Last Sunday’s gospel reading told the story of how Jesus shared a meal with his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. And we hear how Mary behaves quick shockingly. Here’s what I said.
I’m going to begin with a story – a true story. It is told by William Carter , a Presbyterian Pastor from Pennsylvania. He writes:
I will never forget the furore sparked at a stewardship conference at which an ecumenical group of pastors gathered to discuss generosity. One presenter spoke about offering a gift directly to God, and the clergy began to yawn. Then he pulled a $100 bill from his wallet, set it on fire in an ashtray, and prayed, “Lord, I offer this gift to you, and you alone.”
The reaction was electric. Clergy began to fidget in their chairs, watching that [banknote] go up in smoke as if it were perfume. One whispered it was illegal to burn currency. Another was heard to murmur, “If he is giving money away, perhaps he has a few more.”Continue reading
Why didn’t you listen?
When you’re a teenager, it’s as clear as clear can be that the only role parents have is to annoy you. I remember my teenage years well and it was obvious to me that parents just went out of their way to cause quite unnecessary conflict.
Later on in life I came to see things in a different light. Because when I became a parent myself I came to understand that parents, of course, are always – and I mean absolutely always – right. I should know, having seen three children through their teenage years. Funny how the reality of a situation changes depending on where you stand, what your viewpoint is. Of course when our children were teenagers they didn’t think we, as parents, were ever right about anything. Now our daughters have their own teenage children, though, their viewpoint has also changed as well.
I remember when our older daughter posted on Facebook, “What’s wrong with teenagers – why is it so hard for them to switch lights off! And why can’t they keep their hands off the walls!” Then, a little later, she added, “Oh dear, I think I’m turning into my father”. I did remind her that she was just as bad when she was a teenager.Continue reading
Have a look at my photos
You know what it’s like!
Some friends invite you round for a meal. And what do they do? They get out the smartphone or the tablet to show you their photos. Or if they’re really technologically savvy they show you the photos on the TV screen. First it’s the holiday photos. And then it’s the photos of the children. And you struggle to pretend that you’re really interested – your eyes start to glaze over and you keep saying, “Yes, that’s really nice …” without meaning it.
Well – this morning we’re going to have a look at a photo album. Not really, of course, but in your imagination. Over the past few weeks, since Christmas, we have been given in our readings a series of snapshots of the lives of Mary and Joseph, and of their son Jesus as he grows up. Starting with his birth, visits from shepherds and wise men, then a trip to the Temple and the flight to Egypt, and coming right up to date with his baptism, and the start of his ministry turning water into wine.
And I want you this morning to use your imaginations – imagine that all those years ago Mary and Joseph had been lucky enough (if ‘lucky’ is the right word!) to own one of the latest smartphones with a camera so that they could take photos everywhere they went.
You can just imagine what it might have been like. And I want you to really use your imaginations now. Jesus is now grown up. Joseph has died so there’s now just Mary and Jesus. Jesus has finally left home and is now working as a travelling teacher and Mary has invited you round to her house and now she wants to show you photos going all the way back to when Jesus was born.Continue reading
How to succeed in life … for Jesus
Want to get ahead in life? Want to get promoted at work? Want to be in charge? And lead other people?
Well, any look at the non-fiction section of a good bookshop will show you that there are no end of books ready to tell you just how easy it is to become a great leader and get people to follow you and do what you want them to – some of them very well known:
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
How to Win Friends and Influence People
The One Minute Manager
The list goes on. I did a search on Amazon for books on Leadership yesterday. And some of the taglines for the books illustrate just what a fixation our society has for power and control over others:
Fast, effective ways to become a leader people want to follow
Why the world needs more everyday leaders and why that leader is you
Step into your power, write your own rules and succeed in your career
Now, any of those books may be very good in their sphere. But what really struck me was that the first title I could find that came anything close to expressing the kind of leadership that Jesus taught was way down at number 54 on the list of books that came up in my search:Continue reading
Bread of life. Broken for you.
You can always tell when you’re in a restaurant that is trying to be a better class of establishment. Perhaps a local pub for a Sunday roast with family, or an evening out with friends. Because on the menu it will say seasonal vegetables as though that’s something special. Not just any old vegetables that happen to be in the shops. Seasonable vegetables!
