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Mark 1:9-15 When wild beasts surround us

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Mark 1.9-15 ‘Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion’ (Ps 22.13)   1. Jesus humbles himself so that he is in a position in which he can receive from God Jesus chooses to come to John the Baptist to be baptised, to receive the gift of God. He did not need to be baptised. He had no sin for which he needed to be forgiven. But he chooses to be baptised, to identify himself with John the Baptist, with his message of repentance, and with God’s amazing offer of forgiveness. And he chooses to identify himself with those who recognised their need for God’s washing, God’s forgiveness; with people who recognised that they needed God. And so Jesus allows John to baptise him. He goes ‘down’ into the water and receives baptism. And Mark tells us that it is ‘as Jesus was coming up out of the water’ that he sees the heavens being torn open, the Spirit descending on him in physical form like a dove (park in Kis

Mark 9.1-8 The glory that shapes the suffering.

Mark 9.1-8 Last week looking at 'cosmic' Christ. Jesus the creator and lord of all, the source of everything - even life and being. Today we see the glory of Christ, Jesus transfigured, shining with a brilliance that one of the gospel writers describes as like the sun.  There are echoes in this story of Moses who met with God on the Mount Sinai, and Elijah who met with God on Mount Horeb. Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai are different names for the same mountain. And there are echoes also of Isaiah's vision of God (Isaiah 6), when he hears the angels proclaim, 'Holy Holy Holy'. In verse 1, Jesus says “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” (Mark 9:1) And in verse 2 we are told 'six days later'. That 'dating' is unusual in Mark. We are meant to understand the transfiguration as the fulfilment of that promise. The 'some' are Peter, James and John who see

Luke 2:22-40 For people who feel powerless

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Luke2:22-40 [A sermon preached at St Luke's West Holloway] I was vicar of your neighbouring parish, Mary Mags, for 10 years from 1995-2005. It was rather daunting to have Dave Tomlinson here on one side and Stephen Coles on the other and to be this nobody in the middle. I became vicar in Bury St Edmunds for 12 years and then, from 2017-2023 I was the Anglican chaplain in Moscow. Alison and myself returned to the UK last summer. Our final weekend in Moscow was the weekend that Prigozhin, rather like the grand old Duke of York, marched his troops to the edge of Moscow and then – fatally for him – turned them around and marched them back. There is nothing that can justify what Putin did on 24 February 2022, even if some of his grievances against the West have some justification. It has led to what some calculate to up to 500000 deaths from both Ukraine and Russian; millions of people – some of you may be here – had to flee their homes; terrible things being done: the problem w

John 1:43-51 For people who feel invisible.

John 1:43-51 It is very difficult to be unseen, invisible I remember on one occasion when we were having a meal. There was Alison, myself and the three boys. Maybe others. We were having an intense conversation. John, our son who was probably about 5 at the time, had clearly been trying to say something, but nobody was paying him any attention. He was invisible to us. So he stood up on his chair and he shouted out, ‘Listen to me!’ Perhaps we feel invisible at work. I've just started work in a large organisation and at times it seems that I am invisible. That everybody is getting on with their life, their interests, their systems and I don't exist, I don't really matter.  And as a new person in a new place – perhaps we’ve moved to a new village or town or country, or begun college – maybe at first people notice us, but later it can feel that nobody notices us. We begin to feel that we do not matter. And as we grow older, or suffer sickness – maybe we are stuck in h

Christmas and the glory of God

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Luke 2.1-14 "In that region there were shepherds living in the fields .. then an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them" "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven ..'" "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God" There is a lot of glory at Christmas. The glory of the sun is that it shines. The glory of an architect is the stunning building. The glory of the football team is an immaculate set of passes and outstanding skill that climaxes in a spectacular goal. The glory of a performance is where the orchestra and choir and soloists are in perfect harmony, where every note, every beat, every emotion is exactly right - and at the end there is stunned silence and then the audience explodes with a sense of joy in rapturous applause But tonight there is something strange going on here. The glory of God is revealed

The Annunciation. Christmas eve 2023

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Luke 1.26-38 Today - this last Sunday in Advent, which happens to be Christmas Eve, we remember Mary It means that we have the story of the annunciation this morning and the birth this evening. Shortest pregnancy ever! And this morning I would like to focus for a few minutes on Mary's Yes to God: 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word' She did not need to say Yes. Indeed, she is contrasted to Zechariah (the double reference to ‘the sixth month’, [Luke 1.26,36] places the annunciation in the context of the story of the birth of John the Baptist) Many similarities: an angel appears to him and tells him that Elizabeth his wife will have a baby. But clearly Zechariah responds with unbelief: How is this possible? I'm really old and my wife is getting on. He is a priest in the temple of God and he does not believe the word of God. And so he is struck dumb. He cannot speak because he has nothing to say. But Mary responds with faith. She s

Who are you? John 1.6-8,19-28

John 1.6-8, 19-28 Who are you? Today we are looking at the question of identity. A number of years ago I did a thesis on the work of John Zizioulas, the Orthodox theologian. He wrote a book, 'Being as Communion', which says that we truly are who we are in relationship with (including relationship with God) Today we look at how John the apostle speaks of his namesake, John the Baptist, who answers the question, 'Who are you?' 1. Our identity is tied to our origin You may well know the TV programme, 'Who do you think you are?' The subject is shown who their human ancestors are.  But John does not tell us his John the Baptist's human ancestors.  The first thing that we are told about John is that, 'There was a man sent from God' (v6). We are told about his origin in God.  It is in very marked contrast to how John introduces the people who come to John to ask him who he is? We are told three times that they were sent by the Jewish leaders  (vv19,22,24).