The text below is written by St Augustine of Hippo, sometime early in the 5th century. St Augustine is one of the most important writers in Christian history, and I have to admit one of my favourites. I find the best way to approach his work is not as a Religious Studies textbook for the fifth century, but on the contrary, almost like poetry. Words that try to give meaning to something we feel or believe, but is very hard to articulate.
As often the case with poetry as well, the first time, or times, you hear it, a lot of it doesn’t quite make sense when you think about it. But, most of the time, there is even on a first reading, something that strikes you and resonates. So, as you read the reading below, I’d like you to try and read it as poetry, trying to look out for something that connects; something that strikes a chord. Continue reading “Love with the love that is God”
A reflection on what we say
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity: James 3.1-12
‘Not many of you should become teachers’, is how James starts the part of his letter that the lectionary suggests for this Sunday. Because those who teach have an even greater responsibility in getting things right. So, no pressure there for those who teach then this morning. However, James is not just talking about those sitting on the back rows, but to each one of us who has some sort of responsibility and authority, so I guess that means all of us.
Words are important, and words do have an impact, as we all know. We all will have heard things that have upset us, as well as things that have made us feel really good, for that matter. And equally, we will have said things that have upset others, as well as encouraged them and made them feel good.
Continue reading “What you say is who you become”
A reflection on what it means to be a light to the world
Doing a bit of last-minute research in advance of Shell Chapel later today, I discovered that the British Museum was one of the first buildings in the UK to be lit electrically. Candles and oil lamps would have been too dangerous and their smoke would have damaged the artefacts. This means that before the lights were installed in the late nineteenth century, often the building had to close early because it would get too dark to see anything.
It sounds like a pretty obvious point to make, but not matter how many or how beautiful artefacts or pieces of art a museum has, without adequate lighting it will be very hard to see and appreciate them. A further Google search taught me that there are innumerous businesses selling dedicated museum lighting nowadays, something one could probably have guessed, but had never occurred to me.
Continue reading “‘You are the light of the world’”
Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 9th September 2018
Trinity 15: James 2.1-10,14-17 & Mark 7.24-37
Every month, the Marlborough Churches Together ministers meet, both to support one another, as well as to discuss what we may do together. One of the things we have been doing together for a long time is the walk of witness on Good Friday. And ever since I have been here, every time we meet, this is a point of discussion. Some of us feel that Good Friday is a solemn day, so the procession through the High Street should reflect this. Others feel that a solemn procession is a terribly poor witness to the Christian faith, and we should be more upbeat and joyful to show the good news of the Easter message.
I leave to you to think in which group I may fall, but I do think that too often Christianity is seen as something ‘heavy’, something that weighs you down or restricts you. Every time a rich person is mentioned, it seems, it is in a negative way, as here again in James’ letter. And do we really need to see ourselves as beggars, saying that we are not even worthy to eat the crumbs from under a table, to be sincere and true Christians?
Continue reading “Steadfast in faith and active in service”
To be rooted is perhaps the most important
and least recognised need of the human soul.
Simone Weil in ‘The Need for Roots’
The start of the academic year means a new beginning in many ways: new faces, new subjects, new responsibilities, and hence an opportunity to find new habits and routines. This being my second full year at Marlborough College, however, the beginning of the year has also meant a certain continuity: familiar faces, catching up with friends and colleagues, and of course in many cases continuing where we left off academically.
The first few weeks, months, or even years in some cases, are difficult in any place, whether it’s a new place of work, study, or residence. It can be daunting to get to know new people and find yourself in unfamiliar places. Yet, it is also an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself: what and who really matter to you; what you value in friendships in particular, and in life in general. When I moved to Berlin in 2010, I was surprised how many of my ‘old’ habits came back rather quickly – including finding a Church community to which to belong. Continue reading “A ‘not so new’ beginning”
Sermon St John the Baptist, Mildenhall, 2nd September 2018
Trinity 14: Deuteronomy 4.1-2,6-9 & Mark 7.1-8,14,15,21-23
Listen and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. (Mark 6.14-15)
The week before last, I spent on retreat in Alnmouth in Northumberland, and walking along the North Sea shore, I found myself thinking quite a lot about these words: it is not what is outside that defines us, but what comes from the inside. It is not our situation that determines who we are, but how we respond to it.
In this passage from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus specifically speaks about laws and customs around food. The Jewish had and still has rather strict rules about what can and cannot be eaten under certain circumstances, and how food is to be prepared and eaten. In the verses that are omitted from the reading this morning, Mark makes the comment that Jesus has now declared all foods clean.
Continue reading “Living with integrity”
A Reflection for the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary
15th August 2018
When I was teaching a physics course a few weeks ago, one of the questions asked was how I reconcile science and religion. In answering that question this time around, I realise that the answer has changed over the years, and I would not be surprised if it will continue to change. So to start with a disclaimer: don’t hold me to this answer forever.
My first response to the question how I can be a physicist and a priest is that both enable me to have an inquisitive attitude to the world around me. Signs of a healthy approach to science and faith are that we feel encourage to seek a deeper understanding; to ask questions that probe deeper instead of signing up to a set of doctrine or dogmas. Continue reading “Why I go to Church: today’s answer”