Sermon by Fr Peter Wolton, United Benefice of Holland Park, Trinity 7, Sunday 30th July 2017

One August Sunday over 30 years ago, on monsoon Mumbai morning, I attended morning communion. I entered the church and out of the gloom a priest appeared and asked me if I would read the first lesson.

And the lesson I read was the one we heard this morning, how the newly crowned Solomon has a dream in which God promises to give him whatever he asks for. Solomon, who (and this is in the previous chapter so we haven’t read it this morning) has just overseen the killing of three potential rivals to establish his kingdom, and also has married a daughter of Pharaoh, thus making an allegiance with the arch enemy)

Well Solomon perhaps surprisingly displays great humility and asks God to “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind (or as the New International Version (NIV) Bible translates it “an understanding heart”) to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.”

And God was pleased with Solomon. And it seemed to me at the time, and still does such a wonderful request, to ask for an understanding heart.

We will come back to Solomon in a minute and what we might learn from his example. But before we do, I want you to know that the readings at the church in Bombay this morning, are the same today as we have had here at St. Georges/St. John’s today. And are the same in all the Anglican churches, and not just Anglican churches but also for our brothers and sisters in Roman churches and other protestant churches too. And this is because we all follow the lectionary. The Roman Catholic Mass Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary of the Protestant churches have the same lectionary or set of readings. So when people say, how you know what to preach about, the task is actually made much easier because the readings are set. Fr. James and I do not have to choose them.

The lectionary is a gift to our faith from God, and I would like us to give thanks to God for it, that from New Zealand to Nova Scotia, from Norway to Natal, to lift words from a famous hymn “The day thou gavest Lord is ended”:

We thank Thee that Thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night

As o'er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away”  and with our Christian brothers and sisters we share together and are enlightened by the same readings on the same day, all the word over.

 Now to return to Solomon, and his request.

His father David had taught Solomon about God – In his dying words to his son David commanded him “to keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses.” The point to be made here is that Solomon as a young man was imbued with a sense of the divine. Some of us here today were brought up in Christian families – and some will have found our way to faith and church by other means. What is so important is that the gift of knowledge of a loving God is made available.

In this age what might Solomon’s request for an understanding heart mean for our leaders and those who hold power? And what might we take from it to sustain and strengthen of our faith and the bringing about of the Kingdom.

For leaders and those who hold power, we pray that the leaders across the globe may have understanding hearts.

If I look back to that Sunday in 1983 when I read the lesson in Mumbai, I wonder what prayers I might have been making about leaders. I might have been praying for the leaders of South Africa, or those ruling the countries behind the Iron curtain. I might have prayed for President Reagan and President Gorbachev. Or nearer to home at that time, for the leaders of the IRA.

And if we think about subsequent events, I think you will agree that prayer is vital.

So we pray for those who are the leaders of nations or organisations now may have an understanding heart.

Today it seems there is no shortage of situations where leaders need understanding hearts. Autocrats, kleptocrats, demagogues. Nations that are lead such people.

We also bring before God the negotiations between the EU and UK –that leaders on both sides may display understanding hearts.

And more locally, here in our Royal Borough – that the issues and tragedy of Grenfell, the anger and harrowing experiences of residents and neighbours and those tasked with restoring life to this part of our community, that all concerned may have understanding hearts.


But what about us and our hearts? The story of Solomon is one of a flawed individual.  We too are flawed and sometimes need to be more understanding of ourselves and definitely of others. Let us be kind to others but let us not forget to be kind to ourselves.

An understanding heart is one of the keys to the Kingdom.

God promised to give Solomon whatever he asked for.

Over the coming week, let us reflect on what we might ask for, if God promised to grant us our request. Let us pray for those who lead us and not be afraid to ask God in prayer.

And let us build the Kingdom by displaying understanding hearts.
Holland Park Benefice