Welcome!

December 13, 2008

st-bm-combiWelcome to the ministry pages of St Barnacles website.

St Barnacles is the website of St Michael’s & St Barnabas churches, Devonport.

This is where we publish sermons and other bible study materials for further study.

You can browse or search all our published resources using the sidebar to the right of each page.

Please do use the contact page or comment options to share your insights or questions with us.

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Marriage and Divorce

October 9, 2017

St Michael’s, 8th October 2017

Readings – Galatians 3:15-25 ; Mark 10:1-16

What do we do with difficult teaching in the Bible? This morning we are coming to some of the most important and yet controversial words of Jesus, all about marriage and divorce. As I have planned and prayed over this sermon, I am acutely aware of the very real situations so many people in this church face. So let me say right at the outset: the purpose of this sermon this morning is not to point a finger or to condemn. But if there are issues which God lays on your heart, please make some time to talk with me afterwards, even perhaps make an appointment. I firmly believe that just because a subject is difficult, it doesn’t mean we should simply skirt round it.

What then do we do with this particular passage? One answer – and it’s a very popular one at the moment – is to say that Jesus’ words were meant for another time and another place. All that He says about marriage and divorce doesn’t really apply today. So long as people love each other, it doesn’t matter exactly what Jesus teaches. And to a certain extent I have some sympathy with this approach. Too often the words of Jesus have been used as a big stick to condemn or punish people who fail to live up to the ideals of marriage, and the church has rightly been seen as being harsh and uncaring.

Yet at the same time there is a danger that if we go too far down this route we forget something very important, namely that the Bible is the Word of God, and we are not free simply to pick and choose those bits we happen to like. Somehow what Jesus said back then must still apply to us, and we have to work out exactly how, in a way that both honours God but also shows love and compassion to all who hear that Word. Because the whole subject of relationships, gender and identity are hot topics at the moment, particularly among young people, and if we are to reach them with the gospel, we here at St Barnacles need to know what to say to them. Read the rest of this entry »


Becoming the servant of all

September 25, 2017

St Michael’s, 24th September 2017

Readings – Galatians 3:10-14; Mark 9:30-37

Children love to argue. You know the sort thing: “I’m taller than you! No, you’re not, I am.” “I’m older than you. Yeah, but you can’t jump as far as me.” If you counted up the number of hours parents and carers spent sorting out these kinds of arguments, I am sure the total would run into weeks, if not months. Children love to compete with one another to prove that they’re better than anyone else, and winning the argument is a matter of huge satisfaction.

It would be nice to report that once we are all grown-up we stop having these sorts of arguments. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we have more subtle ways of showing off: “I’ve managed to retire at 60!” “We’ve been on five foreign holidays this year.” “All our children have passed the eleven plus.” All of us seem to have a natural tendency to prove ourselves, to show how good or clever or successful we are, and age really has very little to do with it.

It would also be nice to report that once we become Christians, again, we stop having these sorts of arguments. But we do. “Our church has grown to 500 in a year and we have lots of young people!” “Yes, but our church serves real coffee and fresh doughnuts.” Indeed, churches, sad to say can be some of the most fertile places for competition, envy and arrogance – both between churches and among church members.

But maybe it was ever so. In our gospel reading, in verse 31, Jesus has been teaching His followers that The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, and that they will kill Him, and after three days He will rise. But as verse 32 tells us: they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it.

So why weren’t the disciples listening? Well, as we saw last week, they have worked out that Jesus is the Messiah. Since then, Peter, James and John have been privileged to see Jesus transfigured on a high mountain, and they have heard a voice from heaven declaring that He is the Son of God. As far as they are concerned, Jesus is about to come in all His glory. The only thing to sort out, then, is who’s going to share top spot with Him as He sets up His kingdom here on earth.

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Follow me – St Aubyn’s, 21st September 2017

September 25, 2017

St Aubyn’s, 21st September 2017

Reading – Matthew 9:9-13

When I left university many years ago, I already had a sense that the Lord might be calling me to the ministry. As I looked ahead to what He might be asking me to do with my life, I knew that one day I might well become a vicar. But also I knew that before taking the next step, I needed some experience of the real world. So I did the accounts of used car dealers for the next six years, and I have to say, I learnt so much about human nature. I ended up dealing with one client who said he had two bank accounts; I had found twenty-six by the time I had finished dealing with him. And naturally enough such work led into some interesting discussions with what was then called the Inland Revenue. I ended up being the go between the client and the collector of taxes, and needless to say, their demands were never that welcome.

Tax collectors, of course, have never been popular. In Jesus’ day they were even more unpopular because they collected tax on behalf of the hated Roman army. They didn’t receive a salary like the civil servants of today, so they made their money by taking their own cut from people’s earnings. They were notorious for their greed and their corruption, and it was little wonder that everyone hated them.

Well, not quite everyone. There was one person who loved tax collectors and his name was Jesus. Throughout the gospels you read how Jesus loved the sorts of people that most thought were unlovable – tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, to name but a few examples. It seems that Jesus had a particular heart for those others had written off or thought beyond the pale.

