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
Mother Anne-Marie was preaching at St John’s this week for the third Sunday of Advent. She chose to preach on the epistle. Here’s what she said.
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.Continue reading
The gospel reading for the fourth Sunday of Advent tells us of Joseph’s dream about Mary’s expected baby. Joseph – and Mary for that matter – must have been a little perturbed about this somewhat surprise gift from God of a baby. Here’s what I said in my sermon.
You can’t always get what you want sang the Rolling Stones. I sometimes think they might have been singing about Christmas presents. They also sound a bit like my mother when I was growing up, and I wonder how many parents will be saying that to their children this Christmas. The problem with Christmas presents though isn’t just that you can’t always get what you want but that too often you do get what you don’t want!
Christmas will soon be over. And we’ll be counting the cost of all those unwanted Christmas gifts. Continue reading
Today is called O Sapientia, from the Latin for O Wisdom. It is the first of what are called the Advent Antiphons, the special refrains used with the Magnificat at evening prayer (vespers) from today until the 23rd.
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence. cf Ecclesiasticus 24.3; Wisdom 8.1
It was my turn to preach this week for the feast of Christ the King. Here’s what I said.
“We do not go to Church; we live in the Church and go into the world”. Words of the Roman Catholic writer Keith Fournier. “We do not go to Church; we live in the Church and go into the world”.
So it’s Sunday morning and the family are milling around getting their breakfast, cereal is spilling on the floor, the radio is booming out music you don’t like, “Are you going to church this morning Mum?”, asks one of your teenagers who is still lolling about in pyjamas. He’s probably hoping you will say “yes” so there will be a couple of hours free of nagging about doing jobs and homework! You pause, and say “No, I’m not going to Church, I’m going Home”. Continue reading
Last Sunday was Advent Sunday and the beginning of a new church year. I was preaching this week so Father Jerry got the luxury of a week off! Here’s what I said.
You know that Christmas is coming when the first selection boxes and little bags of gold chocolate coins appear in the shops. I think this year that was the week after we got back from our summer holiday – the second week of September.
You know Christmas is even nearer when the tree goes up in the shopping centre and Father Christmas comes to switch on the lights, as he did in Caterham Valley yesterday – a week later than usual I think.
You know Christmas is nearer still when the first lights go on outside people’s houses – the earliest are usually the first week in December, so watch out, any day now! Continue reading
We reach the second Sunday of Advent and so the gospel is about John the Baptist. Here’s what I said.
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. The thing is, 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 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. Along with that went the lifestyle. Those who followed grunge tended to opt out of a conventional lifestyle. They rejected normal social conventions, career choices, ways of living, and opted for alternative lifestyles. Continue reading
Happy New Year! Here we are again at the beginning of as new year for the Church. Here’s what I said.
If you know anything about the world of work today, and particularly about management, you’ll know that it has developed its own language. And that language is full of acronyms – take a phrase or list of things you want people to remember and make a word out of them. Or take an easily remembered word and come up with something rather contrived that the letters of the word stand for. Many of you will know the kind of thing I mean. And even the Church isn’t free of them. For example, when a group of people, a committee perhaps, is having to set some targets we are expected to make sure that they are SMART targets. SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-limited.
And there are hundreds of these motivational acronyms for people to remember and use in their working lives: Continue reading
John the Baptist again this week! Here’s what I said.
Getting to heaven is as easy as one, two, three. Well – at least that’s what most devout Jews thought at the time of Jesus who were under the impression that simply being a Jew more or less guaranteed you your place unless you were particularly evil. At least, most thought that. The Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death – for them there was no heaven – that’s why they were sad you see. (Groans from congregation!) But for most, it seemed fairly straight forward – as easy as one, two, three. And today’s message from John the Baptist is – don’t kid yourself. Don’t think that just because Abraham is your ancestor your place in heaven is guaranteed.
Now, I don’t know what’s come over me this Advent but I keep thinking of old songs – last week as we thought about repentance it was Brenda Lee and “I’m sorry” from 1960. Today it’s Eddie Cochran. You may remember his famous song, also from 1960, Three steps to heaven: Continue reading