Lost?


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Mark 1.9-15

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? When was the last time you put down your house keys, or your glasses, or your phone – and then couldn’t find them again?

I lost my house keys this week. But that’s not a problem. I have an electronic tag on my keys so that if I can’t find them, I just press a button in an app on my phone – it then shows me where my keys last were so I know whether they’re in the house somewhere, or if I’ve lost them outside. It makes the tag on the keys play a tune when the keys are nearby so I can hear the keys and locate them. At least – it does if you remembered to replace the battery when it ran out. It even makes it easy for you to remember, by telling you when the battery is low and needs replacing. But if you ignore the instructions, and forget to replace the battery, the system is useless. It won’t find your keys. So you end up searching all over the place – as I did – and panicking, until you finally find them. I’ve now put a battery in the tag!

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After the clouds the sunshine


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This Sunday as the last Sunday before Lent. Each year on this Sunday we hear the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, this year hearing the version from Saint Mark. Here’s what I said.

Mark 9.2-9

What do you see when you look at the clouds?

Like many, I love the Peanuts cartoon strips – and possibly my all-time favourite dates back to 1960. Charlie Brown and his friends Linus and Lucy are lying on a grassy mound looking up at the sky.

Lucy says: Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton wool. I could just lie here all day, and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you see Linus?

And Linus, being particularly imaginative, says: Well, those clouds up there look to me like the map of British Honduras on the Caribbean. That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen … I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side.

Lucy replies: That’s very good … What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?

And poor Charlie Brown, having heard Linus’s response replies: Well, I was going to say a ducky and a horsy, but I changed my mind.

You can see the original strip by clicking here.

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Prayer, proclamation, pastoring


My travelling icon

Mark 1.29-39

When you’re packing for holidays – when we’re allowed them of course – what do you put in in addition to all the usual stuff like clothes and toiletries? A few books, perhaps, to read. Or an iPad? Maps and guidebooks.

One of the things I like to take is what is called a travelling icon. An icon is a particular kind of religious picture, portraying Jesus, or his mother Mary, or one of the saints of the church. And a travelling icon is two or three small icons attached to each other with hinges, so they can stood up, or be folded up so that it can be taken with you when you travel. 

I have mine here with me this morning. It is a small, foldable, set of three icons showing Jesus in the centre, with his mother Mary on the left and John the Baptist on the right.  

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If Candlemas Day be fair and bright …


Luke 2.22-40

Many of us love a good quiz. So I’m starting this morning with  a quiz question for you. This Tuesday is February 2nd. It’s a special day, and it has five different titles – how many can you name?

Well, while you try and think of all the different titles for February 2nd, and I’ll be amazed if anyone can get all five, I’ll start to work my way through them. Tick them off as we go through the sermon.

Let me give you a clue to the first two titles. It’s a day when we think about the weather. Yes – February 2nd is, of course, Groundhog Day! That’s title number one. The belief, originating from central Europe and now widely celebrated in North America, is that the groundhog emerges from his burrow where he has been hibernating and pokes his head out to see what the weather is like. If it’s sunny and he can see his shadow he goes back to sleep because winter is coming back. If it’s windy and wet or snowy then winter is coming to an end, so he emerges because spring is round the corner.

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How much wine do you want?


Biblical scene play of the miracle of transformation of water into wine – Mother Mary saying to Jesus there is no wine left

John 2.1-11

Many years ago, longer ago than I care to remember, I was just a couple of months into my very first post in the church after leaving college.

And there came a rather frantic knocking on my door on a Saturday night about 10 o’clock. I opened the door to a rather distressed young man. To say he was panicking is really a bit of an understatement. He had been to the vicarage, he said, and the vicarage was empty – it would be, because the vicar was away on holiday. He was getting married in a few weeks at another church, he told me, and he had completely forgotten to get his banns read. The priest who was performing the ceremony had just reminded him. Was there still time? He’d been told that without the banns being called he couldn’t get married. For those who don’t know – in England the banns have to be called in churches where people live, in case anyone knows a legal reason why they shouldn’t get married, on three Sundays before the wedding.

Well, I sat him down and calmed him down, and we worked out that there were still – just – three Sundays left before the wedding. Being new at the job I knew nothing about the legalities of banns of marriage, but I worked it out and we called the banns. 

