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
One thing you lack …
The gospel for this Sunday was the story of the rich man who comes to Jesus and asks the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Here’s what I said.
One of the biggest stories of the past week was the leaking of nearly 12 million documents revealing the hidden wealth, tax avoidance, and in some cases money laundering, of the world’s rich and powerful. Known as the Pandora Papers, the leaking of the documents shows how some of the most powerful people in the world manage to secretively hide away their wealth.
What is significant about the Pandora Papers is that they name names and provide documentary evidence. They highlight the way in which the rich and powerful will do their utmost to cover up their wealth and hide their financial activities.
But it struck me that this is not anything new. The Pandora Papers might give us names and details, but they don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about rich people in general. Because generally speaking, the rich have always wanted to hold on to their wealth and avoid sharing it with anyone else. It was as true at the time of Jesus as it is now. And one person in particular was really attached to his wealth – the rich man who accosts Jesus in our gospel reading this morning.Continue reading
That’s the way to do it!
Today is a very special birthday. Because today, May 9th, a very famous person reaches the grand old age of 359 years old.
Today is Mr Punch’s birthday! Though I doubt very much that Judy has bought him a present! Mr Punch celebrates his birthday today because the very first record we have of him is in the diary of Samuel Pepys – on May 9th 1662 Pepys records how he saw a new Italian puppet play outside St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden – the first recorded performance of Punch and Judy.
And each year to celebrate his birthday St Paul’s Covent Garden, holds a Mayfayre in his honour and has Mayfayre service.
Mr Punch, of course, has never been noted for his good behaviour. He is notoriously rude and bad-tempered to everyone who comes his way, as well as being rather violent, though as he has got older he has toned down his behaviour a bit. In his younger days, as I remember from childhood trips to the seaside, he would throw the baby out of the window, beat his wife, murder various public servants who came to see him before finally tricking the hangman into hanging himself! And then he would follow that up by declaring: That’s the way to do it!
It’s no wonder Mr Punch doesn’t have any friends. Not easy being a friend to someone who behaves like Mr Punch. He didn’t behave in a way that was likely to get him any! And he very much behaved in a way that was definitely not the way to do it!Continue reading
We’ve toiled all night and taken nothing
I don’t know whether any of you know St. Leonard’s on Sea, but if you do you will probably know the church on the sea front after which the place is named.
I visited the church many years ago when I was doing a placement nearby, during my Church Army training, at the Youth Centre in Bexhill. And the church has always remained in my mind because of its pulpit. The church was destroved by a V1 flying bomb in 1944 and soon afterwards, Canon Cuthbert Griffiths, the Rector of the church and who would later oversee the rebuilding, had a dream. He dreamt that Jesus was preaching to the church’s congregation from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Soon afterwards he went to Galilee, and bought the front half of a fishing boat – he had it brought back and installed it in the rebuilt church as the pulpit.
And there it is – the front half of a boat, protruding from the wall of the church. And so, just as Jesus had preached from a boat on the Sea of Galilee, so the clergy of the parish could preach from a boat. And week by week, the people of the parish would be reminded of this incident in Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus taught from the boat and called Simon Peter to fish for people.Continue reading
Everyone is special!
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
Time to do some pruning!
Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter, on Jesus’ words to the disciples after the Last Supper from John’s Gospel when he told the disciples that they must be rooted in him, the true vine.
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, and I tend to take a more theological approach – I allow God to look after my garden in his own way. But one thing I remember from my childhood is the constant pruning or cutting back of rosebushes, fruit trees, and other plants.
As every gardener knows, many plants appear to be dying, overgrown, weak – no longer able to bear fruit or flowers. Like the pear tree that the School Governors gave me two years ago for a significant birthday. It was duly planted in the vicarage garden and last year and over the winter gave every appearance of being dead – more of a bare twig than a tree. No sign of life at all. I was all for digging it up. But suddenly, in the last couple of weeks, it has sprung into life and is sprouting leaves all over. It’s positively blooming. Continue reading
Does what it says on the tin!
This Sunday was the Sunday following Ascension Day, and is a day when we both look back to and reflect on the Ascension and also look forward to Pentecost when we celebrate the wonderful gift to us of the Holy Spirit. It was also the day after a major failure of British Airways’ IT system, which caused a major crisis at UK airports and left thousand of unhappy travellers stranded.
Acts 1.6-14; John 17.1-11
The task of advertising executives is to come up with slogans that people will remember and that will sell the product and boost its reputation.
This morning, two in particular come to mind: Continue reading
Jesus calls his first disciples. But what about their families? This week’s gospel reading invites us to reflect on the reality of being called by Jesus to follow him.
Do you remember the good old days? When instead of everyone doing their own thing in an evening families used to gather together and either watch TV or play games? And simple games. Nothing like the complexity of today’s video games. And one of the games that used to be popular, and that we played when I was little, was the card game Happy Families.
A Happy Families pack of cards consisted of a number of sets of four. And in each set there would be a father, identified by his occupation and a surname that fitted. Names like – and these are all genuine names from Happy Family sets according to the article on Wikipedia.
- Mr Pipe the Plumber
- Mr Flatfoot the Policeman
- Mr Bacon the Butcher
- Mr Ashes the Undertaker
- Mr Fisher the Fisherman
Then, in each set, there was a wife. She never had a job – she was always, for example, Mrs Fisher the Fisherman’s wife. Then there would be two children – Master Fisher the Fisherman’s son and Miss Fisher the Fisherman’s daughter. In those days a happy family apparently consisted of a man who worked, a wife who didn’t, and two children, one of each gender. Continue reading
Better poor than rich
Yesterday was All Saints Sunday, the Sunday nearest to the feast of All Saints on 1st November. The gospel reading is Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. Officially the gospel reading is Luke 6.20-31. However, I have included in the link verses 12 to 19, the reason why will be clear as you read what I said.
First lines – whether in a novel, or a film, or even a piece of music – are so important. They can grab our attention – or put us totally off. A classic first line in a novel will immediately draw the reader in. It may give a very clear hint as what the rest of the book will bring, or be so enigmatic or intriguing that you just have to read on to find out more. The same is true of first lines in cinema, and while heard rather than read, a classic first line will make you immediately look forward to seeing how the film unfolds. Take this one, which I think is one of the best ever:
I never knew the old Vienna before the war, with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm – Constantinople suited me better. Anyone know that one? Continue reading
Lord, teach us to pray
In this week’s gospel reading a disciple says to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray,” and we hear what Jesus did in response.
Our gospel reading this morning always reminds me of a holiday we had when I was very small. We were travelling as a family on a coach for our summer holiday to Gorleston-on-sea, which is near Great Yarmouth. Like most small children I wanted to know when we’d arrive. Unlike most small children I didn’t repeatedly ask, “Are we nearly there yet?” I was far too intelligent for that, and since I knew from an early age that my Father knew everything I kept asking every few minutes, “How many miles are there still to go?” My Father, with infinite patience – he never once told me to be quiet – would tell me exactly how many miles there were still to travel – each time giving me a figure one or two miles less than the previous answer. I was so impressed that, despite the lack of any signposts, he always knew the right answer. It wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me that he wasn’t quite as all-knowing as I had thought and had just been guessing to keep me happy. Continue reading