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Showing posts from 2023

Christmas and the glory of God

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

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).

How can I be worthy enough for God? Matthew 22.1-14

Matthew 22.1-14 ‘Those invited were not worthy?’ What does it mean to be worthy – to be worthy of God? There is the L'OrĂ©al advert: ‘Because you are worth it’ The reason why that catches is because many of us do not think that we are worth it – worth anything. We try to make ourselves worthy. I was hearing a chaplain speak about the people she works with at Cambridge University. She said, there were so many people she met – from college principals, to professors, to students (and college chaplains!) – who had a sense of imposter syndrome: there was that feeling that I’m not really worthy to be here.   So what does it mean to be worthy of God – of God’s love, of God’s invitation? I mean this is a big thing. The King sends out invitations to the guests to come to the wedding of his son. God sends out invitations to his guests to come to the wedding of his Son. It is an astonishing invitation. It is an invitation to spend time with God, to share his joy in the wedd

The Great Confession. Matthew 16.13-20

Matthew 16:13-20 Jesus asks the disciples, who do you say I am? Simon Peter answers, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God’. This is the great confession. The Confession of St. Peter. Alexey Pismenny ,  2009-2011 It is interesting to see how the disciples have grown in their understanding of who Christ is. In Matthew 8, there is a storm at sea. Jesus is asleep in the boat. The disciples wake him up, and he calms the storm. And they ask, ‘Who is this man? Even the winds and waves obey him’. In Matthew 14, the disciples are again in a boat. There is another storm. Jesus comes to them walking on water. This is the story you may have heard a couple of weeks ago when Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water. But when Jesus gets into the boat, the wind and waves become calm. And the disciples now say, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’. In the Old Testament, Israel is described as a son of God. Israel can call on God as Father David is described as a son of God. David can cal

The kiss, the mantle of love and the cup of life. A final sermon at St Andrew's Moscow. Colossians 3.12-17

Colossians 3.12-17 ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts’ (v15) Link to the audio of this sermon I think we need to hear that! I spent most of the time yesterday writing this talk feeling very chewed up – we simply did not know how things would work out. I was not even sure whether we would be meeting this morning.  [Saturday June 24: Prigozhin and the Wagner group mutinied and marched on Moscow]   But we need peace. Peace in our relationships: which is what this passage is about (“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body”. Colossians 3:15) and peace in ourselves. So I’d like to leave you with four instructions! They come from Colossians 3.12-17, and they are instructions that will lead us in the way of peace Remember that you are chosen, holy and beloved “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3.12) This really is the starting point of everything When Jesus was baptised, a voice was heard coming

Desiring mercy not sacrifice. Matthew 9.9-13

Matthew 9.9-13,18-26   Jesus says, 'Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice'.   The Pharisees are criticising Jesus because he has called Matthew, a tax collector, to come and be one of his disciples – and no doubt Matthew has invited all his friends, his mates, to come and meet Jesus, and now Jesus is eating with ‘tax collectors and sinners’.   This was not respectable company. Tax collectors were collaborators with the Roman occupying forces. They had sold out whatever faith they had, and broken the law of God for power and wealth. There are many stories of how they abused their power and exploited people. And they are put here together with 'sinners', which usually refers to prostitutes. This was not respectable company. Today it would be as if Jesus was calling a known paedophile to follow him and was associating with drug pushers and gangsters.   It is not that Jesus condones the sort of tax collection that was going on