Give me this water


14753506_mThis week’s gospel reading was the story from John’s Gospel of how Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well.

John 4.5-42

You might think that when it comes to leading a blameless life Jesus was streets ahead of anyone else. You might think that when it comes to preaching the gospel we have a lot to learn from Jesus.

Let me just introduce you to someone who has the edge on Jesus. Billy Graham, the famous Southern Baptist evangelist from the United States, has led a remarkable life. It is estimated that he has preached the gospel to more people than anyone else in the history of Christianity – if you include his crusades, as well as his television and radio audiences, about 2.2 billion people – far more than Jesus ever managed. It’s a truly amazing achievement and he has changed so many people’s lives.

He has also, apparently, led a far more blameless life than Jesus did when it comes to women. What makes me say that? Well, I remember reading once that Billy Graham has said that in all his adult life he has never been alone with a woman who wasn’t his mother or his wife. He has said that a Christian should be above reproach and his reasoning is, presumably, that you have to be careful not to give people ammunition for gossip. Just think about that for a moment. How on earth do you manage to avoid ever being alone with a woman other than your mother or your wife? Continue reading

The answer is blowin’ in the wind


The gospel last Sunday was the story of Nicodemus visiting Jesus at night in order to ask some questions. Here’s what I said.

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

Questions. Today’s gospel is about questions. Or rather, it’s about someone seeking answers but not really knowing the right questions to ask.

Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. So said the great French philosopher Voltaire.

But how do we know what the right questions are? Some of history’s greatest thinkers have pondered: What are the questions we should be asking? And they’ve come up with some interesting answers to that question. They’ve come up with questions like these – posed by in my opinion probably the greatest ever winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature:

How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?
Or how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?
Or how many times must the cannon balls fly before they’re forever banned?

What are the answers to those questions? Well, some of you will have recognized those words, so you will know: Continue reading

Don’t worry!


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Genesis 1.1-2.3; Matthew 6.25-end

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 while 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 showed that top of the list – and no surprise – is money! Then comes, in order, problems with family and friends, health, stress at work and then in fifth place, job security.

Today’s gospel reading gives us Jesus talking about worry! And the Church of England has done a very interesting thing with our reading this morning. Jesus starts by telling the crowd that they are not to worry. Easier said than done, of course! But look at those opening words of Jesus: Continue reading

How do we know what is right?


40355395 - depressed businessman sitting under question marks

Ecclesiasticus 15.15-end; Matthew 5.21-37

One of the most popular and famous television programmes of the last 20 years was Who wants to be a Millionaire. Each contestant had to answer just 12 questions correctly to win a million pounds. During its run – which I managed to avoid completely – it made five people into millionaires.

At its height over 19 million people watched it. And one of the factors that made it famous was its use of what were called ‘lifelines’ which contestants could use if they were stuck on a particular question. I’m sure you remember the format – each question had four possible answers and if you got stuck you could use a lifeline. You had a choice of three.

One of these was Phone a friend, a phrase which has now entered the language. The second was 50/50 where the computer would remove two answers leaving you with one right and one wrong answer. The third lifeline was … ? Continue reading

Light for the world


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This Sunday we kept the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It’s actually on 2nd February, but the Church of England allows us to transfer it to the previous Sunday when more people will be in church! During the service we had a baptism, and at the end we joined in the candlit procession which ends at the font for the final part of the liturgy. The font is by the main church door, and so we remember that the place where we give our lives to Christ in baptism is right next to the door where we leave worship to take Jesus out into our world.

Here’s what I said.

Luke 2.22-40

The birth of a child has always been a cause for celebration. And throughout history different cultures and religions have had their own special ways of celebrating. In our own culture people celebrate with parties, champagne, and often – as this morning – a christening at the local church. Continue reading

Happy families?


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Jesus calls his first disciples. But what about their families? This week’s gospel reading invites us to reflect on the reality of being called by Jesus to follow him.

Matthew 4.12-23

Do you remember the good old days? When instead of everyone doing their own thing in an evening families used to gather together and either watch TV or play games? And simple games. Nothing like the complexity of today’s video games. And one of the games that used to be popular, and that we played when I was little, was the card game Happy Families.

A Happy Families pack of cards consisted of a number of sets of four. And in each set there would be a father, identified by his occupation and a surname that fitted. Names like – and these are all genuine names from Happy Family sets according to the article on Wikipedia.

  • Mr Pipe the Plumber
  • Mr Flatfoot the Policeman
  • Mr Bacon the Butcher
  • Mr Ashes the Undertaker
  • Mr Fisher the Fisherman

Then, in each set, there was a wife. She never had a job – she was always, for example, Mrs Fisher the Fisherman’s wife. Then there would be two children – Master Fisher the Fisherman’s son and Miss Fisher the Fisherman’s daughter. In those days a happy family apparently consisted of a man who worked, a wife who didn’t, and two children, one of each gender. Continue reading

What are you looking for?


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“What are you looking for? The first words of Jesus in John’s gospel, from our reading last Sunday. He speaks them to Andrew and another disciple. He also speaks them to each of us.

John 1.29-42

People often worry about the lifestyle of many of today’s young people – and the culture adopted by so many of drinking, clubbing, casual relationships and so on. “Not like it was in our day – we were so much better behaved,” I hear you saying!

Of course, it’s actually nothing new at all. People made the same complaints about young people in the Roman Empire. Young people have always behaved in a way of which their elders disapproved. And one young man we know a lot about was Saint Augustine. Because Augustine, before he became a Christian and subsequently one of Christianity’s greatest thinkers and writers, had a bit of a reputation. And we know about his reputation because he later wrote about it. Continue reading