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A Christmas day talk based on the life of St Nicholas

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I’d like to tell you about someone quite obscure – although I am certain that everybody here – apart from the very smallest - will have heard of him!
He lived 1600 years ago, in an Greek town called Myra. Today Myra is in modern day Turkey, and it is in ruins.
We don’t know that much about him.
He was a Christian born to a well-off family.
We know that he was really serious about his Christian faith, and he was deeply committed to Jesus. When his parents died, he took Jesus’ command to ‘sell everything and give to the poor and come follow me’ quite literally. He gave away his wealth; he became a priest, and subsequently the bishop of Myra.
Although nothing was written down, they told stories about him: about his love for God, for God's word and his love for people; and about how God did astonishing things through him.
This is an icon of him. Around the edge are scenes from his life. In the centre, he is shown wearing a bishop’s scarf. His right hand is raised in prayer and ble…

The song of the cleaner. A talk for a carol service.

I would like you to imagine that you have gone to a concert. The auditorium is vast. The orchestra is huge. You’ve come for the full works – to be blown away.
The lights dim. Everything goes quiet.
And then the cleaner walks onto the stage. He’s in his overalls and he’s got a broom. And as he sweeps, he begins to sing: quietly, so you have to really listen if you want to know what he is singing, but loudly enough so that if anyone wants to hear, they will be able to hear.
It is not what anybody is expecting. It is embarrassing; It is awkward. People start to fidget and cough. Some begin to laugh at him. And after a few minutes they go back to doing what they were doing before. They ignore him.
But there are a few who, despite the rising noise, do try and listen.

At Christmas God opens the door of heaven and walks onto the human stage. But it is not what we are expecting.
We were looking for the full works. If this is God who is turning up – the creator of heaven and earth, of spa…

A talk for St Nicholas' Day

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1 John 4.7-14
Yesterday I was on retreat at an Orthodox monastery, and I was speaking with one of the monks. I told him I was struggling with a talk for St Nicholas’ Day, trying to put together his story and the passage for the day. But I then said that I had noticed that I had been put in a room with not one but two icons of St Nicholas. He said – slightly mischievously because he knows the tradition I come from - that perhaps I should pray to St Nicholas. Well I did pray: to the one to whom St Nicholas prays.
We know very little about St Nicholas. He was bishop of Myra around the beginning of the C4th. But over time stories have been told about him.
The stories speak of a passionate defender of the faith of scripture. It is said that he went to the Council of Nicaea and that he got so annoyed with Arius who was denying the full divinity of Christ, that he smacked him around the face. Well he gets full marks for zeal for the truth, but it is not the sort of behaviour I encourage in…

When will the Church of England be disestablished?

What is an established church? A Church that is officially recognized as a national institution Erastianism: The faith of the ruler is the faith of the people.
THE SITUATION IN THE EARLY CHURCH State (Roman Empire) – State religion (worship of the emperor and tolerance of local practice). The small Christian communion was sometimes tolerated and sometimes persecuted
Pliny, Letters 10.96-97, Pliny to the Emperor Trajan It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him …

Thank you. Remembrance Sunday 2016

In 5 days’ time, 100 years ago, the guns were finally silenced on one of the bloodiest battles in human history.
It was not, of course, the end of the war. But by the end of what we know as the battle of the Somme, more than 1 million men were wounded and 300000 were killed. There were, on the first day alone, 57470 casualties, making it the worst day in the history of the British army.
Since then another battle has raged: the argument about whether that sort of loss of life was necessary. Field Marshall Douglas Haig has been in turn praised (it is estimated that more people turned out for his funeral than did for the funeral of Princess Diana), ignored, damned and it is only now that that judgement is again being reassessed. 
But today is not the day for asking whether what was asked of the men at the Somme was right or wrong, wicked idiocy or an evil necessity. Today is the day when we remember the astonishing sacrifices that were made by those who served – then, in more recent conflic…

The resurrection is for real

Luke 20.27-40
This week we are thinking a little more about the resurrection.
The Sadducees, as we see here, did not believe in the resurrection. They believed in God; they believed in the first five books of the Old Testament – the Mosaic law. And they believed that death was the end.
I’ve got a lot of time for the Sadducees. They are serious, thoughtful, hard-nosed rationalists. They are going to face up to death with no sugar-coated pill. They would not have been willing to buy into the half-baked sentimentalist claptrap about people dying and going up there to sit on clouds and be with those we have loved for ever.
So they challenge Jesus about the resurrection. They say to Jesus, ‘OK, if there is resurrection, when we are there who will we be with?’ They tell of this unfortunate woman who marries an even more unfortunate man. He dies before they have children. The law of Moses said that she needed to marry his brother. It makes sense. First, it ensured that she as a childless w…