Author: Janneke Blokland

Thank you, please

Sermon St Mary’s Upavon & St Matthew’s Rushall, 6th October 2019
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
Lamentations 1.1-6, 2 Timothy 1.1-14 & Luke 17.5-10

Saying ‘please’, ‘thank-you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ is probably what most people learn from a very young age. It is showing respect to one another to acknowledge that someone has done something for you, or when you’ve made a mistake. However, when and how often we say these things, is partly cultural.

I  grew up in the Netherlands, where we definitely say these things less often than here. If, for example, you would say ‘thank-you’ to a bus driver on leaving the bus, chances are that you have terribly offended him or her. After all, driving you safely to your destination is surely just their job? So on a very basic level, I can emphasise with Jesus’ words in the Gospel reading today, when he tells us not to expect any gratitude after completing what we ought to have done in the first place.

rushall.jpg
St Matthew’s Rushall: not a bad place to think about thankfulness!

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Renewing our sense of the sacred

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 29th September 2019
St Michael and All Angels: Genesis 29.10-17 & John 1.47-51

Today, on the 29th September, the Church celebrates the Feast of St Michael and All Angels. A belief in angels, I suspect, is one of the more problematic Christian beliefs in an increasingly secular society.

angelA few years ago, I read what I thought was a helpful book about approaching a belief in angels (Earth Angels : Engaging the Sacred in Everyday Things by Shaun McNiff) . Its first chapter starts by saying that “Angels are a way of looking at the world, infusing life with creative vitality and renewing our sense of the sacred”. It may be a bit too ‘spiritual’ rather than orthodox religion, but I do feel that this way of looking at the world and God’s presence within it, is valuable, as it can help us to reflect on the importance of material objects and places.

Indeed, our own Bishop Andrew uses the reading from the Old Testament that we just heard as a starting point for his theology of place (Parish: An Anglican theology of place by Andrew Rumsey). A theology of place and objects is ultimately an exploration of the relationship between God, people and the world around us. Places, such as churches or pilgrimage destinations; objects, such as the water in Baptism, and the bread and wine at the Eucharist, only gain their significance in as far as they are essential in the expression of God’s being and our relationship with him.

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The power of a story

Written for the Marlborough LitFest edition of Tower and Town.

Oct2019_500When I was asked recently what I had been reading theologically, I had to admit that most of the books I read over the summer had been novels. Some were recommended by friends, others I had picked up because they looked interesting and not too heavy for a summer’s evening. I don’t think that was the expected answer, but I suspect I have learnt at least as much from reading good fiction as I have gained understanding by reading more academic works.

Although I am by no means an expert, for me a good book tells me something about myself, and the world in which I live. In one way or other I can identify with the characters, or recognise some of the scenarios which are brought to life. One particular book that has stayed with me is ‘The Cut Out Girl’ by Bart van Es.

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From crisis to blessing

The parable of the dishonest manager

St Mary’s Marlborough, 22nd September 2019
Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity: 1 Timothy 2.1-7 & Luke 16.1-13

crisisIf you feel that this morning’s parable in Luke’s Gospel is a little bit confusing, you are certainly not the only one. For centuries, Christian theologians have been puzzled by the structure and meaning of the story of the dishonest manager. I even consulted my German compendium on Jesus’ parables, which doesn’t happen very often, witnessed by the eight-year old bookmark I found … Some themes are obvious: the parable has something to do with honesty and our attitude to wealth, but its overall message is by no means entirely clear.

It is even not clear where the parable ends. In the translation we heard this morning, the parable ends at verse 8, concluding the story by saying that the dishonest manager is commended by his master. However, an alternative, equally plausible, translation could be that the parable ends a verse earlier, and that the Lord, in other words Jesus himself, comments on the actions of the manager.

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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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