Many years ago, longer ago than I care to remember, I was just a couple of months into my very first post in the church after leaving college.
And there came a rather frantic knocking on my door on a Saturday night about 10 o’clock. I opened the door to a rather distressed young man. To say he was panicking is really a bit of an understatement. He had been to the vicarage, he said, and the vicarage was empty – it would be, because the vicar was away on holiday. He was getting married in a few weeks at another church, he told me, and he had completely forgotten to get his banns read. The priest who was performing the ceremony had just reminded him. Was there still time? He’d been told that without the banns being called he couldn’t get married. For those who don’t know – in England the banns have to be called in churches where people live, in case anyone knows a legal reason why they shouldn’t get married, on three Sundays before the wedding.
Well, I sat him down and calmed him down, and we worked out that there were still – just – three Sundays left before the wedding. Being new at the job I knew nothing about the legalities of banns of marriage, but I worked it out and we called the banns.
I subsequently discovered that, technically, he hadn’t given the required notice, and that I should have told him to apply to the Bishop for a special licence, but I’m really rather glad I didn’t know that at the time. I think it might have pushed him right over the edge.Continue reading
For the fourth Sunday of Advent this year the gospel reading was Saint Luke’s account of the Annunciation. Here’s what I said.
Life is complicated. And it’s only human to want to be in total control. And yet, we know that however hard we try life has a habit of not turning out quite how we want it to.
And we end up asking ourselves that question that is all too often unanswerable.
What if … ?
It might be about the past – we wonder if life might have turned out differently if we’d made different decisions, different choices.
What if I’d worked harder at school and passed my exams?
What if I’d said “yes” when he asked me to marry him?
What if I’d accepted that job offer?
What if I hadn’t drunk too much that night?
In three days you’ll all be opening your Christmas presents. Do you know what you’re getting? Have you been dropping hints? Or are you leaving it all to chance and hoping that you’ll get something you actually want, or at least that you can genuinely say is a nice surprise? Because the problem with Christmas presents isn’t just that you can’t always get what you want but that too often you do get what you really don’t want!
Christmas will soon be over. And we’ll be counting the cost of all those unwanted Christmas gifts.Continue reading
Last Sunday we heard of the amazing miracle of the turning of water into wine – the first miracle of Jesus, according to John’s gospel, at a wedding party in Cana of Galilee
All through Advent we in the Church get ready for Christmas with a period of penitence and abstinence. I suspect we all found it very difficult, while most of the country was already in a celebratory mood, to do without such things as alcohol and meat – at least on Wednesdays and Fridays if not every day. You did fast during Advent, didn’t you? (No – it seems they didn’t given their response but that’s all right – I didn’t either!)Continue reading
Here we are once more waiting for the big event tomorrow. Here we are with the story of a new-born baby, of a young single mother, with questions being asked about who the father of her child is!
Well, when the big event finally arrives we won’t be disappointed. Yes, it’s no secret – it’s been in the papers – that the truth about the father of Hayley Slater’s baby will finally come out. Quite how Alfie Moon is going to explain this to his wife Kat should be interesting. The big event, of course, is the Eastenders Christmas special (Note: Eastenders is a British television soap). And one cannot help but wonder, if like me you watch Eastenders, how the future is going to turn out for the poor baby in the middle of all this as she grows up. If you don’t watch Eastenders you won’t have the slightest idea what I’m talking about!Continue reading
Well, it’s all over for another year, with people across the country wondering what on earth to watch on TV last night – we certainly were! Yes, a week ago yesterday Stacey Dooley and her partner Kevin Clifton were crowned Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars outside the UK) champions for 2018, with Kevin shouting out live on air, “it’s a Christmas miracle.“Continue reading
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
This Sunday we kept the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It’s actually on 2nd February, but the Church of England allows us to transfer it to the previous Sunday when more people will be in church! During the service we had a baptism, and at the end we joined in the candlit procession which ends at the font for the final part of the liturgy. The font is by the main church door, and so we remember that the place where we give our lives to Christ in baptism is right next to the door where we leave worship to take Jesus out into our world.
Here’s what I said.
The birth of a child has always been a cause for celebration. And throughout history different cultures and religions have had their own special ways of celebrating. In our own culture people celebrate with parties, champagne, and often – as this morning – a christening at the local church. Continue reading
This Sunday we kept the feast of Epiphany, transferring it from the 6th, as we are allowed to do in the Church of England. This meant that the feast of the Baptism of Christ, which it displaced, was itself transferred to Monday and celebrated with a mass. One of the things we do every year at Epiphany is bless chalk which is then taken home and used to mark the doorways to our homes. There is a very good explanation of this old European tradition here.
How many of you have taken down your Christmas decorations? Most of you, I suspect! (At this point I got people to put their hands up – only one person other than my wife and I still had them up – an Orthodox Christian who was, of course, celebrating Christmas according to the Orthodox calendar).
Well, we still have them up in the vicarage! Let my explain why! If you follow tradition you’ll at least have kept them up for twelfth night which was on Thursday, and then have taken them down on Friday, the feast of Epiphany. However, we are allowed to keep the feast of Epiphany on the nearest Sunday, so this year you can keep them up an extra two days and take them down today. Apart from the crib scene, of course – our knitted crib figures will stay up in the vicarage until Candlemas.
There’s an old superstition that if you don’t take your decorations down the day after twelfth night it will bring bad luck – apparently, the gods of the greenery might escape and take up residence in your house. Continue reading
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