The how, the why, and the certainty of being Gods sheep.

john 10 ,ezekial 4, psalm 23

I am going to tie five things up together today
• Our personal experience
• The experience of sheep
• How that ties into todays story and todays psalm
• How our psalm and our story intertwine
• How all of that is borne out by our personal experience

First a question today, who has felt the lord’s presence in the last two years of lockdown and beyond?

IF YOU ARE READING THIS ONLINE – pause for a moment and think

Who here feels guided by our lord?

Who here has felt comforted by our lord at various times

Remember those answers

However to something slightly different

As a boy from Forest Gate, you can imagine my sheep husbandry skills are somewhat limited.
I took Lauren to the lambing at Marsh Farm children’s farm one year is about it.

So, I had to check that whether sheep must be chased by a sheepdog or whether they will indeed follow the shepherd?

What do we think, chase, or follow?

It’s both.

First, I discovered sheep aren’t stupid, they are among the most intelligent of farm animals, second only to pigs.

I found out they will follow someone they trust, and you only have to get the lead sheep to follow and the whole flock will follow.

But they must trust the shepherd, and they have to be fed when they follow. If the food stops the lead sheep will feel tricked and then won’t want to follow.

However once trained, the shepherd can get the lead sheep’s attention by calling them.
So our lords metaphor works well.

Sheep dogs do work as we all know,

Sheep dogs it turns out is the sheep running from a threat, the flight response. A sheep dog knows it and turns the lead sheep and the others follow. The sheep dog causes enough fear to move the sheep but not enough to kill the sheep through stress. This is why your domestic dog getting into a field of sheep can cause such harm, they just scare the sheep to death, literally. A trained sheepdog will harry the sheep just enough.

So chasing the sheep causes fear, trusting the shepherd means the sheep follows his guidance through trust.

How does that metaphor work for us. How does our lord lead his sheep, how does he tend them, wy and why do we follow?

In simple terms
Our lord wants us to trust him, the sheep do have a choice. They aren’t stupid
Those who do so, can hear his voice through prayer and the holy spirit. So we can follow him.
As jesus says “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. “

Our psalm this morning explains the why way better than I ever could.

Jesus leans heavily on the Psalms and our psalm, psalm 23 would be well known to his audience.

Our passage this morning leans on that psalm.
The lord as the psalm says is our shepherd that means we shall not want? Where green pastures wait for his sheep where we lay down, which means an abundance of everything we need. So we want for nothing, Our food is the bread from heaven, and we trust our shepherd, and that’s we we follow him

The Psalm makes it clear we still have enemies and we do still suffer, and all walk in the valley of the shadow of death in this plane. But that he is present in the suffering, indeed a shepherd’s rod is used to protect the flock from suffering (literally to defend from anything that attacks his sheep) and his staff is held wide and used to guide his sheep.
But suffering is part of our lives, even though we are protected and guided, our shepherd is always present and never sleeps. With his rod and staff to both protect us and guide us. The man nailed to that cross, suffered with us and for us, and stays with us to this very day.

Through this suffering our lord made it so we can be with him, guided by him by hearing his voice more clearly as eternity roles onwards.

In Ezekiel It is prophesied that the lord will become our shepherd because the Israelites were doing such a bad job and they are berated for not looking after all his sheep, including the poor and the weak. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.

Today’s reading is our lord assuming that role of the shepherd. The role of guiding us and protecting us, as he says My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.

The reason why they follow and do not perish is explained in our psalm today this is where they intertwine, Jesus is the act, and our psalm is the why

Because Jesus is my shepherd, we shall not want.
2 Because he makes us lie down in green pastures,
where the bread of heaven is abundant, so we have everything we want
so we trust him and follow him

he leads us beside still waters where we will be refreshed by him
3 And where he restores my soul.[b]
He leads me in the right paths to eternity with him[c]
for his name’s sake.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever

Going back to our gospel today
This is why we hear his voice, and follow , this is why we trust him, this is why we belong to him, and he will I give us eternal life, and we will never perish. And as Jesus repeats twice to make sure he has been heard. This is why nobody will snatch us out of his hand, because the father and he are one. United in the desire to bring his creation close, in a loving trusting relationship, led to eternity.

This makes us part of a story, all of us who put our hands up, were predicted by Ezekiel, spoken about in the psalms, , and claimed by Jesus.

We are here today part of that story, an active living thing going on every day for eternity.

This is why so many of us feel him guiding us, this is why we feel guided and comforted by him. This is why we feel protected by our lord. It is literally our reading and our psalm in action. In our lives, for eternity

Amen

Easter – The birth of the good news.

Easter
From this moment on we know these five things.
Jesus has a past
Jesus Died (past tense)
Jesus Lives (present tense)
and Jesus has a future. (Future tense)
and if we give him his proper place of Lord – so do we.

These Five things should colour every aspect of our lives.
Because on Friday we remembered Jesus’ death and the seeming hopelessness of that moment.
From today we can never be without hope because we share in his future.

We must always remember that Christ always had a future, but he wanted us his creation to also have a future.
So, for us also he did something else even more wonderful, he broke the sin of Adam that was laid on us all.

Our broken nature remains, But it is forgiven. As Paul says “for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.”
We are made alive, given new life, and propelled into the future certainty of a new world free from sin and death and illness and decay through him.

So we live in the now of God’s kingdom, with the assurance and a way to share in the not yet, the future of God’s kingdom to come. When Christ will rise again.

He had every single one of us in his mind on that cross, he has every single one of us in his mind right now. He knew you before you were born, he knows you now and he will know you when you rise again in a new bodily form with him on the blast of the horn.

These facts, for they are facts, in the truest sense of the word mean that we can never be without hope. We live the assurance of a present forgiven from sin, and a future free from its presence.

We live forgiven our compromised present nature, and a know we have a future made whole and perfect without compromise.

But what do we do with those things, these facts have to affect us
Those things have to affect us right now don’t they?

If you knew you had a future free from every worry, concern, disappointment ailment and negative thing this world has to offer. If you spend a moment and think about all the things you have had happen in your life that you wish hadn’t gone All the things you wish weren’t happening right now. Fixed,all the broken or tense family relationships, all the illnesses all the stress, and concern gone.

If you knew all that was to come, it would affect the way you behave now, wouldn’t it? Well, here’s the deal. It is to come, it is happening to you and to me, on the moment he rises again. We are but a short sleep away from such things.
That hope affects and colours everything we do, it’s like the certainty of winning the lottery.
This is why we are people of hope. Hope like that shouldn’t be parked until you are lying on your death bed waiting for your eyes to close. Hope like that should imbue our lives. We know we share in a perfect future, we know our present is embued with the perfect love of God. We have that past present and future love shared, and to share.

When we leave here today we should have a little spring in our step, because we are forgiven. Death is no more than a sleep, and all the worries of the world are transient, and small compared to eternity with our lord.

God has made us his friend today, friends never to be parted, friends love dearly enough to die for. The resurrection of jesus is the start of a new creation, we are part of that new creation free from the wounding, decaying, perverting outcome of sin. Free to be made whole, free to love knowing we are loved. Given value because the creator of all things values us enough to die for, and wants us with him forever.

Nobody ever, no matter who isn’t loved enough by god to die for, loved enough to die for right now, and nobody ever doesn’t have the choice to share in his future. We share God’s future.
Whoever you lay eyes on today and forever is precious enough to die for

That’s special isn’t it, there’s hope in that, that’s good news, isn’t it?

Why?

The world so needs that news, if they knew all the things they were fighting for would be Judged and set right regardless of whatever they do, why would they fight.

If they knew everyone was loved enough to die for, who would they kill, hurt, or call names? Because you are calling God precious things names.

If we all knew nothing can affect our inherent value, because they are gods special thing, how much anger and resentment, and sadness would that resolve, because nothing could ever make us feel worthless, do demean, or devalued. How differently would we behave if we really knew every soul was precious.

How much of the corrosive effects of shame would be lost, If we knew they were forgiven, how much could we forgive. If we knew in fact the object that needs forgiving in our eyes is forgiven. Why not forgive as well. You on your own

These are the changes gods love brings to our past present and future

This is the good news og Gods love for us, our friend,, our father,

This is the good news. It’s happened, happening today, and is yet to happen. We share in it.

So go out there and tell people, they don’t understand, they have forgotten. But they aren’t forgotten, they are loved. Its our job to remind them.

Because Christ is risen
He is risen indeed 😊

Alleluia

Good Friday – the day it all went wrong

Its all gone wrong
His followers have scarpered
Apostles that ate, slept lived with him every day
Have run away
The world is calling him names
Today, Today
At this moment its certain that by any empirical logic this was a false promise
Nothing is pointing to him being anything other than dead.

You can logically see why they may run.
Messiahs don’t do this
They remove the oppressor
They bring victory
They restore honour
They restore the temple
They bring the world to the worship of God
They assume the role of Caesar
They don’t get nailed to some rough wood, paraded through town and then die the worst
In no version of the story one might logically predict or expect ends like this.

Now the world hates them, these Jesus followers.
Betrayed by one of their own
They are hunted men now
They have nowhere to go
Nowhere to run
Their own people despise them
Forced to deny him
His own mother had to watch him suffer on the cross
Hes let them down.
It’s all gone wrong

We look back at our lord and remember and give thanks
But for us, its not easy still to stand up and be counted
For us there are other tests.

If you speak up about your faith at best they wont know what to make of it
Or they make mock, or call you names.
Call him names
Call our church names
Tell you your dreaming
You have been and are mistaken for following him
So we have our own trials our own reasons for disowning him

It’s as easy for us as the people in scripture before the cock crows

However even here we must remember there is always light in the story
And Late in our story today, we find them.
Like in our story today some stick by him
It comes in the shapes of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea

While others hide.

They take the body down and enbalm a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds
Much more than in the mary and Martha story.
More than the three kings
They find him a new tomb
New tombs are rare and expensive ostentatious when everyone is hiding

They Place him in it. Embalm
This is embalming of a king, costing lots and lots.
A visible Act a futile act on the face of it brave and foolish when they are on the run
Joseph is a rich man,. Spoke out as the counsel boiled up to this moment
Nicodemus who had met jesus in secret, he was a voice of dissent in the council as they led up to this
Afterwards after their best efforts, when its all gone wrong

These two
They don’t know where the dawn comes from
Logic says hide, he let us down
But they are not only spending a fortune they are taking a great risk
The world hates the followers so they have to do these things In secret
So this is very brave when there’s no logical reason for it, he has failed, in ignominy
When he’s so badly let them down

Made them pariahs

There’s nothing left here but faith in him despite everything, in the face of everything

What about us today though
today for us we have lessons to learn from these two today today.
Lessons for all people of good Friday
How many times have we faced this moment in our own lives.
When it all seems like Jesus promises have not come true.
When hes let us down.

If he was real this wouldn’t have happened
If he was real the world wouldn’t do X or Y to us
The Psalms are full of people crying out
Saying how its all so unfair
Where if it had all been true he would have stopped this

None of us know what we will do in that moment until we face that moment.
Until our lives take a turn for the worse
Then we will know.

One day in our faith story we may find its all gone wrong.
And he hasn’t come to rescue us

for our church today?
Outside this church the world goes on
Our congregations shrink
shops are open
consumerism has slowed a little

It may seem our lord seems to have abandoned us
The world seems to have moved away from our lord
It may seem hard and even pointless to have faith in our lord.
The world has moved away from us
But we are still here
Then There are more mundane abandonments
On a mundane day to day basis we may have to defend our faith to those that are bemused
detached, angry, or who don’t have a high opinion of the followers of Jesus or anyone of any faith.
So in that respect we all live in good Friday.

Society lives on in ways that ever more resembles the hopelessness of Good Friday
Or in our lives or we may face our own good Friday moment when real and existential things happen to us
When hope seems silly illogical thing to have, when common sense says this is mad!
I think at that point we may have to simply find a way to carry on

Like Nicodemus and Joseph today.
Even when its all impossibly dark
Despite all logic they carry on
Certainly don’t waste a fortune on this failed escapade
Nothing logically says carry on
But here they are, they are present for the lord.
even when its at its worst
At its most illogical
This is what their actions in todays story asks us
Each of us here today

How we live, how we might react when everything points to it all being untrue?
This is what Good Friday asks us.
This is what we have to ponder today
When hard times hit
When our churches empty
When everyone thinks we are mad to follow a Jesus that is so clearly not a real messiah
When people laugh
Blame
What we will we do
what did we do
what should we do.

The hopelessness of good Friday, the seeming logical futility of faith when the world says everything points to it being wrong?
on those days when we struggle to follow a God we cant find, or see, or know, or pray to.
What is our church going to do
what are you going to do.
These are the questions Good Friday asks
These are the questions Jesus asks us on good friday
The only answer is yours.

What is the reason for hope?

What is God?
Can we imagine God, can we relate to God?
Is he an old white man on a cloud?
Is he everything, all realities, all substance, everything, everywhere, ever?
look around and at the stars, God, look at the ground, see an ant. Look in a microscope and see God, look at a mountain, see God, look at the stars and infinity, see God.

that’s the physical realm in every realm God is present, God is in every thought we have, in every prayer, in every breath.
God knew you before you were born. The list is endless, where God is, and I mean that literally.
The problem is, anything big enough to be God, that I could imagine would not be God.  

If infinity is real god is in  and of the infinite, if its not God is the boundless holder of a defined reality
In short

God is unimaginable.  Too big too vast. We cant get our heads around him.
How do we fixed in time and space love a thing not fixed, that’s in all time and all space? Whenever you imagine a fixed point he runs away, in infinity


 
How do we love that God, when we try and put our arms around him, try and enclose him with love and make him ours, he slips away somehow? We know we don’t know him, we know our tiny part? How can we love something that is so far removed from us, how can we love a thing that in almost every way is incomprehensible, too perfect for us, a thing that cannot be less than perfect,  that our imperfection cannot meaty with, how can that love our imperfection?

in so many ways something that we can’t even begin to know to comprehend? The answer to so many questions we don’t even know to ask. The bible talks about a fearing God, that is an entirely appropriate response for a thing so big, so vast so powerful.  But how do we bring that close, into our mundane lives? How do we make that God part of everything we do?

