Sermon 29th March 2020 Fifth Sunday of Lent: John 11.1-45
It is hard to believe, but in two weeks’ time it is Easter Sunday. That means that today, liturgically, Passiontide begins. As someone put it, we move from the desert to the Cross. The reading we hear this morning, the raising of Lazarus, has also been called the Easter story in miniature. The more closely one looks, the more parallels can there be drawn between the overarching Gospel narrative and these verses in John’s Gospel.
This morning, I would like to have a look at some of those parallels, particularly those that resonate with the situation in which we find ourselves today. Those of you who know me a little bit, may find it surprising that I am quoting the British Prime Minister, but he was right when he bluntly said ‘It will get worse, before it gets better’.
That it will get worse, before it gets better is precisely what we see in the Easter story too. During Lent, during this Passiontide, the closer we come to Easter, the closer we also come to Good Friday: there is no escape.
Continue reading “The Question that has an answer”
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 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”
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”
Homily St Mary’s Marlborough 3rd March 2019
Sunday next before Lent: Exodus 34.29-35 & Luke 9.28-43a
On this last Sunday before Lent, we traditionally hear the account of Jesus’ transfiguration before his disciples. It has strong resonances with the account of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, and it is a few of those I would like to explore this morning.
Firstly, both Moses and Jesus intentionally seek God. Although we believe that God’s presence is always with us, and He can meet us in unexpected places and at unexpected times, there are times in life when we need to seek God through prayer. The start the season of Lent this Wednesday may be a good opportunity to commit ourselves anew to an active seeking of God, as we worship and pray – for example using the Praying Together resources that Salisbury Diocese is offering.
Continue reading “Seeking God”
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”
A reflection at the beginning of Lent
These last few days have been a time of unlikely contrasts. Personally, as the start of the season of Lent was not only marked by a celebration of the Eucharist, but also by a iPGCE residential organised by Buckingham University, filled with lectures about marking, lesson planning and essay writing.
I have been surprised by the lack of acknowledgement and conversations about the horrid shootings in Florida earlier this week, despite being together with over 300 teachers and educational specialists. Does it show that this kind of news tragically has become too ‘normal’, or does it show that we are so focused on our own targets, that we lose interest in what is happening around us? And if the latter, does it imply we are losing compassion for those who are further away than the immediate?
Continue reading “Unlikely Contrasts”