It was John Lennon, the anniversary
of who’s death was just eight days ago, who famously sang Imagine there’s no heaven – it’s easy if you try. Well – it’s a
great song – but actually it isn’t easy at all to imagine there’s no heaven if
you’re a Christian. Certainly not easy for me! And it certainly wasn’t easy for
Jews at the time of Jesus to imagine there was no heaven. Heaven is where they
were all expecting to go. And in the world of popular music Lennon seems to be
unusual in imagining there’s no heaven. From Stairway to heaven by Led Zeppelin, to Knocking on heaven’s door by Bob Dylan and Will you meet me in heaven by Johnny Cash, heaven is a favourite
destination in popular music. Except for Belinda Carlisle who sang Heaven is a place on earth! No, it isn’t
Belinda. And getting to heaven is apparently very simple because there are just
three steps to follow to get to heaven according to Eddie Cochran.
The Church in which I became a Christian some forty years ago was dominated by a wonderful cross depicting Christ as King. It has only been many years later that I have realised that that very image played apart in my conversion.
I had originally gone to this church very reluctantly on an Easter Sunday, simply because my mother and aunt were staying with me for the holiday weekend and wanted to go to church. We had chosen this particular church because my auntie – some of you will remember my Auntie Trix as she worshipped with us here for several years – my Auntie Trix had seen a photo of the vicar at this particular church on a leaflet that had come through the door advertising all the local church services for Easter. The leaflet included a photograph of each minister – what a way to advertise! Anyway, my auntie Trix said “let’s go there, that vicar looks sexy!”
It was Harold Wilson who first uttered the words, “A week is
a long time in politics.” Well, the last few days have seemed like an awfully
long time – and people on both sides of the Brexit debate are expressing
concerns about the future.
If the last few days have left you worried about what thefuture for our country may be then – at least according to Ronald Weinland –there really is no point in worrying at all. For the end of the world is nigh.At least it is according to Ronald Weinland, founder of a religious organisationthat is expecting the Second Coming imminently and which is known as, in full,the Church of God, Preparing for theKingdom of God. (Source: Wikipedia entry)
He apparently predictedthe end of the world as coming in 2011 – and you may have noticed that thatdidn’t happen. Then he predicted it again as coming in 2012 – yes, didn’thappen then either. Then he tried 2013 – and yet again, nothing! It seems hethen spent some time rethinking, and then he amended his predicted date for theend of the world to the 9th of June next year. So, according toWeinland a couple of months after Brexit the world is coming to an end anyway,so not a lot of point in worrying about it.
Today is, of course, the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War. As always the church was full for our Remembrance Service at St John’s. Here is my sermon for today.
A hundred years seems such a long time. And yet – the century that has passed since the end of the Great War is so much shorter than we sometimes imagine.
In family terms for many of us it’s not that long ago at all. My grandparents were all caught up the events of the Great War, and that will be true of many of you here. My grandfathers both served through the war – one in France, one in Egypt. For some perhaps it’s now great or even great-great-grandparents who are the nearest generation to have a connection. For me, I’m distanced from the time of the Great War by just one generation – my father was born just after Christmas in December 1914 at the point when it had dawned on people that it wasn’t all going to be over by Christmas! I’ve often wondered how his parents – my grand-parents – felt about the state of the world as my father entered it. Continue reading →
It has been the same since the very beginning – at least according to the Bible. In the garden of Eden, according to the book of Genesis, the devil in the form of a serpent encourages the man and the woman to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree so that they can become like God. For that, he tells them, is what will happen if they eat. Not content with what God has given they want more – and to be like God, to be equal to God, seemed so desirable – so they ate. And they are expelled from the Garden of Eden as a result of their disobedience. The story of Adam and Eve being thrown out of Eden is what we call The Fall. Even from the beginning, says the Bible, people got the whole idea about status and power upside down. They wanted to be raised up to be equal to God – not realising that God had different ideas. We’ll come back to that thought in a while.
Around ten years ago the Guardian newspaper published a list of the thousand novels that everyone must read before they die.
I think I have some way to go. I looked through the list yesterday and I have now managed to read 87 of them. In case you think that actually sounds rather impressive I should explain. The list contains many of the great classics from around the world, Dickens, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Jane Austen and so on, and many of the books are seriously heavy going. It also contains great modern novels that you probably know better as films – Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, the great Philip Marlow novels of Raymond Chandler, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I managed to resist cheating and didn’t include those in my total even if I’d watched the film. Continue reading →
John was really keen to learn to drive as quickly as possible. He knew the highway code by heart. He knew what all the traffic signs meant and he even knew exactly how far to drive behind the car in front so he could stop in time in an emergency. He’d got used to all the controls in the car till using them had become second nature, and he remembered to constantly check his rear-view mirror. He even knew, unlike many, not to use his mobile phone when at the wheel.
But he was no nearer to being able to pass his test than when he first started. So one day he said to his driving instructor, “I know everything there is to know about driving but I don’t seem to be getting anywhere!” Continue reading →
When you’re a child, it’s always good – and a boost to your confidence, and your happiness – when someone makes you feel that you’re special!
When I was at primary school every other child in the school was – as well as being white – possessed of two fully working legs and two fully working arms, could see properly (sometimes with the aid of glasses) and could hear properly. There were no children with a disability. Why? Because anyone who was deemed to be ‘different’ when it came to physical or mental disability was not allowed to go to the same school as everyone else. They were sent to what was known by everyone as The Special School. The pretence was that it was necessary because children with disabilities somehow needed extra-special care. Except, of course, it wasn’t special at all – it was a way of keeping those with disabilities out of sight and out of mind. It was very much a case of “them” and “us” – and as a child I never saw or engaged with “them” or vice versa – people thought it better that way.
Fortunately we now – in this country at least – live in a very different world. Not only are our schools fully integrated, but we now take all appropriate measures to ensure that those with disabilities – whether visible or invisible – can play as much a full and active role as everyone else, whether that’s at home, at work, at leisure. And to the extent that nobody thinks anymore about some people being somehow “different”! Continue reading →