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Showing posts from 2024

John 15:26-16:15 on the Holy Spirit. Pentecost 2024

John 15:26-16:15 It is a very special few days: we have Ascension, Pentecost and, next Sunday, Trinity At Pentecost we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit The Spirit can come dramatically – like he did in our first reading: the sound of a wind, tongues of fire and the disciples speaking in tongues. I have had experience of that. I had been asked to speak about being filled with the Spirit to our college Christian Union. It was the first time I had spoken. I spent hours preparing the talk. I was so nervous that I knocked over a bottle of milk as I came forward to speak. I read from my notes. And amazingly, God turned up. It was like Pentecost. At the end two people made the decision to follow Jesus, and to the best of my knowledge they are still going strong; and we had to have a chill out room because people were just, like drunk, with the overwhelming presence of God. But the Spirit also comes very gently. In John, we are given another description of the coming of the Spirit: It i

On dragons.

The dedication of the coronation gate.  St Margaret's Church, Burnham Norton. I’d like to speak for a few moments about the dragon on our new coronation gate. St Margaret's coronation gate DRAGONS ARE SCARY For the ancients, dragons represented the unknown, the monstrous, the terrifying. They were fire-breathing serpents, with an obsession for treasure and a sweet tooth for princesses. I think of Smaug in the Hobbit, your archetypal dragon: living deep in his mountain, in caves scattered with the bones of cattle and humans, never fully asleep, guarding his treasure, virtually indestructible, cunning and deceptive, and when stirred or hungry or simply in a lousy mood, rousing himself to raid the haunts of men for food or treasure, and bringing devastation with his fire. Dragons have come to represent in the ancient imagination, all that is scary, all that is beyond our control, all that is fearful, all that brings death and destruction. They are, in the ancient world’s imaginati

A call to persevere. Mark 13.5-13. St Mark's day 2024

Mark 13:5-13 ‘When you hear of wars and rumours of wars’ It is rather an appropriate passage. Jesus is being asked when the temple will be destroyed. He does sort of answer their question, ‘within this generation’, but he expands the destruction of the temple so that it becomes a picture of what the end will be like. And rather than talk about time, Jesus instead turns the conversation around and challenges them. It is not a matter so much of when the end is coming, but of how we should live before the en And Mark 13 is a call to us to be aware, to be alert, to keep awake (it is repeated at least 6 times in this chapter). It is a call to not be afraid, to be courageous, to endure to the end. We are called to beware of false ‘Messiahs’. We are called not to give in to the fear caused by wars, and rumours of wars, and earthquakes and famines – the fear which leads us to misplace our hope in the real Jesus, the Son of God, who lived 2000 years ago in Palestine, who was crucified, rose fro

Easter Sunday 2024. An all age talk. On Easter eggs

John 20.1-9 Who has been given an Easter egg? What is your egg like? You can find remarkable Easter eggs: This is a very clever Dinosaur egg! Much more important: Who has already eaten their Easter egg? Why do we think about eggs at Easter? I want to suggest two things 1. Eggs are about new life Out of something that looks like a stone, out of a hard shell, a baby chick, duckling, fledgling (or baby  dinosaur!) appears. And out of the cold hard rock tomb, which was covered by a stone, Jesus Christ appears.  Three days earlier, on the first Good Friday, they had taken him and nailed him to the cross and watched him die.  To make sure he was dead, they had taken a spear and thrust it into his side.  Then they laid his body in a tomb and put a great big stone in front of it.  But on that first Easter Sunday something astonishing happened.  Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  New life came out of the dead tomb. And that new resurrection life is available for us all It is not that we are in a

Easter Sunday 2024 When it was still dark ...

John 20.1-8 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark .. It was dark. Jesus – the one who the first disciples had put their trust in, who they had believed was the Messiah and was going to establish the Kingdom of God – had been crucified. Everything looked hopeless. They had trusted Jesus, they had given everything for him, and if he had let them down, then who or what could they trust And it was worse than that: for a brief time, for three years, they had thought that light and truth and love and life would win. But on that first Good Friday betrayal and lies and fear and hatred and evil had won. All they could do is to come to the grave, lament the dead body of Jesus and weep for themselves and their broken dreams. Beyond that there was nothing – no vision, no hope. It was dark. But as they come to the tomb on that first day of the week they get three surprises 1. Somebody has removed the stone. John does not mention about the stone being placed over the entra

