How do I love God and love my neighbour? Matthew 22.34-40

Matthew 22.34-40

If we loved God with all our heart, soul and mind, and if we loved our neighbour as ourselves ..

.. we would so delight in God that God would be everything to us: more important than anything that we had here on this earth: our reputation, our comfort, our possessions, our passions, even than the person who we love most dearly here.

[We think, ‘But how could I possibly love God more than I love my child or my beloved?’

CS Lewis writes, “When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”]

If we loved God with all our heart, soul and mind, our greatest desire would be to be in his presence. And separation from God would plunge us into the deepest despair…

St Sergius of Radonezh

St Sergius of Radonezh

St Sergius is a figure of major significance. He is described as 'the Teacher and Mentor of the Russian land". His life was recorded by one of his followers, Ephiphanius the Wise (in about 1417-18), subsequently adapted by Pachomius the Serb (in 1470), of which there are at least three versions. He is mentioned 12 times in early Russian chronicles and is recorded in 7 different official documents.

He was born 1314 in Rostov to noble and devout parents and given the name Bartholomew. He was a slow pupil at school, but was, according to the tradition, miraculously enabled to read after an encounter with a starets.

As a young man he cared for his parents and then, when they died, moved about 3 hours walking distance from Radonezh (where the family had fled after Rostov had been attacked) into the forest, where he - with Stefan, one of his brothers - built a cell in which to live and a church which he dedicated to the Trinity (the present Trinity Cathedral i…

Forgetting God. Conspiracy theories and the true cornerstone. Matthew 21.33-46

Matthew 21.33-46 

Matthew 21 is a story that could inspire a block buster.
A man builds a house on the edge of Moscow. He invests his time and his money to build the most amazing building. He brings in skilled workmen and uses the highest quality materials. It looks good and it is good. It is worth millions. 
But he is going away to the US, so he rents it, at a knock down price, to someone he thought was a good friend. All he says to the friend is, ‘Look after the place, and pay me money to cover the bills.’
After a year or two, having heard nothing, he sends an agent to find out what the place is like and to receive the rent. But the so-called good friend doesn’t let the agent in.
The man sends other, different agents. But this time the so-called good friend has them beaten up.
So the man thinks, I’ll send my son. I’m sure there is a misunderstanding, and my friend will obviously respect my son.
But the tenant thinks: The owner lives in the US. I’m registered to this address. If an unf…

You can change your mind. Matthew 21.23-32

Matthew 21.23-32

This reading is a challenge to us to change our mind
To change our mind about Jesus.

Jesus tells a story about a person who changed his mind, to people who refused to change their mind.

The priests and the elders of Jesus’ time were convinced that Jesus was a spiritual fraud. He claimed to speak as if he came from God, from above, but he was in fact very human and from below.

His authority, they were convinced, came from a marriage of arrogance and ignorance, backed up by some sort of charismatic ‘magical power’ which, they argued, was probably demonic.

If Jesus was from anywhere, he was not from up there, but from down there.

And they were not going to change their mind about him.

So when they ask Jesus, where does your authority come from?, he does not say, ‘from God’. He knows that will change nothing.

Instead he asks them what they thought of John the Baptist

John was a sort of cross between Sergius of Radonezh and Billy Graham.

St Sergius lived in the C14th. He w…

Grace. Matthew 20.1-16

Matthew 20.1-16

Last week we looked at forgiveness. This week we look at grace.

Forgiveness is about mercy. It is about me not receiving what I do deserve.
I do wrong. I deserve punishment. But I am forgiven. 
And last week we thought a little about how much we have been forgiven and how much it cost God to forgive us 
But grace is more than mercy. Grace is not simply about me not receiving the bad that I deserve but receiving far far more good that I don't deserve

Mercy is when I break the windscreen of your car and you forgive me
Grace is when I break the windscreen of your car and you freely go out and buy me a car

Let’s look at the story Jesus tells:

At the beginning of the day the landowner goes at about 6am to the market place and hires people to go and work in the field. He promises to give them a denarius, which was a pretty generous daily wage. He then goes back at 9am, at 12 noon, at 3pm and again at 5pm, just one hour before the market closes and work finishes. He doesn’t pr…

Forgiveness. Matthew 18.21-35

Matthew 18: 21-35

What do Christians have in common?

It is certainly not language (although obviously at St Andrew’s that is quite important!), or culture or education 
It is not politics. Christians can seriously disagree about politics. One person was telling me that their Christian organisation now struggles to hold joint Ukrainian – Russian conferences. There is too much tension and conflict. Both sides see the world in completely different ways.

It is not our views on sexuality and gender, on political activism, on climate change, on multi faith worship – if anything those are the sort of things which tear us apart.

It is not whether we like ‘religion’. There are Christians who do cherish the ritual and rites of the Church, and there are Christians who would do away with everything and focus exclusively on the word. 

And it is certainly not that we are a gathering of good people. If we are, then I should not be here.

The thing that we have in common can be summed up in one word – fo…

Living as day people and not as night people - Romans 13.8-14

Romans 13.8-14
Wake up! That is what we are told in Romans 13.
When I am on holiday I sometimes go sailing. We have a small yacht. The best time to sail is when there is an early morning high tide. So, my alarm clock goes off at 5.30am. The sun is shining, it is a beautiful morning, the only sound is the singing of the birds, the wind is just right – not too weak, not too strong (that is important because I am a fair weather sailor). And everything is new and fresh and filled with promise. And I know that if I get up, I will have a very precious time. But then I look at the alarm clock, turn over for 10 more minutes, and wake an hour or two later. And I have missed it.Paul urges us not to stay lying in bed, to wake up and not to miss it.“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.” Romans 13:11-12The new day is dawning. Christ has ris…