Category: Sermons

Come to the party!


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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.

Matthew 22.1-14

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

All are welcome


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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

It’s not fair!


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Matthew 20.1-16

If you’ve had anything to do with children you’ve heard them say it. Whether as a parent or as a teacher, you know that one of their most frequently uttered phrases is, ‘It’s not fair!’

The issue may be the amount of food on plates, or turns with the ball, or bedtime, or possession of the best crayons, or any number of things, but the cry is still the same: ‘It’s not fair!’

And you find yourself dealing with it by either giving in, or by gritting your teeth and saying such ridiculous things like: Life’s not fair – get used to it!

Parents will be aware that the incidence of the phrase “It’s not fair” increases proportionally to the number of children in the family. At least, with three children, we seemed to get a lot of it. Let me give you an example. Continue reading

You need hands …


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The readings for this Sunday are all on the theme of forgiveness, and of not judging. Here’s what I said.

Genesis 50.15-21; Romans 14.1-12; Matthew 18.21-35

If you are of a certain age you will remember Max Bygraves singing about hands. I don’t – I’m far too young – though I do know the more recent version sung, bizarrely, by The Sex Pistols. Max Bygraves sang in his 1958 song You need hands:
You need hands to hold someone you care for
You need hands to show that you’re sincere.
You need hands to show the world you’re happy
and you need hands when you have to stop the bus.

So awful was the song that the following year Bernard Bresslaw released a parody of the song called You need feet:
You need feet to stand up straight with
You need feet to kick your friends
You need feet to keep your socks up
and stop your legs from fraying at the ends.

Well – Max Bygrave’s song You need hands was so fascinatingly awful that it deserved the treatment it got in You need feet. And yet it said something quite profound:
You need hands to hold someone you care for
You need hands to show that you’re sincere.

Our hands are so demonstrative – we use them so much to reach out in love. And yet how quickly we can misuse them.

There is a Peanuts cartoon where Linus is watching television. His sister Lucy demands that he change channels. So he says to her, “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” Continue reading

Including the excluded – Take Two


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Here is the second of this week’s sermons on the gospel reading for last Sunday from Matthew – the somewhat problematic story of Jesus rejecting a plea for healing from a Canaanite woman because she is not one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In the end, though, she persuades him to change his mind. This sermon is from Father Jerry who was preaching at St John’s.

Matthew 15.10-28

If you were unfamiliar with the name before this week then – unless you’ve managed to avoid the news – you’ll now know all about Charlottesville, in the State of Virginia. White nationalists, heavily armed, marched to protest over the removal of the statue of General Robert E Lee, the Civil War general who had led the Confederate forces during the US Civil War. His statue was being removed because some saw it as wrong to continue to honour someone who had supported slavery. A major reason for the US Civil War was the desire of the North to abolish slavery against the wishes of the South, and slavery was abolished at the end of the war in 1865.

Others, civil rights protestors, turned up to oppose the march by the white nationalists, and violence ensued. The politics of the Civil War still live on in the United States. And at the heart of it all issues of inclusion and equality.

Britain had abolished slavery almost 60 years earlier than the US. And here the name of William Wilberforce and his work in abolishing slavery are forever linked. Continue reading

Including the excluded – Take One


35330327 - diverse people holding text churchNot an easy gospel reading this week. It’s the story from Matthew’s Gospel of a Canaanite woman who wants healing for her daughter from Jesus. Jesus, though, doesn’t want to give her what she wants because she is not one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He rejects her – but in the end, she persuades him. Two sermons this week as Father Jerry was preaching at our own church while Mother Anne-Marie was preaching at our neighbouring church. And those who manage to read both sermons will see that when we are both preaching we discuss the message beforehand! This one is from Mother Anne-Marie.

Matthew 15.10-28

Last weekend a quiet university town in the United States, Charlottesville, Virginia, was engulfed in terrible violence and the outpouring of disgusting racial hatred. Emboldened white supremacists took to the streets, carrying offensive banners and uttering vile slogans. The counter demonstrators gathered in a Baptist church for a dawn prayer meeting before taking to the streets to counter the racial hatred.  Many ministers and priests of the Christian church were amongst those opposing this outpouring of racial abuse. Continue reading

Chosen by God


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Today, the 15th of August, Christians around the world celebrate the woman chosen by God to bring his Son into the world – Mary. At St John’s we kept the feast last Sunday, and followed it with our customary celebration for the occasion with pre-lunch drinks in the vicarage garden. Here’s my sermon for the occasion.

Luke 1.46-55

Every year thousands of young people, desperate for fame and fortune, audition for TV shows such as The Voice UK or the X-Factor. They’re all apparently convinced of their magnificent voices and star quality.

Of course, not everyone has star quality. Those of you who who are familiar with X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talents will know that Simon Cowell can be somewhat forthright when dealing with some of the competitors. As he said to one X-Factor contestant: If you were the only one in the competition, you couldn’t win it. And to another: My advice would be if you want to make a career in the music business, don’t.

And my favourite, to a contestant whose day job was as a lifeguard: Continue reading