In this Sunday’s gospel reading from Luke we hear how Jesus makes it clear that following him is a commitment from which there should be no turning back. You cannot follow Jesus just a bit – it’s all or nothing.
How far would you go to follow Jesus?
Today we will hear about two men who decided to follow Jesus, we will hear how far they were willing to go, and we will hear about the hymn that links them.
There is an old hymn that we used to sing on Church Army beach missions. The first verse goes like this – and I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’m going to say rather than sing it:
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
no turning back, no turning back.
Anyone remember singing that? It sounds, today, a little simplistic perhaps. Yet it has a most remarkable story behind it.Continue reading
Last Sunday St John’s hosted the civic service. This is an annual service which moves about from church to church when the Chairman of our District Council comes to church along with other council members and local dignitaries. They make a public promise to serve the local community to the best of their ability and with God’s help. Councillor Beverley Connolly, Chairman of Tandridge District Council, chose the following readings for the service:
I decided to preach mainly on the first of the three readings. Here’s what I said for the occasion, and I began with a short passage from Lews Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.
“There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents,” said Humpty Dumpty, “and only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!”
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’“ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’” Alice said.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
Anyone involved in politics will know the importance of clarity, the need to choose words carefully so that your meaning is conveyed clearly. It’s no good being like Humpty Dumpty and being clear what you yourself mean, if you then have to go on and explain to those on the receiving end what you actually meant. We all know how easily newspapers can report, for example, something a government minister has said – only for a few days later for a spokesman to say, “That’s not actually what they said, what they really meant was … !“ Continue reading
Finally we’ve had a decent summer. We’ve had the longest period of hot and sunny weather for 25 years, and last Thursday was the hottest day for 7 years. We’re into the holiday season, schools have broken up, and perhaps our minds have not been so much on thoughts of recession but have been taking the opportunity to enjoy life a little more. And then – just when we’re least expecting it, up sneaks today’s gospel to put a dampener on things with its powerful challenge to us to reject the love of money and possessions. And to force home the point Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool, the man who stored up riches so that he would be prepared for the future, but who died before he could use them. Nothing wrong, you might think, in being financially prepared for whatever the future might bring, if we are fortunate enough to be able to make provision. And of course, many of us don’t earn enough to be able to ensure a secure future. But nothing wrong with having a comfortable lifestyle if you’ve earned it, people feel. And yet Jesus has something to say, and something to say quite forcefully, about that.
Being prepared. The parable that we have just heard, usually called the parable of the rich fool, brings to mind what are called ‘preppers’. Now, don’t worry if you don’t know what preppers are – I had never come across the term until this week, and I discovered the term from our daughter. This week she got talking to a guy who uses the same coffee shop as her. Continue reading
Here’s my offering for last Sunday, the gospel reading being Luke’s account of how Jesus sent out the seventy.
Holidays are supposed to be relaxing. So why does getting ready for a holiday seem to be so stressful? Trying to decide what to pack and what to leave behind. Deciding what things might prove to be indispensable. Making sure that you’ve got all the right clothes. Then trying to fit it all into the luggage.
When our children were younger we regularly had holidays in North Wales. The problem with holidays in this country, and particularly in Wales, is that you can never be certain what the weather will be like. So you have to pack clothes for hot weather, cold weather, wet weather – and it all has to go in somewhere. And the children could never quite grasp the concept that the space in a car is limited. A car isn’t like the Tardis, and you can’t pack your entire wardrobe and all your games and your portable TV so you can watch it in your bedroom and your entire family of cuddly toys. Trying to fit everything in was a nightmare. We were even known on occasion – and I’m almost embarrassed to say this – to give in and take two cars because it was easier. We could have done with something like the luggage in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, a chest which had infinite room inside and ran around after you on its own legs. Continue reading
Here’s my sermon for this week. I used the gospel reading, the story of the sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus at the house of Simon the Pharisee. Essentially the story of two people who for their own very different reasons sought out Jesus.
In some churches it is the custom for the preacher to give their sermon a title. It’s not something that’s every really taken on in the Church of England, but it’s actually not a bad habit for the preacher to get into. It helps to focus the mind on the what message from the Scripture reading is about. So today, I’m giving my sermon a title: The Importance of Being Earnest. Most of you will, of course, recognise immediately the reference to Oscar Wilde and his most famous play. As I read this gospel reading a number of famous Oscar Wilde quotes came to mind, so as we think about the woman who was a sinner and who washed the feet of Jesus, Oscar Wilde will today help us reflect on what we are being taught by sharing with us some of his most famous quotations. I’m tempted to say, as Oscar himself once said, “I wish I had said that,” but he often puts things so well – and so much better than I can. Continue reading
I mentioned in this week’s sermon on Mary Magdalene the two musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Both have great music and yet present quite different portraits of Jesus. Archbishop Michael Ramsay went to see both of them in the early seventies and this fascinating report of his comments on them appeared in the Montreal Gazette.