Expect the unexpected!
Ephesians 3.14-end; John 6.1-21
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
We are family…
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
Welcome to my family
You don’t have to do much to get labelled as a troublemaker, a subversive, or even an enemy of the people. No matter that you may have done nothing wrong, or even if you have done something for the wider good – just rock the boat a little bit, threaten the status quo, and in goes the knife, and before long as far as some are concerned you’re an enemy of the people.
Henrik Ibsen’s famous play of that name is about an ordinary man, Dr Stockmann, who discovers that the expensive new spa in his home town is using poisoned water. He naively thinks people will want to know. But his brother, the mayor, thinks otherwise – and points out that the town could be bankrupted if the news leaks out. The truth isn’t important – the vested interests of the town’s business people carry far more weight.
And so the mayor leans on the editor of the local newspaper and the editor, rather than repeat the truth, vilifies Dr Stockmann as an enemy of the people, to the extent that at a public meeting he is almost lynched. All he did was tell the truth – an important truth – that the water was poisoned. 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
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
It was, of course, Easter Day last Sunday. And here is the sermon preached by Mother Anne-Marie.
Acts 10.34-43; 1 Corinthians 15.1-11; Mark 16.1-8
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Come on, you all know the joyful answer: “He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!” It is spring, well maybe it is spring – we remain ever hopeful. The daffodils are blooming, and the blossom is just beginning to come out, there are Easter Eggs to eat, and the Lord is risen. There are no notes of sadness, worry, grief, or fear in our greetings to one another this morning.
But how different it was early on that first Easter morning as Mark tells us in our gospel. The three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, didn’t greet one another with such great joy. There were no alleluias, no happiness in their hushed whispers. They were grieving and devastated. They had seen their beloved Jesus, their teacher, stripped of not only his clothes, but every possible shred of human dignity, executed in the most horrible way, and laid in the garden tomb late on the Friday.
And then sunset had come, the Sabbath was upon them and they could do nothing. Continue reading
Keeping God’s law
The readings for last Sunday were the Ten Commandments from the book of Exodus, followed by Jesus visiting the Temple in John’s Gospel and driving out the moneychangers and the traders with a whip. Here’s what I said.
I’m sure that all of you here consider yourselves to be good, upright, law-abiding citizens, who would never wittingly break any laws or statutes currently in force. Even if you don’t always agree with them.
Of course – that rather depends on you knowing the law. Just in case you should want to brush up your knowledge of the law, to avoid inadvertently committing any breaches, the British Library rather conveniently keeps copies of all the laws in force – you can go and consult them if you wish. Though I wouldn’t advise it. I’ve read that apparently our general laws and statutes currently fill 358 volumes, while local laws and other private acts fill another 682 volumes. Adding in even more volumes containing statutory instruments that’s 104 shelves of the British Library for you to work your way through.
However, this morning, to help you stay within the law, I’d just like to remind you of some laws that are currently in force. I really wouldn’t want you to inadvertently run foul of the authorities, so yesterday I searched on the Internet for ‘strange laws still in force in the UK’. And this is what I found out. Continue reading
Terms and conditions
In the gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Jesus sets out what kind of life and what kind of commitment are necessary for those who would follow him.
A feature of Saturday night television these days is the reality competition. At the moment we have The Voice which will soon give way to Britain’s Got Talent, and then in the autumn Strictly Come Dancing and The X-Factor. Then there are Dancing on Ice, I’m a Celebrity, Big Brother … the list goes on.
Not everyone watches such things, so for those of you who don’t – in these shows people at home will have different competitors they follow through the competition. 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, the government considers it important that everyone, when they phone, is aware of the terms and conditions. Continue reading
Looking for a short cut?
There are three signs that you are getting old. One is memory loss. I can’t remember the other four.
What’s your memory like?
A few years ago scientists undertook some research done into memory and age. They wanted to find out at what age your brain starts to malfunction. And it’s younger than you think. They discovered that your brain starts to malfunction, mainly because your brain cells start dying, once you reach the age of 40. At that age you can expect to start getting that experience of walking into a room and forgetting why you did, or of going to the fridge and opening the door and then standing there like a lemon thinking “why on earth have I opened the fridge door?” The only comfort you can take from knowing that your memory is fast disappearing is that everyone else over the age of 40 is just as bad and is in the same boat. Continue reading
I’m into something good …
The gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany this year was the wedding at Cana. Here’s the sermon preached at St John’s by Mother Anne-Marie.
I walked her home and she held my hand
I knew it couldn’t be just a one night stand
So I asked to see her next week and she told me I could
Something tells me I’m into something good!
You have to be a certain age to remember Herman’s Hermits, but that song “I’m into Something Good” gave them their first number one in 1964. The young lad in that song had read the signs. “She danced close to me like I hoped she would”, “She stuck close to me the whole night through” and “I walked her home and she held my hand”. All the signs that he was into something good! Continue reading
Has the penny dropped yet?
1 Samuel 3.1-10; John 1.43-end
There’s nothing worse than being with a group of people and someone tells a joke – and you’re the only one that just doesn’t get it. Everyone else thinks its hilariously funny and you just don’t get the punchline. You just stand there looking dim!
Every year during August Edinburgh holds its world famous festival, and along with the festival you will find the fringe – a range of additional shows that has grown up around the official festival. And each year there is a competition run by the television channel Dave, for the best 10 jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe. This annual joke competition is so popular it’s reported in all the quality press – even The Times and The Telegraph. Now, I think I’ve got a pretty normal sense of humour, but every year I just don’t see the point of half of the jokes listed.
Take the winning entries from the last three years – none of which I found particularly funny even after though I did get the point of the jokes. I’m going to roadtest them on you now. Continue reading