Questions! Questions!


40355395 – depressed businessman sitting under question marks

Luke 10.25-37

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.

For 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.

I 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.”

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“I have decided to follow Jesus …”


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.

Luke 9.51-end

How far would you go to follow Jesus?

Today we will hear about two men who decided to follow Jesus, we will hear how far they were willing to go, and we will hear about the hymn that links them.

There is an old hymn that we used to sing on Church Army beach missions. The first verse goes like this – and I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’m going to say rather than sing it:

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
no turning back, no turning back.

Anyone remember singing that? It sounds, today, a little simplistic perhaps. Yet it has a most remarkable story behind it.

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The cry of the deer


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.

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Basking in the sunshine of God


Acts 2.1-21

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.

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The dealer in purple cloth


Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

Acts 16.9-15

If you are a person who notices detail, you may have realised that during the Easter Season there is no reading from the Old Testament in our Sunday Services. This isn’t a downgrading of the Hebrew Scriptures which are foundational to our Christian faith, but instead an elevation of the story of the young Christian church. During the Easter Season we hear each Sunday, and weekdays too if you come to a weekday Mass, portions of the Acts of the Apostles, the book that is part two of the Gospel of Luke.

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All you need is love


John 13.31-35

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”.

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Open the door!


John 20.19-end

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.

There is nothing worse than being left out.

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