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

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

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

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