Author: Janneke Blokland

Harvest abundance

Hurstpierpoint College Senior Chapel Address for Harvest
Friday 2nd October 2020: Ecclesiastes 3.1-8

It is probably fair to say that it has not been an easy week for many of us for a variety of reasons. Not least because it is the mid-point of this half-term, and the summer is now well and truly behind us. The situation is not helped by the fact that there are not the normal things to look forward to: fixtures, concerts and plays; time with friends at the weekends, and holiday plans for half-term. At the moment, every day can feel a little bit the same.

As human beings, we need a structure, a rhythm. To our days, our weeks and our years. That is what our reading speaks about as well: there is, and there should be, a time for everything. In other words, we need occasions, we need things to celebrate.

Today, as we celebrate Harvest Festival, we have a good reminder that, although we may forget at times, there is indeed a lot to celebrate, a lot to be thankful for. I have been incredibly impressed over the last week how all over the campus wheelbarrows have started to fill up with gifts you have brought. So much so, that we had many of them overflowing.

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By whose authority?

Sermon 27th September 2020, St John the Baptist, Clayton
16th Sunday after Trinity: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-end & Matthew 21:23-32

This morning, the overarching theme of our readings is the question of authority and responsibility. I would like to pick out two specific questions that our readings set before us. Firstly, from the reading of Ezekiel: can we be held responsible for the acts of previous generations? And secondly, from our Gospel reading: by whose authority do we act?

So let’s look at that first question first: how much responsibility can we take for the actions of others, particularly those of our ancestors? It is a relevant question now, as much as it was for the people in ancient Israel, albeit for different reasons, I suspect.

The Israelites had a proverb, we read: “The parents have eaten sours grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”. It talks about the idea that children will be punished for the sins of their parents. Now, through the words of the Prophet Ezekiel, God says that this proverb should no longer be used: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

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We’re all in the same boat

Hurstpierpoint College Senior Chapel Address
Friday 18th September 2020: Mark 4.35-41

It has been really good over the last two weeks to get to know some of you in your bubbles, and to ask you the question what you would like to say if you were leading a Chapel service. Your suggestions were wide-ranging and indeed impressive, and have given us a lot of ideas to use over the coming weeks.

Boat in a Storm, 1960’s – Doris Hatt

The overarching themes were the same for most of you. Thinking about diversity, and how we can get better in learning from our differences; mental health, both for boys and girls, and current affairs. Many of you also mentioned that you want things to be relevant to you, as you become adults in an increasingly complicated world, and you would like to hear from people with experience what life is like, not just someone saying ‘always look for help’.

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Go, and may the Lord be with you!

Hurstpierpoint College Senior Chapel Address
Friday 4th September 2020: Start of the Academic Year
1 Samuel 17.33-40: David & Goliath

The story we just heard, I am sure, is familiar to many. It is the story of David and Goliath: the story of the small boy determined to defeat the giant. Most of us too know how the story ends: David strikes down the giant with his sling and a single small stone. He defeats the enemy who had been terrorising the Israelites.

You may wonder: why this story today at the start of the new academic year 2020/2021? What can anything written so long ago teach us about ourselves and the world in which we live? I think rather a lot, and one of my hopes for our Chapel services is that we can all take something away from them, whether we are Christians, people of other faiths – or no faith –, or whether we don’t quite know yet what to believe.

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You give them something to eat

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough 2nd August 2020
Eight Sunday after Trinity
Matthew 14.13-21: The Feeding of the 5000

IMG_0018When I hear the story of the Feeding of the 5000, immediately the image of an All Age service a few years comes to mind. The Open the Book team acted out the story of the ‘Marvellous Picnic’, and I remember the discussions on the logistics of how the bread should miraculously be multiplied after Jesus –  a role impressively played by Anna – blessed the loaves and broke the bread.

I don’t quite remember how it was done, but I do remember a sense of awe in the congregation, children and adults alike, as the bread appeared. There are many ways to interpret the events that lead all four Evangelists to record the Feeding of the 5000. However, no matter which interpretation we choose, the story makes the point that miracles happen, if we trust God and dare to get involved in His plan for us.

