How to succeed in life … for Jesus
Want to get ahead in life? Want to get promoted at work? Want to be in charge? And lead other people?
Well, any look at the non-fiction section of a good bookshop will show you that there are no end of books ready to tell you just how easy it is to become a great leader and get people to follow you and do what you want them to – some of them very well known:
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
How to Win Friends and Influence People
The One Minute Manager
The list goes on. I did a search on Amazon for books on Leadership yesterday. And some of the taglines for the books illustrate just what a fixation our society has for power and control over others:
Fast, effective ways to become a leader people want to follow
Why the world needs more everyday leaders and why that leader is you
Step into your power, write your own rules and succeed in your career
Now, any of those books may be very good in their sphere. But what really struck me was that the first title I could find that came anything close to expressing the kind of leadership that Jesus taught was way down at number 54 on the list of books that came up in my search:Continue reading
Bread of life. Broken for you.
You can always tell when you’re in a restaurant that is trying to be a better class of establishment. Perhaps a local pub for a Sunday roast with family, or an evening out with friends. Because on the menu it will say seasonal vegetables as though that’s something special. Not just any old vegetables that happen to be in the shops. Seasonable vegetables!
When I was a child seasonal fruit and vegetables were nothing special. They were always seasonal – there wasn’t anything else. No looking down the rows of vegetables in the supermarket wondering what to buy this week– you simply had what was there. Well, let’s face it – there were no supermarkets – only the wonderful old Sainsbury’s with its one long counter and lots of assistants ready to get everything for you. They could do that, because everything that was available fitted onto the shelves behind them.
And as for bread – well, for starters it was delivered to the door by a man in a van. I can still remember the man who used to deliver ours. He came three times a week. There wasn’t a great deal of choice. He could fit some of each kind of bread into the basket that he brought to the back door – large white, small white, Hovis – that was it, and all baked at his own bakery. And you had to slice it yourself. I can still remember when he proudly announced that he would be adding Mother’s Pride sliced white to his range. My mother never bought it though – far too modern!Continue reading
We are a serving community
The third in our series of sermons reflecting on our mission statement – this week from Mother Anne-Marie.
A quick recap. Here at St John’s over the last two Sundays, today and next Sunday, we are exploring in more detail our Mission Statement and particularly the three words which form our action points.
Our mission statement is … I’m not expecting anyone to know it off by heart, but it is: St John’s is called by God to be his people through faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit: Worshipping – Growing – Serving.
We have already explored Worshipping and Growing in the sermon slot on the last two Sundays. If you missed either of those, they are up on our website for you to read. Today we are exploring “Serving” – what it might mean to be a serving community.Continue reading
All you need is love
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
True power is found in service
It has been the same since the very beginning – at least according to the Bible. In the garden of Eden, according to the book of Genesis, the devil in the form of a serpent encourages the man and the woman to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree so that they can become like God. For that, he tells them, is what will happen if they eat. Not content with what God has given they want more – and to be like God, to be equal to God, seemed so desirable – so they ate. And they are expelled from the Garden of Eden as a result of their disobedience. The story of Adam and Eve being thrown out of Eden is what we call The Fall. Even from the beginning, says the Bible, people got the whole idea about status and power upside down. They wanted to be raised up to be equal to God – not realising that God had different ideas. We’ll come back to that thought in a while.
Around ten years ago the Guardian newspaper published a list of the thousand novels that everyone must read before they die.
I think I have some way to go. I looked through the list yesterday and I have now managed to read 87 of them. In case you think that actually sounds rather impressive I should explain. The list contains many of the great classics from around the world, Dickens, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Jane Austen and so on, and many of the books are seriously heavy going. It also contains great modern novels that you probably know better as films – Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, the great Philip Marlow novels of Raymond Chandler, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I managed to resist cheating and didn’t include those in my total even if I’d watched the film. Continue reading
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? Well – to help you make your decision I’ve checked the forecast for Easter Monday – 90 per cent chance of rain!
People have always looked forward with anticipation to bank holiday celebrations. And people at the time of Jesus were no different – except they didn’t call them bank holidays, of course. But their celebration of Passover – itself a very serious religious occasion when the people recalled and re-enacted their rescue by God from Egypt – was also a time of celebration. People flocked to the big city, to Jerusalem. The city’s population of about 100,000 was added to by 3 million visitors! and there was a massive party atmosphere as the crowds gathered to get ready for the great feast. Continue reading
Give to God …
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
A king and a cross
This Sunday was the feast of Christ the King. Here’s what I said.
Jeremiah 23.1-6; Luke 23.33-43
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
To be or to do? Mary and Martha
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
The Feast of Christ the King
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.
Ezekiel 34.11-16, 20-24; Matthew 25.31-36
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