Preaching Good News to the poor. Luke 4.16-21

Luke 4.14-21 The Kingdom of God is good news for the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed In Matthew and Mark, when Jesus comes out of the wilderness and begins his ministry, he announces the Kingdom He preaches: The Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the Good News Luke is slightly different. He is speaking to people who don’t know their Old Testament, who don’t really understand what the Kingdom of God is. And Luke instead tells us what this Kingdom will look like. Instead, when Jesus comes out of the wilderness, and begins his ministry, he declares “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 The Kingdom of God is good news for the poor. “to bring good news to the poor… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” That is a consistent messag

The gift of Baptism. Luke 3.15-22

Luke 3.15-17, 21-22 Today we remember the baptism of Jesus, and it is good to have Leo’s baptism in this service.  You may have noticed that before communion, I will say that ‘All who have received the gift of baptism and who love the Lord Jesus and want to follow him are welcome to receive the bread and the wine here’. On one occasion when I said that in the UK, a man came up to me after the service, I think he claimed to be a Buddhist, and asked me, Why did someone have to have been baptised to receive communion? Wasn’t that being exclusive? I have no idea how I answered him then, although I’m sure I thought of some very clever things to say - half an hour later. But it is interesting that to become a member of any organisation, you usually have to have done or do something: pay a subscription, achieve a qualification, be interviewed, go through some initiation ceremony. But the only thing that Jesus says that you need to do, to become a member of the Church of God, is to allow someo

It's Christmas. Let's party.

From 1647 to 1660, Christmas was cancelled in England and Wales! Oddly it was cancelled not by some fanatical politically correct authority, but by the Puritan government, which consisted of people who were committed believers and followers of Jesus Christ and who tried to put the teachings of the Bible at the centre of all that they did. They argued against Christmas for two reasons. One, we cannot be certain that 25 December really was the day that Jesus was born (it almost certainly was not), that the first church celebration of Christmas that we know of was as late as 336, and the Bible tells us that we do not need to celebrate one day as more special than another (it is interesting how ‘do not need to’ becomes ‘must not’ in our thinking). And the second reason they gave was because the celebration of Christmas, the dressing up in fine clothes, the music and singing, feasting and partying was pagan and led to immorality. Oh, and maybe there was a third reason. Most of the people in

What it means for Mary to be blessed and what it means for us to be blessed. Luke 1.39-58

Luke 1.39-58 Today in our reading we hear how Elizabeth blesses Mary. Or, more accurately, how Elizabeth tells Mary that she is blessed. In Luke 1, an angel had appeared to Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah and told him that Elizabeth and he would have a miracle baby (they were both very old), and then, a few weeks later, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she would have a miracle baby. The first thing that Mary does, after the visit of the angel, is to go to see Elizabeth –to talk, because Elizabeth would have been the only person who she could have talked with, and also – I suspect - to confirm that what the angel had said was true. If Elizabeth really was pregnant, then God could work the impossible. So Mary comes to Elizabeth, and as they speak together, Elizabeth uses the word ‘blessed’, three times. Blessed are you among women Blessed is the fruit of your womb (v42) Blessed is she who believed that what God said would be fulfilled (v45) And I would like to explor

The emptiness of God. A carol service talk 2021

Christmas, we are told, is a time of fullness It is a time of stockings, filled with gifts; of full plates for feasting; of glasses full with champagne. But at the heart of the story of Christmas story there is not fullness but emptiness. God, in the words of one of the first followers of Jesus Christ, emptied himself in order to become a human being. Jesus lived at a time when they told stories about gods who became human beings. But those stories told of gods who became human beings to spy out what men and women were doing; in order to do amazing superwoman, superman acts - just like Thor in the Marvel films; in order to seduce mortals with their beauty or strength. In other words, they come down in their fullness to have a party, to use their godness to their advantage, to be godlike! But the Christmas story is very different. In the Christmas story we have God quite literally emptying himself. He comes from heaven, but as a baby, ‘the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms’

Meeting God in the wilderness. Luke 3:1-6

Luke 3:1-6 ‘The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness’ (Luke 3:2) The wilderness is a brutal place. It is dry, empty and cruel. It is the place of demons. But it is also the place where people met with God. We read of Hagar. We meet her in Genesis. She was Abraham’s concubine, and she was sent away by Sara, Abraham’s wife, with her son Ishmael. She goes into the wilderness. She can’t feed her son. She can’t feed herself. And when she runs out of water, she sees no hope, no future. So she sits down, puts her son some way away from her, and waits to die. But God steps in and meets her. We read of Moses. He was an Israelite, but he was brought up in Pharoah’s household. He was a prince of Egypt. He could have done so much for his people. But he loses his temper and he kills a man. He is shamed and has to run for his life. And this prince of Egypt ends up looking after sheep for his father in law in the wilderness. But God comes to meet him in the burning bush, and sp

A talk for St Andrew's day. John 1.35-42

John 1.35-42 St Andrew, according to tradition, placing the cross on the hill where Kyiv was built. A miniature from the Radziwill manuscript. Thank you for joining us today as we celebrate and honour St Andrew We honour St Andrew as the first follower of Jesus He was the first called (we read that in Matthew and Mark), but our reading today focusses on Andrew as the first who chose to follow Jesus. Andrew was a fisherman. He was also a follower of John the Baptist. But John the Baptist does something remarkable. He points Andrew away from himself and towards Jesus. He sees Jesus coming and he tells Andrew and another disciple, possibly John, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God’. If you visit the Tretyakov gallery, it is almost impossible to miss Ivanov’s amazing painting of John the Baptist pointing to Jesus. And we are told, “The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” They are the first to follow Jesus, and it was the beginning of a lifelong journey. Andrew was faith