This week at St John’s we began a series of four sermons thinking about our mission statement. The first sermon has the title: We are a worshipping community. The preacher is allowed to depart from the set readings for the day but as it happens God was able to use this week’s set gospel reading which is the story of Jesus healing ten lepers – but only one returns, praising God, to thank Jesus.
Popular music is full of unanswered questions! And many of them ask somewhat deep and philosophical questions about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. And I know many of you think you already know the answer to the life, universe and everything (Chorus of ‘42’ from the congregation!)
Who let the dogs out? Who? Who? sang the
Baha Men. Who indeed? We never find out.
Should I stay or should I go? sang the
Clash. A question many of us try to answer – especially when we’re at a party
we don’t want to be at!
They get even more esoteric and though-provoking. Take the Smiths who
ask: How soon is now?
Or Queen, from the classic song Bohemian Rhapsody: Is this the real
life? Is this just fantasy? I think it’s definitely real life! But there’s
always the possibility some of you may be living in a fantasy world!
My own favourite song with unanswered questions comes from the hand of the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature – Bob Dylan of course – which begins by asking, but not answering, the question: How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? Dylan never tells us, except to say that the answer is blowing in the wind!
Many of you will know that each year, the priest I live with and I go to the same place in Crete for our summer holidays. Over the years we have got to know the family that own the complex where we stay very well, and each year we look forward to seeing what improvements they have made over the winter, and they now often ask us for feedback and for suggestions.
And – joy of joys – this year Kostas had installed a television screen behind the pool bar. With Sky Sports no less! And so, at 1pm – Crete being two hours ahead of us – it was possible to settle down in the sunshine with a bottle of cold Cretan craft beer, and watch the Ashes. I let Kostas know without holding back just how fantastic this was!
Well – there’s certainly no shortage
of news at the moment is there! And plenty to leave us wondering – and worrying
– about what the future might hold. Recent weeks have seen us gain a new Prime
Minister and the inevitable questions from all sides about where we are heading
over Brexit. And if that doesn’t worry you, then there is global-warming – a
week last Thursday resulted in the hottest day ever recorded in the UK, and
subsequent torrential rain in parts of the country followed by flooding has
left many, especially the residents of Whalley Bridge – worried for their
future. And made us all aware that something needs to be done! And if that
wasn’t enough news to worry about, the United Nations has this week warned of a
new wave of terrorist attacks this autumn. What does the future hold?
No wonder that someone said to me recently: I can’t cope with any more NEWS!
One of my all-time favourite characters in fiction is the lawyer Horace Rumpole – popularly known as Rumpole of the Bailey – and I’m sure some of you will remember the TV series in which Rumpole was portrayed so brilliantly by Leo McKern.
those of you unfamiliar with Rumpole let me give a bit of background. Horace
Rumpole is a character in a series of wonderful books by the writer and
barrister John Mortimer. Rumpole is also a barrister, working from his chambers
in Equity Court, and he likes nothing better than defending his clients in the
Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey. Indeed, his skill at defending his
clients – and he only ever defends, never prosecutes, is legendary among the
criminal classes. He is famed for his success in his greatest ever case, the
Penge Bungalow murders, and for his forensic knowledge of typewriters.
raise Rumpole this morning because he had a golden rule – one which the lawyer
in our gospel reading perhaps ought to have been more aware of. And his golden
rule was this. When in court, “Never ask a question of a witness unless you
already know the answer.”
In this Sunday’s gospel reading from Luke we hear how Jesus makes it clear that following him is a commitment from which there should be no turning back. You cannot follow Jesus just a bit – it’s all or nothing.
Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday. And this year I chose to preach on one of the great hymns about the Trinity known as St Patrick’s Breastplate. Here’s what I said.
The BBC has been in the news of late over licence fees for the over 75s. But one piece of BBC news you may have missed is that it is giving you the opportunity to vote for your favourite hymn. At least it is, if your favourite hymn is on the shortlist of the 100 most featured hymns and worship songs from the last five years of Songs of Praise.
The vote is open until the end of this month, so do go and
have a look and see if your favourite hymn is there. The vote was brought to my
attention by our school head this week when I went in to lead collective
worship. So I went home and had a look – and sure enough, my current favourite
is there, so I’ve voted for it.
Coincidentally, I also received a week ago an email from our Church Copyright Licence company listing their top 20 most used hymns and songs in the UK. And my current favourite is there too – at no 1. And as you’re probably wondering by now what it is, let me tell you.
This is the day – Pentecost – when the Holy Spirit takes centre stage. This great feast in the Christian Year, when we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples on the Jewish Festival of Pentecost, which came seven weeks after Passover and celebrated both the wheat harvest and the giving of the Torah, the Law, on Mount Sinai. It was one of three pilgrimage festivals when Jews came to the Temple in Jerusalem – Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles – in Hebrew Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. Pentecost is the Greek word for this feast and is derived from the Greek word for 50 – the feast of 50 days – seven weeks after Passover, and for us 50 days after Easter. For me using my seven times table it comes to 49, but if we count Easter Sunday as Day 1 then you will find that this is Day 50 after Easter! I know some of you like to know this sort of thing.