Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
I’m sure you’ve all heard that saying before – and it’s known, of course, as Murphy’s Law. It’s named after the American aerospace engineer Edward Murphy who worked on safety-critical systems and who is believed to have first coined the phrase. We tend to think of Murphy’s Law as somewhat humorous, but it is quite serious in its application. When designing systems it is important to eliminate any possible areas where something might go wrong – because if it can go wrong, in the end it will.
There are a number of similar laws that have become famous and that most people will know even if you don’t know their origin or original intent. Parkinson’s Law, which was first used by Cyril Northcote Parkinson is another one that is well-known: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Continue reading
This Sunday was the feast of Christ the King. Here’s what I said.
I know that we have people here who enjoy quizzes – whether on the TV or radio or the quizzes we have from time to time at one of our social events here at St. John’s. I’m a great listener to radio quizzes, mainly because there is usually one on Radio 4 at 11pm on a Saturday night, so I can listen to one before retiring for the necessary beauty sleep I need to get up ready to take the 8 o’clock communion service. At the moment we are getting the Round Britain Quiz where the questions consist of three or four apparently unconnected facts and the teams have to find what links them.
Well, here’s a question for you this morning. I used this with the children at school this week, though they got the benefit of pictures to go with the question. What is the link between these.
- A potato
- A gorilla
- Elvis Presley
- A pub in Caterham-On-The-Hill
- Henry VIII
A week ago Mother Anne-Marie preached on the gospel reading about Mary and Martha. Apologies for this being a little late – here’s what she said.
I remember a time, even when we had a young family, when we hosted dinner parties and went to quite a few. But now that rarely happens. We are more likely to wait for summer and host a bbq or just stick to traditional Sunday lunch when we entertain. I could put it down to getting older but I gather we are not alone. The decline in the “dinner party” is due to a number of factors summed up as time, cost and celebrity chefs! We have less time to prepare fancy meals, the cost of hosting a dinner has got too much for our budgets, and celebrity chefs have scared us off cooking! We carry on watching numerous cooking programmes but the amount of cooking we actually do declines year on year, and we get scared of entertaining because we think we cannot keep up with the likes of Nigella, so we just don’t bother. A bbq is an easier, far less stressful option.
Imagine how much bigger a tizz Martha would have been in had she had Nigella or Jamie Oliver (Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver – two famous British TV chefs) to live up to!! For her entertaining Jesus and some of his disciples was stressful enough without those role models to make it worse! Martha was no doubt a lists person – she wanted to do the best she could for Jesus and she knew in her mind exactly what had to be done when – 5 o’clock put the goat in the oven, then prepare the vegetables, make sure the wine is at the right temperature, put the bread to warm – oh and Mary can lay the table, fetch the water, and do the washing up as I go along. Continue reading
Last Sunday was the feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church Year. I would have posted my sermon sooner were it not for my telephone company. They have just introduced fibre-optic broadband and I had decided to upgrade. The problem was that instead of giving me much higher speeds they managed to give me no speed at all as well as no phone line either. However, everything is now fixed and I am able to post last Sunday’s sermon at last.
Last week I began by talking about food. So, this week, just to keep the theme going, I’m going to begin by talking about drink. And I want to ask you, “What is the oldest thing you have ever drunk?”
Well, whatever answer you come up with, I am fairly certain that I can beat it. The oldest thing I have ever drunk was put into a bottle in 1845. I’m talking about a bottle of Continue reading
Last Sunday was, of course, the Feast of Pentecost. Here’s what I said in my sermon.
There’s not much that’s more annoying than a flat car battery.
You know what it’s like! The last time you used the car there was nothing wrong. Then you go out to go somewhere – and it’s always when you’re going somewhere important and are in a hurry – and the car won’t start. These days, with electronic central locking, you are forewarned because the remote control key won’t unlock the car. And you get that sinking feeling. And yet, having had to use the key the old-fashioned way and actually put it in the lock, you get in and even though you now know you have a flat battery you still try and start the car. You know it’s not going to work but you try anyway. No power! And you’re not going anywhere. And the worst thing is you know that it’s almost certainly your fault. Either you’ve left headlights on though that’s increasingly difficult these days. Or you’ve left the interior light on. Or – as I managed to do recently – you’ve left the boot slightly ajar so that the boot light had not gone out! Continue reading
Last Sunday St John’s hosted the civic service. This is an annual service which moves about from church to church when the Chairman of our District Council comes to church along with other council members and local dignitaries. They make a public promise to serve the local community to the best of their ability and with God’s help. Councillor Beverley Connolly, Chairman of Tandridge District Council, chose the following readings for the service:
I decided to preach mainly on the first of the three readings. Here’s what I said for the occasion, and I began with a short passage from Lews Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.
“There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents,” said Humpty Dumpty, “and only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!”
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’“ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’” Alice said.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
Anyone involved in politics will know the importance of clarity, the need to choose words carefully so that your meaning is conveyed clearly. It’s no good being like Humpty Dumpty and being clear what you yourself mean, if you then have to go on and explain to those on the receiving end what you actually meant. We all know how easily newspapers can report, for example, something a government minister has said – only for a few days later for a spokesman to say, “That’s not actually what they said, what they really meant was … !“ Continue reading
Here’s what I said at our Maundy Thursday mass, just before the washing of feet.
They’re very popular on TV. Murder mysteries, whodunnits – Poirot, Miss Marple, Midsommer Murders, and more recently the excellent Father Brown. And all the clues are there so that you can work out along with the detective who actually committed the murder. The thing is, unless you’re very good at spotting the clues, you usually end up as baffled as the not very bright policeman and have to have it all explained by the famous detective at the end.
Our reading tonight is rather like that. For most of its existence centuries the church has been remembering the events of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, and every year we hear this reading from John’s Gospel. When you’ve read it, you have all the information you need to know precisely how Jesus wants you live and behave as Christians. Not so much a ‘whodunnit’ but a ‘how-you-do-it’ with clues to guide you to the right answer.