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Showing posts from 2020

Galatians 4:4-7 The meaning of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 25.14-30: Using our talents for God

Matthew 25.14-30 Three reflections on the parable of the talents 1. Treat what you have as a gift from God entrusted to you The Master entrusts each of the slaves with the talents. A talent was a sum of money, equivalent to about 15 years of a labourer’s salary. So it was not insignificant  Remember that these were slaves: they had no property. All that they had was gift from their Master. And all that we have is gift – gift from God. We forget that! We think that the life that we have, the gifts and abilities we exercise, the money and possession that we hold are ours. If they are ours, we can do with them what we want. But if they are not ours, and we know that one day we will need to give an account for them, then it changes dramatically what we do with them. We now don’t have a car back in the UK. So when we were last back in the UK some friends lent us their car. It did not belong to us. It was a gift from them to us, and we knew we had to return it to them. And I was much more

The Song of the Ruthless shall be stilled. A talk for Remembrance Sunday Moscow 2020

Remembrance Sunday 2020 We have come to remember. In a few minutes we are going to have our two minutes silence.  Two minutes – and I’m quoting from a series of exceptional short articles about remembrance written by Captain John Foreman, our British Defence Attache - that we set aside in order (in the words of King George V) ‘to perpetuate the memory of that great deliverance [the Armistice] and of those who laid down their lives to achieve it’. The article continues, “Why two minutes? Someone suggested that the first minute is for the living, those who came home to build a better world; and one minute of silence is for the dead. To visualise the latter, imagine a column of soldiers – four abreast – formed of British and Commonwealth WW1 dead, stretching from London to Durham and taking 3 days to march past the Cenotaph. Multiple that by 10 to visualise a similar column of Russian military dead (2m in WW1, 10m in WW2) stretching from Moscow to Irkutsk. And taking a month to cross Re

Revelation 21.1-7: A talk for a service of thanksgiving and remembrance for those who have died.

Revelation 21.1-7 It has not been an easy year for many people. COVID is not a good way to die  People are separated from those that they love And several of you have lost those that you have loved – and not necessarily from COVID – but you were not able to go where they were when they were sick, and have not been able to go to funerals or memorial services. I received an email a few days ago from someone telling me about her husband. He went into a residential home at the end of last year because he had advanced Alzheimer’s. His wife has been prevented from going to see him since April, and he would daily ask, ‘When am I allowed to see my wife’. He died earlier this month, not from COVID but, she wrote, ‘a broken heart’, without having been able to see her. And at times like this, it is hard and painful, and maybe we feel guilty, because we are far away from members of our family And it is also easy – especially when we have been touched by death – to become discouraged and to think,

How do I love God and love my neighbour? Matthew 22.34-40

Matthew 22.34-40 If we loved God with all our heart, soul and mind, and if we loved our neighbour as ourselves .. .. we would so delight in God that God would be everything to us: more important than anything that we had here on this earth: our reputation, our comfort, our possessions, our passions, even than the person who we love most dearly here. [We think, ‘But how could I possibly love God more than I love my child or my beloved?’ CS Lewis writes, “When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”]   If we loved God with all our heart, soul and mind, our greatest desire would be to be in his presence. And separation from God would plunge us into the deepest des

St Sergius of Radonezh

St Sergius of Radonezh St Sergius is a figure of major significance. He is described as 'the Teacher and Mentor of the Russian land". His life was recorded by one of his followers, Ephiphanius the Wise (in about 1417-18), subsequently adapted by Pachomius the Serb (in 1470), of which there are at least three versions. He is mentioned 12 times in early Russian chronicles and is recorded in 7 different official documents. He was born 1314 in Rostov to noble and devout parents and given the name Bartholomew. He was a slow pupil at school, but was, according to the tradition, miraculously enabled to read after an encounter with a starets. As a young man he cared for his parents and then, when they died, moved about 3 hours walking distance from Radonezh (where the family had fled after Rostov had been attacked) into the forest, where he - with Stefan, one of his brothers - built a cell in which to live and a church which he dedicated to the Trinity (the present Trinity Cathedral i