Today, God gave us a way to do so , as of today we can, today he has made himself a newborn baby, even  more? a small defenceless refugee baby
On the run from a despot, in meagre surroundings a long way from home.
Mary is a long way away from her mum, and support system, and as clueless as any new parent might be. Truly as defenceless and threatened as any baby might be, truly exposed to the mess of it all.


Any mother knows that regardless of what mess we are in babies need protection  and love and care.
He lays wrapped in swaddling and just like any other baby and needs all the things a newborn needs.

We can all love a baby, we can relate to those needs, we can put our arms around a baby. We want to protect a baby, we don’t fear babies.



But this baby, this one is different
Promised, and prophesied by all scripture, like our reading by Isaiah today 500 years before and more recently promised to mary by an angel
This baby they look down on is God.

All babies are gifts, all are known to God.
But this baby is God. He is God, everything that God is, is now enclosed in the diameter, in the physical space that is taken up by the object the size of a small baby.
From the unimaginable to the most helpless object in the world. A new-born baby.

So God has gone from so vast we cannot imagine, to a thing we can all relate to, either has been one, or have had one, or met one. A baby. That’s how small and defenceless God has made himself.

From something that holds everything ever in itself, to a thing holding our finger as the first thing it can focus on and grasp as an object in space.

But why, why has God decided to do this? God doesn’t do accidents or mistakes?
So why has he done this?

Be assured, Everything about this scene is deliberate, the deliberate action of God. To decide to become fully human while remaining fully God. In God maths are his, so there’s not two halves but two wholes. Fully God and Fully Human. But make no mistake there’s no mistake in this scene.  This tiny baby is God, from everything everywhere to a thing as limited to time and space as a baby.


But why God, why this way, and why at all.

Why, the answer is because everything in this scene screams hope.
Hope for everyone, he has done this, in this way to bring hope in your lives.


Why hope?  because here is the greatest thing ever, in this place, and it shows wherever you are God not only can be here but is liable to place himself there. Hope because however bad it gets, you know God isn’t worried about getting his hands dirty, he’s been in bad places himself and knows what it’s like.


Hope because this proves that God loves you enough to come here to know you in whatever mess our lives are and call you a friend.
This god isn’t going to write a book, give you a set of instructions and wander off. He’s going to join you where it’s messiest. In amongst the dung, literally and figuratively. This child is the flickering candle in the darkness that has not been overcome by darkness. Proof that darkness can never overcome his light, proof that nothing that happens in this life is beyond his experience.

This baby knows you, every single one of you, and when he reaches thirty is going to say and do things that will shake the world and turn every power structure on its head. He’s already started doing that just by being born like this.  Every king of this world has just been put into perspective, every power in this life the same. They got usurped in their power by a defenceless baby, and that shows what power in our lives amounts too. They have limits, this baby does not.  This baby breaks the shackles any power may have over us, and that’s why we call him lord and nothing else.

This child is both the object hoped for and hope itself, this child goes on with us forever as he sleeps, and looks up with eyes that cannot yet focus on the eyes of his mother. All ending events are no longer endings, but steps on a journey of love with the source of love.

We as Christians are people of Hope because we know we go on over the horizon, nothing is permanent, every pain is transitory and a briefest second of eternity. Everything will be made whole by a baby in an animals water trough. This fact changes everything, so we are loved by God enough to die for, and his dying opens up a place where we know nothing in this life is more than a scratch on our journey into an eternal relationship with God. Nothing can ever affect your value again because this baby which is God, has decided to die for you, so you can never die again. That’s how long he wants to love you for, forever.


Simply by being an object in time and space, God had broken the shackles of time and space for all of us. Our lives are forever imbued with hope, by this child’s arrival, this, moment was the moment hope became a reality, where hope became more than a wistful pipe dream, or a wishful idea based on nothing more than a sunny outlook. Our lives are not shackled by sin and our brief struggle with little or no point to our tiny spark. Our lives are now predicted, made, valued, and cared for enough to die for by a God that joined us. He proved all that today.

God made himself real in our reality,  and in doing so he made hope a reality, for all that follow this child in this life and the next.

He is here to be our salvation, and salvation simply means being made whole, all our brokenness is gone from this moment. One day we will all be without all the things that hold us back, pain, anger, illness, cruelty, and even death is defeated by a baby.  Despair is gone, we can never despair or be without hope, because this morning Mary can pick him up and show him, love.

This morning hope is a reality, and therefore so much more than just a hope. Hope is a dream, god made that hope real. The difference between a dream and a reality is a and his plan is now ours.

We can never be lonely ever again. As we pray today, we know that this child is still with us every step of the way, and we can talk to this child through prayer. Ending loneliness forever, because

We can never be alone because he is with us every step of the way and we can share in this so easily? He can talk to us, and direct us, the sure and certain hope, as Paul says

All we have to do, is follow him, today, and this morning 2000 years ago,

 he came to show us how.
Amen

John the Baptist, Gods value system and ours

Sermon on Luke 3 7-18
In a reasonably high church I was dressed very scruffy and unshaven

This sermon has been on my mind since before I knew I had to write it. To the extent poor Sue got her Monday compline session gazumped by me doing John in compline when that was hers.  I was imagining doing this sermon before I had read this week’ readings.  Also originally I wasn’t doing this week for a sermon I was considering before I knew I had to write it.  I don’t believe in coincidences like that.

I think the reason why I am so attracted to it, is that it contains one the most important messages we can ever know about the love of God.

It begins with the reason I am dressed up like this.

John is dressed up in the most un priest like garb of all, unshaven, dressed in camel hair, eating locust and honey.  

This is Jesus cousin, the first person to know Jesus when he leapt inside his mothers womb, foretold by the angel Gabriel, prophesied by Isaiah and the man who baptised Jesus in the Jordan. The man Jesus called the greatest of all. Dressed in the clothes far removed from priestly garb. Baptising the outcasts, dressed in the most irregular garb.

And he’s baptising Tax collectors, and soldiers and they are asking him what should we do.

Meanwhile, those dressed appropriately that are in charge of tradition and the rites of religion are called  “a nest of vipers”.

Take note, no tradition, no rite, no dress, no social position, no respectable look, or dress is valued here.  What is held up as the path to righteousness is baptism, which leads to repentance that leads to change that leads to dealing with people fairly and as valued human beings.  Maling straight paths for Jesus.

Honestly, if you want to know the very kernel of what John is saying doing here, it is just that. Changing direction after coming into contact with the holy spirit and being baptised is what matters.  However, none of these things works on their own.  

The Pharisees who came to be baptised thought a quick dip and they are sorted.  John rather eloquently informed them that the axe was sat at the bottom of the tree for those who were the nest of vipers.

So that’s it, that’s why I am dressed like I am today, because being dressed in priestly garb may serve many purposes in clarity of what role we have, and in the liturgy of the church but it has zero effect on salvation.

Also what society thinks of us, again this is not important, he showed all of us how to be Christian.  John was not dressed in Garb liable to gain him top seats at the table.  What matters to John is being who he wants us to be.  He was helping the occupiers and their agents come before God, he was wiping their sins clean and setting them on the path through asking them to repent which isn’t some punitive thing, it’s simply changing direction. Not through the threat of the axe, but through being willing to do as the other outcasts do and ask what they need to do t follow  and then follow.

I sat in that pew a long time ago and said I’m doing it all wrong, I’m not worthy and I need help.  Throwing yourself at him and saying help me. 

when I did my studies I comforted myself that he called pagans (Abraham), persecutors (paul), Tax collectors, Matthew, and so on and so forth.   I used to use a saying when I felt unworthy of my calling to LLM. “If he can change Saul into Paul then there’s hope for us all. What we are, what we were, how we dress, how we sound like, what we think we could do, how valued we are in society etc etc all those labels we place value on and set store by and give people status.

They matter not one single bit, not one single bit. There cant be any clearer example of that than today’s reading, here’s a bloke dressed like a tramp, baptising people. People are called to his example, and he’s baptising the outcasts and castigating the pillars of society. Not because they are pillars but because of what that’s done to their ability to throw themselves at Jesus’ feet and ask how to change and then change.

That is the value system of God, I want you to think about in the next week, what does this reading where a tramp baptises outcasts and they ask what can I do? Where the pillars of society are as nothing, and those who feel they are nothing important are valued.  Again, not because they are pillars, but because the things they value are not the things God values, the two are not mutually exclusive but if we get them and hold them up internally as proof of being righteous. We missed the point.

That’s why a man dressed like a tramp can preach, a man that isn’t following tradition here today. But the point is as long as we all do what the outcasts in todays story do and ask the question “what do I have to do” and change direction we have got the point of today’s story. 

The great and good of societies and the value system of God is on display here.   We need to aim to be seen as followers of the love that is coming into the world of jesus, as opposed to anything else.


That’s so powerful by the way.  Because from that moment on there is nothing, and no one that can affect your self-worth in this world. Not a person, or an organisation, or a job, or a car or anything or anyone! Ever ever again.

You are precious, and righteous and valued in the eyes of God.  God sets your worth and he came into the world to share our mess and die for us. Not dressed a a lord, but as a child with nowhere to go, like a reviled refugee coming over on a boat, when the inn or the country was full.

what did he do?

He just tipped our world on its head.

So apologies for the garb or lack of it, but you see.

Albeit it serves some purposes, It actually doesn’t matter. None of it. My worth and yours is entirely, defined, owned by and shown by a god who died for me and for you. Nothing that happens in this world or the next can change that fact.

You, all of you, every single person ever born  can never be unworthy or less than loved to the extent you are precious enough to die for.

In advent we await that loves entry into the world, announced by John.

Amen



Are you ready for Jesus?

The following story is based on true events, but at different times in my life I may have been either driver, in my teens and early 20s I had an XR3 these days I drive an audi.

I was stuck at some traffic lights waiting for them to turn red.
This chap had been cutting me up and he got alongside me.
He was revving his engine, and looking over. He clearly wanted to go first.

Paula was like – let him go. which I was prepared to do.

A pause, lights when you are waiting for them can seem to take an age.

The lights went amber, I was surprised he didn’t go.
Oh well I thought…

Then Green, he must have jerked his clutch up way too fast. Because he leapt 2-3 yards on in frog hops.
He stalled his car he wasn’t ready, as he missed the orange light.
He had drifted off… then
When green came it obviously caught him by surprise.
he made a mess of it and frog hopped down the road.

The signs were all there, but you never know when the lights going to go green. They stayed red for a long time. In that time he lost concentration.

Who knows where he had drifted off too? His mind was not on the task at hand.

How does all that relate to today’s reading?

There are some similarities.
Jesus is telling us today

We are at that place of waiting for the lights to go green, however unlike the traffic lights there are more stages than just ready, get set, Go. There are far more things to do in these stages, than just wait and be alert.

We don’t get to sit nicely and wait, ours in an active waiting.

Ours is a calling while we wait.

To follow Christs example in calls us in so many ways,

We have to call him Lord, and know truth in our hearts that he is the source of all truth and love, and to rule that as Jesus says

“3 Heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will never pass away.”

And we have to stay the course, don’t do as the chap did and get distracted while he was waiting…. We have to stay focused.

As Jesus said
” Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, “

I doubt that chap, was carousing, but maybe he had drifted off on the anxieties of life. Got so caught up worrying, or gnawing away at a problem. Maybe that was what was making him so anxious to get round.

who knows, but Jesus warns us about that, and asks us to stay focussed, because that focus can help us when we are worried.

Like the old hymn goes what a friend we have in Jesus.
Our friend wants to carry our sins and griefs.

One thing that does hold true from todays metaphor is that Lights change without warning, we may if we sit at traffic lights long enough get to know how long they take. But in the time of waiting for Jesus we have no clue,how long before the lights go green.

However

One thing we know in the first week of advent is that the clock is ticking, because in the first week in advent we await, Gods affirmative action, deliberate action of Jesus arrival.

That ladies and gentleman was when the clock started, from red, to amber.

From stop to get ready.
Who has to get ready? When jesus said “this generation” doesnt mean the generation of Jesus day it means all the generations of humanity since he came. This generation in Gods terms means the group Since the clock started?

Today we await, the entry into the world of Gods redeeming love, brought into the world as a defenceless baby, I am sure over the next few weeks many sermons will talk about that fact. That the way he set the clock ticking to our salvation was not through force, but by the exact opposite. Today in advent week one we imagine a world that was firmly at “stop” and on his birth knew it had to get ready, and we learned from his example that he came to show us how.

Jesus showed us, that we become powerful when we give up our ideas of power, when we give love we receive so much more.
He started a journey roughly thirty years between his arrival and his resurrection, and theres something in that, the pace of our lives arent the pace God moves very often, most often he moves at a pace of lifes phases and things change when we are ready. He opened the gates of salvation, but it may take all our lives to get ourselves ready for him to come again.

How do we maintain that metaphorical car that focus, how do we keep our driving skills? Or better put how do we keep our eyes on him let him into our lives to keep us on the right track. The answer is simple – prayer. Prayer opens the garage door; prayer is us knocking on the door of the greatest power ever. A power that loves us very much, and wants to welcome us into his world, of peace and justice and love.

And all this is what it means to be ready, it means so much more than simply prepared, we need to know who he is, love him, follow his example and show love etc etc.
Like that chap from the lights, theres so much more to being ready, you have to learn to drive to even be sat at the lights, maintain your car etc etc.

Then you have to stay ready and not let all those things drift, let your driving habits get so bad that you stall and you do this by practice and staying alert.

This is what Jesus is asking today, that we maintain all the assets and edicts of our faith, trust in him, love for all, readiness to sacrifice, study so that we really know what he is asking, and prayer so that our study is led by him etc etc etc

We worship in an Anglican Church and our faith is built upon tradition, scripture and reason. All of those are nourished by prayer.

