God’s economy

Sermon St George’s Preshute, 15th September 2019, 8am
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity: Luke 15.1-10

lost coinIn today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us two familiar parables: the lost coin, and the lost sheep. Deliberately trying to provoke, or at least to startle, He starts by saying “Which one of you would not …”. I’m not sure about you, but when I’ve lost something not so essential, I usually just wait for it to turn up again. If I can’t find the pen I was using, I’ll grab another one lying around. Unlike the woman in our reading this morning, I would certainly not spend hours looking for a missing coin, if I had nine others lying around.

This also applies for the shepherd. We may understand someone going to look for a vulnerable, fluffy, lamb. However, in the time that the parable was written and originally heard, shepherding was a profession like any other. It was part of the job to lose a sheep here and there, and certainly not something worth risking a whole flock, as it meant risking one’s livelihood.

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Setting each other free

Homily St John the Baptist Mildenhall, 8th September 2019
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity: Philemon 1-21 & Luke 14.25-33

onesimus-mosaicPaul’s letter to Philemon, which we hear this morning, is one of the shortest books of the Bible. We have just heard most of it, apart from the final few verses. Most scholars agree that the letter is authentic and written by Paul in prison, either in Ephesus or in Rome.

The letter is addressed to Philemon, who has been assumed to live in Colossae, given the overlap of personal names in this letter and Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The traditional and most common interpretation of the letter is a literal one, in which Paul appeals to Philemon on behalf of his slave, Onesimus, whom Paul has met in prison. Onesimus has run away from his master, and been baptised by Paul in prison, and is writing to Philemon to welcome him back, not as a slave but as a brother.

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Welcoming each other’s gifts

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 1st September 
Eleventh Sunday after Trinity: Hebrews 13.1-8,15,16 & Luke 14.1, 7-14

trinityI have to admit and apologise that this week my mind has been not so much on preparing a sermon for Sunday, but I have been preoccupied with finalising the arrangements for the Get There! holiday club. Both of these problems, of course, could have been solved by better and more thorough planning, but equally, it was a good distraction from what is happening politically at the moment.

Looking at this morning’s readings, one could say that they present us with a practical rather than theoretical model of what it means to be Church, of what it means to be followers of Christ. It is a model very much based on hospitality, and not just welcoming those we know, but also those we don’t necessarily know very well.

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Our freedom through God’s love

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 25th August 2019
Tenth Sunday after Trinity: Jeremiah 1.4-10 & Luke 13.10-17

Last week, rather by coincidence than anything else, I found myself watching the film The Lion King, which was recently produced making you feel you are watching real animals rather than an animation. It being our favourite film as I was growing up, I was rather familiar with the story, but nonetheless moved by its profound simplicity, and of course its beautiful music.

lion king

As in so many Disney films, we see the story of good and evil, with which we are so familiar in our human lives, acted out in the lives of fictional characters or animals taking on human features. The Lion King in particular teaches us about the difference between good and bad stewardship – a topic that is maybe even more relevant today than it was twenty-five years ago.

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Uncomfortable signs of the present time

Sermon St John the Baptist Mildenhall, 18th August 2019
Ninth Sunday after Trinity: Hebrews 11.29-12.2 & Luke 12.49-56

NYC: Extinction Rebellion Day OneGiven this morning’s readings, it would be so much easier if I was able to preach a good ‘fire and brimstone’ sermon. Ten minutes, or maybe more like twenty-five minutes of telling you how it is clear that we are a doomed generation and that God’s wrath is waiting for us. However, despite a promising start in the more conservative circles of the Dutch Reformed Church, my experience of God has been one of a God who loves us, and who gives us hope, strength and comfort when we most need it.

So, there is a bit of a challenge this morning, as our readings speak about torture, sacrifice, fire and division. How can we make sense of them, and yet hold on to the promises given to us as well? Before looking at our readings specifically, it is worth reminding ourselves of the promise we were given at the birth of Jesus. We believe in a God who was born as baby, bringing peace to the world. However, as much as Jesus was the promised bringer of peace, he was also the fulfilment of the prophets: standing in the tradition of Isaiah, Jeremiah and many others.

Also, and crucial for our understanding of this morning’s readings, Jesus was given the name Emmanuel: God with us. Jesus did not come into the world to fix it for us, but to walk alongside with us. In the Incarnation, God wanted to share the life of humanity, so that we could share in His divinity. So, God with us, not God for us.

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The seen and the unseen

How do we know what we know?

Sermon St Peter Milton Lilbourne, 11th August 2019, 9.30am
Eight Sunday after Trinity: Hebrews 11.1-3,8-16 & Luke 12.32-40

Today’s readings invite us to think about things seen and things unseen. Like last week, we are encouraged to put our hope in trust not in the material world around us, but in the things that really matter, things which are often unseen: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

man on the moonI would like to explore how we can put our trust in things that are unseen. How can we have faith, which as we hear is the assurance of things hoped for? How can we believe without seeing? It is a challenging question, particularly in a world that increasingly puts its trust in the truths acquired through science and the progress obtained by technology.

Being a scientist myself, of course I see the value of science in investigating and getting to know the world around us. However, I do not believe in the apparent opposition between science and faith, as what we can know through science is limited to the way it is used to look for patterns and regularities. Added to that, the God that is often opposed by the more vocal atheists, is a God in which very few people believe. So indeed, I think that there is plenty of room for faith.

The underlying question of both faith and science is ‘how do we know what we know?’ And that question applies both to the things seen and the things unseen, which as we will realise is not the same as the world of science and the world of religion.

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Thinking about money

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 28th July 2019, 8am
Seventh Sunday after Trinity: Colossians 3.1-11 & Luke 12.13-21

moneyOne of the things that makes me feel at home in the UK is a familiar awkwardness in talking about certain things, one of which is money. Whether it’s deciding how much to spend on a retiring colleague or a friend’s wedding, or the moment the bill at the restaurant needs to be paid, we feel a bit embarrassed having the discussion. For the record, the expressing ‘going Dutch’ was something completely alien to me until moving abroad! However, also on a more serious note, relationships have been broken and families torn apart when it comes down to money. I am sure most of us will have heard someone saying, or indeed said ourselves ‘It’s not about the money’, and we start wondering ‘isn’t it?’.

The first thing to realise then this morning, as we hear the parable of a rich man, is that we’re not the first generation or culture who have this problem. Greed is part of our human nature, and we all have it in us, the temptation to want more, and more, and more. And it is not just money that shows this tendency, but also food and drink, power and fame. We continue to want more, never being able to be satisfied.

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