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Simon of Cyrene

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Mark 15.21-32

Simon was forced to carry the cross
We don’t live in a society where police officers or soldiers routinely order us to do stuff for them.
But Simon did live in such a society. He was the foreigner who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he got dragged into something that had nothing to do with him.
A man was being taken to his place of execution. He was going to be crucified. He had been severely beaten and he was too weak to carry his own cross. And so they had picked on Simon, possibly because he was black and different (he came from Cyrene, an ancient city in Libya), and they ordered him to carry the cross.

I wonder what he thought as he carried the cross: ‘This thing is heavy. How far have we got to go? Why did I get landed with this? I had my own plans for today. This thing is heavy. It is so unfair. I’m treated worse than a dog in this place. People will think I am the one who is about to be crucified. I can’t refuse. I can’t put it down and run. I…

The triumphal entry: a talk for Palm Sunday

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Mark 11.1-11



I’d like to show you an icon of the triumphal entry. This is a Russian icon from the 16th century. It depicts the event we have just read about in Mark 11.
In the centre we have Jesus. It is all about him. His head is at the central point. He has a halo (which has faded), and he is riding a horse (they didn’t know donkeys in Russia which is why they show Jesus riding on a horse). It is, in this depiction, a noble beast – which at one level slightly misses the point.
Jesus did not come riding into Jerusalem on a war horse, but on a donkey. It is not that a king would not ride a donkey, but he would only ride a donkey if he was coming in peace. And Jesus’ choice of the donkey was a fulfilment of Zechariah 9.9, ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ So Jesus is claiming to be King, but claiming to be a king who is comi…

Praying with the Desert Fathers and Mothers

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WHO WERE THE DESERT FATHERS AND MOTHERS?
Egyptian monks, although later moved to Palestine. Flourished between 250-407. By 300, there were 10000 monks and 20000 nuns in Oxyrhynchus.
Story begins with Anthony (251-356AD) or possibly Paul of Thebes (who fled to desert [Gk: eremos = hermit] in persecution). [When they met, they had a saintly stand off to decide who would bless the bread! In the end they did it together.]
For Anthony it began with his response to command in Matthew 19.21: ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me’.
(This call was also heard by people like St Augustine, St Francis, CT Studd) Three groups: Hermits – those who lived on their own out in the desert (Anthony) Monasteries (Pachomius) Semi-hermetical (Ammon). [People living as solitaries, but coming together for ‘love-feasts’ on Saturday and Sunday] Monk – mono. Single. They lived alone. They were single minded. They lived for Hi…

Who do you think you are?

John 8.48-59
Our own Clive appeared on the programme with Jeremy Paxman
But here it is the question that they ask Jesus.
They think they know the answer: You’re a Samaritan and demon possessed – and they’ve certainly got an answer at the end of the passage: he is a heretic. 
It is the question behind the whole of John’s story of Jesus. In John 20.31 he says that he writes so that we might believe ‘that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him we might have life in his name’.
Jesus, in these short verses, makes three astonishing claims
1.He can give us eternal life ‘If you keep my word you will not die’.
Jesus is not saying that we won’t experience physical death. I can think of only two people who have not experienced physical death (Enoch and Elijah) But he is saying that if we keep his word we will not experience real death.
Jesus is claiming to be bigger than death. It is an astonishing claim, and I guess it needs to be justified. 
In Chapter 11 Jesus again…

Freedom from anguish

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Psalm 25

We are looking today at Psalm 25. 
It is says that it is a Psalm of David and I’m going to take it that it is a Psalm of David. It was either written by him, authorised by him, commissioned by him or approved of by him. 
David is in anguish. 
There are the enemies. They are mentioned in v2 and v19 (the beginning and end of this psalm). They hate him, and they have, it seems, betrayed him (v3). 
To be hated is to have other people wish that you did not exist.  I know people sometimes say, ‘I wish you were dead’, but to hate another person is more than that. It is to really wish them dead, to see them crushed into the dust. It is to live as if they do not exist, and if they do have the temerity to continue to exist, to mock them, ridicule them, treat them as if they are a joke and do not matter.  That is why Jesus says that we will not be judged simply on whether we have murdered someone, but on whether we have hated someone. Because if we hate someone we have murdered them in our min…