Being caught in a storm at sea is no laughing matter. I speak from bitter experience. When I was doing my Church Army Training, more years ago than I am prepared to admit to, I spent, as one of my placements, six weeks working with the chaplaincy team at H.M.S. Collingwood. H.M.S. Collingwood is a training ship – the biggest in the navy – and as such is not a ship at all but a land base.
While I was there I had the opportunity to join the chaplain on H.M.S. Antrim, a guided missile destroyer, and spend two days at sea while the ship went out for gunnery practice. What an opportunity – and it should have been a wonderful experience.Continue reading
For any minister preaching your very first sermon is a nerve-wracking experience. After that it gets more difficult.
The College of Preachers, to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary – a good few years ago now – carried out a survey to discover what people think about sermons. The results were surprising. Far from dreading having to sit through sermons apparently 96.6 per cent of those surveyed actually look forward to the sermon. Which is encouraging for me as I stand here facing you this morning!
But what I found particularly interesting, and it’s rather appropriate during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was the report’s findings on the expectations of people in different denominations.Continue reading
We all know those songs that, if you hear them on the radio or TV by chance, then keep going round and round in your head driving you crazy!
For me – one of the worst, because I know if I hear it, it will then be repeating in my mind for days despite the fact that I really do not like it, is the debut single from the Spice Girls. Released in 1996 – and I apologise in advance to those of you who will now be singing this in your head for the rest of the day – it’s called Wannabe.
Not placed it yet? This should help – here are the words:
Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want.
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
Over and over!
And for those of you who would like to know what it was they really, really wanted – and I had to look this up:Continue reading
A very happy and blessed Christmas to everyone! And a little late posting but here, on the 6th day of Christmas, is the sermon I preached at the Midnight Mass.
Two years ago – if you can remember back that long – I talked in my sermon at the midnight mass about Members of Parliament. And in particular about what was surely the most unpopular decision that has ever been made in the House of Commons. Little did I know then what would come to pass.
I explained two years ago that the most unpopular decision made in Parliament was not a recent one, but was made back in the year 1644. It was during the Civil War, and the mostly Puritan House of Commons disapproved of people enjoying themselves, especially at Christmas. So Members of Parliament decided to pass a law banning Christmas. Yes! Really!Continue reading
Don’t you sometimes have a great day? A day when the sun is shining and the birds are singing? A day when you feel really good? A day when, as you’re walking down the street you feel like bursting into song and singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning!” Because it’s a beautiful day and like Howard Keel in Oklahoma you’ve got a beautiful feeling that everything’s going your way.
Perhaps you feel like that this morning! No? Me neither! And certainly not this close to Christmas with no idea how everything is going to turn out given how the Covid pandemic is going. But most of us have a day like that now and then – just not as often as we would like at the moment.Continue reading
I can’t help it, but John the Baptist just makes me want to burst into song. And it’s all to do with my daughter. Let me explain. I’ve often thought that our elder daughter, when she was a teenager, would have got on with John the Baptist like a house on fire.
Because as an early teenager, she went through a grunge phase. Now, for those of you who have no idea what grunge is let me explain. Grunge was a combination of music and lifestyle that first became popular in the early 80s. And the first thing you noticed about teenagers who were into grunge was how they dressed. Mainly black and dark coloured clothes, often second-hand and generally tatty, to go with the deliberately unkempt appearance of those who wore them.Continue reading
Here we are – Advent Sunday. And I wouldn’t mind betting that even though Advent is still only a few hours old you’re already, most of you, thinking about Christmas. In vicarworld we can beat that – we’re already planning Lent and Easter. So let’s just think about Easter for a moment and the words of Saint Augustine: “We are an Easter people – and Hallelujah is our song”.
But away from Easter and back to Advent. We are an Easter people, but we are also an Advent people – a people for whom the world is only temporal and which one day will end when Jesus returns. Father Charles Riepe, an American Roman Catholic, wrote this linking Easter and Advent: Advent then is dedicated to the last things, to death, judgement, heaven and hell, but above all to Jesus’ glorious coming to complete his Easter work. The church goes so far as to set aside an entire liturgical season to the end of the world and the final coming of the Lord, so important a part of the faith does she consider these truths.
An entire season to think about the end of the world! And linked, I would suggest like Charles Riepe, to Easter rather than Christmas, ‘dedicated to Jesus’ glorious coming to complete his Easter work.’Continue reading
Last Sunday was Remembrance Sunday in the UK. As always, we had a special service at St John’s as we remembered the fallen, laid wreaths at our war memorial in church, and committed ourselves to working for a peaceful and united world. Here’s what I said…
Peace. Such an emotive word. A word that conjures up all kinds of feelings within us. It is something that we all seek in life. Peace.
We look around our world and see so many places, so many people, that need peace. And yet it seems so elusive. This year we have withdrawn from Afghanistan after many years of conflict. Will there be peace? It is, I am sure, something that we all pray and hope for. And yet – we know it’s unlikely. A lack of actual war, maybe, but peace? The reality of our world is that peace is so elusive.
It’s ove a hundred years since the end of the war to end all wars and you don’t need me to tell you that it did nothing of the kind.Continue reading
Want to get ahead in life? Want to get promoted at work? Want to be in charge? And lead other people?
Well, any look at the non-fiction section of a good bookshop will show you that there are no end of books ready to tell you just how easy it is to become a great leader and get people to follow you and do what you want them to – some of them very well known:
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
How to Win Friends and Influence People
The One Minute Manager
The list goes on. I did a search on Amazon for books on Leadership yesterday. And some of the taglines for the books illustrate just what a fixation our society has for power and control over others:
Fast, effective ways to become a leader people want to follow
Why the world needs more everyday leaders and why that leader is you
Step into your power, write your own rules and succeed in your career
Now, any of those books may be very good in their sphere. But what really struck me was that the first title I could find that came anything close to expressing the kind of leadership that Jesus taught was way down at number 54 on the list of books that came up in my search:Continue reading
The gospel for this Sunday was the story of the rich man who comes to Jesus and asks the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Here’s what I said.
One of the biggest stories of the past week was the leaking of nearly 12 million documents revealing the hidden wealth, tax avoidance, and in some cases money laundering, of the world’s rich and powerful. Known as the Pandora Papers, the leaking of the documents shows how some of the most powerful people in the world manage to secretively hide away their wealth.
What is significant about the Pandora Papers is that they name names and provide documentary evidence. They highlight the way in which the rich and powerful will do their utmost to cover up their wealth and hide their financial activities.
But it struck me that this is not anything new. The Pandora Papers might give us names and details, but they don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about rich people in general. Because generally speaking, the rich have always wanted to hold on to their wealth and avoid sharing it with anyone else. It was as true at the time of Jesus as it is now. And one person in particular was really attached to his wealth – the rich man who accosts Jesus in our gospel reading this morning.Continue reading