Category: Seasons

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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Challenge and Trust

Sermon King Charles the Martyr Church, Potters Bar
17th March 2019: Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 15.1-12,17-18; Philippians 3.13-4.1; Luke 13.31-35

In all our three readings this morning, we see the themes of ‘trust’ and ‘challenge’. In the reading from Exodus, Abram, who has left house and home, is challenged by the fact that he is still childless – something that mattered those days not only on a personal level, but also on a societal level, and was often seen as a curse directly from God. Yet, Abram also trusts God enough to ask Him that very thing he really wants, having an heir, something he almost doesn’t dare to hope for anymore.

Then Paul, in his letter to the people in Philippi, talks about a different challenge. Not one of not giving up hope, but one of persevering in leading a godly life. He uses strong language, and contrasts the enemies of the Cross of Christ, who live according to earthly pleasures, with those whose citizenship is in heaven: those who trust in God

Pharisees

Thirdly, that extraordinary passage from Luke’s Gospel. Luke, the story teller par excellence, presents us here with a rather confusing passage. Are the Pharisees trying to get rid of Jesus by threatening him, or are they warning him, because they know that Herod is looking for him? In either case, Jesus challenges the Pharisees by sending them back relaying to Herod that whatever his plan is, God’s plan will prevail. Jesus will continue casting out demons and healing people, and ‘on the third day’ God’s work will be complete. Jesus already knows and wants us to know that these events occur, so to say, in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection. A trust that life will prevail over death.

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A Journey towards the Beginning

A reflection at the start of the season of Lent

ashFor some of us, Lent seems to have turned into an opportunity to prove ourselves. Consciously or not, we can find ourselves competing against others – how many food groups can you give up? Or, maybe more commonly, we realise that we are competing against ourselves – how much time can I spend praying, reading and studying? How much good can do in one day?

However, of course, this is precisely what Lent is not about. It is not a 40-day competition with a reward at the end, but, I would like to suggest, it is a journey towards our beginning. A journey in which we have the opportunity to realise that we already have what we are looking for: God’s love. Continue reading “A Journey towards the Beginning”

What if God was one of us?

What if God was one of us?
A reflection for the Feast of Candlemas

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?

You may know the song What if God was one of us by Joan Osborne, which was released in 1995. Last month, when we celebrated the Feast of Epiphany, this was one of the songs we used in our All Age service.

candlemas

It’s an interesting question to ask ourselves, and maybe some of us do occasionally: What if God was one of us? And, as the song continues, ‘Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus?’ One can reflect philosophically on this question: is the idea of a God who is both transcendent and immanent logically coherent? But that’s not what I want to now, as it would require some more than a few hundred words.

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A Church Manifesto

Signs of God’s wonders in the world

A sermon preached at St Mary’s Marlborough on 27th January 2019
The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany: 1 Corinthians 12.12-31a & Luke 4.14-21

body of christIt’s not easy to be in an interregnum, as I’m sure the Churchwardens and many others will agree. The extra work, the extra responsibility and the uncertainty what the future of the church in Marlborough will look like. On the other hand, there is also, I suspect, a sense of excitement: what new opportunities will lie ahead of us, and the opportunity for people to explore their gifts within in the church community.

In many ways, we, here in Marlborough in 2019, are not in a dissimilar situation from the people in Corinth in the early days of the Church. A time of excitement, but also uncertainly, a time in which people discern what their gifts are they can offer to others and to God. And, I am sure, then as now, there is the problem of our human tendency to think that we ourselves are just that bit more important or more indispensable than the people around us.

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Trust, expect and be generous

The Feast of the Epiphany
A reflection for at the start of the New Year

epiphanyOn 6th January, we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. It is the twelfth day of Christmas, and so traditionally the last day of this season of celebration. Epiphany literally means manifestation or appearance. The Gospel set for this day is the well-known story of the journey of the wise men, who after having followed a star find and recognise the child in Bethlehem, bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

This is Matthew’s version of the Christmas story: no stable, donkeys or shepherds, but instead a star, wise men and gifts. It is a story full of signs and significance all pointing towards aspects of Jesus’ identity: a star signalling the cosmic significance of his birth, the gift of gold indicating his royal status, and myrrh to foreshadow his suffering.

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Expect the unexpected

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 30th December 2018
First Sunday of Christmas: 1 Samuel 2.18-20, 26 and Luke 2.41-52

Jesus in the templeTraditionally, well, at least since the 1970s, this first Sunday after Christmas is often celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family. As we hear about Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we are invited to see them as a model for all Christian families, and, I suppose inevitable, reflect in how far we live up to that standard. I think whoever had the idea of placing this particular celebration just after Christmas, either did not have a family, or had a good sense of humour, or was one of those people who had the perfect family – a person I have yet to meet!

Of course, hopefully, over the past few days, most of us will have had the opportunity to spend time with family, or families in some way or other. Time with children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, or with friends who have become like family. Time to celebrate, be together, and eat together – often a bit too much. But, no matter how much we have enjoyed our celebrations, I think we also realise that the perfect family – whatever that may look like – does not really exist. For many of us, this time will also remind us of the more painful moments in our lives, often connected with what has happened to those nearest to us, or between us and them.

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