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Where do we go from here?

A reflection written for Marlborough’s Tower and Town

Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
as more of heaven in each we see;
some softening gleam of love and prayer
shall dawn on every cross and care.

John Keble

After six years in Marlborough, I am writing this last clergy letter for Tower and Town amidst packed moving boxes, in front of the computer screen used for leading Sunday worship in the past three months, when our Churches were closed.

As for many others, these weeks of lock-down have given me a lot of time to reflect – or to overthink, depending on the day. There are two thoughts that keep coming back to me. Firstly, how lucky I have been to have something to be looking forward to: a new job, and a new place, new challenges and opportunities. Secondly, how my time in Marlborough, spent with you, has made me so much better prepared for whatever lies ahead of me.

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Siblings and soil

Sermon 5th July 2020, Fifth Sunday after Trinity
Genesis 25.19-34 & Matthew 13.1-9,18-23

sowerThis morning we hear two iconic stories, which I am sure are familiar to many of us. The story of Jacob and Esau, in which Esau sells his birth right for an evening meal, and the parable of the sower, in which we hear about four types of different soil. As always, I think, when we read or hear these passages, the question to us is how we relate to them. How may these words speak to us today, this morning? What is it that we need to hear? The way I often try to do this is by imagining myself to be one of the people in the story or imagining what it would be like meeting one of them.

It seems that today’s readings lend themselves particularly well for this. For those of us who have siblings, we may look at our own relationships in the light of the dynamic between Jacob and Esau. And I suspect that many of us will hear the parable of the sower and wonder what type of soil we are.

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The Limits of Logic

A sermon for Trinity Sunday
2 Corinthians 13.11-13 and Matthew 28.16-20

trinityToday, the Sunday after Pentecost, is Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is one of the most fundamental beliefs in Christianity. It is the belief that God is both one God, but yet three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The first defence of the doctrine of the Trinity does not occur until the 3rd century, and the concept as such is not mentioned in the Bible.

In today’s readings we see the two cases in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned in one breath. Together with the notion that Jesus is truly the Son of God and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, these beliefs form the foundation for the Christian belief in the Trinity.

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The way to freedom

A sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 7.55-60 & John 14.1-14

We have been adjusting to a new and unfamiliar way of life now for almost two months. We have come to realise the things we miss, and our hopes for the future. The news in these past few weeks has focussed almost solely on Covid-19, and I do wonder if we are indeed focussing too much on ourselves, but I will come back to this later.

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The one day on which the news here in the UK was different, was last Friday: VE or Victory in Europe Day. I suspect a particularly poignant day for those of you who remember the first VE Day: Churchill’s memorable speech and street parties throughout the country. The question in how far the Church should be involved in civic celebrations such as VE Day and Remembrance Day has always been a topic of conversation, as there is a wide range of opinions on the relationship between our faith and armed conflict.

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The familiar voice

Reflection on the story of the Good Shepherd
Fourth Sunday of Easter: Psalm 23 & John 1.1-10

Our readings this morning make us reflect on God in the familiar image of the Good Shepherd. Although not many of us still live in a place where shepherding is a common profession, the Biblical stories have become very much part of our Western narrative, even for those who would not call themselves Christians.

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That of course comes with its risks, because the way we imagine a shepherd nowadays, will have been very different from what they may have looked and behaved like two millennia ago. However, I don’t want to dwell on that thought too much, but rather share a story that made me think of the Good Shepherd a few weeks ago. I was out on my daily round of exercise on Granham Hill, just around the corner from where I live. Usually there are sheep roaming around at a distance, and the only interaction between them and me is a curious look at one another.

However, on this particular day, one of the sheep was stuck in some barbed wire. Being reminded of my pastoral profession, I felt a duty to see if there was anything I could do. Slowly I approached the sheep, at the same time not trying to scare it as well as thinking how I would go about freeing it. Whilst I was still at a good distance, the sheep was so shocked by my appearance, that this in itself was enough for it to free itself, and quickly it ran away.

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