There is an old Chinese proverb: He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.
We don’t, on the whole, like asking questions – after all, we don’t want to show how ignorant we are. We like people to think that we know all the answers.
Fortunately for us Nicodemus was one person who knew one thing for certain – he didn’t know all the answers. Far from it, and unlike most of the other religious leaders who had already decided what the answers were about Jesus – that he was a dangerous false teacher who had to be silenced – Nicodemus found that Jesus left him with questions. So Nicodemus went to visit Jesus to see if he could get some answers.Continue reading
This is the day – Pentecost – when the Holy Spirit takes centre stage. This great feast in the Christian Year, when we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples on the Jewish Festival of Pentecost, which came seven weeks after Passover and celebrated both the wheat harvest and the giving of the Torah, the Law, on Mount Sinai. It was one of three pilgrimage festivals when Jews came to the Temple in Jerusalem – Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles – in Hebrew Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. Pentecost is the Greek word for this feast and is derived from the Greek word for 50 – the feast of 50 days – seven weeks after Passover, and for us 50 days after Easter. For me using my seven times table it comes to 49, but if we count Easter Sunday as Day 1 then you will find that this is Day 50 after Easter! I know some of you like to know this sort of thing.Continue reading
It has been said: Always expect the unexpected!
It was in fact Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher who died around 425 BC, who first coined the phrase: he wrote: If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.
I’m not quite sure exactly what he meant by that – certainly not by the second part of that saying! He seems to have made a habit of being deliberately enigmatic. He also came up with such gems of philosophical thought as:
There is nothing permanent except change
and – see what you make of this one: The way up and the way down are one and the same.
Always expect the unexpected!
Oscar Wilde emphasised the importance of expecting the unexpected by updating that quote from Heraclitus. Wilde, in his usual manner, said: To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect. 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
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
The gospel last Sunday was the story of Nicodemus visiting Jesus at night in order to ask some questions. Here’s what I said.
Questions. Today’s gospel is about questions. Or rather, it’s about someone seeking answers but not really knowing the right questions to ask.
Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. So said the great French philosopher Voltaire.
But how do we know what the right questions are? Some of history’s greatest thinkers have pondered: What are the questions we should be asking? And they’ve come up with some interesting answers to that question. They’ve come up with questions like these – posed by in my opinion probably the greatest ever winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature:
How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?
Or how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?
Or how many times must the cannon balls fly before they’re forever banned?
What are the answers to those questions? Well, some of you will have recognized those words, so you will know: Continue reading
There are apparently, and according to the UN, more mobile phones in the world than there are people! If you want a symbol of the modern world and what is at the centre of people’s lives, look no further than the mobile phone! For so many, daily life is ruled by their mobile.
One of the most popular programmes on the TV at the moment is Channel 4’s Gogglebox. Just to explain, for those of you who don’t watch it, the idea behind the programme is that families and friends are filmed watching television, and we see their reactions. Each week a variety of different programmes are watched, and cameras inside people’s houses record their reactions to what they watch.
On Friday, just back from holiday, we sat down and watched the previous week’s episode, and one of the programmes people sat back to enjoy was a programme about railway journeys made by Paul Merton. As we were treated to an aerial view of a train travelling through some of Britain’s wonderful countryside, we then saw the reaction of two of Gogglebox’s regular participants – two sisters from Leeds.
One said: I like train journeys like that where you go on really beautiful, scenic routes.
To which the other replied: Continue reading