Living with integrity

Sermon St John the Baptist, Mildenhall, 2nd September 2018
Trinity 14: Deuteronomy 4.1-2,6-9 & Mark 7.1-8,14,15,21-23

Listen and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. (Mark 6.14-15)

The week before last, I spent on retreat in Alnmouth in Northumberland, and walking along the North Sea shore, I  found myself thinking quite a lot about these words: it is not what is outside that defines us, but what comes from the inside. It is not our situation that determines who we are, but how we respond to it.

justiceIn this passage from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus specifically speaks about laws and customs around food. The Jewish had and still has rather strict rules about what can and cannot be eaten under certain circumstances, and how food is to be prepared and eaten. In the verses that are omitted from the reading this morning, Mark makes the comment that Jesus has now declared all foods clean.

Continue reading “Living with integrity”

An opportunity missed: The tragedy of Herod’s decisions

A sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Amos 7.7-15 & Mark 6.14-29 

herodLike 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”

Hearing and speaking truthfully

A sermon preached at St James’ Cherhill
8 July 2018, Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Ezekiel 2.1-5 & Mark 6.1-13

prophetIf we’re absolutely honest, I don’t think it’s hard to imagine the scene of today’s Gospel reading happening. For a moment, think back to the place where you have grown up. For some of you that may be this village, or nearby. For others it may be further away. Many of the children we went to school with, we probably haven’t seen for a while. Maybe we can think of one or two of them, who we would be surprised to see speak and teach in public with authority. So, yes, in some ways, we would probably be like one of the people in the synagogue, surprised to see someone come back and teach.

And again, if we’re honest, sometimes we also judge people by their families. Well-educated people are often able to offer their children a good education, and we can also think of families where education is not a priority, and children quickly fall behind in school, and their opportunities in later life become more limited. Continue reading “Hearing and speaking truthfully”

Thy Kingdom Come

Sermon preached at St Mary’s Calstone on 12th May
Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost, John 17.6-19

tkcToday is the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost. It is interesting, I think, how in the UK Ascension Day does not really feature, whereas on the Continent in most countries it still is a public holiday.

In the Church of England, this is now the third year that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, have asked people to use these ten days between Ascension last Thursday and Pentecost next Sunday to pray for the nation and the Church. The initiative is called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, and this year for the first time there will be a big event in Salisbury Cathedral as well, next Sunday evening, 19th May.

Continue reading “Thy Kingdom Come”