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.
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.
Continue reading “Trust in the Lord”
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”
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.
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.
Continue reading “Creation: care or dominion?”
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.
‘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.
Continue reading “Care and try, but don’t worry”
Sermon 9th February 2020 St George’s Preshute
3rd Sunday before Lent: Matthew 5.13-20 & 1 Corinthians 2.1-12
The passage we hear this morning is set at the start of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. I suspect that the images are familiar to many of us. The phrases ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’ have become very much part of our shared vocabulary. They are also particularly apt at this time of interregnum, moving hopefully towards the appointment of a new Team Vicar, because the words give us an idea of what discipleship looks like. Not just for the crowds who were addressed two-thousand years ago, but also for us, here at St George’s in the twenty-first century.
The first thing to not is that in this passage, Jesus addresses his listeners directly: ‘You are the salt of the earth’, ‘You are the light of the world’. These words are said to us, the challenge that following Jesus means is ours. Here in Preshute you have been very good in sharing this calling together, with a great diversity of services and events, as well as an impressive level of pastoral care for others. But is there still something we can learn from this passage? What might it look like to be salt and light, here and now?
Continue reading “Salt of the earth”
Sermon 2nd February 2020:
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Luke 2.22-40)
The story we hear this morning will be familiar to many: the presentation of Jesus in the temple. Following Jewish tradition, Joseph and Mary present Jesus, their first-born son, in the temple to give thanks and ask God’s blessing upon his life. They encounter two people, Simeon and Anna, who are often mentioned in one breath. But looking a little closer, it these two people do not have as much in common as we might think. This morning, I’d like to have a closer look at the person of Simeon, and what happens to him when he sees Joseph, Mary and their child.
Simeon seems to be a visitor to the temple, but apart from that, we don’t hear anything about the age or past of Simeon. That we don’t know Simeon’s age came as a surprise to me, when I heard someone preaching on this passage a few weeks ago. She pointed out that, although we often assume that Simeon was pretty old – just as in Rembrandt’s painting –, this is actually not mentioned in this passage, or elsewhere in the Bible for that matter. Yes, we hear that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah, which may imply that he is of advanced years, but this is not made explicit by the text.
Continue reading “Go in peace”
Address Marlborough College Chapel
Second Sunday of Epiphany, John 1.43-51
One of the things I dislike is when someone tells me what to do, and I am sure that I am not the only one. Here at school there are quite a lot of things you are told to do, and I suspect that some of you feel the same about those things as I, when I am told that I have to do something. There are quite a few things in life you will just have to do. Not only when you’re at school, but also when you embark on your next stage of life and even beyond. Fortunately, there are also a lot of things you are invited to do, and often they have a very different feel to it.
For example, when I was in the last year of my Master’s course in physics, I was invited to go to an annual conference to present the research that I had been doing. It was a real honour to go and to be part of the ‘grown-up’ scientific community and I very much enjoyed the couple of days full of lectures and talks. The next year, when I had started my PhD research in the same field, attending the same conference was no longer an invitation, but an expectation. As soon as my supervisor told me to go, the conference lost its appeal, and I did no longer want to. Although my interests hadn’t changed, nor the topic and format of the conference itself, the fact that I was told to go, spoilt it for me altogether.
Continue reading “Expectation or Invitation?”
Homily Marlborough College Chapel 13th January 2019
The Baptism of Christ: Matthew 3.13-17
I’m sure that even if you’re in the middle of your mock exams, you may have had time to see some of what is happening in the news this week. Of course, there is the very worrying situation in Iran, and competing with this for the headlines has been the recent statement of the youngest son of Prince Charles that he and his wife Meghan are stepping back as senior royals. Looking at the newspapers, the statement by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has caused quite a lot of controversy. Headlines range from “Harry digs in for a deal” to a caption stating that friends claim that the couple has been “driven out by Buckingham Palace”. I would love to do a quick survey what you think, but I guess that this is not the time nor the place.
However, the whole affair raises some interesting issues that are important for all of us to consider at some stage in our lives. The first is the question in how far we should follow in the path that our parents, or our family have set out for us. It is of course a particular pertinent question for members of any monarchy for example, but also a question for each of us.
Continue reading “The choice is yours”
Address given at Shell Chapel at Marlborough College, Wednesday 8th January 2020
It is your second term now at Marlborough. I am sure that coming back yesterday felt very different from coming here the first time in September. Probably it feels a long time ago, that first afternoon when you all went to Court to meet your teachers; your first experience of Norwood and being lost quite a lot of the time, if you’re honest. Not so this time. You have learned a lot and grown a lot, but that also means that the expectations are now a little bit higher. You will get a blue chit if you’re late, if you have forgotten where you need to go, or if you’re not wearing your uniform properly. You are no longer newcomers, you are now part of this community as much as anyone else.
Part of growing up means that as you get older, you get more privileges, but also more responsibilities. The two go hand-in-hand. In your first term, you made friendships and learned to get to know the workings of this place, hopefully enjoying at least most of it. Now starts the time to build on those experiences. You start to know what it means to have real friends: people who support you when you need it, but they are the same who will need your support at times too. Friendship is a two-way process, you cannot only take, you will also have to give.
Continue reading “The way ahead”