Showing posts from 2021

What is the Bible?

John 5:36-47 Imagine that you receive an invitation to have tea with the Queen. It is a beautiful invitation, on the most expensive paper, embossed in gold, with the royal coat of arms embedded in wax. It is handwritten, each of the letters is like a work of art and it is personally signed. Nobody has ever seen anything like it. You study it. You pore over every letter, every word: It is beautiful. You show it to your friends: look what I have received. Isn’t it amazing? I have received this invitation to have tea with the Queen You show it to your enemies. Don’t mess with me. I have received this invitation to have tea with the Queen And you frame the invitation, and you hang it in your house. You often gaze at it. You know the wording by heart. And everyone who comes to visit sees that you were the person who received this invitation to have tea with the Queen. There is only one thing that you don’t do. You don’t take her up on the invitation. You never actually go and have tea

Do not be the cause of another person's stumbling. Mark 9.38-50

Mark 9.38-50 We continue to read through Mark 9, Jesus’ journey through Galilee, as he teaches his followers what it means to ‘lose your life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel’ (Mark 8:35). [It is about discipleship, what it means to be a follower of Jesus, particularly what it means to be a follower of Jesus who is going to be crucified. Three times in Mark 8-10 Jesus tells his followers that he is going to Jerusalem where he will be betrayed, killed and then rise again. It is about power that comes from a complete self-emptying and dependence on God (Mark 9.14-29) It is about learning the upside-down values of the Kingdom of God – that we are not heading up the ladder but down the ladder: that the greater is the one who serves (Mark 9.33-37)] Today we come to Mark 9.38-50 which contain some quite scary verses. Do not be the cause of another person’s stumbling It is better to be dead than to cause someone else to stumble in their faith, to be the cause of the shipwreck of th

Don't go up. Go down. Mark 9.30-37

Mark 9.30-37 Who is the greatest? Who is at the top? We think of life like a ladder. The greatest is at the top. And we want to go up. When you are at the top, you have power and status. People do what you say. You are in control. You set the rules. You are the head and not the tail. Which country is the greatest? Which country has the most hard power (nuclear weapons), soft power, wealth, highest standard of living. I come from a country called Great Britain. Many people in Great Britain like to think that that is because we are great – we ruled the seas, we had a great empire – and you will hear some politicians claim that we need to regain that greatness. But the origin of the word ‘great’, is I’m afraid, far more mundane. Britain was the name used for the islands on the western most part of Europe. One of the islands was smaller and the other was larger. So one was known as smaller Britain (what we know today as Ireland) and the other was known as greater, bigger Britain. Or

The overflowing grace of God

Mark 7.24-37 Today we look at two stories of healings. The first is of the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman, and the second of a man who is deaf. There are many differences between these stories, but there are three similarities which I’d like to reflect on for a few minutes. 1. The grace of God overflows to the Gentiles Up to now Jesus has focussed on the Jewish people. He has preached in Jewish towns and he had done wonderful things in Jewish communities. Now he needs a break, a small holiday. So he goes to the region of Tyre, to Gentile (non Jewish) territory, where he is not known. But this Gentile, this Syrophoenician woman, hears that he is there, and she comes to him. And he heals her daughter After that, he goes to the region of the Decapolis. The clue is in the name. Decapolis is a Greek word meaning 10 cities. It is Gentile territory. And he heals a man who is deaf. For the Jews, and for the Gentiles, this was astonishing. That the one who the Old Testament pointed

When sin leads to sin. Mark 6:14-29

Mark 6:14-29 There is Herod and the sin. It is celebrity scandal in the highest places Herod Antipas (not to be confused with Herod the great who tried to have the baby Jesus murdered) was married to the daughter of Aretas IV, king of neighboring Nabatea. But when he was in Rome – he was a drinking buddy of the future emperor – he met Herodias, who was married to his brother Philip, and they hooked up together. When Herod’s wife back in Judaea heard the news, she fled back to Petra and to her father’s fortress. Herod then married Herodias, and Aretas went to war with Herod and Judaea over the slight to his daughter. It was a mess. A child was involved – Salome – the daughter of Herodias and Philip, and whatever happened at the dance that she does for Herod and his mates on his birthday, it would almost certainly today be considered to be sexual abuse of a child – used by both mother and stepfather. And not only was Herod and Herodias’ behaviour a direct contravention of the Old Tes