Passion Sunday Isaiah 50:4-10

Isaiah 50:4-10 On that first Palm Sunday Jesus came down from Mount of Olives, through the Kidron valley and rides up into Jerusalem. It is that ‘down and then up’ picture that we need to hold in our minds as we think about Palm Sunday, our passages (Isaiah 50:4-11; Philippians 2:4-11), and what we are about to hear in the gospel (Mark 14-15). Isaiah 50 speaks of this mysterious servant of God He could be the righteous people of Israel – who suffer exile and slavery in Babylon, but who are going to be brought back to their land The servant could be the prophet Isaiah – rejected, mocked and beaten by his hearers – but who puts his trust in the vindication of God Or he could also be – as Christians understand it – the coming Messiah, of Jesus Christ. He was the one, in the words of Philippians 2, who was equal with God, but who made himself nothing, becomes a servant, humbles himself and becomes obedient to death: who is accused, betrayed, falsely condemned, tortured, humiliated and exec

Joseph of Nazareth

Joseph is the figure in the bottom left of the icon of the nativity. Sometimes he is in the bottom right. But he is separated apart from, out of the main scene of Mary and baby and ox and ass. He is being tempted by the old man surrounded by his dogs (symbolising the devil) and he is lost in doubt. He is the first person, and certainly not the last, to doubt the virgin birth. But Joseph is shown with a halo. He is a righteou s man. When he thinks that Mary has had an affair, he wants to do what is right but not expose her to shame (Matthew 1:19). And he is open to hear the word of God and obey it (Matthew 1:24). He is called by God to protect the child and his mother - and like another Joseph who lived almost 4000 years earlier - he is the one who is called to take the Son of God, the new Israel, out to Egypt and from Egypt back to Nazareth.  And then, having done what God has called him to do, he disappears.  God our Father, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph t

John 2.13-22: Spiritual spring cleaning - Getting the centre, the mind and the passion right

John 2.13-22 It is getting a bit warmer – we hope – and maybe a bit dryer. And it is time to begin to do some spring cleaning But not just of our houses or places where we work, or even our churches. This is a time to do some spiritual spring cleaning Lorenzo Ghiberti (Italian, 1378-1455). Chasing the Merchants from the Temple, 1403-1424. Bronze panel, North door, Florence Baptistery, Italy. Getting the heart right Jesus clears the rubbish out of the temple. The temple was the gift of God to his people. It was the place where God had said that his presence would dwell. It was place where men and women came together to meet with God. Jesus describes the temple as ‘my Father’s house’.  That is not just a claim to unique authority. It is. John writes in John 1, ‘we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son’. But it is also a relational term: the temple is not just a building where people worshiped. It was a home, where people came to meet the Father of the Lord Jesus and w

Mark 1:9-15 When wild beasts surround us

Mark 1.9-15 ‘Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion’ (Ps 22.13)   1. Jesus humbles himself so that he is in a position in which he can receive from God Jesus chooses to come to John the Baptist to be baptised, to receive the gift of God. He did not need to be baptised. He had no sin for which he needed to be forgiven. But he chooses to be baptised, to identify himself with John the Baptist, with his message of repentance, and with God’s amazing offer of forgiveness. And he chooses to identify himself with those who recognised their need for God’s washing, God’s forgiveness; with people who recognised that they needed God. And so Jesus allows John to baptise him. He goes ‘down’ into the water and receives baptism. And Mark tells us that it is ‘as Jesus was coming up out of the water’ that he sees the heavens being torn open, the Spirit descending on him in physical form like a dove (park in Kis

Mark 9.1-8 The glory that shapes the suffering.

Mark 9.1-8 Last week looking at 'cosmic' Christ. Jesus the creator and lord of all, the source of everything - even life and being. Today we see the glory of Christ, Jesus transfigured, shining with a brilliance that one of the gospel writers describes as like the sun.  There are echoes in this story of Moses who met with God on the Mount Sinai, and Elijah who met with God on Mount Horeb. Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai are different names for the same mountain. And there are echoes also of Isaiah's vision of God (Isaiah 6), when he hears the angels proclaim, 'Holy Holy Holy'. In verse 1, Jesus says “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” (Mark 9:1) And in verse 2 we are told 'six days later'. That 'dating' is unusual in Mark. We are meant to understand the transfiguration as the fulfilment of that promise. The 'some' are Peter, James and John who see

Luke 2:22-40 For people who feel powerless

Luke2:22-40 [A sermon preached at St Luke's West Holloway] I was vicar of your neighbouring parish, Mary Mags, for 10 years from 1995-2005. It was rather daunting to have Dave Tomlinson here on one side and Stephen Coles on the other and to be this nobody in the middle. I became vicar in Bury St Edmunds for 12 years and then, from 2017-2023 I was the Anglican chaplain in Moscow. Alison and myself returned to the UK last summer. Our final weekend in Moscow was the weekend that Prigozhin, rather like the grand old Duke of York, marched his troops to the edge of Moscow and then – fatally for him – turned them around and marched them back. There is nothing that can justify what Putin did on 24 February 2022, even if some of his grievances against the West have some justification. It has led to what some calculate to up to 500000 deaths from both Ukraine and Russian; millions of people – some of you may be here – had to flee their homes; terrible things being done: the problem w