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The mission of Jesus

September 18, 2017

St Michael’s, 17th September 2017

Readings – Galatians 3:1-9; Mark 8:27-38

If you were to start a movement that would change the world, who would you choose to lead that movement? I guess the most obvious answer would be to recruit people with money and influence – a famous movie star, perhaps, or the winner of X Factor, or a leading footballer.

But of course, when you read the gospels, you see that the twelve apostles that Jesus chose were neither rich nor influential. They included, amongst others, some fishermen, a tax collector, a former terrorist, and someone who would later betray him. They were the most extraordinary collection of different personalities and temperaments, and in many ways the most unlikely of men to lead what would later be called the church of Jesus Christ. Yet such were the people Jesus chose. So the question we have to ask is this: how did Jesus manage to train and transform them so that one day they would be able to change the course of history?

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The end of the story

August 28, 2017

St Michael’s 27th August 2017

Readings – Revelation 22:1-21; Matthew 25:14-30

What makes for a great ending to a story? Think for a moment about some of the films you’ve seen or books you have read. What has been your favourite ending? If you’re a romantic, it may be where the hero and heroine sail off into the sunset together, for a life of wedded bliss. Or you may prefer a good murder mystery where the detective gathers everyone together in the drawing room and unmasks the real criminal. Or you may be into a good old-fashioned western where just at the last minute the posse rides over the horizon and rescues the frontier town from outlaws.

But whatever your taste, it seems to me there are two essential ingredients in any great ending. First of all, what happens at the end has to connect with everything that has gone before. There is nothing worse than a plot twist that suddenly changes the whole direction of the story, or introduces new characters right at the very end. We want to know that most, if not all of the loose ends of the story have been tied up, and even if the ending surprises us, we can at least see how we arrived at this particular conclusion.

Secondly, unless we are feeling particularly depressed, we like to finish our book or our film with the hope of a better future. We want the hero and heroine to come together, or the crime solved, or order restored. We generally want to be uplifted and inspired, not left feeling worse than when we first entered the cinema or turned on the TV. We want the hope of a better future.

Story-writers know all this. That’s why, even before they begin writing their script, they have to have some idea of where they are going, and how all the pieces of their plot will come together in the end. And one of things I hope we’ve learnt from our journey through Revelation is that from before the beginning of the world God already knew the end of our story. Even as the world was made, He had planned what was going to happen throughout human history, and He had seen how one day all things would come together.

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A new heaven and a new earth

August 21, 2017

St Michael’s, 20th August 2017

Readings Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 21:1-14; 22-25

I have always loved maps. I love the challenge of unfolding an Ordnance Survey map, working out a route, interpreting all the symbols and looking out for any strange place names along the way. Over the years I have built up quite a collection of these maps, and from time to time I like just looking at one and reading it like a book.

Of course like many people we rarely take maps with us any more when we are going on a journey. The humble map has for the most part been replaced by the Satnav. You simply enter the postcode of your destination and away you go. The days of unfolding the map in a hurry, working out what’s happening at the next junction, and hoping you’ve taken the right route are well and truly over. You set your goal and unless you blindly follow your Satnav down the nearest country lane you arrive safe and sound at the end of your journey.

I’ve been thinking a lot about destinations as I’ve been preparing this morning’s sermon from our reading in Revelation. Some of us have quite clear goals in life, and we’re already well on the way to achieving them. Some of us aren’t really quite sure where we’re going, and every time we have to make a decision, it’s as if we still have to get out the map, unfold it and hope that we are setting off on the right track.

But as I hope will become clear this morning – if we believe and trust in Jesus Christ then, whether our future seems crystal clear or quite uncertain, there is a final destination of which we can all be sure, and to which we all are heading. Some call the destination heaven, others call the destination paradise. But whatever you call it, it is a new and glorious future beyond anything we can ever imagine.

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The breaking of the seals

August 15, 2017

St Michael’s 13th August 2017

Readings – Revelation 6; Matthew 24:1-14

There is a part of me that wishes the book of Revelation finished at chapter 5. For all that the first five chapters contain some unfamiliar images, and strange turns of phrase, chapters 1-5 are reasonably easy to understand. We learn in chapter 1 that the apostle John has been exiled to the island of Patmos because of his faith. There he receives a vision of Jesus as the Son of Man now living and exalted in heaven. On Jesus’ instruction John writes letters of warning and encouragement in chapters 2 and 3 to the seven churches in what is nowadays modern Turkey. In chapter 4 John is granted a vision of heaven, and in chapter 5 we learn that at the centre of heaven is Jesus who holds all of history in his right hand. Chapter 5 finishes with a great hymn of praise to Jesus, sung not only by the angels but as verse 13 tells us every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and as we hear what they are singing it is hard not for us to join in.

So far so good. But in chapter 6 the Book of Revelation takes a strange, disturbing turn. Here are the four horsemen of the Apocalypse on white, red, black and pale green horses. Death and famine are let loose. Martyrs are crying out to heaven for vengeance. A great disaster overtakes humanity. And this is only the start of some seriously weird events which occupy most of the rest of the book. So how on earth do we make sense of what is going on? And what possible relevance can it have to us anyway?

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