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!”
Continue reading “Good Foundations”
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
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.
Continue reading “Challenge and Trust”
A reflection at the start of the season of Lent
For 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 I 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”
A sermon written for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
John 12.20-33 & Jeremiah 31.31-34
Today is the fifth Sunday of Lent, and we are only two weeks away from Easter Day, although it may not feel like it with more snow having arrived over night!
In contrast to Advent, it seems to me, where every Sunday we light one more candle until it is Christmas, in Lent, the mood gets darker and darker as we approach the end of the season. Indeed, Good Friday still stands between us and Easter at this point. Personally, I find myself often conflicted in these last weeks before Easter: part of me is eagerly anticipating the joy of the Easter celebration, whilst another part of me knows there is still more work to be done before I am ready to appreciate the fullness of Jesus’ Resurrection. I almost feel like I’m watching a solar eclipse on the horizon: the shadow of Good Friday slowly moving to cover the glory of Easter, only to be seen again in all its fullness when the shadow has passed.
Continue reading “Transformation through Service”
Sermon preached at St Swithin’s Compton Bassett, 11th March: Mothering Sunday
1 Samuel 1.20-28 & Luke 2.33-35
This fourth Sunday of Lent, half-way through the austere season leading up to Easter, is also Mothering Sunday. Traditionally it was a day when children, daughters mainly, were given a day off to visit their mother and family. However, the ‘mothering’ part of this Sunday has its roots in a tradition that didn’t have much to do with our biological mothers.
In the old days, when regular worship in parish churches was still more part of the pattern of life, it was deemed to be important once a year for people to return to their ‘home’ or ‘mother’ church, instead of worshipping at the local parish church. Naturally, this became a good reason for a family reunion, when those who had ‘flown the nest’ so to say, came back home to worship. Continue reading “A sermon for Mothering Sunday”
A reflection on Charlotte Mew’s Poem ‘The Call’
From our low seat beside the fire
Where we have dozed and dreamed and watched the glow
Or raked the ashes, stopping so
We scarcely saw the sun or rain
Above, or looked much higher
Than this same quiet red or burned-out fire.
Tonight we heard a call,
A rattle on the window pane,
A voice on the sharp air,
And felt a breath stirring our hair,
A flame within us: Something swift and tall
Swept in and out and that was all.
Was it a bright or a dark angel? Who can know?
It left no mark upon the snow,
But suddenly it snapped the chain
Unbarred, flung wide the door
Which will not shut again;
And so we cannot sit here any more.
We must arise and go:
The world is cold without
And dark and hedged about
With mystery and enmity and doubt,
But we must go
Though yet we do not know
Who called, or what marks we shall leave upon the snow.
Charlotte Mew (1869-1928)
Continue reading “What marks we shall leave upon the snow”
Sermon preached at St Mary’s Marlborough on 4th March 2018
Third Sunday of Lent:Exodus 20.1-17 & John 2.13-22
This morning we hear what I assume are two quite familiar passages: The Ten Commandments and the cleansing of the temple. I would like to suggest this morning that both these readings teach us something about who God is, and hence, can give us an insight in who we are, and who we are meant to be.
Last Sunday, our Old Testament reading spoke about the covenant of God with Abraham, and the week before, on the first Sunday of Lent, we heard the end of the story of Noah’s Ark. That makes this the third reading that is about a covenant between God and his people. This gives us an idea how these commandments need to be approached: not as a legal stand-alone document, but a set of guidelines that teach us what this covenant is actually about.
Continue reading “Discovering who we are”