That I think this is, the real value of our church, and all our theologians, and our priests, our bible study, and our prayer. Getting us and keeping us ready.

Then comes the next task. That’s every person who knows jesus shows jesus in the way that we act.
That is our task in this life. Getting as many people ready for when the lights change as we can.

He came to show us how to et ready, his salvation gave us the means to move forward with him when the lights go green.

Our task is to ponder on him all of our lives and be as ready as we can be

As we move through advent, as we think about all the lessons contained in why he came, what he tried to teach us. The question we have to ponder over and over again with prayer, with thought, with love, in companionship, listening to the words of our service that show us. I mean we are just about to hear the words of the creed. When we hear all those words, we need to ask

is are we ready?

because in advent week one, we prepare for his arrival, and we know in that very moment the lights have changed to amber.

Amen

Bible Sunday Sermon 2021

Bible Sunday, the word of the lord is praised today

I laid on the floor a large stack of bibles, and explained their translation and the reasoning, GNB, NRSV, ESV, NKJV, etc explained the misogyny of the KJV (male verbs are used either where no gender was said or even when the female was used) , Each had different roles, different translations. The GNB is easier to read, NRSV is the official translation of the church of England.

Explained my story about when I was lonely in a small flat outside of Bournemouth and asked for help,. I came from an large noisy atheistic family, but this little red bible had followed me around from the day it was given to me at School.. I was from a busy family where everyone did shift work, so the house never slept, to a tiny village in Corfe Mullen. This Beautiful, remote and very very lonely for the first time from him. One day I sat on my bed and was at a very low ebb. Held that little bible and prayed.

I asked him for help , said ,I am really lonely , and I need help, please help me and the room was filled with love.
Unalloyed, perfect, real, almost filling the space of the air, love. Also I have never felt lonely or alone since that day.

He came into my heart that day, and been ever present ever since then.

I have had a relationship with him since that very day and then showed the little red Gideons Bible I held in my hand that day. Explained that my leader was Matthew

What do we have in the Bible, 66 books, of poetry, history, biography, law and prophecy, Apocalyptic, Wisdom and Gospels that were first spoken and then written down?

 Such human books, in the bible we find love. Anger, greed, hatred, sex, and sin etc etc, The list is endless. The entire human condition is discussed, check out Song of Songs if you think anything’s missing.


Its clearly written by people, real people, living lives, and facing the tasks and challenges of the human experience.  Paul prefaces a lot of his letters with things like, I’ve got timothy with me, complains about his eyes, he sends his regards to and from various people,  asks the receiver of to look after onesimus his slave, and asks for a guest room to be prepped as he hopes to see you soon.  Calls something complete scoobilon which is left untranslated from the Latin for dung.

All very human things that show us these are humans just like us writing these things, not aliens that get turned into typewriters by God.

Also, we work with a translated text that was from the very first time Jesus spoke. Jesus words were Spoken in Aramaic, heard remembered and eventually written by Greeks, Hebrews?

So from the moment, Jesus spoke his words were translated from Aramaic into the native language of the apostles many of whose mother tongue was something else.

We worship using a translated book. That was written, Some by authors we know, some lost in the mists of time.  Then some of the words and grammar and meaning of the oldest translations we have left written in Greek say don’t have direct translations to English. Hence that pile over there.

However let me be 100% crystal clear, let me not be misunderstood.

The Bible is undoubtedly the word of God with every word inspired by him and through scripture and prayer, we can peer through a glass darkly at the plan God has for all humanity and for the minutiae of our lives.  If for one second, I doubted that I would never dare to stand in front of you today or any day.

  Some might ask how given all the variables I spoke of before I can have such certainty.  Because how else would a God who made himself human talk to us except through humans in a human way, he so wanted to do that he became human.  Through his creati

 I was called by the God who wrote that book, who works with that book to mould us into all he wants us to be, the book of Common prayer says there’s no health in us, but today we are going to look at how god’s love works through the bible and makes us whole.
Takes us on the journey to being made whole.

So how do we work with God to learn from scripture, how do we learn from our master through this wonderful thing?   Jesus tackles this very thing today.   When he says….

If you believed Moses, (addendum in scripture ) you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say


That is it in a nutshell!!, That’s it,, The Bible brings us to him , but we have to let him take over. when I first read the bible, Jesus was alive for me, and remains alive. Jesus came alive through that book (Matthew was the first passage I read in a little Gideons Bible). So for the Jews it would be Moses because that’s what they had, for me it was Matthew but whatever scripture resonates for you, you have to believe him p, you have to let him in.

 That is the secret to the Bible, Once Jesus is alive in your life then all those things that I spoke about earlier become Nuance and the fabric that Jesus can use to work with us.   Jesus speaks through the spirit, through that book, and through us.


The spirit is in us, and as soon as we plug into that and its awoken by the book, the three of us work together, Jesus, the spirit and us, who he made us to be.

However please don’t think I am asking you switch off your intellect

He doesn’t want us to park our brains at the door marked “scripture” he wants us to bring all that we are to the process.  There he meets us, and works with us, as he always did. 

What then the typewriter theory, the idea the apostles were turned into Dictaphones. Lost in the idea these words are divinely inspired, and work for all of us regardless of where our little spark of life happens in the millennia to bring us closer to God.  The church of England has as one of its 39 articles that “HOLY Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation:”  and it indeed it does, everything you need is here, but you need to bring everything you are to them, let god take them, always always pray before reading , to learn from them, your heart, your prayer, prayer, your thought. Richard Hooker one of the founding fathers of Anglicanism used the idea of the three legged stool, Scripture, tradition and reason.

 I would argue that isn’t enough. The stool needs many legs, it needs prayer, it needs learning, it needs robust and repeated action to bring his words to life.  Most of all it needs the real knowledge of a living god brought alive in our lives.  Then because all scripture is breathed by god. As the hymn goes, we will be filled with life anew.

Then we can bring scripture to life in our lives because it is breathed on by a living God.  What then all those things of a translated faith? The universal truths of the bible, are from God are never ever diluted. The multiplicity of the various methods used in the bible are just the tools God uses to bring his words to life.

This is why a legalistic view of scripture alone is never enough, and what got Jesus so excised today. His living word alive in our lives is greater than Moses,. As Jesus said today

 If you don’t for if you do not believe the one he sent. 39 Even if you study[a] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. .  If however after this , 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 

You missed the point, the bible is the word of God. This is the word of the way the truth and the life.  But letting him into the story, letting him into the story of our lives is the only way to God. The bible is a special precious thing and truly the word of God, but its as useless as a hammer lying on the floor when a nail needs used, because without him being alive in our lives, it becomes something  else, a book, a set of laws, an antiquated thing. 

With him in our lives it’s a living word, that doesn’t just overcome its translation, its million authors, its genesis.  It becomes his living word,  and all those things become things he uses to come to life in our lives.  Through poetry, prophecy, biography etc and yes a all the translations. He uses them to find you, and share universal truths

Through scripture.

As Paul told Timothy

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is [9] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

On bible Sunday that’s what all we need to know,

Amen

World Homeless day Sermon

The car park is noisy when I arrive for my first day, 

two people are fighting, the rest gather round yelling them on, some to try and stop them, some to egg them on, some just cackling with amusement as the comedic ballet of two drunk people swaying and missing each other.  Tables go over, hot urns are moved out the firing line. Shouting and swearing fill the air.

It smells, spilt coffee, cannabis, ancient alcohol and sweat.

There is an assortment of people you would normally rush by, dressed sometimes in Rags, sometimes surprisingly well (some really do work on their appearance). How they look is hardest to describe because their clothes are as varied as the handouts and hand me downs, the availability of clean water, and hair cuts

Then there are the helpers, trying to not lose todays food which someone cooked and brought to the car park, trying to stop the “guests” as they call them from

 a) Hurting each other

 B) encouraging the police who sort of put up with us from arriving

 c) losing too much of tonights much needed food.

They never worry about themselves, whether they get hurt, always the kitchen and the guests. Over our years we see that time and time again, as they almost fought to be the ones that served through the worst of Covid. Not all the youngest either, so very much taking a risk.

Me and Paula pull back our car somewhat, filled with our first night gifts of clothes, blankets and food. If it wasn’t for those things we may have drove off.

I would have missed out on the place i felt God more often than any other, more consistently, more thinly than any other.  Because as our scripture shows us this is where he would be if he were alive today. 

And we worship a living God, so this is where he is.

Every week I go, I always know he’s here, always feel him and try to be steered by him.

This is church, this car park of life’s damaged, misfits. 

which is also of course is what we all are

But this was week one and it was Paula who said come on, lets get out, Paula who dived in found a place straight away, serving food, chatting to the other ladies.

I found my place on the fringes, albeit at the time I saw it as lost and confused. Now we all know it, mike goes to find those to scared to come into the light….

This is some of their stories

STORY ONE

The first person I meet, says the weirdest thing to someone hes never met…

Why does god hate me?

STORY 2

On my first night a young pregnant lady with a baby in a pram lands in our car park with very skimpy clothes. she had been thrown out by her pimp because the baby cried so much. she was from foster care and had fallen apart, and fell into the oldest profession all of them were blue when we found them

STORY 3

Joe and his guitar the car park is a happy place, joe used to sing all the old 60s songs on his old out of tune guitar . we all sang along, and laughed and loved him. some lads smashed his guitar up as he slep one night..

he lasted three winters

STORY 4

Trevor whom I loved because he was so like my dad. but he wasnt lovely when drunk, and was often violent. He was abused by his dad, and had boxed for england, he sobered up many times, but always got drunk and violent. he lasted 3 winters.

STORY 5

The man and his dog – I fed the dog and got picked up

STORY 6

the man shot  into nationwide and hurt someone and will never find forgiveness in his eyes, to anaesthetise his guilt he drank

STORY 7

the street pastors

STORY 8

those on the edges who wont join in because they have been left out so long crowds scare them

STORY 9

Abuse makes them

STORY 10

fostering

STORY 11

the ones who want to be out,? They are a myth really, they are just damaged in another way, the few that I have met, really are just damaged enough to have lost anchor, never know where to stop, sometimes they want too, but then old shadows catch them up, abuse, parensts, drubgs drink. they arent wandering minstrels loving the open air, they are running away and moving on stops there demons from catching them 

STORY 12

the ones who the police say never to leave a women around

STORY 13

Lionel who had come to feed those who looked after him after his wife left him and his brother 

Happy tomshare these stories if ever you ask.

Now we are at St Vincents, and when I dont go I miss it

This is where I want to being Jesus, here I am his voice, his hands, and feel most Christian, I feel like I truly am his eye, hands feet when I am in this place,

Ill always go I always will  to  join him in his car park

Its hard to remain a salty Christian

Its hard being a Christian.

As C.S.Lewis once said “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

Because it is hard, being Christian,  Christianity adds to the discomfort of life at times, when we are really put in a place where we have to stand up for his calling, 


We can no more avoid it than Matthew who was happily in his booth  collecting taxes,  because when he was called , Levi leaves all that he has – but not because he thinks that he might be doing something worthwhile, but simply for the sake of the call.

As my favourite theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer a man who spoke up against the Nazis to the point of death

He spoke about this discipleship as costly grace, that call being costly sometimes…

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.


We may comfort ourselves that old Dietrich had a war on and his life was much harder than ours.  He had something much more real to rail against.

and of course In many ways of course that’s true, However , we can also say in many ways the world  is just as full of forces that wants to and would very much like to derail the voice of love, the voice of  loving even our enemies, loving everyone and  that force, wants us to stop seeing people as precious children of God, Gods own handiwork, people  that are made by, loved by, inside of god and have God inside us, and we are in God, a god that really really  loves us and considers us special despite our frailty 

As it says in Romans, 7 “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That’s how precious we are to God, and because of knowing that we have to speak up and say and act like every other person we meet is precious enough to die for. Because our god did just that.

 We know we are people that  have inherent value in the eyes of God, and that is where our true worth comes from,  we don’t belong to countries, or parties,  or remain or stay, we belong to God, 

  we know and openly state in everything we do that  is as a result of knowing that , we know that the worlds value system is sometimes  very messed up. 

We can see all around us there are people who do well from the worlds messed up value system. People with billions while others struggle to make ends meet. 

This means dangerous counter cultural message indeed and some really wont want to hear it, if this world suits them.

When people heard Paul speak this message they said it hurt their ears.


A world where footballers earn millions, yet a nurse who risked her life to save us from Covid relies on foodbanks.

We in a life lived as  Christians are totally at odds with all of that, we see value in the fact God loves us and values us  enough to die, because he created us and lives in us, not what job we do or how many houses we have, or where we come from.  So done properly I would say our value system is as much at odds with a the systems of  the world as Dietrich’s was. 

We are as called as we ever were to remain “salty”.

Remain “salty”  what does that mean?

This counter cultural call is what Jesus is about today, he doesn’t want us chopping arms off,  hes using rhetoric same way as my dad used to say “mick you little so and so, come here I am going to kill you when I get my hands on you” 

Or 
I was so hungry  I would shoot my granny for dinner…  

Or 
I am so hungry I could eat a horse!

The French do eat horses, I have yet to be hungry enough to consider it, and I have never shot my granny and my dad never killed me.

This is Jesus in the same mode… what he’s saying  is

The daily life of being in Christ and Christ in us is so wonderful, its worth putting up with real discomfort,  a thing worth putting up with anything for. 

Salt was valuable in Jesus day, same way as we are valuable, things were paid for in salt at times, and salt preserved food before fridges,.  Also Salt Heals when I had a operation cut that had just started to turn nasty I was advised a little salt water dabbed each day and it helped me heal, when you have a tooth taken out they advise to gargle with salt water.

So a very valuable thing, that preserves what sustains us, and heals when we need healing. 

