There’s an old saying: “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family!” Not absolutely accurate, of course, when you think about it, as those who adopt children will realise – but essentially it means that your parents, your grandparents, your brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts – they are all who they are! You can’t just decide one day that if you don’t like them or aren’t getting on to change them for someone different. There’s many a teenager would like to change their parents, and many a parent who would like to change their teenage children – but you can’t! Friends you can change if you fall out – family you are stuck with.
Families! We all have them, yet what a mixed blessing they can be! On the one hand, they can be a wonderful place of love and support. At the other extreme, they can be an awful place of hurt and abuse. But for the most part our experience of families is neither completely one nor the other, but full of contradictions. They can love and protect us, but also be stifling and discouraging at the same time. George Burns, the American comedian, once said “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family – in another city!” Continue reading
In my sermon for last Sunday I mention a new video from Church Army, a community of evangelists in the Church of England of which the clergy at St John’s are both members. Here it is.
2 Corinthians 5.6-17; Mark 4.26-34
The love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all. (St Paul – 2 Corinthians 5.14)
A month ago most people in this country – and most people worldwide – hadn’t heard of Michael Curry. And then he stood up to preach at a wedding. Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of our sister church the Episcopal Church of the United States of America in less than fifteen minutes became, as the Daily Telegraph put it, “the royal wedding preacher who stole the show.”
And what did he do that made such an impact around the world, as well as at the ceremony? Well, he simply talked about love. Just that – love!
He said: We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world.
The power of love, the redemptive power of love. Supremely of course the redemptive power of the love of Jesus on the cross, a love that is there for all because Jesus died not just for some people but for all people. For absolutely everyone without exception. Continue reading
You don’t have to do much to get labelled as a troublemaker, a subversive, or even an enemy of the people. No matter that you may have done nothing wrong, or even if you have done something for the wider good – just rock the boat a little bit, threaten the status quo, and in goes the knife, and before long as far as some are concerned you’re an enemy of the people.
Henrik Ibsen’s famous play of that name is about an ordinary man, Dr Stockmann, who discovers that the expensive new spa in his home town is using poisoned water. He naively thinks people will want to know. But his brother, the mayor, thinks otherwise – and points out that the town could be bankrupted if the news leaks out. The truth isn’t important – the vested interests of the town’s business people carry far more weight.
And so the mayor leans on the editor of the local newspaper and the editor, rather than repeat the truth, vilifies Dr Stockmann as an enemy of the people, to the extent that at a public meeting he is almost lynched. All he did was tell the truth – an important truth – that the water was poisoned. Continue reading
This week we kept the feast of The Most Holy Trinity. Here’s what Mother Anne-Marie had to say.
Isaiah 6.1-8; Romans 8.12-17; John 3.1-17
What sort of a Christian are you?
I don’t mean are you a good Christian – you know in church every Sunday, helping others every day; or a half-hearted Christian – here occasionally and every so often you possibly give God a passing thought and think maybe you should put a £1 in the Christian Aid envelope. No I don’t want you to delve around into your conscience and assess how well you put your faith into action. No, I ask the question in terms of what is your faith actually like – what do you believe, how do visualise or encounter God? How did you become a Christian – if indeed you are at the point yet where that is how you would describe yourself?
When do you have your moments of faith?
I’ve picked up that phrase from one of my favourite authors, David Lodge. His novel “Paradise News” is set in Hawaii. Yolande, one of the characters experiences the scattering of ashes, on the sea, of her friend Ursula. She describes it like this. Continue reading
Acts 2.1-21; John 15.26-27, 16.4b-15
Anyone who uses computers knows the feeling.
You press the on button and wait – and nothing happens. Or it starts up but never finishes – it just switches on and never quite finishes loading everything.
And you start to get that awful sinking feeling deep down inside. Everything is on the computer – all your email, thousands of family photos, the book you’ve been writing, twenty years’ worth of sermons! Particularly the one you need to print because you’re preaching it in half-an-hour. And you start to say to yourself:
- I knew I should have paid for another year of that anti-virus software!
- Why on earth didn’t I install the firewall?
- I know I said that backing everything up could wait until tomorrow – what on earth was I thinking?
The computer is dead. And everything on it is gone. And because you didn’t look after it properly there’s no recovery, or if you’re lucky and can afford it an expert might – just might – be able to dismantle it and get your stuff off the hard disk. But there’s that lingering feeling – if only I’d done what I knew I should, everything would all be safe. If only … Continue reading
Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter, on Jesus’ words to the disciples after the Last Supper from John’s Gospel when he told the disciples that they must be rooted in him, the true vine.
My parents were both keen gardeners, and would spend hours, days even, out in the garden, planting, weeding, pruning. The passion for gardening never rubbed off, and I tend to take a more theological approach – I allow God to look after my garden in his own way. But one thing I remember from my childhood is the constant pruning or cutting back of rosebushes, fruit trees, and other plants.
As every gardener knows, many plants appear to be dying, overgrown, weak – no longer able to bear fruit or flowers. Like the pear tree that the School Governors gave me two years ago for a significant birthday. It was duly planted in the vicarage garden and last year and over the winter gave every appearance of being dead – more of a bare twig than a tree. No sign of life at all. I was all for digging it up. But suddenly, in the last couple of weeks, it has sprung into life and is sprouting leaves all over. It’s positively blooming. Continue reading