True power is found in service
It has been the same since the very beginning – at least according to the Bible. In the garden of Eden, according to the book of Genesis, the devil in the form of a serpent encourages the man and the woman to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree so that they can become like God. For that, he tells them, is what will happen if they eat. Not content with what God has given they want more – and to be like God, to be equal to God, seemed so desirable – so they ate. And they are expelled from the Garden of Eden as a result of their disobedience. The story of Adam and Eve being thrown out of Eden is what we call The Fall. Even from the beginning, says the Bible, people got the whole idea about status and power upside down. They wanted to be raised up to be equal to God – not realising that God had different ideas. We’ll come back to that thought in a while.
Around ten years ago the Guardian newspaper published a list of the thousand novels that everyone must read before they die.
I think I have some way to go. I looked through the list yesterday and I have now managed to read 87 of them. In case you think that actually sounds rather impressive I should explain. The list contains many of the great classics from around the world, Dickens, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Jane Austen and so on, and many of the books are seriously heavy going. It also contains great modern novels that you probably know better as films – Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, the great Philip Marlow novels of Raymond Chandler, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I managed to resist cheating and didn’t include those in my total even if I’d watched the film. Continue reading
Strike a light!
Sermon for the Midnight Mass, on the prologue to John’s Gospel.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
In the beginning God had been very busy creating things. And it was tiring! So God said: Wow! I’m worn out. I’ve just created a 24-hour period of alternating light and darkness on Earth.
The angel said: What are you going to do now?
And God said: I think I’ll call it a day! Continue reading
What a picture!
Yesterday Christians around the world kept the feast of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is the name we give to the event when Jesus took three of his disciples up a mountain, and something amazing happened. Here’s what I said.
You know what it’s like!
Some friends invite you round for a meal. And what do they do? They get out the photo album. Or more likely, these days, they get out their phone or iPad, with their ability to take endless photos! 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. 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
What are you looking for?
“What are you looking for? The first words of Jesus in John’s gospel, from our reading last Sunday. He speaks them to Andrew and another disciple. He also speaks them to each of us.
People often worry about the lifestyle of many of today’s young people – and the culture adopted by so many of drinking, clubbing, casual relationships and so on. “Not like it was in our day – we were so much better behaved,” I hear you saying!
Of course, it’s actually nothing new at all. People made the same complaints about young people in the Roman Empire. Young people have always behaved in a way of which their elders disapproved. And one young man we know a lot about was Saint Augustine. Because Augustine, before he became a Christian and subsequently one of Christianity’s greatest thinkers and writers, had a bit of a reputation. And we know about his reputation because he later wrote about it. Continue reading
How will the baby grow up?
This is the sermon I preached at Midnight Mass. For those from abroad who may be puzzled at the references let me explain. Eastenders is one of the top television soap operas in the UK and the Mitchell family are one of its most famous – or notorious – families.
A baby is born. New parents with a tiny child. And at one level Mary and Joseph were no different from any other parents holding a new born baby in their arms. They must have had the same hopes, the same fears, the same questions. A scene repeated millions of times over thousands of years. And like so many parents, as they looked upon their baby, they must have wondered at some level – what kind of person will this baby grow up to be.
Every parent has been there. As you look upon your new child and wonder what the future holds for them, what can you expect? What will they be like as they grow up? What kind of person will they grow into? What will they achieve in life?
Well – I’ve done a survey of a typical area of London and looked at how children turn out when they grow up. The typical area of London I’ve chosen for this survey is Albert Square in Walford, to be exact. For those of you who don’t know where Albert Square is, it’s where the people from Eastenders live. Continue reading
The Feast of Saint John
This last Sunday, as well as being the first Sunday of Christmas, was also the feast day of our patron, Saint John the Evangelist. I took as my theme the idea that culture and attitudes change over time but that Jesus never changes.
Today is, of course, a very important birthday. 134 years ago this month the foundation stone of our church was laid. And a year later, on 27th December 1882, the new parish church of Saint John the Evangelist was consecrated – 133 years old today.
And how times have changed over the years for the Church – both for St John’s and for the Church of England as a whole. We now have women bishops. We already, of course, have had women priests for much longer and that particular issue doesn’t really seem to most of us to be an issue at all, anymore. Yet even relatively recently such concepts would have baffled the people who sat in the pews at St John’s.
People’s expectations of what men and women could – and should – do, have changed so much since St. John’s was built. Let’s go back to the early days of Saint John’s, over a hundred and twenty years ago. A woman’s place was most definitely in the home, and not in the house of bishops. In 1895 the Isle of Man Times gave the following advice:
Don’t argue with your husband; do whatever he tells you and obey all his orders. Continue reading
What I said on Sunday – Transfiguration Sunday
Last Sunday was the Sunday Next before Lent, also known as Transfiguration Sunday as the gospel reading is the transfiguration of Jesus. Here’s what I said – apologies for it being a little late this week!
You know what it’s like! Some friends invite you round for a meal. And what do they do? They get out the photo album. Or if they’re 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. Continue reading
What I said this Sunday – Trinity 11
Here’s my sermon for this week.
It was so much easier in the old days, when I was a child, when the bread man still came to the back door with his basket. The bread came straight from his bakery, freshly baked, and he delivered it door to door in his van. Because, like milk, it was delivered so nobody bothered buying it at the shop. Deciding what kind of bread to buy was easy. He sold white steamed or Hovis brown. That was it. Not even a choice between sliced or unsliced. If you wanted a sliced loaf you used a bread knife!
Some time ago – as some of you know because you have bought my bread Church sales – we got a bread maker. It can make 105 different loaves of bread. Continue reading
What I said on Sunday – The Assumption
Last Sunday we kept the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It should, of course, really be on the 15th and in recent years we have kept it on the sunday of the octave. This year we were just a little bit naughty and pre-empted the feast. Here’s my sermon
Revelation 11.19-12.6,10; Luke 1.46-55
Today we come together to honour the mother of Jesus. Every year on or around the 15th August Christians around the world come together to give thanks for the role played by Mary in bringing about our salvation. For without Mary’s “yes” to God there would have been no incarnation. Continue reading