SO

I would say that’s what  jesus is saying, how he sees us, and wants us to remain . Not just valuable, Precious before God, made by him, as  a place that he lives in, but messengers of his truth, his  People are meant to be a healing thing for our world, that preserves the worth of human life and states it. Here’s the thing even when the world tries to derail us.  Today he’s saying stick to it, stay as you are, keep answering my call, because I see it all and every good deed we do as Julian says reverberates around heaven forever and delights out God, in the same as as our childrens good deeds delight us. Stick at it, because everyone that makes us stumble on our calling is seen, and we are seen when we move through the tough or wobbly  periods and correct ourselves and point ourselves at him again.

And all that chopping off arms bit that rhetoric saying how much it’s all worth it.

Even when its not easy, even when, the world tries to derail us, even when there are forces opposed to our message, when  the world wants to view people as rats, or not our best people they are sending over, or refugee’s or people who will take from us, steal our jobs, fill our country, or even see ourselves as from a country instead of simply from God, we are from Gods kingdom and work for that.  People can never be and aren’t the metaphors we reduce them too at times they are gods precious children, every single one of them.  Its not easy at times to conquer our fears to accept that we may have done that thing of reducing someone who God loves just as much as me to a concept, something other than gods precious creation. But us we are HIS disciples,  and we know better , he is our true north, our compass point, and we may wobble, we may lose our way at times, we may worry about stuff, ive done enough of that for ten people in recent weeks.  Bur as long as we pick up our cross and march on again, For the wobbles we have grace and I thank him for that because I wobble a lot , but overall we will have understood  what Jesus thinks is to remain salty, a thing that , that is precious to him,  that sees everything he made as precious to him, that has him inside us and we inside of him, that he loved enough to die for , we his precious disciples preserve his message, his precious word, the one that heals the world, . Like salt  

We are to remain his salt.
and to that I say 
amen

Sabbath, what is it, why, and how?

I stand here today giving the first sermon on the subject of Sabbath, being as it’s the first I thought I would spend a little time looking  Sabbath, what is it, how can we do it, what is it not and why? And reflect on what Sabbath is and how we might observe Sabbath in our modern context. What does God want?


The first thing many of us learn about the sabbath was, that when  God made everything, he rested, on the seventh day he had a rest.   Did he go have a lie down? Did he sort of let creation do its own thing for a bit? Like when we leave our kids with the iPad for an hour and go put a wet flannel on our head?

Here’s the thing, as much as we try, humanity is not going to stress out God to the point of needing a lie down and neither is making everything. God is omnipotent, all powerful inexhaustible and does not need a rest. God did not need to rest, so why is this in scripture?

This is God setting an example to us, showing us what we should do moving forward.  He’s saying 6 days of toil and then we stop, he loves us and only wants whats best for us, and so he’s setting the cycle by which we should live, for many more reasons than just rest.

There have been many versions of what doing nothing on the Sabbath means in the bible, the Hebrew noun for Sabbath, “Shabat” simply means stop or cease. The first time Sabbath is mentioned by name is in exodus verse 20 chapter 9-11 in the ten commandments, where God makes it a holy day, and says everyone including the foreigner has to stop work.

Making a thing Holy really means setting it apart as special. The dictionary really points us in the right direction when it defines holy as “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.”.  Hence the reason why Ezekiel criticised people for continuing to buy and sell sheep in the sabbath, basically keep the works of industry moving, but Isaiah was more interesting, he wants us to celebrate the sabbath as more than just as an exhibition of piety, but to do so properly meant to ‘learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow’.

That’s not really stopping as such is it, so what is it? Isaiah also foresaw when the Sabbath was for more than just gods chosen people but for all humanity and included us here today. 

But if it isn’t as simple as just stopping and watching Netflix, or a good book whats it  all about?

 Jesus often ran into the Pharisee’s legalistic view of the Sabbath when he healed people and walked through fields of wheat eating corn, this  was seen as breaking the   strict laws of Sabbath, His response was that the sabbath was made for humankind not humankind for the sabbath.  

Essentially God made the sabbath for us to be released from bondage not to be interned by another sort of bondage of legalism. So for Jesus Sabbath had a greater meaning than just doing nothing on a Sunday.

Also it hasn’t always been on a Sunday, for early Christians it followed the Jewish tradition of starting on a Friday to a Saturday evening.  It then moved again to the “lords day” on the first day of the week in acts.

 The Sabbath was a day of rest, but the Lords day was a day to gather in community and worship God and concentrate on his word. As our faith moved to the Gentiles community Paul said that they don’t need to follow this Jewish rite but encouraged them to set aside a special day to worship the lord if they decide to do so, but they are free of the legalistic duty.

Essentially as Christianity separated from Judaism to create its own identity they moved from a legalistic sabbath to a “lords day” where the emphasis was on worship.

So what did our lord want us to do with this day? Old testament law was not abandoned in the new testament but fulfilled, properly fulfilled. Take Jesus pronouncement that where the OT says do not commit adultery, anyone who looks lustfully wishfully at another woman has done so.

The  law is about the betterment of society, Jesus is concerned about whats going on in our heart. So it is with the Sabbath, as we move from the legalistic rite of Sabbath bound up in laws and a burden to all, so as we as modern day Christians work out what to do with old testament ideas of sabbath we must overlay the idea’s that Jesus came to fulfil that law, to bring it to its proper purpose.   This is in part what the Jews listening to Jesus saying in matthew

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”.

would have heard, their yoke was twofold, the burden of an occupied society, but also burdened by a legalistic faith that used the Old Testament law as a tool to keep their culture intact but also to make a straitjacket that all had to be bound by.

So Jesus yoke is easy, and his burden is light. But there is a yoke and a burden, he wants us to follow the law by having a day of rest, but the yoke is he wants us to spend that time concentrating on him, pondering him. Closer to the lords day of the early Christians.

 As the old testament scholar mark scarlata said “Sabbath is God’s way of drawing us into a place of rest where we might begin to tap into the divine imagination and wisdom that brought the entire universe into being.”  Being still and knowing he is God as it says in the psalm, only by being still and turning ourselves to him can we access the true meaning of Sabbath.  I recently gave another sermon about Jesus being the bread of life, and someone asked him how they can access that bread.  Jesus response was  “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”.

By taking ourselves away from the pursuit of the bread that spoils, in our ever more commercialised world we can stop and meet the bread that never spoils in our lord Jesus Christ.  By being in his world for a day or so, we are driven by what Boenhoffer called costly grace, the grace that costs something in our lives and drives us to sacrifice ourselves for others , that drives us as Isaiah said “‘learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow’” or whatever our society needs us for, by letting him into our lives we become his body on earth, make a rebellious statement about what we think is of real importance by turning of and tuning into him. We make a statement that we believe life is more than the frenetic gathering of wealth.

This ethic takes us right back to the time of god and his  overthrowing the Pharaoh and exile.


Each time God sent a plague Moses demanded god free his people  Pharaoh had   his people making more  bricks and with every twist he removed the means to make bricks but increased the demand, he wanted Israelites firmly focussed on mammon,

Whereas as soon as God got them, he asked them to stop on the seventh day, eat the bread they had already collected, but focus on him. Focus on him and leave mammon behind

This is what our Sabbath should be, its why I was happy to work on my studies on Sundays as I trained to become an LLM, because that wasn’t about mammon it was about God, its why we should gather here each Sunday and focus on him.  Because ultimately this is fulfilling the law of the sabbath, not meeting it legalistically but truly in our hearts.  Making time, real time each week to focus on him,  our Sabbath.

Which by the way in our busy lives doesn’t have to be on a Sunday because it has moved around,  in the past both through our Jewish heritage and as a means of setting our faith apart from Judaism  and sometimes it has too, wherever it settled it was always encouraged. Because wherever it is ,  the idea is we must set aside time to be with our lord each week. Proper time that we regard as sacrosanct, not of mammon and to state openly to the world this time is his.

What a statement, my life is yours, I think your more important than everything else I might be doing. That’s rest and witness all at once!

So to sort of cover off what is this sabbath and what isn’t it…

Well some of that is informed by the fact

God doesn’t need a Sabbath, but he knows we do, that’s why he models and commands it for us

Also Jesus railed against a legalistic sabbath and

It’s easy to be legalistic about observing the Sabbath, but that doesn’t get to the heart

It’s easy to be blasé about the Sabbath, but then we miss the rest we need that helps us refocus on God

Properly observed, Sabbath is a light yoke and an easy burden


Because ours is the lord of the Sabbath, and we should give our Sabbath time to him.


Because that’s what he wants,  that’s sabbath our time focussed on him and being his body here on earth, acting for him, in ways that please him, and bring his wholeness to the world.

When we reflect on sabbath that is  what we should reflect on both on defining it, and doing it.


Our Lord Jesus Christ 

Because it’s his

Amen

Sermon on the growing seed and mustard seed

June 13th: Second Sunday after Trinity

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

Psalm response ‘We will call upon the name of the Lord our God

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17

Mark 4: 26-34

Note to reader – St Marys runwell is a very lovely saxon church with a very large copper beech tree outside its door. The day I gave this was HOT and as everyone files out I knew we would all be under the shade of the tree. We would be surrounded by the many gravestones that sit under it.
They are quite formal in service, and the church has many people who have come for most of their lives. 

Has anyone at St Mary’s ever heard of Radulphus?

The earliest rector ever recorded here at St Mary’s was Radulphus in 1181. I wonder what sermons he preached and how many times he said something that resonated with someone listening, sat not more than a few feet from where you are today.  We sit here today part of that story, and I wonder what lives they all had. I wonder what lives all the parishioners had since then. What petitions did they bring before God, what were they? What I wonder have all the people sat where you are today asked for, as they bowed their heads in prayer?  

I wonder did God give them what they wanted, or in what way did he help them see what’s happening? If at all, quite often, we are clueless to see what the heck is happening, especially in the midst of everything. 

How many of us look back on our lives and see where God has known better than us, or how many times have we prayed and seen the velocity of our lives change course long after a prayer. Sometimes we wonder why our plans have gone awry and plead with God to put them back!  Sometimes when we look back, we see that if X or Y had not happened, our lives would have missed some real purpose that God had in store. 

How many seeds has God sown, all unknown in all the lives that have been sat where we are today, and really we cant see them or they are held in the dark until they are fully grown?  

That’s what our first parable is about today, things that God sows in our lives in our world that we don’t see until he is ready to show us or that we may never see.

This parable is about the things that God does in the dark or at the same speed that mustard seeds grow into trees. Things that grow so slowly or things over a tree’s life span, which means we may never see them bear fruit because it won’t happen in the lifespan we have?

A Sermon by a famous French theologian in 1866 contained the words,
Blessed are old people who plant trees knowing that they shall never sit in the shade of their foliage. Maybe that’s got some wisdom for today.  In all the lives that have sat where we are today how many planted seed’s that grew into tree’s real or metaphorical that we sit in the shade of? 

How many of them did things guided by God, in the dark just like a seed grows in the dark, that affect our lives today?  

We don’t know how mustard seeds are created inside a pod but we know they need so many things to flourish, and planted, and watered, and tended for. 

Only God knows how, and why, and what for and that’s the story of our first parable today. The things that God plants that we don’t know or notice until the tree has grown bore fruit.  All those stories precious to God, working to contribute to his purpose, add their bit to his story.

He also reaps what he sow’s, and we await the day he harvests and brings us all home to rise again with him.  That idea brings us on to  the next parable of our pair. We live in that space of now not yet in our lives. Jesus planted the seed, the seed that grows into a large tree that birds sit in the branch of, that gives life to our planet, that we sit in the shade of.   That seed that has a secret life as the roots burrow down in the soil and live in harmony with our planet. So as with all Jesus stories, there is a mystery here. We, as Christians, live with mystery. I think mystery is a significant part of both our stories today. The seed’s planted in our lives and the countless lives before or after that we don’t see until God’s ready to show us, or maybe we just don’t see in this life but maybe in the next.  We await our turn in God’s harvest, knowing that when he brings us to him, we will never die nor need harvesting again. Maybe then we will see more of the things he created, and tended and sowed and harvested. 

Planted through love, and love always has a choice. God won’t force us to listen to him.  Love never forces anything on anyone but tries to pull and cajole and caress its beloved into a place of safety and wholeness. Love is willing to die for its beloved, as our lord died for us, planting the seed that allows us to come to glory. God’s harvest is us with him forever made into everything he wanted us to be. One day we are promised to see that come to fruition, we believe we will rise in glory to share that glorious harvest.


When you leave today have a look at the tree outside. I am reliably informed it’s a copper beech tree. 


Maybe wonder, who put the little sapling down, and tended it until it was the magnificent things we see today. They maybe imagined what they might look like fully grown, but we get to see the glory of them.

That’s what our parables are about today. Knowing who planted the seed, and tends it sometimes without us knowing who tended them, who created the seed, who will harvest the seed and the promise of seeing the story come to its magnificence crescendo of eternity with him.  You, me, all of us, including  radulphus and all who believed with him 😊

I wonder if part of the thread that really joins us to radulphus,

a bishop long ago once said If I get to heaven I think I will be surprised by three things, one that I am there, two people I expected to see but don’t, and people I didn’t expect to see 😊

That loops us to part of our purpose here, is to sit here and wonder what do we have to do, to be, to say, to act like to know in our hearts, to have faith in, so that we become the seed that God scatters on the ground

that when the harvest comes

One day we will all rise in glory.

Amen 

When you ask Why Me?

Sermon on John 17:6-19 Jesus Prays for His Disciples


I imagine many of us have wondered in this last year what it means to be Jesus’ disciple in these torrid times. We may have asked “Why Me”? Why has this misfortune befallen me? Many of us myself included have had survivors’ guilt, why have I been untouched by all this and so many been so severely affected? “Why me” gets asked all the time, it is the subject of many of the psalms.

Its perfectly natural to ask why was i missed in all the carnage, or of course why when I was a disciple of Christ, when I am such a faithful servant was, I included in mess of the world?

