Author: Janneke Blokland

The Question that has an answer

Sermon 29th March 2020  Fifth Sunday of Lent: John 11.1-45

It is hard to believe, but in two weeks’ time it is Easter Sunday. That means that today, liturgically, Passiontide begins. As someone put it, we move from the desert to the Cross. The reading we hear this morning, the raising of Lazarus, has also been called the Easter story in miniature. The more closely one looks, the more parallels can there be drawn between the overarching Gospel narrative and these verses in John’s Gospel.

This morning, I would like to have a look at some of those parallels, particularly those that resonate with the situation in which we find ourselves today. Those of you who know me a little bit, may find it surprising that I am quoting the British Prime Minister, but he was right when he bluntly said ‘It will get worse, before it gets better’.

raising of lazarus

That it will get worse, before it gets better is precisely what we see in the Easter story too. During Lent, during this Passiontide, the closer we come to Easter, the closer we also come to Good Friday: there is no escape.

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Share your loo roll!

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, Sunday 15th March 2020
Third Sunday of Lent: Romans 5.1-11 & John 4.5-42

In our Gospel reading this morning, we hear the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus speaks about the living water and the food to eat of which the disciples do not know. The language is typical for John’s Gospel, with a focus on the spiritual elements of our faith. As we gather here this morning in the midst of the Corona virus crisis, I wonder what those words mean to us? In the last few days, I suspect our focus has been very much on our ‘physical’ needs, so to say: how do we stay safe and how do we make sure that we have enough to eat and to drink if we don’t have access to food as we may be used to?

Image result for coronavirus prayerThe challenge that Jesus puts before us as he speaks to the Samaritan woman is timely for us: those who drink of the water that I will give you, will never be thirsty again. Surely, this is going too far; surely now our focus should be on ourselves and our own safety? Or do we dare to be challenged and think what it may look like for us to leave our water-jars at the well to go and tell people about the living water? So this morning, I would like to think a little bit about how we can have a genuinely Christian response to our crisis. It comes with a disclaimer: it is no official health advice, but rather food for thought in these challenging times.

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Trust in the Lord

Sermon St George’s Preshute on the Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 12.1-4a and John 3.1-17

Our readings this morning invite us to think about what we trust and believe. And it is not just an academic exercise to make us reflect on our beliefs, but a challenge how we act upon those beliefs, how we let the light of God’s promise illuminate the unknown that lies ahead of us. Let us start by looking at the person of Abraham, or Abram as he is still called at this point. In some ways he is the founder of our religion as well as Judaism and Islam. At the age of 75, God tells Abraham to leave his county and go to the land that He himself will show him. Abraham goes, just as God has told him.

Image result for nicodemus

Abraham believed in God’s promise, and for him that is enough to take his wife and other relatives, all his belongings and to go to a yet unknown land. God’s promise alone is enough for Abraham to go. Not many of us will question that this is a courageous thing to do, and I wonder how we would feel if God asked us at the age of 75 to go to a different country, away from home with only the assurance of God’s blessing.

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When things get tough

Address Marlborough College Chapel on the Second Sunday of Lent

This morning, I would like to think about  the question: ‘What do we do when things get difficult?’ Where do we go, and how do we manage? That is a pretty important question for all of us, as for each of us there will be times when life is not as easy as we had hoped. It may be a disappointing mock result, or indeed exam result. It may be that you didn’t get your university offer, or you weren’t selected for the first team. Or it may be that someone close to you is ill and there is nothing you can do about it.

I am currently reading a wonderful book called ‘The Book of Joy’. It is a series of conversations between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, which were held in 2015 on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. It is a book full of wisdom and indeed of joy.

Image result for dalai lama and desmond tutu

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Step by step

Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent
Genesis 2.15-17; 3.1-7 & Matthew 4.1-11

Lent is the season of forty days in which Christians, as individuals and as a Church prepare to celebrate the Easter feast. I wonder what your pattern of preparing for Easter is? Is Lent for you a time to give something up, or to take something on? Or do you feel there is not much in your life, spiritual or otherwise, that needs changing?

stepsOr are you maybe a little bit like myself? When I start thinking about what I should or would like to change about my life, I easily get overwhelmed. There seems to be so much that I could and should do better, that I don’t even know where to start. Therefore, also this year I have fallen back to my default resolutions: giving up alcohol, praying more and spending more time with God.

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Creation: care or dominion?

Sermon 16th February 2020, Worcester College Oxford
2nd Sunday before Lent: Genesis 1.1 – 2.3 & Matthew 6.25-34

Our readings tonight invite us to think about the relationship between Creator and creation, the place of the human person within this relationship, and therefore also our attitude towards creation. Particularly in a weekend in which the UK is battered by another storm, of course climate change comes to mind, so this may be a good moment to reflect on the way in which we live in this world. Although I believe that we urgently need to change our behaviour and that Christians should be at the forefront of this change, I also believe that it is not too late, and so our message can be a message of hope, rather than one of desperation.

creation

Within Christianity, there has been a wide range of different approaches to the way in which we treat the world in which we live. Each of them is the result of a particular theological and cultural understanding of the relationship between God and His creation. Through progress in the sciences, our understanding of the world has deepened and widened, as well as our understanding of the place of the human person within the world. These scientific insights have impacted also on the question how we should treat our surroundings.

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Care and try, but don’t worry

Sermon 9th February 2020 Marlborough College Chapel: Matthew 6.25-34 

As with so many readings from the Bible, at first the language might seem rather strange and the images that are used feel out of date. However, I think that it is not very hard to find a message that is still relevant for us, for you, this morning. Of course, I would say that, else I would probably not be standing here. I appreciate that you get advice from teachers and others all the time, so sometimes you may get a bit tired of it. Also, 8.30am on a Sunday morning is maybe not the time that you are most awake to absorb new knowledge and ideas. Fortunately, this morning’s reading can be summarised in a couple of words, easy to remember: don’t worry.

dont worry‘Don’t worry’ is not quite the same as ‘don’t try’ and even more different from ‘don’t care’. On the contrary, if you try and care, there is no reason to worry, however difficult this may be. Just a couple of example to illustrate this. The first one may be very much on your mind at the moment, or hopefully for at least some of you here: upcoming exams. And of course, a lot of you are worried, because they are important and may well have an impact on your future. That’s why you should care and try – which in this case means work hard.

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