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Learning to Pray. Mark 9.2-9

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Mark 9.2-9 As we prepare ourselves to celebrate the season of Lent, today we look at a pretty dramatic encounter with God. Peter, James and John – three of the first followers of Jesus – go on a mountain with Jesus, and they got far more than they have bargained for. And while I would be surprised if any of us have a similar encounter, at least this side of death, I am going to draw out three things from this incident. 1. There is great value in separating ourselves from our everyday world in order to spend time with Jesus “Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.” Mark 9:2 Peter, James and John have been led by Jesus up a mountain. In some icons of the transfiguration you can see them going up the mountain, and coming down the mountain.  There is nobody else with them. It is just them and Jesus. It is good to have time when it is just you and Jesus or just us and Jesus. I know that we can pray at any time, but

The light in which we see light. John 1:9

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John 1.9 We are told that at the beginning of time as we know it, the whole universe was  very small: about a million trillion times smaller than an atom and very hot: a septillion (that is 1 with 24 zeroes) times hotter than the centre of the sun, give or take one or two centigrade.  Very small and very hot – the exact opposite of Russia! And it was bright. At light frequencies that no human can see or bear. This is the light from which all material life began. And this light hurtling away from the centre out into nothingness, out of which came the stars and the planets, out of which ultimately comes life. But John speaks of a different light, a greater light than this ‘The true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.’ And when John speaks of something that is ‘true’ (he speaks of true bread, true water), he means authentic, solid, eternally lasting, ultimately real. So when he speaks of true light, he is speaking of the authentic light that is behind light.  This

Meeting with God. Luke 2.22-38

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Luke 2.22-38   We are at the end of the Christmas season!   Today we read the last of the stories about the baby Jesus. We remember when Joseph and Mary bring the baby Jesus into the temple.   They come in obedience to the law. They come for the purification of Mary They come to present the child to God. And they have a meeting with God.   The Old Testament background is this: After giving birth a mother was ritually unclean - it was not to do with any sense that giving birth is sinful, but to do with the idea of the spilling of blood (which, in the OT is identified with the life of a person). And because she was unclean, she was effectively quarantined for 40 days. At the end of that time, before she could come to worship again, or go out into society, she had to come to the temple and to make a sacrifice - a sin offering and a burnt offering. You can read about this in Leviticus 12. If she was wealthy the offering would be a lamb for a sin offering and a dove

How Jesus can turn a crisis into a blessing. John 2.1-11

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John 2.1-11 Last week we heard Jesus say to Nathaniel that he would see heaven opened and angels ascending and descending on the son of man.  And we said that Jesus is telling Nathaniel that there would be moments when the curtain between heaven and earth is pulled apart - and he will see that Jesus is the gate between heaven and earth: Jesus is the way that heaven touches earth, and the way that we who are of the earth can encounter heaven.  Three days after Jesus has said that, he turns water into wine. We are told in v11 that this is the first sign that Jesus does, the first clue as to who he really is.  He reveals his glory and his disciples put their trust in him.  Jesus turns water into wine, the curtain is pulled open, and Nathaniel sees the angels ascending and descending on him, he sees heaven touching earth.  So what is going on here? What does the clue point to? What is Jesus revealing? 1 . Jesus is revealing that he is God's Messiah, that he has come to bring the promis

Good news for a cynic. John 1.43-51

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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

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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

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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