Every Saturday night, as I cook our Saturday Supper, I close the kitchen door and put on some good, loud music to cook by. And you can’t help but notice just how many of the great songs released over the past fifty years or so have something to do with love.
There seem to have been more songs written about love –
whether requited or unrequited love – than about anything else. There are
thousands of them – and many of them instantly forgettable, though some of them
have stood the test of time.
“All you need is love”, sang the Beatles, tuning in to the
mood of the Sixties but rather missing the point that life is not quite that
simple. And, I suspect, thinking of love as warm feelings, feelings of
kindness, a desire to do good to others, even, perhaps, as desire for others,
but without any of the sense of deep commitment that Jesus calls his disciples
to in today’s Gospel reading. Perhaps Michael Ball was closer to the Christian
concept of love when he sang the words of Andrew Lloyd Webber: “Love, love
changes everything, how I live, and how I die”.
As a child I was hopeless at sport – sport was simply not my thing. The best I ever managed at secondary school was the report in my first year where the sports master had written for Gym: He has absolutely no aptitude for this subject but he tries his best. And it wasn’t helped by the fact that my sister was a superb athlete who ran for the county! People always assumed that I would be able to run as fast as my sister!
But I was the one nobody wanted on their team. When I was at primary school we used that iniquitous system of two people being chosen as captains for football, and then they picked their teams. And of course, when it came to choosing who was going to be in your football team it was never going to be me, because I couldn’t play an even half-decent game of football if my life depended on it. I always knew that I wouldn’t get picked but that didn’t make it any easier.
The gospel for last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent, sees Jesus reminding us that people are not responsible for their own misfortune. Rather, he says, we should stop blaming people and look to our own fruitfulness.
Every once in a while, someone comes up with a catchy or succinct phrase that enters the public consciousness – and that phrase is then used and quoted years after it was first coined and the original context has been forgotten. One such phrase that comes to mind at the moment – I can’t think why – A week is a long time in politics. Former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, of course.
Often, though, it’s advertisers. It was The Accident Group,
whose founder failed to see the irony of sacking two and a half thousand
workers by text message when it went bust and then disappearing to Spain with
millions, that came up with the slogan in their adverts: Where there’s blame, there’s a claim. It’s a phrase that people
Last Sunday, the third Sunday of Lent, gave us as the gospel reading Luke’s account of how Jesus laments over Jerusalem. We also heard, in the Old Testament reading, of how God made his covenant with Abraham.
When you’re a teenager, it’s as clear as clear can be that the only role parents have is to annoy you. I remember my teenage years well and it was obvious to me that parents just went out of their way to cause quite unnecessary conflict.
Later on in life I came to see things in a different light. Because
when I became a parent myself I came to understand that parents, of course, are
always – and I mean absolutely always – right. I should know, having seen three
children through their teenage years. Funny how the reality of a situation
changes depending on where you stand, what your viewpoint is. Of course when
our children were teenagers they didn’t think we, as parents, were ever right
about anything. Now our daughters have their own teenage children, though,
their viewpoint has also changed as well.
This Sunday was the first Sunday of Lent. We heard how following his Baptism Jesus was sent into the wilderness and was tempted before he began his public ministry. And, as it happens, I too was sent – up the hill in Caterham to preach in our neighbouring parish church. Here’s what I said.
There are three signs that you are getting old. One is memory loss. I can’t remember the other four.
What’s your memory like? I remember reading in The Times a few years ago when I was in my early forties (those who know me will be aware that’s more than a ‘few’ years ago!) of some research scientists undertook into memory and age. They wanted to find out at what age your brain starts to malfunction. And it’s younger than you think. They discovered that your brain starts to malfunction, mainly because your brain cells start dying, once you reach the age of 40.
I don’t know whether any of you know St. Leonard’s on Sea, but if you do you will probably know the church on the sea front after which the place is named.
I visited the church
many years ago when I was doing a placement nearby, during my Church Army
training, at the Youth Centre in Bexhill. And the church has always remained in
my mind because of its pulpit. The church was destroved by a V1 flying bomb in
1944 and soon afterwards, Canon Cuthbert Griffiths, the Rector of the church and
who would later oversee the rebuilding, had a dream. He dreamt that Jesus was
preaching to the church’s congregation from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Soon
afterwards he went to Galilee, and bought the front half of a fishing boat – he
had it brought back and installed it in the rebuilt church as the pulpit.
And there it is – the front half of a boat, protruding from the wall of the church. And so, just as Jesus had preached from a boat on the Sea of Galilee, so the clergy of the parish could preach from a boat. And week by week, the people of the parish would be reminded of this incident in Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus taught from the boat and called Simon Peter to fish for people.
All through Advent we in the Church get ready for Christmas with a period of penitence and abstinence. I suspect we all found it very difficult, while most of the country was already in a celebratory mood, to do without such things as alcohol and meat – at least on Wednesdays and Fridays if not every day. You did fast during Advent, didn’t you? (No – it seems they didn’t given their response but that’s all right – I didn’t either!)