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Showing posts from 2006

Christmas 2006

Christmas is a time of journeys. Many people travel quite long distances in order to be with relatives.
An elderly man in Manchester calls his son in London and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing—45 years of misery is enough."
"Dad, what are you talking about?" the son asks.
"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the old man says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Aberdeen and tell her."
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts. "I'll take care of this."
She calls Manchester immediately and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing till I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing."
The old man han…

The God who intervenes

LUKE 1:26-38

We have to allow God the right to break into our lives

That is what happens here. God breaks into history.

As someone (Peter Larson) has pointed out: "Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin's womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked "No Entrance" and left through a door marked "No Exit."

And God breaks into history by breaking into the life of a young girl, probably not much older than 14.

Mary, no doubt, had her life planned. She was going to marry Joseph. She would - if God gave - have children. She would live in her home town, Nazareth, and be a carpenter's wife. She would never be rich; she would never be famous; she would never be powerful. The best she could look forward to was that her children would look after her when she grew old.

But God breaks into her world. An angel appears to Mary. And her life is set on a radically different c…

Waiting for God

MARK 13:24-37

We have been this evening on a journey through the four last things: Death, judgement, hell and heaven.

And now we come to our final passage which reminds us that that which we think is so solid and certain - the things of this universe: the sun, moon and stars - are actually provisional. They will come to an end. And there will be a day of reckoning. Jesus will return, and he will gather his people to him.

And these verses are a call to us to keep watch, not to give up.

Jesus tells a story. It is a short story: An owner of a house goes away. He leaves his servants in charge. He gives them specific tasks. One of the tasks is the task of being the doorman (v34: ‘and he tells the one at the door to keep watch’).

It is part of a private conversation that Jesus has with Peter, John, James and Andrew. And he seems to be saying: “This is the job that I am giving you: I want you to be the doorkeepers”

I want you to protect the house from those who wish to steal or destroy
I want you …

False gods

1 Kings 11:1-13

Solomon had everything going for him.

He had the promise: the promise that God had made to his father David.

2 Samuel 7:12 “When your days are over .. I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father and he shall be my son.. My love will never be taken away from him .. your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever”

He knew the word of God, the law of God. And he knew what God’s law was; he knew the consequences of following God’s law and the consequences of rejecting God’s law.

He had the experience: He had met God. In fact God appeared to him on two occasions, both times through dreams. And he had also been there at the dedication of the temple, when suddenly the glory of God appeared

He knew that God answered prayer: because h…

Remembrance Sunday 2006

1 Corinthians 15:1-8

We are here today to remember with pride and gratitude, and I suspect for some of us here - with real pain - those men and women who fought in two world wars, whether in the war at home or overseas, in order to defend our freedom and to bring freedom to the peoples of occupied Europe: 'they gave their tomorrow for our today'. And we honour them.
Remembrance Sunday has taken on a new significance in the last few years. There has even been talk of making it our new 'national' day, although we in Bury St Edmunds know that needs to be November 20. But it has taken on a new significance because even though the vast majority of our population did not experience the second world war - I was born almost 20 years after it ended - the stories are still told; the ghastliness of war has not changed, and even though Nazism was defeated and the swastikas ripped down in 1945, there are still many today who try to hold and manipulate nations and peoples through the…

A vision for St Peter's

Matthew 5:13-16

What is our vision for St Peter's?

A few weeks ago, St Peter's committee went away for a day to think through the direction for St Peter's: what are we about? What would we like to see happen? How would we like to grow?

Afterwards I spent some time working through what was said, and came up with the following summary statement:

A community of Jesus Christ, submitted to His word and serving His world.

I'd like to look at that, in the light of those verses that we had read from Matthew 5

1. A community of Jesus Christ

There was a common consensus that we wish to be one community. We do not wish to have one service that is more traditional, and another that is more modern. Our aim is that, when we meet together, we will be a single community that seeks to embrace people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.

