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Showing posts from 2018

The Prince of Peace

When Jesus is born, the angels sing, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours’ Jesus was born to bring peace: peace to all people and peace to all things. He was born so that we could be at peace with God, at peace with each other and at peace with creation. There is an icon (called 'Let all living things praise him') which I discovered in the Maly Voznesensky shop round the corner, which has at its centre the nativity of Jesus Christ. Mary is there, holding Jesus. The ox and ass are there. Joseph is on one side, looking – as usual – a bit thoughtful. It is all a little bit too much for him! The angels gaze on from above. The wise men are on the left. The shepherds are praising God on the right. But this is different to other nativity icons, because in the foreground we see all different kinds of beasts – camels, lions, elephants, bears, foxes, dolphins, kangaroos, horses, zebras, giraffes, owls, seals, walruses, gazelle, stor

The Lord is near

Philippians 4.4-7 (click on arrow above to hear audio of sermon)  It has been a fairly stressful week and at times I felt overwhelmed But it is nothing compared to what other people are going through Some of you may have had a hellish week; Some of you are under almost unbearable pressure Paul knew about pressure. He is writing this letter from prison. He is facing a capital charge. If it goes badly, he will be executed. And the church in Philippi that Paul founded, the church that he loves, is divided. There is a bitter conflict between two women. Just before these verses Paul has appealed to Eunice and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And yet despite that, Paul urges his readers to rejoice, to be gentle, and not to be anxious about anything. But he doesn’t just tell them that – because that would be like telling a drowning person to swim harder. He gives them a reason. It is very simple – in English it is 4 words: ‘The Lord is near’. In Greek it is 3: ‘Ho Kyrios e

What if? A sermon for a carol service.

St Andrew’s does not do nativity plays St Andrew’s does amazing and creative Mike Gibson full scale nativity productions And last week was no exception. (click the arrow below for audio) The toys in a toy shop are told that there will be no nativity play – and so they put one on themselves. Woody was the director and a Tyrannosaurus Rex was his co-producer. Barbie – predictably – was Mary, although she was not impressed when she found out that her husband, Joseph, was to be played by Mr Potato Head. The angel Gabriel was Buzz lightyear, the inn keeper was a penguin, the sheep were played by the three pigs, and the wise men were three aliens. Oh, and the baby Jesus was made from Lego. Toys allow us to imagine another world With toys the impossible can happen: they can travel through space, they can speak, they can even put on nativity plays! With toys there are almost no boundaries: you can do with them what you want. Pigs can be sheep (very C21st), and you can make a bab

A sermon for St Andrew's day

Thank you for joining us as we celebrate St Andrew’s day It is not just our patronal festival, but also the anniversary of the first service on this site. In 1829 on 1 December, the first Anglican worship was celebrated here in what was then Большой Чернышевский переулок. That, however, was not in this building. This building, St Andrew’s, saw its first service in 1885. It was named after St Andrew because many of those who paid for the work were Scottish merchants and business men who lived in Moscow, and St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland It seems a highly providential patronage St Andrew is someone who can unite us. He points us to the very beginning of the undivided church. He is honoured in both East and West. And of course, St Andrew is not only the patron saint of Scotland but also of Russia. St Andrew is reported in the gospels as being the first of the disciples called by Jesus. That was not a calling not just to honour, but to responsibility and ultimately to great p

Meeting with God

Hebrews 10.19-25 I would like to speak today about meeting with God. 'Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus .. let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith’ (v19,22) We come to church, we pray, we have chill moments, but few of us really know God. The amazing thing is that we are invited to come into the presence of God. That is what prayer really is. In the Old Testament, people realised something that we have forgotten, particularly in our Western traditions: you cannot simply rock up into the presence of God. They understood with a clarity that we have lost, that God is utterly holy and totally other. He is awesome On one occasion Moses dares to ask God for a vision. He says to God, ‘would you show yourself to me’. And God replies and says, ‘Moses, I am so holy, so other, so utterly beyond anything that you can conceive or imagine, that if you saw me, it would blow your mind. Nobody can

Remembrance Sunday in Moscow 2018

James 3.13-18 On this day, 100 years ago, at 5 o’clock in the morning, the armistice was signed. It stated that at 11am all hostilities would cease. But fighting continued to the bitter end. On the last day there were 10944 casualties and 2738 deaths, before what we know as the first world war came to an end. On the front, news of the Armistice was met with disbelief that the end really had come, with simple relief, grief for those who had not made it, and with utter weariness. One British colonel reported that at exactly 11am, as the guns fell silent, German soldiers climbed out of their trenches, bowed and walked away. And whilst, certainly among the Allied powers, there was jubilation back at home, Robert Graves, the war poet who had served at the front, writes, ‘the news sent me out walking alone above the marshes of Rhuddlen cursing and sobbing and thinking of the dead’. And when Sassoon wrote his poem, ‘ Everyone sang ’, which we will hear in a few minutes, Graves ret

A sermon for All Saints day

John 11.32-44 It is lovely to be back here in St Petersburg In our reading, Mary – and those with her – look at the grave of Lazarus and they see and they smell death. Jesus looks at the grave of Lazarus, and he sees the glory of God. This is not just about being an optimist or pessimist, whether you see a glass half full and half empty. It is about seeing the world in two completely different ways: it is about seeing the world through human eyes or seeing the world through Holy Spirit eyes. I don’t know whether you noticed how often the verb ‘see’ appears in our passage. When Mary saw Jesus v32 When Jesus saw her v33 They say to Jesus, ‘Come and see’ v34 And when Jesus weeps, they say, ‘see how he loved him’ v36 And the great statement of Jesus in v40: ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ And there are other references to seeing and not seeing. When the people ask each other why Jesus had not healed Lazarus, they remember how

Giving up everything for eternal life

Mark 10.17-31   This is one of those profoundly disturbing passages. Jesus challenges all our ideas about goodness and about wealth, and we find ourselves stripped naked before him He challenges our ideas about goodness The man calls Jesus ‘Good Teacher’. Jesus cuts him down, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone’. (v18) That is radical. Jesus is in fact saying, ‘There is no such thing as a good person’. There is goodness, but nobody can really be described as ‘good’ That is quite hard to take. Especially for this man who was counting on his goodness to get into heaven. He claims to have kept all the law: ‘All these I have kept since my youth’. And there is no reason to doubt that claim. Look at what Jesus lists: murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, defrauding others, honouring your father and mother. He could say, ‘I haven’t murdered anybody, committed adultery, born false witness (in court), defrauded anyone (in a signi

Good works, faith and prayer

James 5.13-19 People say that James is all about doing good works and not about faith. Well certainly, James is immensely practical He challenges us To control the tongue, what we say : · not to speak evil of each other (4.11) · not to grumble against each other (5.9) · not to boast (claiming that I am going to do this or that and forgetting God) (4.13f) · not to swear or take oaths, as if our word needs enforcing (ch 5.12).  Because of that verse Tolstoy refused to swear on the bible. He asked how could he swear on a book which itself forbade him from swearing? I’m not sure that I completely agree with him. When I made my oath of allegiance to my bishop and to the crown, I placed my hand on the bible. But I wasn’t swearing on the bible. I wasn’t saying, ‘If I don’t do this, may all the curses that are written here fall on me!’ Instead I was placing my hand on the bible, which I believe is the ultimate source of truth, and I am sayin