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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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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