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.
Continue reading “When things get tough”
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?
Or 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.
Continue reading “Step by step”
Holy Saturday 20th April 2019
Only a very short reflection and a poem today, this day of silence between Good Friday and Easter Day.
When I went out for a walk on the downs this morning in the glorious sunshine, there was one thing I really wanted to do: I wanted to say ‘thank you’. For what precisely, I didn’t know; to whom precisely, I didn’t know either. The closest I may get in articulating it, is wanting to say thank you for the gift of life, to say thank you to the God who created and redeemed me. And that is what I look forward to celebrating once more tomorrow.
The following poem by E.E. Cummings puts this sense of gratitude into words:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
“i thank You God for most this amazing” by E.E. Cummings, from 100 Selected Poems. © Grove Press, 1994.
May we place at his feet all that we have and all that we are
Good Friday 19th April 2019
Could we have done anything to stop it? I wonder if this was a question on the minds of those who stood and watched the Crucifixion? Did Peter ask himself ‘What if I had not betrayed him?’ Did Mary feel not only the pain only parents can feel when losing a child, but also doubts and guilt? And the by-standers, who had shouted ‘Crucify him!’, did they regret their outspokenness? Maybe there was a little comfort in what Jesus had told them already: that he had to suffer and die, but even then: was it not for us, because of us that this was the sacrifice he made?
in the cross of Jesus
we see the cost of sin
and the depth of your love:
in humble hope and fear
may we place at his feet
all that we have and all that we are,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I wonder also what we feel when we stand at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday. Could we have done anything to stop it? Do we feel complicit in Jesus’ death, in some way responsible?
Continue reading “Good Friday: At the foot of the Cross”
So I did sit and eat.
A reflection for Maundy Thursday
Sharing a significant experience can turn strangers almost instantly into, what feels like, intimate friends. Many of us will have had such an experience in some way or other. A very trivial example, but imagine yourself in a train carriage that is stopped and searched. You may not quite know the reason, but it’s an unsettling experience. Almost certainly, the passengers in the carriage will start talking to each other in a way they wouldn’t have done if the train had kept moving. Suddenly there seems to be something in common that wasn’t there before.
Or think of wedding receptions and funeral wakes, where often you find yourself sharing your thoughts with people who were strangers to you the day before. And then there are the events that for some of us have shaped our lives: a tragic accident or the painful experience of losing a loved one. They often bring people closer together. However, as we all know too well too, these experiences can also drive people apart. Good friendships or relationships may be formed, but also be lost, in the wake of trauma.
Continue reading “Maundy Thursday: So I did sit and eat.”
Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 14th April 2019 8am
Palm Sunday: Luke 19.28-40 & Philippians 2.5-11
It’s Palm Sunday today, the beginning of Holy Week when we remember Jesus’ last week of earthly ministry and prepare to celebrate the Easter mysteries. And so it is the most important week in the Christian year. I’m wondering what this week will hold for you? Is it a week in which life almost seems to come to a stand-still, where the day-to-day routine fades to the background and in which all becomes focussed on your spiritual life? Or is it a week more or less like any other, possibly punctuated by one or more services before next Sunday, and hot-cross buns on Friday?
In any case, if we really reflect on the things we are about to commemorate, we cannot be but changed. And not only as individuals, as through prayer and worship we strengthen our own relationship with God, but also as a community, as a Church.
Continue reading “Holy Week: Let us pray”
Sermon All Saints Church All Cannings, 7th April 2019
Fifth Sunday of Lent: Philippians 3.4b-14 & John 12.1-8
Today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, marks the beginning of Passiontide as we are drawing closer to Holy Week and Easter. The reading from John’s Gospel this morning almost cannot be any fuller with themes that foreshadowing the events to come. To fully appreciate the richness of this text, it is important to remember is that John’s Gospel was the last of the Gospels to be written, probably towards the end of the first century.
John’s purpose is to articulate the belief that Jesus was the Son of God, who was born in human form, died and rose again. He is trying to understand and to help us understand what it means for the Scriptures to be fulfilled as the Word became flesh. In contrast to some other parts of Scripture, I would like to suggest therefore that the theological background of this particular passage is more important than its historical context, and so that is what I would like to focus on this morning, hoping that it will give us a better appreciation of what Jesus may have meant by that last – easily misinterpreted phrase – ‘You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
Continue reading “‘You do not always have me’”
Sermon St Mary’s Church Marlborough 24th March 2019
Third Sunday of Lent: Isaiah 55.1-9 & Luke 13.1-9
In the second part of our Gospel reading this morning we hear a gardener asking for just one more year for his fig tree to grow, after three years of no fruits at all. Given the news the recent weeks, I couldn’t help myself thinking of that gardener as our prime minister. Almost three years now without a result, so should we also be understanding and give her some more time?
Don’t worry, I won’t mention our current political situation any further, but it does illustrate rather well the point that it is not always easy to discern when patience is required, or when it is important to be ready for a decision to be made. And that, in a way, is what today’s readings very much address: the tension between patience and urgency, as well as the other tension, more problematic one maybe, the tension between love and judgement.
In our Gospel reading, it becomes clear that there is a real tension in our understanding of God, and of our relationship with Him. On the one hand, we believe in a loving God, who is patient, forgiving and always ready to give us another chance. Yet, there is also a sense of urgency, a need to repent, to be ready for a time when judgement comes. Continue reading “The Way of the Cross”
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”