We can never truly know, why us. Why has this happened to me, or for those with guilt why have I been spared?
But there are some things that we can take from this prayer of Jesus for his disciples.
Because this is what this is today, one of the longest prayers of Jesus recorded in all the gospels. Most are short snippets, but this is Jesus pouring his heart out to God.

Slightly oddly in easter season we have in this story switched back to just before he was arrested. But the reason this prayer works in and the last week of easter and Ascensiontide is because its Jesus prayer for his disciples is while he is here but for after he is gone.

What does he say in this prayer? What are Jesus wishes for his disciples. Well first off this is him praying specifically for his disciples, that being us, he is praying for US just before he leaves us, and rises.
We have to bear in mind and please note like a lot of Jesus sayings we have to always remember, and put them in a wider context as well, he came for the entire world; he loves every single person in it, but today in scripture just as he’s about to leave us, he prays for us. His disciples.
There’s a lot in this prayer for his disciples, as you would expect when Jesus prays for us. Which is why I may paraphrase slightly but let’s go on the journey. See if it helps put us on some sort of track to hint at some of the questions we asked right at the start, why have bad things happened to us or why not?
Whats the first things he says for his disciples in his prayer to God.


I have made your name known from those you gave me from the world. So, we know our status we have been given to Jesus by God. But he shares ownership, all mine are yours and all yours are mine.
Truly like a marriage, whats mine is yours and whats yours is mine.

Then he asks that we are protected, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name,” so he doesn’t want us to come to any harm. So that is the first thing to remember if bad things happen, is that Jesus doesn’t want any harm to come to us. One of his last prayers is that no harm comes to us. While he was on earth, he protected them all, and only lost the one he was destined to lose.

Then he said he gave us his word, put his words in our hearts and the world did not like that because we are no longer of this world. “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world”

Then he asks us to be sanctified. And sanctified means set apart. But not in a haughty way, not in a grandiose way, or even like a hermit, but sanctified by the truth, set apart knowing the truth that Jesus is the way the truth and the light.

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth.

Then he says he wants us set out into it.
As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world

So we belong to him and we are not of the world, but he does not want us taken out of it, he wants us sent into it to be truly part of it, but not of it, like him.

In it, but knowing something that sets us apart, that Jesus Christ is lord. Set apart, chosen, in it , part of it, but not of it, because we know that he is the creator of everything, loves every single one of us, and he wants us to share that, help others hear his call. Sanctified, which means set apart to the truth. But we are not taken out of the world, we are sent into it.

So what does all this mean?

So albeit he loves us, and doesn’t want harm to come to us, we are to be sent in to this mad broken , old world and we are broken and we suffer from its brokenness like all the rest of those in it.

Also, that’s something else we can take from this prayer, the disciples weren’t and aren’t saints in the way we often think about saints, they got it wrong lots of times, didn’t really get what jesus was doing up until Emmaus and just after, they ran away from him, argued among themselves, slept when he asked them to be awake. So just as broken as the world they were sent into. However, they sort of stumbled along kind of following him albeit they really don’t know where he’s going or why, got scared, got hungry, got angry, deceitful boastful, ran away and came back . But the next day he was there and so were they whatever came their way.

That is actually sainthood. Keeping with it despite life’s often outrageous misfortune and our fickle nature.
This ,is jesus true love, on display despite all that messed upness, and with almost his last words, and one of his longest recorded prayers here he is praying for us. That’s love isn’t it? When almost your last words are for us, his broken, worrying, scared, disciples, worrying about us, asking for us to be looked after?

Like we are with our children, they may not be perfect, but we love them and we pray for them, and we are always there for them.

Because he knows us doesn’t, he? We get scared, angry, forlorn, bereft, etc e but in the morning he’s here and so are we. In but not part of the world, just as broken as the rest of it, just as loved as all of it, set apart by the knowledge of the only way it works.

SO, us disciples are not excluded from the world’s madness and sadness, but we wobble along with a truth that lights the way to a better way, and a better life.

So to come back to the point of this sermon, when we ask why me? I dont have that answer, apart from to say we were not meant to be excluded from the world, quite the opposite.

We are chosen and despatched into it. He knows we are going to mess up, know we wont always stay with him, we will have doubts and fears and anger, and despair, but in the morning he’s here and so are we.

Why? Why are we?

Because we know he really loves us and doesn’t want us to come to harm, and we know something really really important.

We have been set apart by knowing him and knowing this is just part of a journey to wholeness, a journey whose direction is only shown in our lord Jesus Christ. As we get bumped and battered by this world, as the random madness of it hits or misses, we are called back, by his love , knowing he doesn’t want us to be hurt because he loves us, and we are to try to help others and get others to tag along on that journey.

That is why he sent himself into it, its why sent us into it,
Me and you.

Amen

Where has God been in the last year?

Sermon on John 12 20-33.

Before I start, I would like you all to do one thing for me write down in percentage terms how much God has been a support for you in lockdown? How present has he been? As I am speaking please just put a number , zero being not at all, and 100 a total all-pervading presence. It’s a rough tool but have a go?

NOTE if you are reading this – Press stop and write a number down?
Don’t go ahead till you have answered this question!
!

Just type the number in the comments section please, as I speak? We will come back to this at the end.

The Greeks had come to see Jesus, the gentiles, that is us,
These were strange people knocking at the door, they had check before letting them near him.
Gentiles asking to see a Jewish rabbi was a bit weird, but being as the disciples had probably seen lots of weird, they checked, before possible sending them on their way.

Before we stir up any more problems best check.

So the Greeks asked Philip, Philip told Andrew, who told Philip who, told Jesus. The thing here of course is this was happening just as his own people rejected him, and the pharisees were trying to catch him out , here are strangers, from outside his people, outside his faith asking to see him. Big news if you ask me? His message is getting out!
When asked , can they come in, Jesus does as he often does and rather infuriatingly for those of us who want a nice easy to understand text so that can write a sermon, Jesus gives one of his sideways answers and starts speaking about seeds. Not how lovely let them come in , or what? Not today thank you, his answer is about seeds.

The disciples are probably as confused as ever because after they had plucked up the courage to ask whether the gentiles can say hi and then to hear their messiah say he is going to be glorified and then talk about seeds dying. They probably wouldn’t have seen it as him speaking about himself because of course messiahs don’t die?

Whatever this message means it does sound disturbing. But he tells them he is troubled, so they are probably right to worry despite not really getting it. We do not find out if the Greeks ever got in to see him.

In our gospel reading today, writing much after the event, our apostle John gets it because he’s writing his gospel many years later and he explains to the reader that Jesus did this to speak about , the kind of death he was going to die. So, we are all the readers since then are also in on it, and its with that context we are going to have a look at what Jesus means with all that stuff about seeds…

So what did Jesus mean about seeds and whats this got to do with having Greeks at his door?
What metaphor is Jesus illuminating?
Anyone who wants a crop this year is either awfully close to planting or has put their seeds into pots and is probably waiting for some green shoots (I’m probably late again, I wish Fred was here as he would know). Our fields around us in Wickford have been tilled and are ready for the farmer to sow his crop. As average a gardener I am I know when you plant a seed, you bury it in the soil, and wait. The potato we plant shrivels and dies and becomes many potatoes, the tomato seed disappears as soon as the first root pops out and then the plant takes on a new life.

In or story today Jesus was troubled by what was to come but he knew he had to be buried, lost from sight to make new fruit, he was the seed that had to disappear to make new fruit. He had to head through lent, to the period of darkness that is Good Friday to make easter happen.

Why did he have to do this? I think that’s why the Greeks at his door sparked off this train of thought. Because he knew he was here to make disciples of billions of gentiles rather than just the few that had come to see him. To make that happen and open the gates of eternity he had to die. I think the Greeks at the door may have been seen by Jesus in the same way I noticed the tiniest shoot in my greenhouse this week. A tiny shoot, but not enough, nowhere near what he had come to do.

To make more

He had to disappear to reappear, he was the seed that had to die to make new fruit.

But what do we make of this? What lesson is there for us in this story? How do we relate to this story?

I think many of us may understand what it’s like to be buried this year, our homes have become very small boxes. We have tried to find as many legally inventive ways to be free from. We have been entombed like the potato or tomato seed. We have tried to be faithful servants, and many of us have tried new ways to worship him, via zoom or YouTube. How many of us used zoom for the first time as a result of all this nonsense? But we are all his servants and we remained faithful.

Here in this act of death and renewal , is a message of hope for all of us who have had bad times in this last year. For all of us who have felt this was like a time of being buried, of darkness, maybe we can see the green shoots of spring. Our church has seen itself in new ways, worshipped and carried on and been Christians in so many new ways. Its forced us to revaluate the importance of this building, as much as we missed it we have learnt that we can carry on regardless. We can’t unknow that we are more than bricks and mortar. Also, we have found new ways to reach out, and be church, and we have had much time to reflect on those things that we have missed. I bet very few of them are grand things. A cuddle from a loved one, dinner at a nice restaurant, being able to move around and breathe fresh air.

What long term change this year will bring about ,but online church is here to stay, maybe online bible studies and lent courses. Who knows? So, what will we do differently in our communities once we can reach out again? Asking ourselves what can we do with these new tools we have made will be important things maybe on our next parish day or reflection day at pleshey?

Also when I listen to peoples stories from lockdown its amazing how much of a presence and a steadfast pillar of strength God has been for all of us. How much part of this year he has been.
We can’t unknow that, where to turn when the world goes mad.

So, turning back to Jesus metaphor of the seed,

When we put that seed below the soil, think how pleased are we when it pops up again as a new shoot. Both at prospect of lots of lovely tomatoes but also as a sign of spring.

The end of the burial of the seed and a season of plenty is round the corner, as we approach good Friday the thing is we know Jesus knew it was the only way to easter Sunday. He was of course referring to himself knowing his death would bring billions of gentiles to his door for all eternity and he was going to his death for each and every one of them and us. He knew when he burst forth the world would see signs of spring, for the whole of humanity.

But I also think there’s a message for us who have been buried away for a year now. Hopefully when we can all be together again soon and we will meet with the vigour and joy of what was seen as mundane being wonderful, we can share that sign of spring with others. Maybe just maybe spring is round the corner in this life, as we know it is in the next.

So as we endure the last days of lockdown, maybe we can console ourselves that albeit we have been locked away, locked down, hidden away. When we come back and speak up people will have questions. Maybe the only way we could make new fruit is to be buried, and we have been buried, but who knows whats round the corner.

He knew that the Greeks coming to see him were just the beginning, that was why he answered as he did. He knew he was the seed that would bring forth all the fruit in the world, he was the living water to bring that fruit from the darkness of the soil and set it free and into the light.

I think that might be a lesson for us and a cause for optimism. That all the things we have learned in this period will hold us up and embolden us when we step back into a more open life.
When we emerge from darkness maybe we can bring much light into the world, we can share knowing how much we relied on him, how little he relied on this building and how much of the church was in us

What is your score please comment? Have look at some of the comments I hope have gone up? Some of those scores

Those scores should give us that confidence so that we can tell of our experiences with God and have new tales to tell our community about what being a follower of Jesus is like. When our community says where was God in this we can answer from confidence, from experience he was with me every step of the way. We know from our stripped back lives how important he is to life, we can say that with total confidence because think just for a second how much have you relied on him this year. Hopefully borne out by the numbers going up? We know that much more now than we may have done before, just how much he is with us in hard times
Jesus has been with us in our darkness, he will be with us in the light. He was with us in our solitude, he was with us in our community. We can be the seed that was buried, the seed that fell to the ground but grew into new fruit. We can witness to others how much he has been with us, when people ask where’s he been, think of the number you put up, and know that. Tell others about that number, tell them hes been with us all.

So now as we stand at the gateway the threshold of the literal and metaphorical spring we can take these new tools, these new ways of doing things and move forward. Remembering we are Christs body here on earth, we are the ones he expected to him bear new fruit and he is with us. When he said he knew that the only way was to fall into dust to rise up that includes us.

That’s the lesson here today , that with that knowledge of how present he has been we can help show the world that Jesus is the only way into the light forever so that Jesus that was the seed that died , will through rising again and his body here on earth , make new fruit forever.

Amen

Dont give anything UP for lent – Jesus wants your time.

.

  • Chocolate
  • Social Networking
  • Alcohol
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • School
  • Meat
  • Sweets
  • Coffee
  • Fizzy drinks


Other things include gossip, deserts and sweets, snacking, and binge watching Netflix

That’s quite a list, thankfully being as I have never succeeded the whole 40 days of any of them
I’m not sure any of those get to what our stories today or lent is all about.


In our story today, Jesus is baptized twice, once by John and then Baptized by God and the spirit. He is led away into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. This is where our self-denial comes from in Lent, replicating jesus suffering in the desert.  I think, however,  if we aren’t careful we can reduce lent to the denial of chocolate, or a swear box, or beer, (all of which I have done badly at various lents) .

Other places where 40 days is mentioned is where God actually feeds Elijah to make him strong for the journey, so if we used that 40 days we would all be stuffing ourselves with Cake (which is what the angel made Elijah to eat).  The other more common 40 days is from Moses 40 days and 40 nights on mount Sinai, where God gave him the ten commandments and made the third covenant. 

a covenant is defined as something that changes an existing relationship.   We formalize our relationship with Christ in the sacrament of Baptism.

Maybe that’s the bit of the story that we should be focussing on, the baptism, the covenant,the change in relationship

I think that is what lent is about, not a state of denial, a marathon of restrictions, it’s about seeking the renewal change of relationship  a renewal of the covenant of baptism.

That’s whats more happening here, because of course Jesus changes our relationship with God, whatever atonement theory you adhere too, the end result is that we are closer to God as a result of God coming to earth and taking on all our sins.


The 40-day journey we are on in lent is towards Jesus resurrection where he changed the relationship between us and God.     As peter puts it Jesus enables us to “21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “  As a result of Jesus death and resurrection we can repent (which simply means change direction) come before God with a clean conscience.  Knowing we are forgiven.

