Many churches these days, like our own, use – instead of ordinary candles – oil-filled ones. The advantages are that they are cheaper, cleaner, they’re not carcinogenic, and they never burn down. However long they burn for, they always look just like new.
There is a downside though. You buy your oil-filled candle, put it in the candlestick, fill it with oil and light it. It looks wonderful. It burns away and never drips or gets any shorter. But that presents a problem – because you can’t see when it needs refilling from the outside. And unless you regularly top it up with more oil, although it always looks alright it is getting emptier and emptier. And in the end it will just go out. Unexpectedly.
Christians are like oil-filled candles. They look fine on the outside. But they need regularly filling up on the inside – and you can’t tell from just looking at the outside when they’re getting empty. And just as oil-filled candle needs regular refilling, a Christian needs a regular filling of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, although outwardly we may look fine, we just get emptier and emptier – and in the end we stop burning. And simply not notice that we’ve gone out!
Pentecost Sunday – the day the Spirit came. Luke has told us in chapter one of Acts how the apostles have been gathering together to pray, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, the other women and the brothers of Jesus. They weren’t just sitting around waiting for something to happen! They were praying for something to happen!Continue reading
Who do you say I am?
In this week’s gospel we hear Jesus asking the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Perhaps the most important teaching of the gospel message is not that we need to respond as Peter did with, “You are the Messiah”. It is that unlike Peter we must then accept that the way of Jesus is a path that leads to suffering, rejection and death leading on to resurrection. Jesus tells us that if we follow him we must also accept the way of the cross.
Strictly season is upon us again! Yes, for some of us our Saturday night treat is back. Strictly Come Dancing (some countries know this as Dancing with the Stars) began last Saturday and our annual autumn feast of celebrity dancing – or in some cases not dancing – will keep us going up to Christmas.
And one of the aspects of programmes like Strictly is that we get to see celebrities as they really are. Of course, I use the word ‘celebrities’ advisedly – I don’t know who half of them are any more than you do – but presumably they are all celebrities in someone’s eyes. When you’re a celebrity you are in the public gaze. But instead of the public persona they usually show – whether through music, acting, sport and so on – we get to see, over the weeks, more of the real person as they struggle with rehearsals, strut their moves on a Saturday night, face up to the critique of the judges, and then endure the results and the prospect of going home. Continue reading
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
It was, of course, Easter Day last Sunday. And here is the sermon preached by Mother Anne-Marie.
Acts 10.34-43; 1 Corinthians 15.1-11; Mark 16.1-8
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
You need hands …
The readings for this Sunday are all on the theme of forgiveness, and of not judging. Here’s what I said.
Genesis 50.15-21; Romans 14.1-12; Matthew 18.21-35
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
What a picture!
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
He is risen!
Alleuia! Christ is risen!
Last Sunday was, of course, Easter Day, and this year as both the Western and Eastern Churches were keeping Easter on the same day it meant that the whole of Christianity were able to celebrate together!
It’s hardly a surprise then that my sermon was about the risen Jesus – but I wanted to remind people that there needs to be a response to the reality of the risen Jesus from us, just as there was from the disciples on the first Easter Day when they discovered that Jesus was alive.
Just a preliminary note for those from outside the UK. I start by talking about Eastenders, which is a hugely popular TV soap opera in the UK broadcast four times a week. Recently it’s been a bit sensational with among other things a major bus crash followed by a car crash! The reference to snow is that outside scenes shown at the beginning of April had clearly been filmed a couple of months earlier when we had snow!
Perhaps it’s just my imagination.
Eastenders always used to seem to be so miserable and depressing. But recently I’ve noticed that nobody in Eastenders seems to have to face the problems that the rest of us are dealing with. In fact, it seems that Walford is a good place to live – at least as far as health is concerned! Continue reading
Jesus calls his first disciples. But what about their families? This week’s gospel reading invites us to reflect on the reality of being called by Jesus to follow him.
Do you remember the good old days? When instead of everyone doing their own thing in an evening families used to gather together and either watch TV or play games? And simple games. Nothing like the complexity of today’s video games. And one of the games that used to be popular, and that we played when I was little, was the card game Happy Families.
A Happy Families pack of cards consisted of a number of sets of four. And in each set there would be a father, identified by his occupation and a surname that fitted. Names like – and these are all genuine names from Happy Family sets according to the article on Wikipedia.
- Mr Pipe the Plumber
- Mr Flatfoot the Policeman
- Mr Bacon the Butcher
- Mr Ashes the Undertaker
- Mr Fisher the Fisherman
Then, in each set, there was a wife. She never had a job – she was always, for example, Mrs Fisher the Fisherman’s wife. Then there would be two children – Master Fisher the Fisherman’s son and Miss Fisher the Fisherman’s daughter. In those days a happy family apparently consisted of a man who worked, a wife who didn’t, and two children, one of each gender. Continue reading
What are you looking for?
“What are you looking for? The first words of Jesus in John’s gospel, from our reading last Sunday. He speaks them to Andrew and another disciple. He also speaks them to each of us.
People often worry about the lifestyle of many of today’s young people – and the culture adopted by so many of drinking, clubbing, casual relationships and so on. “Not like it was in our day – we were so much better behaved,” I hear you saying!
Of course, it’s actually nothing new at all. People made the same complaints about young people in the Roman Empire. Young people have always behaved in a way of which their elders disapproved. And one young man we know a lot about was Saint Augustine. Because Augustine, before he became a Christian and subsequently one of Christianity’s greatest thinkers and writers, had a bit of a reputation. And we know about his reputation because he later wrote about it. Continue reading
Situations vacant … apostles needed
Here’s my sermon for Easter 3. In the New Testament reading we hear how Saul encounters Jesus, and in the gospel reading how Jesus calls Peter to follow him.
Jesus, after the resurrection, needed to do some recruiting. He had twelve posts to fill – he needed twelve apostles to be the founding leaders of his church. So how did he go about it? Place an advertisement in the Jerusalem Times? Draw up a list of interview questions? Get an interview panel together? Job description and person specification?
And if Jesus had carried out background checks – character references, criminal records checks, and so on – of those he wanted to be his apostles where would we be? Would he have appointed them? Or would he have decided that they weren’t suitable candidates for the job? Continue reading
Easter 6 – my sermon for this week
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