He excludes not the lowly,
All who earnestly seek, He will gladly receive;
He is loving and merciful, truthful and holy;
And His rest is for all who repent and believe.

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