I subsequently discovered that, technically, he hadn’t given the required notice, and that I should have told him to apply to the Bishop for a special licence, but I’m really rather glad I didn’t know that at the time. I think it might have pushed him right over the edge.

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Has the penny dropped?


This Sunday we heard in our gospel reading we heard how Andrew brings Nathanael to see Jesus, and Nathanael’s response. And from the Old Testament we had the story of the boy Samuel being woken up in the Temple by a voice calling him in the night.

1 Samuel 3.1-10; John 1.43-end

The third Monday in January each year – so that’s tomorrow –  is apparently known as Blue Monday. It’s a term coined by a psychologist in 2004 and according to an article in The Scotsman newspaper last Monday it’s the day when the financial pressure of the Christmas just passed hangs over us most, the weather is at its worst, and the extra pounds we’ve acquired over the holiday season are proving harder to shift than we anticipated.

So how to cope with Blue Monday tomorrow? The Scotsman helpfully went on to provide a list of 40 jokes, to cheer us all up, so that Blue Monday wouldn’t feel so bad. 

They claimed that these are 40 of the best jokes – here’s a sample of what they have provided – see what you think:

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Read the instructions…


Baptism of Christ by Piero della Francesca (1416-1492)

This Sunday (January 10th) we kept the feast of the Baptism of Christ. Here’s what I said.

Mark 4.1-11

As anyone in the business of selling things to the public knows, if you don’t put adequate instructions and warnings on your products then sooner or later someone will take you to court. Take food for example – manufacturers ensure that not only are all the necessary ingredients or cooking instructions are on the packet, they often go further by putting on their packaging what might seem to some of us to be the glaringly obvious. 

Here are some of the most obvious instructions that I’ve collected over the years from food packaging and that I’ve found on the internet – so just in case I use the word ‘allegedly’:

  • A packet of Sainsbury’s peanuts that carried the warning: contains nuts.
  • A Marks and Spencer bread and butter pudding that carried the warning: Product will be hot after heating.
  • A Tesco tiramisu that had printed on the bottom of the packaging: Do not turn upside down.

It’s not just food, of course. What we might think of as obvious and unnecessary warnings appear on all kinds of products:

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Follow the light


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We kept the feast of the Epiphany this Sunday. The feast actually falls on Wednesday 6th, but we pre-empted it as we are allowed to do in the Church of England. Here’s what I said this week.

Matthew 2.1-12

With all the newspapers filling their pages with news of the Pandemic and Brexit, you wouldn’t think there would be room for anything else.

There it was in the Telegraph headlined: Epiphany 2021 – When should I take the Christmas Tree down?  It was in the Express, the Metro, the ‘i’, even Good Housekeeping! And the Daily Mail’s Australia edition even went with A furious debate has erupted over when to pack away Christmas decorations

So two questions which the press think particularly important this year!

When is Twelfth Night?

And when do you take you decorations down?

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New Year resolutions, anyone?


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Last Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas, was also the feast day of Saint John. Saint John is the patron, of course, of our church here in Caterham. However, instead of preaching about Saint John I decided to think about resolutions for the New Year. Here’s what I said.

Well – it’s fast approaching New Year’s Day. I wonder if any of you have thought about what resolutions you might make for the coming year?

Don’t worry – I’ve no intention of keeping you long this morning. I just have a few thoughts, as we look towards the New Year, about resolutions for the coming month.

In a normal year, after the indulgence of Christmas – all that food and wine – among the most popular New Year resolutions are new diets and new exercise regimes as people make the decision to get themselves back into shape. 

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What if … ?


For the fourth Sunday of Advent this year the gospel reading was Saint Luke’s account of the Annunciation. Here’s what I said.

Luke 1.26-38

Life is complicated. And it’s only human to want to be in total control. And yet, we know that however hard we try life has a habit of not turning out quite how we want it to.

And we end up asking ourselves that question that is all too often unanswerable.

What if … ?

It might be about the past – we wonder if life might have turned out differently if we’d made different decisions, different choices. 

What if I’d worked harder at school and passed my exams?
What if I’d said “yes” when he asked me to marry him?
What if I’d accepted that job offer?
What if I hadn’t drunk too much that night?

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