My parents were both keen gardeners, and would spend hours, days even, out in the garden, planting, weeding, pruning. The passion for gardening never rubbed off. But one thing I remember from my childhood is my Father out in the garden doing the constant pruning or cutting back of rosebushes, fruit trees, and other plants.
As every gardener knows, many plants can appear to be dying, overgrown, weak – no longer able to bear fruit or flowers.
But with careful pruning, cutting back in the right way, bushes and trees can produce spectacular flowers and fruit. The newly pruned plant is given strength as the weaker parts of the plant receive nourishment from the stronger central stem. Pruning can seem a very drastic thing to do, and the nervous gardener may not have the confidence to cut back as much as is needed. It’s hard to cut off all the old growth but it is essential to do so if the plant is to continue to be fruitful and beautiful.
Today Jesus speaks to us about plants and pruning. Today, in our gospel reading, we hear some of his final words to his disciples. Spoken after they had shared their last supper together, this part of Jesus’ last teaching before his arrest and his crucifixion.Continue reading
If you are a person who notices detail, you may have realised that during the Easter Season there is no reading from the Old Testament in our Sunday Services. This isn’t a downgrading of the Hebrew Scriptures which are foundational to our Christian faith, but instead an elevation of the story of the young Christian church. During the Easter Season we hear each Sunday, and weekdays too if you come to a weekday Mass, portions of the Acts of the Apostles, the book that is part two of the Gospel of Luke.Continue reading
There’s an old saying: “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family!” Not absolutely accurate, of course, when you think about it, as those who adopt children will realise – but essentially it means that your parents, your grandparents, your brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts – they are all who they are! You can’t just decide one day that if you don’t like them or aren’t getting on to change them for someone different. There’s many a teenager would like to change their parents, and many a parent who would like to change their teenage children – but you can’t! Friends you can change if you fall out – family you are stuck with.
Families! We all have them, yet what a mixed blessing they can be! On the one hand, they can be a wonderful place of love and support. At the other extreme, they can be an awful place of hurt and abuse. But for the most part our experience of families is neither completely one nor the other, but full of contradictions. They can love and protect us, but also be stifling and discouraging at the same time. George Burns, the American comedian, once said “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family – in another city!” Continue reading
Anyone who uses computers knows the feeling.
You press the on button and wait – and nothing happens. Or it starts up but never finishes – it just switches on and never quite finishes loading everything.
And you start to get that awful sinking feeling deep down inside. Everything is on the computer – all your email, thousands of family photos, the book you’ve been writing, twenty years’ worth of sermons! Particularly the one you need to print because you’re preaching it in half-an-hour. And you start to say to yourself:
- I knew I should have paid for another year of that anti-virus software!
- Why on earth didn’t I install the firewall?
- I know I said that backing everything up could wait until tomorrow – what on earth was I thinking?
The computer is dead. And everything on it is gone. And because you didn’t look after it properly there’s no recovery, or if you’re lucky and can afford it an expert might – just might – be able to dismantle it and get your stuff off the hard disk. But there’s that lingering feeling – if only I’d done what I knew I should, everything would all be safe. If only … Continue reading
Just as things are getting back to normal following Christmas, Epiphany and post-Christmas week off, I find myself ‘playing away’ at St Paul’s Church in Woldingham. St Paul’s is in our team and is currently in interregnum. There were two baptisms in the service as well!
For any minister preaching your very first sermon is a nerve-wracking experience. After that it gets more difficult. Continue reading
Here is my sermon from this Sunday
Three years ago the Guardian newspaper published a list of the thousand novels that everyone must read. I think I have some way to go. I looked through the list yesterday and I have read 65 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.
I was actually helped along to my total of 65 by the inclusion in the list – and remember this is the thousand novels that everyone must read – of such great classics as Asterix the Gaul and Tintin in Tibet, the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend. Even Sharpe’s Eagle, that terrific novel about an army officer in Wellington’s army. Continue reading
A reminder that we begin at 5.30am in the morning, before sunrise, with the Easter Fire and the lighting of the Paschal Candle. We expect to finish about 8am with the gospel reading of Jesus preparing breakfast on the seashore for the disciples. After which we head over to the hall for breakfast ourselves. For those who can’t manage to get up so early, our Parish Mass, at which we will bless the Easter garden, is at the usual time of 10am.
On Good Friday we preached a series of sermons based on Graham Kendrick’s hymn The Servant King. I preached the first sermon.
In the name of the Living God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Reading – Philippians 2.1-8
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death –
even death on a cross. Continue reading
Busy week, of course, being Holy Week, with services every day, so only just catching up with sermon posting. However, for those of you with a bit of stamina I’m about to post all our sermons from Holy Week. The first, from Palm Sunday, was preached by Mother Anne-Marie.
Mark 11.1-11; Mark 15.1-39
Jerusalem was a conquered city, a city under Roman occupation. Not unusual. Throughout the entire history of the known world, people have conquered other people, Kings have sought to rule the world and empires have come and gone. Jesus enters the Roman occupied city of Jerusalem to the triumphal waving of palms and the victorious cries of the crowd “Hosanna, blessed is the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David”. Is Jesus coming to reclaim Jerusalem – coming to conquer it back? The cries of the crowd would indicate that perhaps they thought so. “Hosanna” – the Hebrew “hosha’na” – God save us – that was what the crowd were shouting – hosha’na – God save us. Jesus was interested in conquering territory – in conquering a place as yet unconquered. He wasn’t there to win back Jerusalem but there to win for the first time a far more precious territory. A place as yet unconquered, the unconquered territory of the human heart. He was entering Jerusalem, but more interested in entering the heart of every person lining the road. Continue reading
Here’s my sermon for this Sunday.
Now amongst those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
Why Greeks? Our gospel this morning began with these couple of sentences about some Greeks – it appears pretty unrelated to what follows – we never even find out if they did see Jesus and we certainly don’t know what happened if they did.
Well you kind of have to know what has happened before and whereabouts we are in John’s Gospel. In the previous chapter, Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, had died – you remember how the sisters send for Jesus but he apparently comes too late and Lazarus is not only dead, but buried. But Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb and he struggles out still bound in the cloths that wrapped him for burial.
It is a dramatic moment and it divides those who witness it. John’s gospel tells us that Continue reading