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
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
It was, of course, Easter Day last Sunday. And here is the sermon preached by Mother Anne-Marie.
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
Today’s gospel reading is Mark’s account of the beheading of John the Baptist, famous for his dress sense and strange diet. As I was preparing this sermon I got a distinct message to use Johnny Cash’s song Man in Black. Although I’ve long been a fan of Cash’s music I wasn’t really familiar with the words of this particular song, so I had to look them up. You can see him singing the song here.
Here’s what I said.
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
why you never see bright colours on my back.
And why does my appearance seem to have a sombre tone?
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.
Not the words of a priest, but the words of the great country and western singer, Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash was well-known for always dressing in black. And people often wondered why. And in 1971 he wrote a song called “Man in Black” to explain:
I wear the black for the poor and beaten down,
living in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
but is there because he’s a victim of the times. Continue reading
Easter day at St John’s began with our dawn service at 5.45am. We started with the kindling of the Easter fire and the lighting of the Paschal candle we processed in the darkness into the church where everyone lit their Easter candles. After I sang the Exsultet (the ancient hymn praising God for the light of Christ, represented by the Paschal Candle) we listened to the drama of our salvation unfolding through readings from the Old and New Testament before renewing our baptismal promises and celebrating the first mass of Easter.
This year we had the gospel reading from Mark and his account of the women going to the tomb. Unlike the resurrection accounts in the other gospels it ends on a rather odd note. Continue reading
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