Reflection on the story of the Good Shepherd Fourth Sunday of Easter: Psalm 23 & John 1.1-10
Our readings this morning make us reflect on God in the familiar image of the Good Shepherd. Although not many of us still live in a place where shepherding is a common profession, the Biblical stories have become very much part of our Western narrative, even for those who would not call themselves Christians.
That of course comes with its risks, because the way we imagine a shepherd nowadays, will have been very different from what they may have looked and behaved like two millennia ago. However, I don’t want to dwell on that thought too much, but rather share a story that made me think of the Good Shepherd a few weeks ago. I was out on my daily round of exercise on Granham Hill, just around the corner from where I live. Usually there are sheep roaming around at a distance, and the only interaction between them and me is a curious look at one another.
However, on this particular day, one of the sheep was stuck in some barbed wire. Being reminded of my pastoral profession, I felt a duty to see if there was anything I could do. Slowly I approached the sheep, at the same time not trying to scare it as well as thinking how I would go about freeing it. Whilst I was still at a good distance, the sheep was so shocked by my appearance, that this in itself was enough for it to free itself, and quickly it ran away.
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.
Homily St Michael and All Angels Urchfont, 21st July 2019 8am Fifth Sunday after Trinity: Colossians 1.15-28, Luke 10.38-42
This morning we hear two very different readings. Paul in his letter to the Colossians speaks in abstract theology about the image of the invisible God. He reflects on Jesus’ divine nature, the Word that was from the beginning and was made flesh. The mystery at the heart of our faith. In our Gospel reading from Luke – the familiar story of Martha and May –, however, we encounter once more the human side of Jesus. The man who was always concerned about others, who spoke with a wisdom which we can still hear today. Indeed, in Paul’s words, that is how the image of the invisible God is displayed: through Christ in all his divinity and all his humanity.
That means that wisdom is not necessarily something that is difficult to understand. To be wise is not the same as to be learned. And so the message contained in the short Gospel passage is simple, yet significant and profound.
Sermon St Mary the Virgin, Marlborough, 14th July 2019 10am
Fourth Sunday after Trinity: Colossians 1.1-14, Luke 10.25-37
It’s a very familiar story we hear this morning, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and maybe too familiar to really appreciate the ways in which it tries to provoke. Jesus uses the story as a reply to a lawyer wanting to test him and to justify himself by asking the question ‘Who is my neighbour?’ On one level, the story speaks for itself by conveying a truth we all know instinctively: being a good person depends on what you do, not on your religion or status. We all should act as the Samaritan did, looking out for those in need, no matter who or where they are.
Recently, I watched the film ‘My name is Khan’, a moving film around religious divisions as well as human goodness. An autistic Muslim man seeks to meet the president of the United States after his stepson is killed in the wake of 9/11. Encountering a range of people as he travels, he holds on to the truth told he was told as a child by his mother: there are only two types of people, those who are good and those who are bad.
“While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them.” A third reflection on the nature of friendship, looking at the importance of sharing our experiences.
One of the first things one learns when undertaking any pastoral training, is never to say “I know what you are feeling”. None of us know what someone else feels, particularly not when they have experienced something we have not. However, I suspect many of us have also been in situations when we did have the sense that the other knew what we felt, and were indeed much comforted by this experience.
In those conversations, our experience mirrors the encounter between Cleopas and the other disciple as they are on their way to the village called Emmaus (Luke 24.13-35). It is the day of the Resurrection as they are discussing everything that has happened in the last few days. Presumably still scarred by the reality of the Crucifixion, the two disciples are trying to make sense of the events and seek their significance. Continue reading “The Road to Emmaus: Companionship”→
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?
Eternal God, 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?
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.’
A sermon preached at Marlborough College Chapel 7th October 2018, Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
Quite a controversial reading this morning, I suspect – I hope! When I looked at the reading suggested by the lectionary, my first thought was to choose another one. Although some of you may agree with my interpretation of this reading, I am almost sure that what I will say this morning may upset and offend some people. Others may think that I am plainly wrong. For someone who doesn’t like an argument, that’s not great.
Reflection on the local Church 30th September 2018, Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
James 5.13-20 & Mark 9.38-50
As some of you reading will know, Marlborough is currently without a Rector. It is a strange thought that the local Church is currently without a leader. However, todays readings remind us that being the local Church, being the Body of Christ in a place, is a responsibility in which we all share. We all have a role to play in the local Christian community, each in our own way, as well as together in relationship.
Starting at the end of the Gospel reading, I’d like to work back toward the reading from James’ letter, making some observations on the way. The Gospel reading set for today ends with the phrase ‘Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another’. At the face of it, two competing principles. Having salt in ourselves: standing up for what we believe in; and yet being at peace with one another: making sure that relationships are harmonious.
A sermon for the Eight Sunday after Trinity Jeremiah 23.1-6 & Mark 6.30-34, 53-56
The passages from Mark’s Gospel chosen by the compilers of the Lectionary this Sunday, frame the account of the feeding of the five thousand. Hence, we notice that this section has something to say about our human need, and Jesus’ response. So that is what I would like to explore a little further.
The needs of the people we encounter in this passage are two-fold. On the one hand there is the need of the disciples, who are tired and looking for rest after all that they have been doing and teaching. And then there is the endless need of the people in the crowd. No matter where Jesus and his disciples go, the crowd keeps following them, demanding more healing and more miracles. Continue reading “A needy bunch and God’s compassionate reply”→