That’s what we are journeying too, it’s that journey we are on in Lent.  That’s what Jesus is asking us to do , change direction as a result of the changed relationship we have with God,

Our lent course this year is working with the psalms and so its very apposite that our psalm today tells us so well how to pursue this renewal of this changed relationship.  I would really ask that you all read psalm 25 as we begin Lent because it’s a handbook of how to do lent.  It’s a list of things to Ponder, it’s the perfect list of things to ask  for as we stand on the first day of Lent.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.


 if we asked that every day of lent we would be closer to what lent is all about

 and if the things that our lord teaches you causes you to ask  how we hould react to those teachings then our psalm helps us

If you want to think about how we should react to this new covenant, then our psalm helps us to know who to ask and be assured of the right answer. How to come before the Lord when we ask

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

And

For your name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who are they that fear the Lord?
    He will teach them the way that they should choose.

So our Psalm today helps us on the journey with the right questions, the right place to start, the correct demeanour and what to expect as a result.  That we will be taught the way we should choose.  That’s the essence of Lent, that’s what this is all about, to take our eyes off all the madness going on and put our eyes on him and ask him whatever we need to know to better react to the covenant he made, the changed  relationship with God. To ask , whats next, what should I do now you have done this Lord?

Our relationship with God has changed in so many fundamental ways as a result of Gods deliberate and decisive action, we have to reflect on what that means, that’s what Lents about. As we work through the journey towards his passion and do services to mark the big events, ask the questions we are given in today’s psalm.

But do so knowing you do so Free of the corrosive impact of shame, free of the burden of Sin, free of the chains of mortality, free to come before God, Free to love, and given love freely.

The aim of my Sermon today was to spend a few minutes  thinking about what lents about and then find out how we might do lent and maybe encourage you to do so.

 However remembering at all times the most powerful thing you can do is to pray. Our weakest prayer comes before the greatest force of all time, so maybe that’s how we should start lent.

so Let us pray

Loving God
Awaken in us a yearning to know you better
A  yearning to grow in faith
And a longing to serve you more faithfully
show us our need and the way that you alone can meet it.
Through Jesus Christ our lord
Amen

Anna and Simeon – Sermon for Candlemass

How did you meet Jesus?
Have a think about that for a mo?
For some its gradual thing, a growing awareness over time, for some he has literally been with them their entire life, for others it is a moment you can remember. For others he is introduced through friends. For me it was clutching my little red Gideons bible while very lonely in a little flat in the wilds of Dorset and asking for his help. Feeling love rush in that room, and then reading sermon on the mount. Knowing I had been shown how to live, and who to live with, I never felt alone again.

if you were here with me today, I would ask you to tell your story. How did it happen for you?
When did you meet him and When did you know Jesus is lord?

maybe if you are on Facebook share it there?

Because theirs power in that story…

Our witness of how we met Jesus, explaining that story is often our most powerful tool for evangelism, it is something we all have, that story. However, it happens it is our truth and people know truth when its spoken.

But somehow, we all met him, know his goodness, the spirit informed us of everything he is. Whether instantly or over time we reacted instinctively to the presence of him.
For Jews at that time, if they wanted to meet God they went to the temple, and he was God only for a chosen people under the law of Abraham. By being circumcised Jesus came under that law as well. Jewish custom said that the first boy child was given to God. Mary and Joseph followed this rite and did so as poor people as shown by their sacrifice.

This makes what Simeon says so radical, He said the temple, this singular place to meet God is about to be opened to the whole world by this child. Also, this God is no longer just for his chosen People but for everyone.

Interestingly our reading said he was moved by the spirit to go that day and say the thing he said.

so that is my other question?

How does the spirit move you? How do you discern what God wants in your life? Whats the feeling you get?

For me the spirit often feels like a sort of nagging feeling, one I cannot ignore. Until I take action, I cannot rest. Sounds like Simeon was like that, moved to get up and dressed and go to the temple. Then when he got there and met this baby, he was moved to Say something that would have been very shocking to all that heard, our God is now everyone’s God. This baby is going to do that.

, he. Knew the prophecy of Malachi some four hundred years before had come true, he had indeed come suddenly to the temple.

“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts”.

He knew something as well radical for his people, this promise was to be fulfilled in a massively unexpected way, as he said when he saw Jesus

For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

This was a God for more than just the Jews, this one is for everyone, all humanity, a light for everyone. As he stood in the temple for the God of the Jews, he knew that God had opened himself to the world in the vulnerable shape of a baby born to a poor family. This is the child that will grow and tear a hole in the curtain of the temple. No longer do you have to go to the Temple to meet him, he is now abroad by the spirit. The same one that activated him to move, the same one that revealed who Jesus is to Simeon, the same one that showed who he is to all of us.

That in different ways activates us to pray, to be his disciples, to do his will. Its easy to say “Oh yes but he saw him” he saw a baby, and a poor family. But the knowledge of what he is, comes to us in an identical way. The recognition of who Jesus is, is the same for us, identical.
That is what connects todays story to ours today, we have all ,met him in exactly the same way as simeon,

Interestingly he also recognised the implication of knowing who Jesus is. As soon as he meets him death loses its sting because he knew this child is the way to salvation. He utters the words of the nunc dimitus which is latin for “now dismiss me”. “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace” This man knew faith in this child saves you, knew he had been saved and was now unafraid of death.

Anna had a different morning, she ordinarily went to the temple every single day, was probably supported by charitable donations from the temple. When our story calls her an old lady of eighty-four it was not joking. The , the average life expectancy at that time was twenty-nine.
By going backwards from her age to the history of the Jews. We know this lady had seen tragedy in her life on many levels. At the family level, she had only been married seven years and then she had been a widow for the other sixty or more years.
She had seen tragedy at her tribal level. She was of the tribe of Asher which was one of the ten lost tribes taken to Assyria as slaves. Her ancestors had been among the few survivors of that tribe which had been just about obliterated. She had seen true Genocide. Anna had escaped and kept the family tree.

She had seen tragedy at the national level. She had lived in Jerusalem and for the eighty-four years before Jesus’ birth there had been one civil war after another. Jerusalem changed hands from one group of rulers to another – from the Hasmonean kings of Syria to the Roman emperors to the hated Herodians.

So she had led an exceptionally long and tragedy strewn life, and but was at the temple in one of her many days at the temple spent praying and worshipping God. However as soon as she saw the child she knew as well; in the same way we do. Remarkably In among her long and in many ways tragic life she still gave thanks to God. At the heart of our faith is hope, and that hope is brought about by this child. She is speaking of the hope she has found in this child.

After the shepherds and the wise men, Anna and Simeon are the only the third group to know who this child is. The shepherds had the angel, the wise men had the star, I think the holy spirit had a hand there. But these two, knew in the very same way we know.

We here today, and as you listen online have in our own ways had the very same experience. This is NOT a miracle isolated to the Bible, this one happens to every single Christian in the 2.4 billion in the world today, and everyone that ever was and ever will be. What we know is what we are part of love into eternity from the day moment we know him.

Eternity enters into our knowing and we know we are called to it, like that sense of action that drew simeon to the temple, draws us to pray, and worship and act in a way befitting his disciples. And we are called, to eternity in the very same way, we know we are destined and called beyond our horizons, beyond whatever we can imagine.

You, me, Anna, Simeon, and every Christian ever, called and knows him. Anna of course shows us our duty today, and then. “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” She gave thanks she had met him and told all who were looking for redemption.

We know there is a lot of tragedy in the world at the moment, a lot of pain, and heartache. People made motherless, fatherless, without a husband or a wife. Our death toll of 100’000
is comparable to what Anna saw in her lifetime, but she knew the correct response to meeting this God is gratitude for the hope that extends for eternity. She also knew what comes after the revelation and the gratitude. To go find others who don’t know him. Who have that nagging feeling of Simeon but do not know why.

in anna and simeons day, everyone went to the temple, religious rites were a way of life? Now not so much but the task doesn’t change it is as she did “ to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

There are just as many who are looking for redemption today, but they do not know where to turn

Our job like Anna’s is to show them who he is. Shepherds, Wise men, and worshippers at the temple are the first who he chose to announce him. Outcasts, Highborn and those who have some sort of relationship with God, who seek him in his temple. Like us. The shepherds and the worshipers all reacted in the same way and told others. I like to think the wise men did when they got home.

But overall, the aim of my talk today was to show that albeit a miracle we see in this story , its an everyday miracle it’s not rare. Albeit a wonderful thing, it is something we have all had happen to us, and all the other billions and billions of Christians ever.

The story today is enacted in every Christian ever, we know he will come suddenly and when we least expect him, the first time we meet him and the second time . Simeon knew the baby had opened God up to the entire human race and Anna knew her next task was to tell them.

Now we know that about him its our job to tell others too.

The sign of the Manger

When I give directions, I often point out landmarks, when people come to my house, I tell them 10th house down with a Blue Audi outside. When you get down my road, count roughly to ten and look out for a Blue Audi. There’s enough information in that direction to think this is about ten houses and the chances of there being another Blue Audi are slim, especially in the next 3-4- houses and the fact it was given to you as a signpost makes it very likely you have found my house…
The Audi signifies that this is my house.

That was the thing about the manger. A roughly carved stone drinking trough with a Baby inside was unusual enough that when the Angels said they would find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in and there he was, they must have been sure this was the child Angel Gabriel had said to go see.
The other thing about the oddness of it, is that it sorts of proves they hadn’t lost their marbles, or the cold had not given them a funny turn, and an Angel really had directed them this way.

Even more importantly if we have seen an angel and he was right about this strange location for a Baby, and they had found them to prove they hadn’t imagined it. The angels were right about one other thing, and this was the messiah. What with the census going on it might be expected a few mothers and children might run away? But the manger was a signpost, this particular baby, in this location, in a rough drinking trough.

The manger was a sign.
This sign of the manger was given to Shepherds. Shepherds at this time were considered as very lowly people in society. They could not give testimony or be a witness, as they were not considered reliable. In a rigid honour based society, they were among the lowest..
So not only was the sign of the manger one of poverty, but it was given to the poorest and those regarded as the most unreliable.
These low born people were also his first heralds. They were the first ones to go and explain what had happened.

God’s and Messiah’s do not in our worlds view enter into the world like that. Our royalty leaves the king Edward hospital in the west end with the worlds press and world leaders as heralds and the woman looks very smart has her coiffured hair styled perfectly with. Dad in a very expensive suit, both smiling, holding the perfect baby as the cameras flash, and enter into a life of conspicuous privilege to lead a life detached from the day-to-day reality of all of us.
This view of royalty is one of detached, entitled perfection. It’s given to us as an aspirational thing. However, as Christians we recognise it is the precise polar and exact opposite of Jesus. But with that in mind we have to come to terms with the fact this place, this location, this poverty, displacement, and helplessness was a deliberate choice of God .God made that choice.

So we have to ask? this way God?
Why hasn’t Jesus been zapped out of the sky, been heralded by trumpets, prime ministers and princes, had roses thrown at his feet. Why hasn’t he turned up on a Gold chariot, with hangers on, mothers hair coiffured with Joseph in a Saville row suit in front of the worlds eager press .
Why has he not been led into glorious wealth, and led a detached life, while issuing ethical advice from said detachment about how we should all live? Why has god decided this way?

This is not an accident, God is complete, in every facet, in every part of his nature and being, he lacks nothing and is in everything. Omnipresent across space and time, knowing everything. However, not content with reducing himself from a thing with no boundaries in time or space, to an object, a creature with form and shape and limitations “the word” the ultimate, the alpha and omega etc. he joins us as a homeless baby

This is a god that instead of standing back and pointing the finger at everything bad. Joins us in it, born into poverty, on the run, placed in a drinking trough , literally in the mess made by animals, scared, met by and announced by societies outcasts. Totally reliant on parents, who themselves are exposed to danger, a refugee, essentially homeless,
That reason for that choice is the same reason I am a Christian, the reason for all the faiths for me this marks out our faith as unique.
Why Lord why? What should we make of this choice?
Because the only God I could ever worship, is one who met me at my lowest, who knows me at my worst, joins me in my suffering, loves me enough to die for, one who isn’t big ,scary and detached. But a baby who you could pick up and smile at, and who needs the care of a scared mother to survive. Who chose angels , a mum and the lowest of the low to announce him?

That’s the perspective the manger gives us, Christianity does not start with “Jesus saves you from your sins.” It starts with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This means we cannot reduce Christianity to a method of being saved. It is a way of viewing reality and the narrative of scripture should influence our view of reality, how it was made, what are we, where we fit, what are we to God, what are others, etc. This view of reality in today’s shows us a lot about our lord, who he is ,who he chooses, where he is.

I don’t think he ever left the manger really; I personally feel closest to him among the homeless in southend. We often feel him most strongly when we are lost or alone, or scared or vulnerable. This is because this God knows what that is like to be vulnerable, and reaches out. This is where he is today in our story a helpless babe among the helpless, hapless and unreliable

The other person of course who shared this story is his mother. This is a mother’s story. Scholars think by the way that it was Mary that gave Luke this story. Unusually Mary’s name comes before Josephs in the text, and the fact that her reflection is mentioned in this is Luke making it as clear as he could where he got this story from . This is a mother recalling a night no mother would forget a detail about. “ But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”. The other thing that indicates this is Luke making it clear she did these things.

This is a God for 2020 isnt it? When our lives meet the real mess of life. A mother remembering giving birth in a smelly place with animals, and placing your child in the animals trough, on the run, sore, scared, worried, with a fresh burden of a new mouth to feed.

