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
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.
Where would we be without all our modern technology and labour-saving devices?
Well – for a start we’d be without all those instruction booklets. I suspect that we are not the only household with piles of instruction booklets and manuals that lie in various places around the house. Instruction booklets that seem to be ridiculously thick – and often thicker and more complicated the smaller and more straightforward the appliance or gadget they’re supposed to help with. And so, by and large, they go unread. And all is fine until something goes wrong – and then comes the cry, “It’s not working! Why isn’t it working?”
To which there are two responses:
Did you read the manual?
Have you tried switching it off and then back on again?
The reality is that much of modern technology is actually very simple to use. It just seems complicated, perhaps. And is fine until it goes wrong. And then our brain starts to hurt as we try to work out the problem.
The feast of Saint John falls on the 27th December, just two days after Christmas. On the Sunday after Christmas, given that our church is dedicated to Saint John, we have our patronal festival. So, this week, I reflected on how times have changed since our church was built, and how we need to continue to change as a church as we look to the future. Here’s what I said.
This week we have celebrated two very important birthdays. 138 years ago this month the foundation stone of our church was laid. And a year later, on 27th December 1882, the new parish church of Saint John the Evangelist was consecrated – 137 years old last Friday. We are keeping the birthday today.
And how times have changed over the years for the Church – both for St John’s and for the Church of England as a whole. When St John’s was built a priest was a priest – because the whole idea of a priest being a woman just hadn’t crossed anyone’s mind. It was men that led the Church because that was how God had ordained it – so people thought.
The sermon preached at Midnight Mass. Here’s what I said.
It is something of a tradition for the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other leading religious figures, in their Christmas sermons to make some reference to the state of the nation or the world, or to comment on political leaders – and to remind us of why we need the light of Christmas to shine into the darkness of the reality of the world we live in.
Not wishing to be outdone by the Archbishop of Canterbury, I thought this year I would follow his example. So I want to say something tonight about Members of Parliament – and in particular about one of the worst decisions that has ever been made in the House of Commons.
Don’t worry – it’s not what you think! The worst decision is not a recent one. But it must surely be the most unpopular decision ever made the House of Commons in its history and it has its 375th anniversary this year. The year was 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!
In three days you’ll all be opening your Christmas presents. Do you know what you’re getting? Have you been dropping hints? Or are you leaving it all to chance and hoping that you’ll get something you actually want, or at least that you can genuinely say is a nice surprise? Because the problem with Christmas presents isn’t just that you can’t always get what you want but that too often you do get what you really don’t want!
Christmas will soon be over. And we’ll be counting the cost of all those unwanted Christmas gifts.
A few years back I bought the most beautiful, religious Advent Calendar I had ever had. It was a crib scene in the style of the old masters – no Santa Claus and elves and definitely no chocolate. This Advent Calendar would, I was sure, keep me focused on what Advent was really about.
But when I opened the first window, I was dismayed to see on the inside of the window the words 24 days to go. My lovely religious Advent Calendar was to be my count down, moving relentlessly on, not quite saying 24 shopping days to Christmas, but certainly reminding me daily of those words we hear so often. It ended up being the most depressing Advent Calendar I had ever had – 12 days to go, 11 days to go, 10 days to go – it was just a relentless reminder of how many days I had left to do everything on my list. As a child this count down to Christmas was so exciting and it went so slowly. Now the count down just whizzes by and the 24 days fly past in a whirl. Such is the effect of ageing.
There’s always someone, it seems, who believes that they know
when the end of the world is coming! All kinds of predictions have been made
down the centuries about when the end of the world as we know it was coming,
only for nothing to happen.
Take Ronald Weinland, for example. Ronald Weinland is the head of a Christian denomination with the rather long title: Church of God, Preparing for the Kingdom of God. He founded it in 1998 in the United States. So much easier to just be able to say you’re a member of the Church of England. Weinland started predicting that the end of the world was due at any moment in 2008. And then declared that Christ would return and the end of the world would come on the feast of Pentecost in the year 2012.
When that didn’t happen, he changed his prophecy of the end of the world to Pentecost 2013. When that didn’t happen, he then prophesied that the end of the world would happen at Pentecost 2019. Yes – you, like me, may have noticed something of a pattern emerging here. Weinland hasn’t yet got it right yet. Of course, Weinland’s credibility with his fellow church members may have been somewhat undermined by the fact that in 2013 he was imprisoned for 3½ years for tax evasion – something he apparently didn’t see coming.
Last year we all, our community and the country, made such an effort for Remembrance. The 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War saw us uniting to remember those millions who died, and especially those who died from this community of Caterham. The ghostly figures of the “here but not here” installation appeared in church for the first time and we made the wonderful poppy display which we have been able to use again. These acts of commemoration of the centenary of that war will be used for years to come.
We all follow Jesus. And at St John’s over the last three Sundays, we have been exploring our Mission Statement and particularly the three words which form our action points as, as a Church, we work out what it means to follow Jesus each day. Our mission statement is … I’m not expecting anyone to know it off by heart, but it is: St John’s is called by God to be his people through faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit: Worshipping – Growing – Serving. Having previously thought about those three words, our final sermon this week is called: We are a Jesus community – and as this Sunday was All Saints Sunday it’s a particularly appropriate theme for the week.
A quick recap. Here at St John’s over the last two Sundays, today and next Sunday, we are exploring in more detail our Mission Statement and particularly the three words which form our action points.
Our mission statement is … I’m not expecting anyone to know it off by heart, but it is: St John’s is called by God to be his people through faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit: Worshipping – Growing – Serving.
We have already explored Worshipping and Growing in the sermon slot on the last two Sundays. If you missed either of those, they are up on our website for you to read. Today we are exploring “Serving” – what it might mean to be a serving community.