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
In this Sunday’s gospel reading we heard Jesus talking to his disciples after they had shared their final supper together. We heard the first part of what has become known as the Farewell Discourse – Jesus’ final words to his disciples before his arrest.
Today’s gospel reading is like a box of chocolates. Open a box of chocolates and you’re faced with a choice of mouth-watering centres. All the chocolates look fantastic. And you’re not quite sure which to pick first. Some you like – some you don’t – some you’re not sure about. Open your Bible to our gospel reading today and you’re faced with a choice of uplifting and encouraging and familiar statements from Jesus. And just as any chocolate box has those chocolates that some people don’t like, so this passage has sayings of Jesus that some Christians don’t like or feel uncomfortable with or find hard to relate to. And the preacher is faced with a difficult choice – which one to choose, which one to preach on?
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Easy for Jesus to say, of course, yet we spend our lives being troubled and stressed. Continue reading
This Sunday we heard more of Jesus describing himself as the Bread of Life in John 6. Here’s what I said.
Why is bread like a bus?
Well, just like the proverbial bus that doesn’t come along for ages and then three come at once, so in our readings we go for months on end without any reference to bread, and here we are for the third week in a row with a gospel reading about bread. Having had the feeding of the five thousand on five loaves and two fish two weeks ago, last week and this we get Jesus saying, “I am the bread of life.”
This makes life difficult for people like me who take services. There are only so many hymns about bread in our hymn book. And only so many sermons you can preach in a row on the same theme! And count yourselves lucky! Next week, if it wasn’t for the fact that we are keeping the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary – which is really next Saturday but we do it a day late – you’d be getting Jesus saying, “I am the bread of life” for the third week in a row!
So why is bread – living bread – so important?
Life seemed so much simpler when I was a child. Continue reading
“I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.” The final words of Humphrey Bogart just before he died at the age of 57.
Famous last words. Some clearly thought them through. Some tried to be amusing at the last. Others simply didn’t know what to say. And yet if you’re famous you can guarantee that your final words will live, and be repeated, long after you are gone. And one of the problems of being famous is that you are often expected to leave behind you something inspirational. Karl Marx, as he neared death, was asked by his housekeeper who was the only person with him, for some profound and meaningful last thoughts. “Go away!” he shouted at her, “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!” and she fled from the room to leave him to pass away in silence. And yet last words can often be deeply moving and inspiring. Continue reading
This Sunday the gospel reading was Jesus giving the disciples the new commandment of love. Here is what I said.
Every Saturday night, as I cook our Saturday Supper, I close the kitchen door and put on some good, loud music to cook by. And you can’t help but notice just how many of the great songs released over the past fifty years or so have something to do with love.
There seem to have been more songs written about love – whether requited or unrequited love – than about anything else. There are thousands of them – and many of them instantly forgettable, though some of them have stood the test of time. “All you need is love”, sang the Beatles, tuning in to the mood of the Sixties but rather missing the point that life is not quite that simple. And, I suspect, thinking of love as warm feelings, feelings of kindness, a desire to do good to others, even, perhaps, as desire for others, but without any of the sense of deep commitment that Jesus calls his disciples to in today’s Gospel reading. Perhaps Michael Ball was closer to the Christian concept of love when he sang the words of Andrew Lloyd Webber: “Love, love changes everything, how I live, and how I die”.
Abba sang about love a lot. I should know. I listen to Abba a lot. Take their song “People need love” which I listened to again last night while preparing our Jambalaya. Continue reading
Here’s what I said at our Maundy Thursday mass, just before the washing of feet.
They’re very popular on TV. Murder mysteries, whodunnits – Poirot, Miss Marple, Midsommer Murders, and more recently the excellent Father Brown. And all the clues are there so that you can work out along with the detective who actually committed the murder. The thing is, unless you’re very good at spotting the clues, you usually end up as baffled as the not very bright policeman and have to have it all explained by the famous detective at the end.
Our reading tonight is rather like that. For most of its existence centuries the church has been remembering the events of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, and every year we hear this reading from John’s Gospel. When you’ve read it, you have all the information you need to know precisely how Jesus wants you live and behave as Christians. Not so much a ‘whodunnit’ but a ‘how-you-do-it’ with clues to guide you to the right answer.
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