Courtroom dramas on the TV have always been popular. And one of my all-time favourite characters is the lawyer Horace Rumpole – popularly known as Rumpole of the Bailey – and I’m sure some of you will remember the TV series in which Rumpole was portrayed so brilliantly by Leo McKern.
For those of you unfamiliar with Rumpole let me give a bit of background. Horace Rumpole is a character in a series of wonderful books by the writer and barrister John Mortimer. Rumpole is also a barrister, working from his chambers in Equity Court, and he likes nothing better than defending his clients in the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey. Indeed, his skill at defending his clients – and he only ever defends, never prosecutes, is legendary among the criminal classes. He is famed for his success in his greatest ever case, the Penge Bungalow murders, and for his forensic knowledge of typewriters.Continue reading
What does the future hold?
Well – there’s certainly no shortage of news at the moment is there! And plenty to leave us wondering – and worrying – about what the future might hold. Recent weeks have seen us gain a new Prime Minister and the inevitable questions from all sides about where we are heading over Brexit. And if that doesn’t worry you, then there is global-warming – a week last Thursday resulted in the hottest day ever recorded in the UK, and subsequent torrential rain in parts of the country followed by flooding has left many, especially the residents of Whalley Bridge – worried for their future. And made us all aware that something needs to be done! And if that wasn’t enough news to worry about, the United Nations has this week warned of a new wave of terrorist attacks this autumn. What does the future hold?
No wonder that someone said to me recently: I can’t cope with any more NEWS!Continue reading
The gospel for last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent, sees Jesus reminding us that people are not responsible for their own misfortune. Rather, he says, we should stop blaming people and look to our own fruitfulness.
Every once in a while, someone comes up with a catchy or succinct phrase that enters the public consciousness – and that phrase is then used and quoted years after it was first coined and the original context has been forgotten. One such phrase that comes to mind at the moment – I can’t think why – A week is a long time in politics. Former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, of course.
Often, though, it’s advertisers. It was The Accident Group, whose founder failed to see the irony of sacking two and a half thousand workers by text message when it went bust and then disappearing to Spain with millions, that came up with the slogan in their adverts: Where there’s blame, there’s a claim. It’s a phrase that people still use.
Where there’s blame there’s a claim.Continue reading
The most shocking news of recent years if the amount of coverage it got was anything to go by – yes, Channel 4 outbid the BBC and stole The Great British Bake-Off. The nation was outraged. The outrage didn’t last long though, as it was reported last week that the final brought Channel 4 its second largest audience ever, having been watched by 11 million people since it was broadcast. If TV schedules are anything to go by we like our food.
I’m sure there are many of you who enjoy cooking. And if you are one of those people who don’t enjoy cooking a nice meal, I’m sure you still enjoy eating one. Most people enjoy good food of one kind or another, whether it’s spaghetti bolognese or caviar, pizza or the kind of recipes you get on the BBC Good Food website like this one: Roast whole suckling pig with truffle mousse, Jersey Royals and wild garlic. Continue reading
This Sunday’s readings continued the series of parables told by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel about who will inherit the kingdom. Here’s what I said.
A little girl was attending a wedding for the first time. Seeing the bride process in on the arm of her father she whispered to her mother, “Mummy, why is the bride dressed in white?”
Her mother replied, “Because white is the colour of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life.”
Her daughter thought about this for a moment, and then said, “So why is the groom wearing black!”
Marriage is one of those institutions that has always attracted the attention of stand-up comedians. There must be more jokes about marriage – especially if you include all the jokes about mothers-in-law – than almost any other subject. Continue reading
My sermon at St John’s for this week – the 17th Sunday after Trinity and Proper 22.
One of the most popular programmes on British television has just returned this week for its thirteenth series. Yes – The Apprentice is back.
And, I’m sorry, I know some people love it but I just don’t get it. For me it sums up so much of what is wrong with society. It celebrates attitudes that I find deeply distasteful. It’s a programme where individuals spend their time promoting themselves over others in their bid to get Lord Sugar’s approval and money – to the point where as is well known Lord Sugar points his finger at each person in turn to say “You’re fired”. It’s a programme that is about self-promotion and rejection of other people. I find it profoundly uncomfortable. It may be hugely popular – but it’s essentially about people looking out for themselves and it’s about aggressive rejection of other people because they don’t fit.
Today we hear a parable from Jesus – a parable about people looking out for themselves and a parable about rejection of other people. Continue reading
If you’ve had anything to do with children you’ve heard them say it. Whether as a parent or as a teacher, you know that one of their most frequently uttered phrases is, ‘It’s not fair!’
The issue may be the amount of food on plates, or turns with the ball, or bedtime, or possession of the best crayons, or any number of things, but the cry is still the same: ‘It’s not fair!’
And you find yourself dealing with it by either giving in, or by gritting your teeth and saying such ridiculous things like: Life’s not fair – get used to it!
Parents will be aware that the incidence of the phrase “It’s not fair” increases proportionally to the number of children in the family. At least, with three children, we seemed to get a lot of it. Let me give you an example. Continue reading
The readings for this Sunday are all on the theme of forgiveness, and of not judging. Here’s what I said.
If you are of a certain age you will remember Max Bygraves singing about hands. I don’t – I’m far too young – though I do know the more recent version sung, bizarrely, by The Sex Pistols. Max Bygraves sang in his 1958 song You need hands:
You need hands to hold someone you care for
You need hands to show that you’re sincere.
You need hands to show the world you’re happy
and you need hands when you have to stop the bus.
So awful was the song that the following year Bernard Bresslaw released a parody of the song called You need feet:
You need feet to stand up straight with
You need feet to kick your friends
You need feet to keep your socks up
and stop your legs from fraying at the ends.
Well – Max Bygrave’s song You need hands was so fascinatingly awful that it deserved the treatment it got in You need feet. And yet it said something quite profound:
You need hands to hold someone you care for
You need hands to show that you’re sincere.
Our hands are so demonstrative – we use them so much to reach out in love. And yet how quickly we can misuse them.
There is a Peanuts cartoon where Linus is watching television. His sister Lucy demands that he change channels. So he says to her, “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” Continue reading
It was reported this week that a nine-year old boy called Dylan has written a fan letter to President Donald Trump. How do we know this – well, I don’t know how many fan letters he gets but his press secretary read out Dylan’s letter at a press briefing. I won’t read it all out – you can look it up online – but here’s a bit of what Dylan said:
You’re my favourite president he wrote. I like you so much I had a birthday about you. My cake was the shape of your hat. How old are you? How big is the White House? How much money do you have?
At which point the press secretary laughed and said: “Dylan, I’m not sure but I know it’s a lot.” Continue reading
One of the best known commands of Jesus is the command to love your neighbour. Even people who aren’t Christians or have never opened a Bible know it. And yet, as we all know, neighbours are not always easy to get along with!
There is a story of a young man who leaves his home in Aberdeen and goes to live in London. After he has been there a while he phones his mother to let her know how things are going.
“How’s the flat you’re living in,” she asks him, “what are the neighbours like?”
“Well,” he replies, “the woman next door keeps screaming and crying all night long, and the guy on the other side is constantly banging on the wall!”
“Never mind,” says his mother, “don’t let them worry you – just ignore them.” Continue reading