Making invisible people visible

Mark 5.21-43 If you had a choice of superpowers, what would they be? I’d probably settle for ability to fly! Very useful in this time of closed borders .. But what about the power of being invisible?   That is OK if you can choose to become invisible and then choose to become visible again - but what if we got trapped in our invisibility power, if we could not get out of it, if nobody could see you or hear you? That is one of the reasons why people are scared about ghosts.  Today we read how Jesus has the power to make ghosts real, to make the invisible visible That is what happened with the woman She was invisible - not in a superpower sort of way - but invisible because nobody saw her. She was sick with a haemorrhage, with bleeding, which had lasted for 12 years. It meant that she was unclean. It meant she would have been socially isolated. It seems that she was on our own. She was  like a ghost,  the person who came in the crowd and would have gone away in the crowd and nobody w

God is with us. Mark 4.35-41

Mark 4:35-41 The shape of our building/roof is the shape of an upturned boat. That is not accidental. It is the style of church building that is common particularly in the UK. The church is likened to a ship It is an illustration that Peter uses: he speaks of the church as being like the ark in which Noah and his family were saved. While everyone else perished, the ark kept them safe and brought them to a place of safety. And here we are: gathered together in our boat because Jesus has called us to go to the other side. We’re on a journey But we are not on our own. He is with us. As a people we are on a journey – we are on a journey together. We are very different – we often say that, but for a year, two years, ten years, maybe longer, whatever it is – God has called us to worship together in the good ship St Andrew’s. He has called us to be together, to learn together, to grow together, to be shaped by each other and encourage each other and challenge each other – through just meeting

What is the unforgivable sin? Mark 3:20-35

Mark 3.19-35 What is the unforgivable sin? I was reading online someone who wrote: murder, torture, and the abuse of any human being especially children or animals is unforgivable. I hope not. I am not saying that those things are not dreadful, and I am not saying that there is no justice in the universe, but Jesus said that if we hate someone, we are guilty of murdering them in our heart. And who of us can claim that we have never used someone for our own purposes, against their wishes. If those sins are unforgivable, then I am unforgivable. But the one sin that Jesus says is unforgivable is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. ‘Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’. And the passage continues, he said that because the Pharisees are saying that ‘He has an unclean spirit’. We can never have forgiveness when we call the work of the Holy Spirit evil. Because then we are taking the precious gift of God and choosing to rip it u

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts. A sermon for Trinity Sunday.

Isaiah 6:1-8 The story is told of the little girl who came home from Sunday school. What did you do today, asked dad. ‘I drew God’, she said. ‘But Lisa’, said dad, ‘nobody knows what God looks like’. Lisa looked at him defiantly, and said, ‘well, they do now’. Isaiah 6 introduces us to God: not to the God of our imagination, but to the living God 1. To the God who is Holy The angels cry out ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts’ We are going to say that later on in the service, in the prayers and then during the communion prayer What does it mean to be holy? If someone or something is holy then it means that it is set apart, sacred, hallowed. It is the same root that we use in the Lord’s Prayer when we pray ‘hallowed be your name’. There is the holiness of the divine being. Philosophers speak of this as God’s ontological holiness. God is completely set apart from us, other to us. He is beyond all our categories. He is the creator of space and time and so is beyond our ideas o

What Jesus prays for his followers. John 17:6-19

John 17:6-19 Today we look at Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. It is important This is the prayer that Jesus prays for us as he goes to the cross This is the prayer that Jesus prays for us in heaven It is a prayer for all those who the Father has given him, for all those who come to him. This is a prayer for believers. “I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours” (v9) Four things that he asks for: unity, joy, protection, holiness 1. Unity: ‘So that they may be one as we are one’ (v11) This is the prayer that believers will be united. Not united physically, but at a deeper level He prays that we might be one as the Father and the Son are one. The Father and the Son are like this: When one is glorified, the other is glorified. At the beginning of this prayer, Jesus prays, “Glorify the Son so that the Son may glorify you” And we see throughout Jesus’ life his dependency on the Father. He shares the life of the Father and th