Mary’s prince is probably clearing the dung in the stable, emptying the trough, staying with her despite his young wife having given birth in a very odd way and not really understanding whats happening. His vulnerability is a sign to us , same way the manger is a sign to us, that where we should be, not pointing a finger but with others, helping saving making whole, clearing up the dung. So when we and so many are at our lowest point, I have no doubt that’s where he is, right there with us. Not pointing a finger, but with us, helping ,saving, making whole, loving us.
That’s where our lord put himself. Not by accident, not by mistake, but because that’s where he chose to be. He hasn’t locked himself up on a private island to rule us from the internet. He’s in our pain, in our loss, emptying his completeness into our loss. The angels made sure the shepherds knew him by the very fact of his poverty. The manger marked him out. The mother passed on the story, The outcasts announced him.
Also
The shepherds show us we don’t need to be among the worlds elite to announce him, and that’s such a comfort to me personally. This story helps show that those who may feel themselves or may have been made to feel unworthy can be his heralds, and announce who he is. He doesn’t need the worlds press and the paparazzi, he can have a shepherd, an ordinary mum, or a slightly sweary east end boy.

This story is shared by the angels, the shepherds, Mary when she told luke, and me, and hopefully you.
All quite different beings but all given the same job.
Inthis story we are also shown how we must announce him, where we are to begin when we speak about him.
The manger marks our God out as one who’s selfless love meets us at the lowest point imaginable.
When we speak about him, we must begin at the manger, when the shepherds in our story did as was told in out scripture “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” , they were said to be amazed, almost certainly like us, amazed that God had chosen this way to enter the world. With the lost, placed in a drinking trough, with lowly scared parents, heralded by outcasts.
That gives us all hope , and shows us where to begin when we explain him, not from a lofty perch handing out great advice from above but from the perspective of fellowship of those who may not always feel worthy, but are worthy of being Christ’s heralds. We should be where the worlds at its messiest, and meet it with love, and see the world as inhabited by Gods precious creation worth enough to die foe

When we meet the outcast, the lost, the sad, the refugee, the desperate we have to meet them as if they were precious, parts of Gods creation , worthy of being heralds of Christ, because they are . So wherever you reach out to the lost, dispossessed, helpless angry, and bring peace through love that’s being Christ. Meet them at the manger, from the perspective of the manger, this is a God who met the world from the manger, used it as his sign. Share it from the perspective of the Shepherds,as someone who may be unreliable witness to some but chosen by God to share his good news, or the mother remembering her beloveds first day,
Oh and we share a helpless babe, that shows us that when we are at our wits end, when we are lost, clueless, worried, feeling unloved, scared by the future that’s being helpless is Christlike as well.
We have all had our days in 2020 when it all got on top of us, not known the right thing to do. Grappled with seemingly contradictory demands and tried to work out the least worst option. Felt pretty hopeless doing so, 2020 has reduced all of us to the vulnerability of a baby in a manger. Been made feel less than worthy.

Christ shows us its Ok to be vulnerable, to not be able to do everything. To not know whats going on, to just ad-lib our way through strange days. That’s the sign of the way he chose to enter, today he needs his mum, wants simply to be warm, and loved. He is vulnerable, helpless, reliant on selfless love . This is what our lord chose to be like on the day of his birth, reliant on love helped by people who don’t really know whats happening. Not even Christ can sort it out today, not until the time is right.

That’s the sign of the manger as well. Our lord the servant king, who came to love us enough to die , who today needs to be served by Mary and Joseph and has the both the angels and the low born of society as the messengers of his good news .

The only God that fits 2020, and every year
Amen

Sermon Matthew 16:21-end

In certain respects, our weekly readings can be like watching a film in segments, ten minutes here, then minutes there. Like any film if you watched it that way you would either not understand whats going on, or, perhaps get the wrong end of the stick, or it may be because you have seen the film before you know roughly where we are.

I think this week reading requires a long view, see why people have reacted this way. Essentially to get under the skin of todays reading I think we have to work on a little context. 

Imagine it, a chap comes wandering past you while you’re at a steady job fishing, collecting taxes.

He asks you to follow him

You sense something, drop everything, follow him every day for three years.

Eat, Sleep, talk, pray, wander with him as he preaches in town after town.

You learn to love him with all your heart, and all your soul.

You learn that in fact he is the son of God, the Messiah.  

That means different things to different people. The saviour of your people, or the one that is going to bring back the land from brutal oppression.

Messiahs were expected to bring power back to Jerusalem,  deliver political and military victory over the current occupying force.  . You totally believe in this one. Previous claimants had ended up with
with roman justice, roman empire , roman peace celebrated because the Jewish leader had been killed 

Various Prophets all died, having had their say, tried to get the word of God to be listened too.

But this one , this one was different. He performs miracles, feeds 4000 people , heals people, comes out with stuff that makes the world make sense.

He asks you, one of the chaps that’s dropped your steady job, left your family, followed him for three years.

He ask you Who do YOU think I am – you tell him – you’re the Messiah, and you KNOW he knows what that means, what each and every one of you has invested in that word.  You’re going to put it all back, get rid of the romans, put Israel back on top! You’re going to be all that those very dead prophets promised.

He tells you a simple fisherman, the impetuous one, the one that always gets it a little wrong, that you are the rock he is going to build his church around. Hows that going to make you feel, promised that by the Messiah.  That’s trust way beyond anything a fisherman ever expected.

Then he says – don’t tell anyone I am the Messiah.  Which isn’t denying it at the very least, and confirms it in most peoples  way of thinking about that, and you know in your heart that he is, you dropped everything for him, got more than you ever imagined, saw things that will stay with you forever. This is the son of God.

THAT’S where we step into today’s segment of the story, that’s where we restart the DVD, or pressed play on the Netflix movie.

So with this context we move on to todays reading

From that time on he starts telling you he has to go to Jerusalem, the seat of power that hates him, the most dangerous place any of you could go. Then he says and here’s the kicker.

When I get there I am going to suffer and die!

Because your Peter, the rash one , You sort of grab him by the arm and say “God Forbid it lord this must never happen”!!

So many things would elicit that response, Love for the man in front of you, the fact the man you left your home for just calmly said “I am going to suffer and die” 

The man you believe is the messiah, who said your going to be the rock! Is going to die, messiahs don’t do that! They don’t die!

His reaction is a rebuke, Get behind me satan! Then he calls you the stumbling block to him, (the very opposite of a rock your going to build on).

Then he says, the thing that we still struggle to get because we are human.

The only way to follow me is to deny yourself.

(which sort of works, because you denied yourself a LOT to get here)

Then he says the real mad strange thing

The only way to save your life is to lose it.

Save your life is to lose it,

I don’t know about you, I like to win at things. Scrabble, Monopoly, win at work, win arguments with the wife (albeit that never happens).  I like my football team to win , albeit I support west ham and winning happens only slightly more often than I win arguments at home…

On one level Jesus just said, the only way you win is by losing.  In Alice through the looking glass, Alice finds out the only way forward is to step back, the only way up to go, is to go down. This is like that isn’t it? It makes no sense, sometimes even to us who have the fact of the resurrection, who are post Emmaus.

 For The disciples following Jesus logic meant he just stepped through the looking glass.

Actually what Jesus did was explain the actual only way Christianity makes an ounce of sense. Without this idea when you boil it down none of it works. Get this idea and everything fits, miss the point and it whooshes past in a whirl of confusion.  Things contradict, and jar with the world and his message. Get it and everything sort of works, what he said , and what we are supposed to do.

My mission today is to try and work towards that point, that Jesus was making.

Don’t get me wrong  I dont think we can relax after we get this; but what Jesus was talking about today we have to grasp to make the rest make sense.

It’s a bit like when I was a kid and I missed a lot of maths classes through being ill.  You cant do Algebra if you don’t know how to add up, subtract and divide.

There’s still algebra to come here, but the essence of this story, the principle is right at the core of our faith

Jesus is the ultimate example of self-sacrifice. Why;  because he is an immortal, eternal God , complete in every way, needing nothing, that made  himself small enough to be a man through love. Dying and resurrecting opens the way to salvation for us all, and he has to do that for us all.  Gave us victory over sin, defeated death. 

The mysteries and models of atonement are another day’s conversation.

But there’s also the question of what do we, here today do with this story;
And that’s the other thing  also he’s showing us the only way the world works; and that’s where I want to spend the rest of my time.

He knows that when everyone gives everything to everyone,  then nobody wants. If we give everything to each other regardless of whether we like them or not, nobody wants for anything.   The only way to reach that point is when enough people break the chain of taking from each other, and share love from the limitlessness of God.

We as Christians are taught the only way to make it work is to give to each other, the only way that we make his kingdom come is when give to each other because then we receive from each other as well; to give when we don’t want to, to give when we would rather hold on to what we have.

Fortunately, Paul takes Jesus point and explains it long hand for us,  what does this giving achieve. That is exactly what Paul is explaining today, what Jesus was doing times a million and what we have to do to replicate that in our small way.



Marks of the True Christian (Romans 12:9 – end)

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;[b] do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[c] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 
So when Jesus said “get away from me Satan” its because in protecting life, protecting what we have, we take life, protecting Jesus from Giving was being overcome by evil, and he wanted to overcome evil with good.

The limitless giving of our god,  has as Paul explained to be replicated by limitless giving,  giving to each other?

Limitless giving is how our lord saved us, and gave us salvation and

Salvation most academics think is better translated as making whole or healing

Our lord gave everything to make us whole,heal us to be who he wanted us to be

When we give to each other we make each other whole and he wants us to give without limits

That’s the way the world works, do I think we can do that?

I know I can’t, but I have faith my lord will help me try, and that faith gives me access to grace.

Grace overcomes the shortfall, in my efforts  and Ill rely on that.

Jesus knows we can’t, we aren’t able the worlds too broken but he wants us to try. To try and give as much love as we can to each other to try and lift each other up and make the other whole.

So, to conclude
Peter had Grace when he missed the point, and grabbed Jesus arm and said “no that’s not happening” 

We all have grace when we miss the point, that’s why we need grace so much. We as Christians must keep trying, we try because we have been shown how to make it work, how to make each other whole by giving..

Thy Kingdom come is Jesus asking us to do that, make each other whole.

Grace is for the times we miss the point

Father Jo once said to me if I get to heaven I want our lord to say nice try.

I say
Amen to that.

Christ as Sister

The other day I ran a prayer session and referred to Christ as mother, brother , father and sister.

It raised an eyebrow or two

Why did I leave that in?

Because faith is what saves us, through relationship with the risen christ,

Christ was male whilst on earth, because he came down into a society where unless you were male it would have been hard to be listened too.

While we was here

He said that we can call him a friend, He is called a light, a lamb, . the alpha and omega, the narrow gate etc. The saints often called christ names that transcended gender? Julian of Norwich referred to christ our mother? This is because she saw the relationship of the trinity as more than gender specific and wanted to explain aspects of his love.

Indeed when john said “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” – John 1:29. John the baptist was most likely Essene and would have spent his days buried in scripture. As such he knew the Scriptures perfectly well, and knew what he was saying, he would not have called a man the Lamb of God, when in fact, the offering for sin is a female lamb.

He was making a leviritical reference

Leviticus 4:32 If he brings a lamb as his sin offering, he shall bring a female without blemish.

In regards to a prayerful relationship, I think if your male relationships are broken, invested with ideas of the patriarchy, unwholesome etc, loving christ, coming into relationship with him in whatever way opens the door for you? That’s what counts?

He said we are made in our image, plural, more than one gender or type.

If he can be a lamb, he can be a sister, because I don’t he’s a white guy sitting on a cloud?

Maybe all our metaphors lack something? How much of gender do you think is preserved when we die, and rise again, if we join him in heaven?

More importantly for me however

Christ wants us to love him the very best that we can, that’s what really matters? As a subject for prayer, a way of coming closer if your male relationships are broken, come to him as a sister, its the agape love that counts. Because his love includes aspects of love that are mother, brother, sister, father, light, lamb etc. We can love him in all of those ways…

IE what paul said in galatians

Galatians 3:26-28 New International Version (NIV)
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Come to Jesus whatever way you can but come to Jesus because in him there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This kingdom is within us…

Sermon BCP 28-06-20 Luke 17:20-37

When I was a kid growing up in the east end of London when it was probably as rough as it can be today, I found that if you found yourself in a tight spot often a way out of it is to say something that’s a little in context but off the wall.

Make people go “what did he just say”?? and they lose their anger and you can talk to them, and more often than not get yourself out of it. They don’t compute for a second and your off and away 😊

Once I was confronted by a gang that were building up for trouble and I offered them all cigarettes 😊 They were so non plussed,said thank you and they sort of wandered off…

Jesus does just such a thing today

When an angry mob of Pharisee’s are trying to catch him out, saying COME On whats the date, so they can yell “heretic” and cart him off.

His reply was you cant see the kingdom?

The kingdom of god is within you  

its that phrase I want to examine

Within you

The worod used here for within is Entos

The Greek word  Entos is  disputed among translations

Entos  >> our KJV: of God is within you.

GRK: τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστίν
NAS: the kingdom of God is in your midst.
INT: of God in the midst of you is

Entos is used in once more in matthew 23:26 and everyone agrees its “inside”

New International Version
Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Jesus used that word and it must have thrown them, did he mean, within, in our midst, etc.

I think he meant all three

Like the KJV within, connotations for in our midst, in the midst?

Paul tries to use that idea when he uses “Being “in Christ””

To do justice to the full spectrum of Paul’s thought and language, the terms union, participation, identification, incorporation

So when Christ says In the midst of or within he means truly in something even more fundamental than your dna, more fundamental than your atoms.

Fused like milk in your tea, irredeemably part of you.

Some shy away of this translation of Entos as “within” because he’s is speaking to the pharisees and how can he be inside those who hate him, or won’t follow him.


That’s a poor reason because he’s inside all of us sinners that’s for sure. He joined us physically, spiritually, experienced our condition in every way and left us the spirit.  Truly

In our midst, within, inside,

I think that’s where jesus wants all us sinners to look for the kingdom of God, in our midst, and inside, and within.

That’s where we find the kingdom of God

Maybe that adds a little tension to our most common prayer.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done

That’s not a petition not to make something external happen, or maybe not just external.

