Good Foundations

A reflection about the importance of good foundations, both spiritually and practically.

The short passage from Matthew’s Gospel below is set at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus addresses the gathered crowds. It is full of teachings, parables and admonitions explaining to the people what it means to lead a godly life. So please forgive me if I take it slightly out of context, and try to apply it probably more generally than it was meant originally.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

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Challenge and Trust

Sermon King Charles the Martyr Church, Potters Bar
17th March 2019: Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 15.1-12,17-18; Philippians 3.13-4.1; Luke 13.31-35

In all our three readings this morning, we see the themes of ‘trust’ and ‘challenge’. In the reading from Exodus, Abram, who has left house and home, is challenged by the fact that he is still childless – something that mattered those days not only on a personal level, but also on a societal level, and was often seen as a curse directly from God. Yet, Abram also trusts God enough to ask Him that very thing he really wants, having an heir, something he almost doesn’t dare to hope for anymore.

Then Paul, in his letter to the people in Philippi, talks about a different challenge. Not one of not giving up hope, but one of persevering in leading a godly life. He uses strong language, and contrasts the enemies of the Cross of Christ, who live according to earthly pleasures, with those whose citizenship is in heaven: those who trust in God

Pharisees

Thirdly, that extraordinary passage from Luke’s Gospel. Luke, the story teller par excellence, presents us here with a rather confusing passage. Are the Pharisees trying to get rid of Jesus by threatening him, or are they warning him, because they know that Herod is looking for him? In either case, Jesus challenges the Pharisees by sending them back relaying to Herod that whatever his plan is, God’s plan will prevail. Jesus will continue casting out demons and healing people, and ‘on the third day’ God’s work will be complete. Jesus already knows and wants us to know that these events occur, so to say, in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection. A trust that life will prevail over death.

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A Journey towards the Beginning

A reflection at the start of the season of Lent

ashFor some of us, Lent seems to have turned into an opportunity to prove ourselves. Consciously or not, we can find ourselves competing against others – how many food groups can you give up? Or, maybe more commonly, we realise that we are competing against ourselves – how much time can I spend praying, reading and studying? How much good can do in one day?

However, of course, this is precisely what Lent is not about. It is not a 40-day competition with a reward at the end, but, I would like to suggest, it is a journey towards our beginning. A journey in which we have the opportunity to realise that we already have what we are looking for: God’s love. Continue reading “A Journey towards the Beginning”

Seeking God

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough 3rd March 2019
Sunday next before Lent: Exodus 34.29-35 & Luke 9.28-43a

transfigurationOn this last Sunday before Lent, we traditionally hear the account of Jesus’ transfiguration before his disciples. It has strong resonances with the account of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, and it is a few of those I would like to explore this morning.

Firstly, both Moses and Jesus intentionally seek God. Although we believe that God’s presence is always with us, and He can meet us in unexpected places and at unexpected times, there are times in life when we need to seek God through prayer. The start the season of Lent this Wednesday may be a good opportunity to commit ourselves anew to an active seeking of God, as we worship and pray – for example using the Praying Together resources that Salisbury Diocese is offering.

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Till and keep the earth

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough 24th February 2019 8am
Second Sunday before Lent: Genesis 2.4b-9, 15-25 & Luke 8.22-25

Inevitably, when teaching Religious Studies to fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds, when we look at the story of the Creation, the question comes up whether I believe in the Big Bang Theory. Some of the pupils ask out of pure interest, others because they think that they have found an easy way to proof that religion is based on non-sense, on a story that is so clearly untrue and inconsistent on a lot of levels.

Trying to explain that for me, as well as for many other Christians, the story in Genesis is more like a myth than a chapter in a science book, proves more difficult than it may seem. For many, teenagers and adults alike, in cases like this it is hard to think beyond the black-and-white of true and not-true, although in many other aspects of life we do it all the time.

eco church

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Blessed are those who …

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 17th February 2019, 8.00am
Third Sunday before Lent: Jeremiah 17: 5-10 & Luke 6: 17-26

Both readings set for this morning speak about what it may look like to be ‘blessed’. In the passage from Luke’s Gospel, hardships in this life – poverty, hunger and suffering – are contrasted with rewards in the life to come: great is our reward in heaven. I guess, in isolation it is a confusing message for us: for those who on the whole have led a life in which we have been well-fed, not without a roof over our heads, and a reasonable amount of happiness.

trustHowever, it will be very different to hear this passage when you are poor, when you have not got enough to eat, or when your life has consisted of more suffering than many of us can imagine. In those cases, this is not a threat, but a message of hope and consolation: a message that tells us that ultimately justice will prevail.

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Try it, just one more time!

Sermon Marlborough College Chapel, 10th February 2019, 8.30am
Fourth Sunday before Lent: Luke 5.1-11

I guess we all know that moment: when we have tried, and tried and tried, and we have reached the point we know we cannot do it. Whether it’s the further maths problem: a proposition impossible to prove, or the perfect short corner in hockey: something that looks so straightforward when you see someone else doing it. We have tried, not once, not twice, but many times, and we’re ready to admit: we just can’t do it.

SONY DSCWhat’s your first reaction when someone then says “Try it again, just once more.”? I suspect that you also, just like me, are tempted to say something better not repeated in Chapel. “It’s not for a lack of trying, isn’t it? There are times when things don’t work, and we need to give up,” is what we’d like to say.

That is precisely, I think, how the fishermen in the boat in our reading this morning are feeling. Frustrated, tired, and ready to give up. So when Peter says to Jesus “We have worked all night, but have caught nothing. Yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets”, we can almost hear him saying: “Yes, whatever” in a similar way we ourselves would do, or indeed have done. But then, a miracle happens: when Peter and his companions let down the nets once more, they catch so many fish that they can’t even pull them back into the boat themselves. Their success, so to say, is beyond imagining.

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