Category: Sermons

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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Be prepared…


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One of the great joys of being a parent is the enjoyment of Christmas with your children as they grow up.

Every family has their own traditions of course. For us it was decorating the house and the tree on Christmas Eve, because in the Church Christmas doesn’t begin until the eve of Christmas Day. Then I’d be off to Midnight Mass. Christmas Day morning would come, and I’d be back in church for the early said mass. Then, as we would be off to church for the Christmas Day mass, the children would open one present before church. And then afterwards it was back to the vicarage to open the rest of the presents while the grown-ups indulged in a festive glass of sherry or gin and tonic.

It’s such a joyful time – but happy as it is I wonder how many parents over the years, as they watch their children eagerly tear off the wrapping paper, have got that sinking feeling as they suddenly think: We forgot to buy the batteries! There may be trouble ahead!

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If I’ve told you once…


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We’ve been away for a while. Well – since the pandemic started disrupting everything including church services here in the UK. But we’re back – yesterday was Advent Sunday, we’re back in church each week, and now seems a good time to start posting our weekly sermons again.

So, here goes.

Mark 13.24-end

One of my mother’s favourite phrases was, “If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times…”. Being just as pedantic then as I am now, what immediately went through my head was, “No you haven’t!” But even as a child I knew better than to actually say so.

You might just be getting the feeling that Jesus is trying to tell us something. Three weeks ago his message was ‘keep awake’ followed by two weeks of reminders of the need to keep active and busy as Christians. And here we are again, just in case we hadn’t got the message on this Advent Sunday: keep awake!

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And the answer is … !


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Genesis 12.1-4a; Romans 4.1-5, 13-17; John 3.1-17

There is an old Chinese proverb: He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.

We don’t, on the whole, like asking questions – after all, we don’t want to show how ignorant we are. We like people to think that we know all the answers.

Fortunately for us Nicodemus was one person who knew one thing for certain – he didn’t know all the answers. Far from it, and unlike most of the other religious leaders who had already decided what the answers were about Jesus – that he was a dangerous false teacher who had to be silenced – Nicodemus found that Jesus left him with questions. So Nicodemus went to visit Jesus to see if he could get some answers.

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Transfiguration


Matthew 17.1-9

On the Sunday before Lent begins we always hear in church about the Transfiguration. We hear about the time when Jesus went up a high mountain with his closest friends and how he looked startlingly different – his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white. Then Moses and Elijah, perhaps the greatest figures from the Old Testament, appear beside him and then a bright cloud comes down and the voice of God is heard saying, “This is my Son, my beloved, listen to him.”

When the Church puts together the readings for each Sunday (remember Fether Jerry and I don’t choose them – they are set by the wider church) it is thinking about the rhythm of the church year. We have seasons in the church – they are not spring, summer, autumn, winter; but Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas as the main ones, with a long stretch called Trinity or ordinary time.

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Don’t worry!


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What do you worry about? What keeps you awake at night?

Well, we worry about all kinds of things, but I wouldn’t mind betting that one thing most of you worry about at some time or other is money.

Mintel is a market research company. And a few years ago they carried out a survey about worrying. And according to their survey 8 out of 10 people worry. I couldn’t help wondering if the other 2 people worried that they didn’t worry. And what are the things we worry about? The survey gave the top five. At number five came job security, followed by stress at work, health, problems with family and friends. And then, top of the list? Money, of course!

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Shine as a light in the darkness


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Relationships between couples can be problematic. However hard we try sometimes things don’t always work out. Every couple wants happiness, but sometimes it’s rather evasive.

So it was with, I’m sure, the best will in the world that around a hundred years ago Woman’s Weekly gave regular advice to wives on how to keep their husbands happy. In those days, of course, it was rather one way! And so Woman’s Weekly gave lots of tips to housewives that would enable them to make sure they had a happy husband and therefore a happy marriage.

Advice such as:

  • Make your own clothes
  • How to use up leftovers – including a recipe for rhubarb dumplings
  • How to pack a holiday trunk
  • Talk less

They also had reams of helpful advice for housewives on how to keep the home, and yourself, ship-shape because a ship-shape home and a ship-shape wife meant a happy husband and a happy marriage. Things like:

  • Stir mushrooms with a silver spoon to identify the poisonous ones – actually completely untrue, it doesn’t work!
  • Store your lemons in sawdust.
  • Brush your hair for ten minutes each day to cure insomnia

Thankfully things have changed, and today, of course, we recognise that what creates a good relationship is not a matter of following those kinds of rules that people once thought important. And we know it’s not about one person keeping the other happy by doing all the right things.

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