Thy kingdom come has to happen in all of those ways, inside, within, in our midst and among us.

For me thats the take away from today

With his help, thy kingdom come is up to us.

We are people of hope.

Evening prayer BCP 24-5-20 Ephesians 1:15 End

I think todays reading should give all of us hearing this in lockdown great hope.

Albeit the world has gone a little mad, and nothing seems normal, that which fills everything in every way has risen and has created the hope which we all share.

Albeit we can all become lost in our circumstances, we can all become lost in fear, we all become disoriented Paul has shown all us Christians today our true north, the well spring that nourishes us.

Nothing has really changed, nothing is truly broken, that which was broken has healed and we who believe in him have had the separation healed. We are no longer broken or enslaved, or held ransom but we have been given the greatest gift ever.

I would like to pray Pauls prayer for you today
This is the prayer
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

That’s a wonderful prayer for Christians, that the eyes of our heart be opened, by his spirit, and we know that we are never alone

and no matter where we are, or whats happening to us we know the hope for which we are called, and the inheritance given to those that know the way the truth and the life.

I pray that whatever circumstances you are in as you hear this today. That all think of all the people doing BCP today and praying to have our hearts opened, so that we can see hope, have been given it and know hope.
We are people of hope, Christians are people of hope and with all the people praying Pauls prayer today, I pray that you feel that hope, wherever you are. I hope you do, because hope is whats been prayed for all over the world today 😊
In Jesus name – Amen

Sermon on Colossians 1:15-28 and Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)

To Prepare for this sermon I took a ball of string and passed it through the entire congregation from the back to the choir.

Please sit down

May the words of my mouth

And the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in the sight of he who Protects, saves and redeems

Thank you for having me.

What I want to do today is join two of our readings together Colossians and Luke

To do that I need a piece of string shared out

(start at the back and wind to the front)

Once done ask them to get the notices page and let’s look at today’s readings together.

Imagine that piece of string Is Christ, and as it says in our readings today, he is the beginning and the first born. So although we began our piece of string here in this church it really begins with Adam, the firstborn. And it goes on through creation.  as we say when we  pray as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever

So if you have hold of that string you have hold of eternity

Also like the string which is holding us together it says in scripture in him all things hold together


The other thing about that string is that like all metaphors its not perfect because if that string was really Jesus then it would be IN you!

So that’s what paul means when he says the
Christ that’s IN YOU – Christ in you, the hope of glory

Cos that bit of string starts at Adam and goes on for eternity. Have that string in you and you’re joined to eternity. If I pull this string that’s the pull of eternity.

Also in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. So if that the metaphor that string represents is Jesus, and that string is in you then God is in you, eternity is in you.

Paul uses the term “in Christ” in many ways Union, participation, identification and incorporation.

I think we can see many of those themes in today’s reading.

Also the other imperfection of today’s metaphor is that the string isn’t a living, sentient thing.

Christ of course IS. He is a LIVING LOVING GOD in all things and like that string through him all things bind together. He is the string that makes creation whole.

Also when we feel pain, when we suffer he suffers. People sometimes ask where is God, in suffering?

He’s in that string? He’s in us, he suffers with us because ha cannot suffer, he HAS to suffer with us as he is IN us. He takes that pain, that suffering, that sin and absorbs it into the string that binds us called Christ.

Also, Christ is the cure for loneliness because we THINK we are separate human beings. But I want you to TUG that string a bit.

When you tug it, the person next to you feels it, because the same thing IN you, the Christ IN you is in the next person, so the interplay the action, the reaction is shared by others. 

Christ resolves the incognito of the other, we are ONE with every single human being here today that lives and will ever live.   Our lives are ripples, everything we do ripples along eternity , felt by those around us.


We truly never suffer along, because the suffering lord suffers with us because he is IN us.

He created us, planned us; there is NO break in that string, he knew your place in the string that binds creation before you were born.

Because he present tense  IS  simultaneously in every person that ever lived, and ever will live he knows every person you knew, know and will every know right now simultaneously.  Because the string is unbroken through every single person ever. He knows them present tense.

This string that binds us absorbs our sin, our hate, our anger and shares love.  Makes us right as me move along our place in the story towards the eternity he has prepared for us and knows already.

This string that binds us to eternity knows it and is in us, we know eternity and we feel its pull.

As it says in our reading today, the Christ in you is the hope of glory, attaching you to eternity, presenting you to god mature in christ

Lastly to tie the Martha and mary reading,
I think we imagine ourselves as either Martha or marys, too busy to really be with Jesus. Or happy to sit and listen to him. The active or the contemplative. Truth is we are all mixes of both.  Sometimes we bustle about, sometimes we contemplate, as the rhythm of life slows down and speeds up.

Also we look that this story an almost historic, a thing of the past a bible story.

We cant see Jesus like martha or mary, so it’s a nice metaphor but they had Jesus in the room?

  I want you to do a very unbritish thing.
Take a real look at the person next to you, look at them holding that string, That string that represents Jesus.  Know that string is in them. In every person you meet, will ever meet has ever met, That string created, planned and loves them. And he did the same for you.

so when we contemplate our fellow man we contemplate the Jesus in them.
when we love our fellow man, the Jesus in us that loves us, loves them too,

we can join in that story too real-time. The Jesus that was present in the Martha and mary story is present here today and goes on like a continuous thread through all creation

Let us pray.
Lord help us to know you at all times in everything we do.
We know that you bind us together and are in all your creation, that as it was in the beginning , is now and will be forever .
You Our lord are present,  When we love you, we love all your creation because your love is in all creation for all time. Help us to to take time to notice you in everyone we meet and love them as we love you. In Jesus name  Amen

Lets Focus on Lent

Please sit down
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in your sight.

So here we are on the first Sunday of Lent?

The traditional thing for lent is giving something up, chocolate, or something we will miss.

Last year I tried a “bad words” box, but I have a teenage daughter, a stressful job and I commute on the M25 and I support west ham. So the odds were stacked against me.

Also on reflection I had sort of boiled lent down to giving something up, I wasn’t thinking so much about how we should approach lent, or how this tradition added to it, why was I doing this, and all the other things we do?

Then I got the sermon on the first day of lent and thought maybe we could here today think about that, maybe we could wonder, whats it all about?  Not just the tradition of giving something up thing, but  “what is lent about”?

Whenever I hear the word tradition, I hear rowan Williams, he says it’s something we should take notice of but not be bound by.  That’s very true some traditions are very old, and very grounded in great theology, and some need to be sort of rounded out,  are we doing this today for a good reason, what was the reason it became tradition, is that reason still around today, have we forgotten why we do a thing, have we simplified the tradition too much, or made it far too complicated.

Our new testament reading which is why we sort of deny ourselves in lent has Jesus fasting that’s where your pining for chocolate comes from, or the being off caffeine or beer or bad language and that hitting the buffers on the m25.

It shows that a famished jesus was for forty days was “supposedly” tempted by food and by power,

I think jesus wasn’t even looking at them, the bread that rots, and the power that fades had become something much less than what Jesus actually had his eye on. He had his eyes on what is spoken about in the other two readings today. The inheritance prepared for us, things that have been made ready for us,  the generosity of the love that saves us. He had his eyes on a greater story than anything the enemy had to offer.

The story today shows us is that when we are focussed on our lord, the enemy loses his power, his words and deeds become empty to us.  That really when we have our eyes on our lord the enemy will just depart until an – wonderful phrase – an opportune time, and we as fallible people will give him an opportune time. But that’s why he came because he knows we will do that, we will wander off, lose focus, forget the promise and see the thing in front of us.


Maybe THAT ’S what lents all about, Focus, maybe its all about Focus?

The tradition of denial is less about the denial in and of itself, but about clearing away distractions finding our true north, following our leader, our king, our saviour, and our shepherd?

That we should copy Jesus not so much in denial but in that focus on him that lessens the noise and the distractions the world brings to drag our eyes away from him.


SO how do we do that, how do we get to that point of being that focus on our lord?

Lent is a 40 day march

Christ being hunted by Herod,  parables of fig trees that have to be looked after to bear fruit and children that sin, mary washing jesus, kings that arrive on a donkey, the betrayal of our closest, to the worst death the world knew, to the greatest victory ever known.


it takes time to work through the story of it.  Maya Angelou said stories are a persuasive means of relating to the human spirit, and stories take time to tell


I think perhaps that might show us a clue about how to do this thing called lent,.  Lets go on the journey.    In these days leading to Easter, “be” in the moment of the story, don’t lets let ourselves off with “Sunday’s coming”, its all going to be alright.

Be focussed on him, where he’s going, why he’s doing what he’s doing, stay with the narrative.

We should celebrate as he comes triumphant, on a donkey,

Maunday Thursday, imagine yourselves washing feet, or having your feet washed,

In the last supper be a disciple that’s not got to the point of this story, and listen to Jesus as he alludes to whats coming.  When Jesus is arrested imagine the fear of being his disciple, knowing your now an outlaw.

and when the crowd says, “let him be crucified” and we know hes innocent?. Let yourselves feel a little outrage at an innocent man being murdered for messing up the system, for saying things that challenge the powers that be, for making claims that undermine earned status.

What will the affect of that be, if we immerse ourselves in the story and take it step by step?

Maybe that might lead to a different sort of lent, one where we see what it means to be his disciple in a way that’s much more true, to the story that’s being told,.

I think doing that will show us what a man called deitrich bonhoffer means by what he calls “costly grace”, bonehoeffer knew what he was talking about as he stayed true to his faith and the ethics it espouses to the point where he was imprisoned and mudrdered by the nazis.

“grace” by the way is  “Grace is unconditional love toward a person who has done nothing to  deserve it.”


We are all recipients of grace,

But Bonhooeffer says there are two types cheap and costly,

He says…


Cheap Grace essentially is grace where we know we are forgiven and carry on how we like, it’s the grace without the following, grace without the discipleship.

But then he talks about the flip side….


Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ,


it’s that idea of keeping your focus on him, following him, being a disciple, re centering I think Is what lent is might be all about.

By doing that, Lent can make the distractions of the  world recede to the point where the enemy loses all influence and simply melts away,  help us receive a love that brings us back, brings us home, that makes, fishermen leave their nets, tax collectors to just get up and follow as  boenhoffer says … not because he thinks that he might be doing something worthwhile, but simply for the sake of the call.

because they know,  he leads us to safe harbours, to lands prepared.  


That’s Grace.

Lent should help us remember, and remind ourselves all the way through,  that it’s not about what we give up,

It’s about keeping our focus on him

so we know what he gave up for us


and what we are being given

Back to work? Give it to God.

The nation is slowly crawling its way back to work after christmas. The tinsel is starting to look slightly out of place, the presents losing their joy at every use, carols have gone off the radio, and even from our shops.

However it is with a sometimes heavy heart we start the commute again, what was a long crescendo at the end of the old year is now a very long year ahead. My calendar seemed to rejoice in reminding me that three hundred and fifty nine days remain in 2019. Paired with the reality of work that seems like a long slog ahead.

Christmas for christians is a time of rejoicing at the birth of Jesus but we have to catch the 7:35 out of X or Y station long before epiphany. However I think this loss of joy is partly because we celebrate the birth of our Lord and then act as if he is gone? Our lord is alive and involved in everything we do?

This is what St Benedict thought of how we should think about work.
“First of all, every time you begin a good work you should pray to him with total commitment to bring it to perfection, so that he who has already been kind enough to count us as his sons will never be disappointed by our doing wrong”. (The Rule of Benedict Penguin Classics) .

Why does St Benedict think this? Because he knows our Lord is alive and takes joy in every good work we do that we bring to him. However menial, in fact the most menial of tasks done for others, or for him reverberates around heaven forever.

Work done in the service of our lord never dies, and work done for others never dies. Our Lord see’s and rejoices in all of it, every second.

The Second degree of Bliss as Julian calls it.

As she says….
The second degree is that all the blessed in heaven will see that glorious gratitude of our Lord God, and God makes the soul’s service known to all who are in heaven.

So give all your work to the Lord, let him know your doing this for your family, and loved ones, that the commute is for his glory and done to perfection and that you KNOW he is alongside you every step of the way.

Remember even if your boss isnt grateful, our lord is, and his gratitude lasts forever. Because as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, he never left, he is alongside you right now.

All you have to do is give it to him.






Midnight Mass Prayers 2018

Lord, we thank you for the gift of your son our saviour Jesus Christ
We thank you for saving us from our weakness and fallibility
We thank you for joining our story, to show us how to be close to you, to guide us, to lead us home
Lord, we thank you for your amazing unending grace, given through the selflessness of love

Lord help us to be your disciples and be more like you.
Help us follow the true light that is coming into the world this night
Help us to shine your light into even the worlds darkest places
Help us to show the world what it is to love and be loved
Help us to be your children, come to you as children on the night your child was given to us.

Help us follow the true light that is coming into the world this night
Help us to shine your light into even the worlds darkest places
Help us to show the world what it is to love and be loved
Help us to be your children, come to you as children on the night your child was given to us.

Lord as our families come together help us to be more loving to each other
Help us heal any rifts, make peace with our loved ones,
Help us to be that voice of peace, the wise voice the loving voice
Lord for all those that can’t be with the ones they love help them know your love
Help them know they are never alone because you are always with us.

Lord help all those that are working through uncertain times
Our leaders, our politicians, all those with hard decisions to make
Lord give them your wisdom, help them make wise caring choices.
Help our country and communities unite around them as we move forward

Lord help all our clergy here tonight and those that have followed your call to fresh challenges
Help us to help them and those that come to join us in the worship of you
Help us make our church a place for all to know your love
Help us build a place that gives your love, and welcomes all

Lord, we pray for our poor and our homeless
Help us to build a world where no one sleeps out on cold nights
Lord on the night where you were homeless
Help us to help others find their home, in the warm, with those they love
Help us to build a world where everyone has a home with you.

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