Category: Education

Caving or Chapel?

A sermon for Trinity Sunday
Marlborough College Chapel, 16th June 2019

cavingIn the Church year, today, the Sunday after Pencecost is known as Trinity Sunday. So, obviously, I have spent most of Shell OA week [a week of outdoor activities in the Brecon Beacons] not thinking about my wet feet, or my wet sleeping bag, or how to make the best hot chocolate for the New Court Shell, but about the best, least boring, way to explain the Trinity this morning. Thus, in the middle of the caves on Thursday, again water-soaked, I realised that maybe there is a comparison to be made between going to Chapel and caving. Hence, as Mr Clark still seems to be employed after comparing Pentecost to Love Island last week, I decided to take the risk. But more about that a bit later.

The Trinity, the belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet one God, is possibly the most complicated concept of Christianity. Hence, most Christians theologians agree that it is impossible to fully comprehend it, just as it is impossible to fully comprehend God himself. Of course, those sceptical of Christianity may reply that the fact that the concept of the Trinity defies logic is of itself proof that God cannot, and therefore does not exist. Followers of other monotheistic religions accuse Christianity of heresy by claiming that God is three persons in one.

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Being great, or too much pressure?

It is exam time again, and  that there is a lot of pressure on many young people. Not just to do well in exams, but also to make the most of those last few sports matches of the year. For some, it will mean try to catch up with work not done at the start of the year, and for others to achieve the ambitious target, which you or your university of choice has set, towards which you have worked for months.

exam

Those pressures are good to some extent, because they help us get the most out of ourselves. It may motivate us to get up a bit earlier, or to make the most of the hour before prep. But it can also come too much, when it becomes hard to sleep at all, or hard to see any enjoyment in what you are doing. Continue reading “Being great, or too much pressure?”

Good Foundations

A reflection about the importance of good foundations, both spiritually and practically.

The short passage from Matthew’s Gospel below is set at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus addresses the gathered crowds. It is full of teachings, parables and admonitions explaining to the people what it means to lead a godly life. So please forgive me if I take it slightly out of context, and try to apply it probably more generally than it was meant originally.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

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Try it, just one more time!

Sermon Marlborough College Chapel, 10th February 2019, 8.30am
Fourth Sunday before Lent: Luke 5.1-11

I guess we all know that moment: when we have tried, and tried and tried, and we have reached the point we know we cannot do it. Whether it’s the further maths problem: a proposition impossible to prove, or the perfect short corner in hockey: something that looks so straightforward when you see someone else doing it. We have tried, not once, not twice, but many times, and we’re ready to admit: we just can’t do it.

SONY DSCWhat’s your first reaction when someone then says “Try it again, just once more.”? I suspect that you also, just like me, are tempted to say something better not repeated in Chapel. “It’s not for a lack of trying, isn’t it? There are times when things don’t work, and we need to give up,” is what we’d like to say.

That is precisely, I think, how the fishermen in the boat in our reading this morning are feeling. Frustrated, tired, and ready to give up. So when Peter says to Jesus “We have worked all night, but have caught nothing. Yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets”, we can almost hear him saying: “Yes, whatever” in a similar way we ourselves would do, or indeed have done. But then, a miracle happens: when Peter and his companions let down the nets once more, they catch so many fish that they can’t even pull them back into the boat themselves. Their success, so to say, is beyond imagining.

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What do we do when we fail?

Homily Marlborough College Chapel 13th January 2019
The Baptism of Christ: Luke 3.15-17, 21-22

with the help of godIt’s the middle of January, the middle of mock exams for those sitting their GSCEs this year, and although we’ve been only back for a few days, it already feels much longer. So, I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one whose long list of new-year’s resolution has dwindled down to a few remaining items. Being ahead a day’s worth of planning: off the list. Unbeaten season in sport fixtures: off the list. Being kind to everyone at all times: off the list. You get the point, so I won’t go on with the things I have failed at already.

It could well be that it is different for you. Maybe you have made it to the firsts in netball, the firsts in hockey, maybe you have aced those mock exams as you thought you would, but what if not? What if we have not managed to keep the commitment we made? Should we just give up? Try to focus on the few things that are still on our new-year’s list?

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The last day of term

Address for the Lower School
Marlborough College Chapel, 12th December 2018

end of termHere we are, on the last day of this term. It has felt like a long term, and the lists we just had, were a good reminder on how much we have achieved in these last few months; of how much you have been giving to this College community over this last term. As I said at the carol services, I think it is worth repeating, that at Christmas we have an opportunity to celebrate who we are, the gift we are, and to say thank you for this. Maybe in many ways, not unlike the lists we just had.

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Be Real!

Sermon preached at Keble College Oxford, 21st October 2018
Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity: Isaiah 53:4-end, Hebrews 5.1-10, Mark 10.35-45

First of all, thank you to the Chaplain for inviting me to preach here at Keble College tonight. Writing a sermon is in many ways not unlike writing an essay. You read, you think, you read again, and despite your intention to be well-prepared and organised, eventually you realise that still, you haven’t started writing yet the day before.

essay.jpg

I myself come from a physics background, so for a long time I was blessedly unaware of the process of writing essays – although working to the deadline wasn’t that uncommon for myself and most others! What struck me when writing essays was that some of them, in which I had invested a lot of time and effort, were subsequently marked disappointingly low. Others, which I thought were far less well-researched, would sometimes get marks much higher than expected. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had this experience.

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St Michael: The power of story and ritual

An address given at Marlborough College Chapel
Feast of St Michael and All Angels

Every year, on 29th September, the Church throughout the world celebrates the festival of St Michael and All Angels. As some of you may know, Marlborough College Chapel is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels. I may be wrong, but the only reason I could find why was that it was consecrated on 29th September in the year 1886.

Michael

Now, celebrate may a big word for what is happening nowadays, but traditionally it was an important day in the year. Together with Christmas, Midsummer and Lady Day, it is one of the four so-called ‘quarter’ days, which mark the turning of the seasons. Of course, this day marking the end of the summer and the beginning of the autumn and the shortening of the days.

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‘You are the light of the world’

A reflection on what it means to be a light to the world

Weston HallDoing 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.

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A ‘not so new’ beginning

To be rooted is perhaps the most important
and least recognised need of the human soul.

Simone Weil in ‘The Need for Roots’

rootsThe 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”