The most shocking news of recent years if the amount of coverage it got was anything to go by – yes, Channel 4 outbid the BBC and stole The Great British Bake-Off. The nation was outraged. The outrage didn’t last long though, as it was reported last week that the final brought Channel 4 its second largest audience ever, having been watched by 11 million people since it was broadcast. If TV schedules are anything to go by we like our food.
I’m sure there are many of you who enjoy cooking. And if you are one of those people who don’t enjoy cooking a nice meal, I’m sure you still enjoy eating one. Most people enjoy good food of one kind or another, whether it’s spaghetti bolognese or caviar, pizza or the kind of recipes you get on the BBC Good Food website like this one: Roast whole suckling pig with truffle mousse, Jersey Royals and wild garlic. Continue reading
1917 was a significant year – for the music industry at least, and jazz in particular.
I don’t know how many of you here are jazz fans – but 1917 was the year that the first commercially available jazz record was released, by the Original Dixieland Jass Band who, in an early attempt at trying to be cool, spelled their name with a double s. It was also the year of birth of some great singers and musical performers. Some of you will remember them, while to others they may be unheard of – Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Dizzie Gillespie, Lena Horne, Thelonius Monk – but perhaps most notably, Dame Vera Lynn. Dame Vera turned 100 in March this year and as well as being such a great icon, her songs forever connected in our minds with the Second World War, she amazingly provides us with a living connection with the Great War and specifically with 1917, a year which was in many ways not just a turning point in the Great War but in world history. To most of us 1917 and the Great War may seem like history, but there are still those like Dame Vera Lynn whose lives connect with it, and many whose parents lived through it. My own father was born the year the war broke out. It’s not that long ago.
What was it like to live during that conflict, for people in general? Let’s go back in our minds a hundred years and try and imagine we are in Caterham in 1917. Continue reading
This is the second sermon this week, especially for Bible Sunday. This one is from Mother Anne-Marie which was preached at a neighbouring church.
On Bible Sunday we celebrate the most popular – but the most un-read – book in the world. Under-read in Britain and Western Europe at any rate! But this is the book on which civilisations have been founded, for which people have given their lives in the fires of the Reformation period, and for which people still risk everything so they can smuggle it into repressive countries. And yet for many of us, though we own one of these precious books, it sits on our shelves, undisturbed.
As someone who grew up in a church going family I knew bits of the Bible from the readings on Sundays, and I even took an O Level in Religious Education as an extra in the 6th form because it interested me. RE was then primarily based on Biblical material and I learnt a lot about the Gospels, their structure and dating, as well as gaining a greater understanding of the life of Jesus and his teaching. Continue reading
Two sermons for the price of one this week, as both of us were preaching for Bible Sunday. I was preaching at home, while Mother Anne-Marie was preaching at a neighbouring church. Here’s what I said.
I still remember Mr Jones clearly. Mr Jones was my English master at Secondary School. He introduced me to great works of English Literature that have remained favourites ever since.
And I still remember how, in the very first term in the first form, he decided to put our brains to work by introducing us to famous but somewhat obscure – to an eleven year old at least – sayings of famous writers.
He started us off with: The child is father to the man and asked us what we thought it meant. It sounded profound but we had no idea what it meant, so we struggled with that one at first though after a great deal of discussion and explanation I think we finally got to grips with it at a somewhat basic level. It is from William Wordsworth’s poem My heart leaps up. Don’t ask me to explain what Wordsworth meant in his poem, but I seem to remember it had something to do with looking at rainbows!
And then Mr Jones moved on to: The apparel oft proclaims the man. Continue reading
Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
I’m sure you’ve all heard that saying before – and it’s known, of course, as Murphy’s Law. It’s named after the American aerospace engineer Edward Murphy who worked on safety-critical systems and who is believed to have first coined the phrase. We tend to think of Murphy’s Law as somewhat humorous, but it is quite serious in its application. When designing systems it is important to eliminate any possible areas where something might go wrong – because if it can go wrong, in the end it will.
There are a number of similar laws that have become famous and that most people will know even if you don’t know their origin or original intent. Parkinson’s Law, which was first used by Cyril Northcote Parkinson is another one that is well-known: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Continue reading
This Sunday’s readings continued the series of parables told by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel about who will inherit the kingdom. Here’s what I said.
A little girl was attending a wedding for the first time. Seeing the bride process in on the arm of her father she whispered to her mother, “Mummy, why is the bride dressed in white?”
Her mother replied, “Because white is the colour of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life.”
Her daughter thought about this for a moment, and then said, “So why is the groom wearing black!”
Marriage is one of those institutions that has always attracted the attention of stand-up comedians. There must be more jokes about marriage – especially if you include all the jokes about mothers-in-law – than almost any other subject. Continue reading
My sermon at St John’s for this week – the 17th Sunday after Trinity and Proper 22.
Isaiah 5.1-7; Matthew 21.33-end
One of the most popular programmes on British television has just returned this week for its thirteenth series. Yes – The Apprentice is back.
And, I’m sorry, I know some people love it but I just don’t get it. For me it sums up so much of what is wrong with society. It celebrates attitudes that I find deeply distasteful. It’s a programme where individuals spend their time promoting themselves over others in their bid to get Lord Sugar’s approval and money – to the point where as is well known Lord Sugar points his finger at each person in turn to say “You’re fired”. It’s a programme that is about self-promotion and rejection of other people. I find it profoundly uncomfortable. It may be hugely popular – but it’s essentially about people looking out for themselves and it’s about aggressive rejection of other people because they don’t fit.
Today we hear a parable from Jesus – a parable about people looking out for themselves and a parable about rejection of other people. Continue reading