Last Sunday was Remembrance Sunday in the UK. As always, we had a special service at St John’s as we remembered the fallen, laid wreaths at our war memorial in church, and committed ourselves to working for a peaceful and united world. Here’s what I said…
Peace. Such an emotive word. A word that conjures up all kinds of feelings within us. It is something that we all seek in life. Peace.
We look around our world and see so many places, so many people, that need peace. And yet it seems so elusive. This year we have withdrawn from Afghanistan after many years of conflict. Will there be peace? It is, I am sure, something that we all pray and hope for. And yet – we know it’s unlikely. A lack of actual war, maybe, but peace? The reality of our world is that peace is so elusive.
It’s ove a hundred years since the end of the war to end all wars and you don’t need me to tell you that it did nothing of the kind.Continue reading
Mark doesn’t record for us how the disciples reacted when Jesus says to them: Right – that’s enough from me. Now it’s your turn to go off and do some preaching and healing!
We hear right at the beginning of our gospel reading today how, when they get back they gather around Jesus to tell him what they’ve been up to. But what went through their minds when he first told them he was sending them out two by two, with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing and a staff?
I’m not a betting man, but if I were I think I’d be on to a sure thing in betting that their immediate reaction wasn’t: That’s a great idea Jesus, when can we start?
Jesus, as we know, spent a great deal of time talking to and teaching his disciples. But there’s no substitute for actually doing the job. And no matter how much Jesus taught his disciples he knew that the best way for them to learn about the practical aspects of spreading the gospel was to send them out on their own to preach and to heal. And so off they went.
And I bet that when they first went off there was – to put it mildly – a certain degree of reluctance:
Hang on a minute, Jesus, we’re not quite sure about this – don’t we need a lot more teaching from you, first?
Not sure we know what we’re talking about really – aren’t you coming with us? We could do with a bit of support.
What if that healing thing doesn’t work? We’ve never done it before. We’ll look silly if nothing happens!Continue reading
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”.Continue reading
The man is on trial for murder. The jurors have retreated to the jury room where they are shut in until they reach a verdict. The case for finding him guilty seems overwhelming – and, in fact almost all of the jury are at the outset convinced that finding him guilty is the only option. But one of the jurors is not convinced. He has doubts. And he does his best to persuade the other jurors that they have got it all wrong, that a critical view of the evidence can only result in finding him not guilty.
The play “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose, made into a famous film with Henry Fonda, is a story of one man who sees things differently and who isn’t about to be persuaded otherwise by the other people in the group. Continue reading
1917 was a significant year – for the music industry at least, and jazz in particular.
I don’t know how many of you here are jazz fans – but 1917 was the year that the first commercially available jazz record was released, by the Original Dixieland Jass Band who, in an early attempt at trying to be cool, spelled their name with a double s. It was also the year of birth of some great singers and musical performers. Some of you will remember them, while to others they may be unheard of – Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Dizzie Gillespie, Lena Horne, Thelonius Monk – but perhaps most notably, Dame Vera Lynn. Dame Vera turned 100 in March this year and as well as being such a great icon, her songs forever connected in our minds with the Second World War, she amazingly provides us with a living connection with the Great War and specifically with 1917, a year which was in many ways not just a turning point in the Great War but in world history. To most of us 1917 and the Great War may seem like history, but there are still those like Dame Vera Lynn whose lives connect with it, and many whose parents lived through it. My own father was born the year the war broke out. It’s not that long ago.
What was it like to live during that conflict, for people in general? Let’s go back in our minds a hundred years and try and imagine we are in Caterham in 1917. Continue reading
We always have, as the gospel for Midnight Mass, the wonderful prologue to the gospel of Saint John in John 1.1-14. Here’s what I said to those gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus at our Midnight Mass.
Will it be the warmest Christmas on record?
That was actually a headline from the Daily Mail in 2011.
And similar headlines have been repeated on a yearly basis with one exception – 2013 – ever since. And this year again similar questions are being asked as we come towards the end of the warmest December on record.
The daffodils outside the church are blooming. They think it’s spring! We’ve had to switch off the heating in the vicarage, and yesterday I had the window open as I was preparing my sermon for tonight, because it was just too hot. Children are growing up with no idea of the joys of making snowmen, or having snowball fights, or tobogganing.
And – I have to say – it’s making it very difficult when it comes to choosing which carols to sing. Singing, “See amid the winter’s snow, born for us on earth below” doesn’t seem quite appropriate. And as for “In the bleak midwinter” with its lines, “snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow”! No chance of that. And as for Bing Crosby dreaming of a white Christmas – well, he can dream on, because we know that yet again we’re not going to see one! Continue reading
This week was Remembrance Sunday in the UK, when we remember all those who have fought and died for their country in war. At St John’s it’s always a big service. We have lots of extra people in the congregation, and all our young people’s uniformed groups – scouts, guides and so on – are on parade.We have the Service of Remembrance culminating in the two minute silence at 11am. Here’s what I said.
This year saw an important seventieth anniversary to celebrate for many. Yes, 1945 was a good year for rock and pop music. It’s the year Rod Stewart – who sang at the Festival of Remembrance last night – was born, along with Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend, Rita Coolidge and Carly Simon, Bette Midler and Don McLean, Bryan Ferry and Van Morrison – and even Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA fame… what a list! Familiar names to anyone of my age who started listening to music in the late sixties and the seventies.
But 1945 is also, of course, a somewhat more significant seventieth anniversary, as I’m sure you all know. Continue reading
Here’s my sermon for Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday we have two gospel readings. We begin with what is called the Palm Gospel, the account of Jesus entering Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. The second gospel is called the Passion Gospel, the long account of Jesus arrest, trial and crucifixion. I preached on the first, and picked up on the idea of the two processions entering Jerusalem that day which is discussed in detail in the excellent book ‘The Last Week’ by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.
What to do on a bank holiday Monday? What will the weather be like? Will it be sunny? Or will it be traditional British bank holiday weather? Will we be able to go out and have a really enjoyable day, or be consigned to staying in and watching TV? Continue reading
If I should die, think only this of me:
that there’s some corner of a foreign field
that is for ever England.
The opening lines of The Soldier, the poem by Rupert Brooke, one of the Great War poets, and perhaps the most famous lines from the great and moving body of poetry that they gave us.
If I should die, think only this of me:
that there’s some corner of a foreign field
that is for ever England.
This year has brought us to, as we all know, the centenary of the outbreak of World War One – a war which was to dwarf all wars which had preceded it, a war which became known as The Great War, the war to end all wars, and which left an indelible mark upon the consciousness of a generation, and a mark that we still feel today. And as we reflect and remember this morning I just want to tell the story of one particular corner of a foreign field – but whether it is for ever England we shall see. And as well as being the story of a foreign field, it is also the story of two men who died during the Great War. The whole of the war separated the deaths of these two particular men. We begin with John Parr. Continue reading
Happy New Year! Here we are again at the beginning of as new year for the Church. Here’s what I said.
If you know anything about the world of work today, and particularly about management, you’ll know that it has developed its own language. And that language is full of acronyms – take a phrase or list of things you want people to remember and make a word out of them. Or take an easily remembered word and come up with something rather contrived that the letters of the word stand for. Many of you will know the kind of thing I mean. And even the Church isn’t free of them. For example, when a group of people, a committee perhaps, is having to set some targets we are expected to make sure that they are SMART targets. SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-limited.
And there are hundreds of these motivational acronyms for people to remember and use in their working lives: Continue reading