But we can only be that if we are centred on the one who can break down all barriers. We can only be that if we are centred on Jesus Christ and if we are a co…

Using our gifts

MATTHEW 25:14-30

We're looking at the three parables in Matthew 25

Last week: parable of the 10 bridesmaids: 5 were wise and 5 were foolish. We need to be vigilant: as the people of God we are called to watch.

Today, we are looking at the parable of the talents. It is quite well known, but it is worth revisiting.

Three headlines

1. We need to use what we have been given

The talents that we have been given are from God and to be used in God's service

A 'talent' today has become something special. In education speak we talk about 'gifted and talented'.

But it is not how Jesus understands it here. Our talents are all the things that God has given us that can be used for service to others and to him. JC Ryle writes, "Anything whereby we may glorify God is a 'talent'. Our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ's…

A wedding sermon

A SERMON PREACHED ON THE OCCASION OF ADRIAN MARPLE AND RUTH HULLEY'S WEDDING
Saturday 15th July 2006

BASED ON PSALM 127,128

Congratulations.

This service is such a joy

And thank you for the readings that you have chosen

A new family, a new 'house' is being established today.

People try to build marriages, 'houses' on many foundations

Shared feelings
Shared interests
Shared dreams
And all of that is so important

But Psalm 127.1 says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain"

Psalms 127 and 128 are Psalms of Ascent. As people journeyed up to Jerusalem, to the temple, to meet with God, they would sing these songs.
And both these songs are declaring that if we wish to see the house established, the city protected, the work completed - then we must put God in the centre.

Feelings change and hopefully mature: for instance, we cannot constantly remain in a state of 'being in love'. You would never eat and nothing would ever get done.
Interests ca…

Political correctness

ACTS 10:23b-48

"I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men (and women) from every nation .."

It was an astonishing statement for Peter to make. All his life he had assumed that there was an unbridgeable chasm between Jew and Gentile (non Jew). All his life he had assumed that Gentiles could be touched by God, but could never be part of the people of God. All his life he had assumed that he could be contaminated by Gentiles, that he should not really associate with Gentiles and certainly not eat with Gentiles.

And now he had had a vision, which was then vindicated by the visit of the messengers from this Gentile, a man called Cornelius.

We must not underestimate the significance of the events of Acts 10. The church of God was put on a completely new direction. Up to this point, the first Christian missionaries - who were Jews - only preached to Jews. Now they preached to everyone. The gospel goes global; the gospel goes international.

The deb…

On the occasion of the Queen's 80th birthday

Matthew 22:16-22

It is good to give thanks for our Queen

We give thanks for her role as a figurehead for our nation.
Throughout her reign of 54 years we have, as a nation, known relative stability and prosperity. And some of that sense of well-being is due to the fact that God has granted her a long reign and a long life. Throughout my life, and throughout the life of many people, we have only known one monarch. And psychologically, if nothing else, the fact that she is - is, in a very changing world, one of the constants of life.
We give thanks for her role as head of the commonwealth: it is widely recognised that the reason the commonwealth has been such an effective organisation is because of the work of the Queen
We give thanks for her as a person.
For her wisdom: perhaps we will never know the significance of her weekly meetings with successive prime ministers: but there are very few things that she hasn't seen and she hasn't done
For her sense of duty: She has shown total dedi…

The Holy Spirit

JOHN 16:5-15

Good to be together

You are a gathering of astonishing people with a remarkable range of gifts and passions.

And in many ways, this is when we are most church. It is good that we have services that are of different styles, and they can be most effective when we are reaching out to new people, but there is also a danger that we create me-centred religion: I choose the service that most suits me, that I feel most at ease in - and I am uncomfortable if things are different or if people worship in a different way.

But it is gatherings like this that remind us that the church of God is bigger than our own congregation, that we need each other, that we are actually part of one body, we are members one of another.

So it is not insignificant that it was while the first followers of Jesus "were all together in one place" (Acts 2:1), that the Holy Spirit came.

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He comes from the Father and yet has always been with the Father a…