Posts

Good news for a cynic. John 1.43-51

Image
John 1.43-51 I wonder whether you believe that this world is all that there is. The world of sense: of sight, touch, smell, taste and sound – or if you believe that there is something more, an invisible world that is behind this world – but which occasionally becomes obvious in this world. It is as if the curtain that separates heaven from earth is drawn back and we see clearly. There is a story in the Old Testament about a man called Jacob. He is the grandson of Abraham. So we are talking about a story that comes from 4000 years ago. He has deceived his father and cheated his older brother, and his brother wants to kill him. So his mum gives him a packed lunch and tells him to get out fast and go to stay with his uncle Laban who lives far far away. Jacob leaves, and sets up camp for the first night. He falls asleep and he has a dream. He sees a ladder going up into heaven, and angels are going up and down the ladder. And God speaks to him and tells him that he will be with him, protec

Baptism and a new start. Mark 1.4-11

Image
Mark 1.4-11 A new year offers us the promise of new beginnings, of fresh starts. We can press the reset button - so long as it is reset and not overload! Today our reading is about a new beginning, a fresh start. We read about Jesus baptism, and the promise that Jesus baptism has for each of us. And we also celebrate Anna’s baptism and as we do that, we remember our own baptisms. Because baptism is about a new beginning, a fresh start. 1. Baptism is about living under a new Lord, under the true Lord. John the Baptist was a bit of a celebrity. He had a name. People looked to him as a spiritual leader. And yet John recognises the authority of Jesus. He says, ‘He is more powerful than me’, ‘I am not worthy to even bow down and untie his shoelaces’. In many Orthodox churches, in the dome as you look up, there is an image of Christ the ruler of all. That is the Christ who John speaks of here. One of the questions that I am about to ask Anna - and of course Ben and Tatiana and John, her

Galatians 4:4-7 The meaning of Christmas

Image
Galatians 4.4-7  My word for Christmas has been the word ‘ponder’. To think long and hard about something All who hear about the miraculous birth of John the Baptist ponder and ask what does this mean? (Luke 1.66) Mary ponders all these things (Luke 2.19) And in Galatians 4 Paul does a bit of pondering - thinking about the meaning of Christmas. Why was Jesus born when he was born?  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law in order to ..’ Why was Jesus born when he was born? Why did God decide that about 2000 years ago his love would be focused in a moment of history in a specific place? We don’t know, but for Paul it was at exactly the right time I’ve heard people say that Jesus was born in the time of the emperor Augustus because, after 100 years of civil war, there was relative peace throughout the empire, and because of Roman roads there were easier means of communication. So the news of the good news could spread. But

The manger in the hand (continued!): an all age talk for Christmas morning 2020

Image
We've done one crib - and we are now going to make a second The setting for this crib scene is our hand Place your thumb into the palm of your hand Your thumb is the baby Jesus , the Son of God, born on that first Christmas day. He comes into our world of uncertainty, fear, sickness, sin and death. He became Emmanuel, God with us. God who is the creator of time, beyond time, comes into time. 'The ancient of days is an hour or two old', as in the old hymn. God, in his love for us, comes to us as King, as Saviour, as Deliverer: he comes to set us free from sin and death. He comes to give us purpose, freedom, peace and hope. But he does that not by standing over us and compelling us to believe with acts of wonder and power - although that is in his locker and he can do that - but instead by stripping himself of power and coming among us as a tiny baby, defenceless and vulnerable: dependent on the love of a mother and the protection of a father. He comes in love for us, and he

How God grabs our attention. Midnight communion 2020

Image
I’ve recently read a book ‘ Stand out of our light ', by James Williams  It is about how social media - which, don’t get me wrong, offers so much - grabs our attention and often takes us away from the things that we would want to focus our attention on. So for instance, as part of my preparation on this, I needed to check a fact on YouTube, and then saw a link to a short video with Mr Bean, Rowan Atkinson. I was caught. And I clicked it! That is what the social media platforms - vkontakt, facebook, YouTube, instagram, google or yandex are - in fact - trying to do. They want us on their platforms and to stay on their platforms, because while you are there you are giving them your attention, you are giving them information about yourself, and they can use that information to target you with ads that, as they get to know you, are being designed for you. There is no evil genius behind it. There are algorithms. Algorithms which notice that you click on videos showing Mr Bean doing s

The hand of God in the manger. A Carol service talk for 2020

Image
Christmas is a time of coming together  But this year for many it is a time of separation  We are now separated from you, and we are not alone. There are many who are having to quarantine or to self-isolate. Many here have been separated from their families because of closed borders And many this year have been separated from those they love by what seems to be the final barrier, by death. But the message of Christmas includes the hope that those who are separated can be brought together. It begins with the bringing together of God in heaven and human beings on earth. We heard in our readings how, because of human sin, our rebellion against God, human beings were cast out of the garden of Eden, cut off from God. And without God we are lost – we do not know why we are living, what to live for, or how we should live. Of course, most of the time we do not think about those sorts of questions. But when we do think about them, we realise that our only reference point is ourselves and th

‘O that you would tear open the heavens and come down’ Isaiah 64.1-9

Image
Isaiah 64.1-9 ‘O that you would tear open the heavens and come down’ (Isaiah 64.1) In Isaiah 64, the people of Israel have returned from exile.    For 70 years they had been captives and slaves in Babylon, and then there is a change of political regime and they are allowed to return But when they arrive back, they discover that the land has been devastated. The cities are like a wilderness - think of images of some of those old Soviet cities that have now been abandoned Jerusalem is a desolation And the temple has been burnt to the ground All that is left are ruins. And the prophet is praying, ‘Where are you God?’ ‘O that you would tear open the heavens and come down’ (64.1) I wonder whether that is our longing? O God you seem so distant. We are lost. We are discouraged. We are running on empty. We are tired. We are flat. We have lost focus, lost energy. Many of the things that we put our hope in are in ruins; many of the things that we lived for have been stripped away from us Wher