The text below is written by St Augustine of Hippo, sometime early in the 5th century. St Augustine is one of the most important writers in Christian history, and I have to admit one of my favourites. I find the best way to approach his work is not as a Religious Studies textbook for the fifth century, but on the contrary, almost like poetry. Words that try to give meaning to something we feel or believe, but is very hard to articulate.
As often the case with poetry as well, the first time, or times, you hear it, a lot of it doesn’t quite make sense when you think about it. But, most of the time, there is even on a first reading, something that strikes you and resonates. So, as you read the reading below, I’d like you to try and read it as poetry, trying to look out for something that connects; something that strikes a chord. Continue reading “Love with the love that is God”
A sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Amos 7.7-15 & Mark 6.14-29
Like last week, also this week’s readings, one from the prophets and one from Mark’s Gospel, lead us to think about prophethood, or about our ability to hear and speak truthfully. This morning, in Mark’s Gospel we hear the account of the beheading of John the Baptist, which I suspect is a story known to many of us. The story occurs in all three synoptic Gospels, in Mark, Luke and Matthew.
In all three cases, the story about John’s beheading is not placed chronologically, but is told as an explanation why Herod is so afraid of Jesus. Herod fears that John the Baptist is resurrected in the form of Jesus. This is not a resurrection as a healing miracle, but taps in to the belief that good or evil spirits could come back as another person, some sort of reincarnation, so to speak. The placement of this story has scholars led to believe that it is a court legend, a story about good and evil, about power and powerlessness. It also raises the question about complicity and taking responsibility for our actions. Continue reading “An opportunity missed: The tragedy of Herod’s decisions”
I will never leave you
The third and last of three reflections for Passiontide, based around the stories of Peter, Judas and Jesus, based on reflections for Good Friday, delivered at St George’s Preshute in 2017.
Hearing the Passion Gospel read this morning, it is hard to deny here that Jesus is aware of his own future, his death, whether it is imminent or not. Is that then the way to look at the Passion story: God’s plan unfolding, as a script being performed, whilst people like Mary, Peter and Judas play the part they have been allocated? Are they, and we, merely doing what has to be done for God’s plan to be fulfilled? In a way one could say that both Mary and Judas prepared Jesus for his burial: Mary by anointing him, and Judas by handing him over to those who would crucify him.
Continue reading “I will never leave you”
What makes us carry on?
The story of Peter
This is the first of three reflections for Passiontide, based around the stories of Peter, Judas and Jesus. They are based on reflections for Good Friday, delivered at St George’s Preshute in 2017.
Peter’s story is one of falling and standing up, falling again and standing up again. It was Peter who was one of the first to recognise who Jesus was when he said to Him: ‘You are the Messiah’. But it is only moments later that Jesus rebukes him for not understanding his teaching, and says: Get behind me Satan!
‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you’ (Matthew 26.33). I imagine that Peter genuinely believed those words when he spoke them. Not so much because he felt superior to his fellow-disciples and others, but because at the moment he spoke them, Peter was convinced that nothing could separate him from God; nothing could make him desert or deny that what was most important in his life: his friendship with God through Jesus. Continue reading “What makes us carry on?”
The Wedding at Cana: God’s glory revealed
Sermon preached at St Mary’s Calstone 21 January 2018: Epiphany 2 John 2:1-11
This morning we hear about Jesus’ first miracle: turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. It is the first of seven miraculous signs told by John, and the only one unique to his Gospel account. That fact made can make us wonder: why would one have changing water into wine as a first miracle? Why use this specific story to start the revelation God’s glory made known in the person of Jesus?
One reason may be that it was historically the first miracle Jesus did. But why is it then not recorded in the other Gospels? I think more important than the historical question if it really was the first miracle Jesus performed, are the many theological undertones of the story. And maybe the first thing we need to do is to see where it fits in to John’s Gospel.
Continue reading “God’s glory revealed”
Sermon preached at St Peter at Vincula, Broad Hinton on 15th October 2017
The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 22.1-14
I have to say that I agree with Martin Luther when he said whilst preaching 1531 that he thought this was a ‘terrible gospel’ to preach. This month, churches throughout the world commemorate the start of the Reformation, which was marked by Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg in Germany.
Scholars and theologians still debate whether Luther wanted to start a revolution by doing this, or whether he wanted to reform the Church from the inside, without causing any factions. As many of you will know, Luther’s main objection to the practices of the Church at that time was the selling of indulgences, by which people could pay money to reduce their time in purgatory.
Continue reading “An Invitation”