When I was a child seasonal fruit and vegetables were nothing special. They were always seasonal – there wasn’t anything else. No looking down the rows of vegetables in the supermarket wondering what to buy this week– you simply had what was there. Well, let’s face it – there were no supermarkets – only the wonderful old Sainsbury’s with its one long counter and lots of assistants ready to get everything for you. They could do that, because everything that was available fitted onto the shelves behind them.
And as for bread – well, for starters it was delivered to the door by a man in a van. I can still remember the man who used to deliver ours. He came three times a week. There wasn’t a great deal of choice. He could fit some of each kind of bread into the basket that he brought to the back door – large white, small white, Hovis – that was it, and all baked at his own bakery. And you had to slice it yourself. I can still remember when he proudly announced that he would be adding Mother’s Pride sliced white to his range. My mother never bought it though – far too modern!Continue reading
One has died for all
2 Corinthians 5.6-10, 14-17; Mark 4.26-34
The love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all (2 Corinthians 5.14)
Like most priests, it didn’t take me long to realise that whatever you say in the sermon at a wedding, it will in most cases be forgotten as soon as the bride and groom and all the guests have left the church. They have other things on their minds, far more important to them that what the priest conducting the ceremony might have to say. Though personally I have to say I can still remember quite clearly what the preacher said at ourwedding.
One wedding that did get people talking after the event was one preached by Bishop Michael Curry. Bishop Curry is the Presiding Bishop and Primate of our sister church the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. And he preached, you may remember, at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And his sermon was subsequently talked about around the world. In less than fifteen minutes he became, as the Daily Telegraph put it, “the royal wedding preacher who stole the show.”
And what did he do that made such an impact around the world, as well as at the ceremony? Well, he simply talked about love. Just that – love! But I wonder how many people now remember what was at the heart of his message. I do, because I wrote it down at the time.Continue reading
Palm Sunday – Come and join the parade!
Tomorrow is a big day. No – I’m not referring to holy week, but to the fact that from tomorrow we can gather in groups of 6 or two households outdoors. And just in time the weather is changing so we can actually see people outdoors without freezing! Some outdoor activities can begin to start. The Easter Monday bank holiday beckons – what will we do with it? Well, unfortunately the temperature drops again by the end of the week, and though it’s traditionally a day for trips out, there’s not a great deal we can do anyway. Perhaps a garden visit and a chilly barbecue with one other family.
And it’s going to be a while before we can start to think about the kind of lack of social distancing that the people who headed to Jerusalem for the Passover encountered.Continue reading
The original grumpy old man
Life is never boring for research scientists – at least, given some of the things they research:
- Do woodpeckers get headaches? Apparently not.
- Which jump higher? Cat fleas or dog fleas? It’s dog fleas!
- Do cows with names produce more milk? Yes! Give your cow a name and its milk production goes up by about 3.5%!
One unusual piece of research carried out about twenty years ago in Edinburgh looked for the answer to the question: Are grumpy old men a real thing?
And – amazingly – it seems they are. There is a genuine medical reason why some men are grumpy – around 30% of all men, the majority aged between 35 and 54. And the researchers have called the phenomenon Irritable Male Syndrome! Grumpy old men, it seems, are a reality.Continue reading
These are the Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions! Don’t you just love reading the terms and conditions?
As we all know a feature of Saturday night television is the reality competition. At the moment we have The Voice. And if you’re not into singing, there’s always Dancing on Ice – though how much longer that will last is anyone’s guess, as they keep losing contestants to injury and positive Covid tests – five celebrities have dropped out so far. No Britain’s Got Talent to look forward to this year, but as always we can look forward to Strictly in the autumn!
And a major part of such shows is the public getting the chance to phone in and vote for their favourite competitors. And those who watch such shows will know that along with the opportunity to phone in, you have to be made aware of the terms and conditions.Continue reading
Christ the King
Last Sunday was the feast of Christ the King. Here is Mother Anne-Marie’s sermon.
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!”Continue reading