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.


Sex and marriage

February 4, 2019

St Michael’s and St Barnabas, 3rd February 2018

Readings – Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:1-12

There was once a crusty old vicar who was asked to talk to a group of teenage boys about sex. (If you’ve heard this joke before, I must apologise at this point). So he stood up and said to them, “Boys, I have three points beginning with D. It is dirty. It is dangerous. So don’t.” And then he sat down.

Seriously, though, how do we talk about sex and marriage? From a pastoral point of view, this is probably the hardest subject to talk about, and I guess there are good reasons why we don’t often tackle this issue on a Sunday morning. Some of us have been involved in very difficult and painful relationships. Some of us are living with a secret shame we would rather not admit to. Some of us have experienced heartache and pain from the very earliest age. The Bible recognises that when it comes to sex we are dealing with a peculiarly personal issue that affects us at the very deepest level.

And it has to be said that all of us fall short of God’s expectations. Speaking personally, I have been married for almost exactly 25 years, but I am still convicted by what Jesus says about purity of the heart. Most, if not all of us, struggle with our inmost thoughts and desires, and we need to remember that when it comes to what the Bible calls sin, God does not grade us, as if some of our shortcomings are more acceptable to Him than others.

So if we all fall short of the Bible’s teaching, how then should we respond? Read the rest of this entry »

What is rest?

January 28, 2019

St Michael’s, Sunday 27th January, 2019

Readings – Genesis 2:1-3; Mark 2:23-28

We are busy people … no matter whether or not we are in paid employment, or at college or school, even retired, modern life is busy. Children go to school and then on to this sports club or that dance class, every moment time-tabled, time at home only to eat and sleep – and do homework. No time to play or get bored. Adults work two jobs, or spend hours travelling to and from work, working extra hours whenever they can. And how many times have you heard a newly retired person say something like, ‘I don’t know how I ever had time to go to work!’?

There will always be a few folk for whom time hangs heavy on their hands, someone who is lonely, or elderly, or perhaps someone who is depressed or ill. And what is the popular, practical wisdom we offer? Get out a bit more, meet people, occupy your time with something useful; get busy.

Or, characteristic of the modern age – we fill what time we do have with screens. If kids should have time on their hands, what do they do? They look at a screen; PC, laptop, mobile, games console. Adults check their emails all the time … on screens. Those of us that use social media … screens. Even the elderly … day time television.

I know there are exceptions to every rule … but in general, I think you’ll agree with me, that this is a busy age. There’s so much more I could say … we could talk about how being busy affects our relationships, or can lead to mental health issues. Gaming has recently been identified as an addiction by the government, and we’ve all heard stories of online bullying or harassment via social media.

But it’s time we looked at our reading for today, and perhaps once again we’ll realise just how relevant the Bible is to our lives. Read the rest of this entry »

In the beginning God

January 24, 2019

St Aubyn’s 24th January 2019

Readings – Genesis 1:1-25; John 2:1-11

In my experience one of the most challenging phases of parenthood is toddlerdom. Here is this bundle of energy you dearly love, constantly on the go from dawn to dusk, constantly demanding attention, constantly testing the boundaries. Nothing beats the feeling of relief when they finally go to sleep, if only you weren’t too exhausted to enjoy it.

And if that wasn’t enough, one day your little darling learns a new word: “Why?” “Why is water wet?” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do I have to go bed?” Even though you do your best to answer, you know the next question is “Yes, but why?” Even the most patient of parents finds their powers of endurance tested at that point.

Of course when a child learns to ask why, it is important sign that he or she is starting to notice the world around them, to think about they see, and to try and make sense of what they observe. Thankfully the “why?” stage of development is just a phase, but in many ways the questions stay with us for the rest of our lives. There isn’t a single grown-up who hasn’t asked at one time or other “Why am I here?” “What is the point of life?” “Why can’t Argyle win matches at the start of the season?”

Now the beginning of the book of Genesis is an attempt to answer the most fundamental “why” question of all, and even though the words may have been written many, many centuries ago, they still speak to our human need for knowledge and certainty. You see, the whole claim of the Bible is from the start to the end of existence everything finds it origin and purpose in God. God was there at the beginning of time, and He will be there at the end. So if you want to find meaning for life, the answer is to look to the one who created you, and not only you, but everything and everyone in this world, and indeed in every single galaxy, constellation and universe. Or to put it another way, the ultimate answer to the question “Why?” is “God” – not that the average toddler would, I suspect, be that impressed with the answer. Read the rest of this entry »

Why on earth am I here?

January 20, 2019

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 20th January 2019

Readings – Genesis 1:26-31; Matthew 6:25-34

When it comes to mental health, the statistics are truly staggering. For men under 45 the most common cause of death is suicide. When it comes to teenage girls, 1 in 4 report suffering from depression. In the population at large 2.4 million people are said to be suffering from chronic loneliness, although some estimates put the figure even higher. In almost every sector of society you will find there is some crisis of well-being, and of course I realise that for many of us here these issues are not just statistics or numbers on a page: they are realities with which we are sadly all too familiar, either in our own lives, or in the lives of someone we know and love.

Yet when was the last time you heard a sermon addressing the whole subject of mental health? If these issues are as large and as important as all the evidence suggests, then it seems to me we as a church need to have open and honest conversations about this subject, and know how our faith in Jesus Christ can make a difference. As I have said many times before, if Jesus really is Lord, then He has to be Lord over every area and every issue in our life, even if we struggle at times to connect what we believe with what is going on all around us. Read the rest of this entry »

Why you are baptised

January 17, 2019

St Aubyn’s 17th January 2018

Reading – Luke 3:15-22

How many different Christian denominations do you think there are in the world today? The best guess is that there are approximately 33,000. Of these some 22,000 are independent, 9,000 are Protestant, 1600 are cults and sects, 781 are Orthodox, 242 are Roman Catholic and 168 are Anglican. But that’s a rough estimate. The precise figure may in fact never be known. Churches come together, split or start up afresh at a dizzying pace. It only takes a charismatic leader, some willing followers and a title no-one else has used and hey presto! a new denomination is born. As the week of prayer for Christian Unity begins tomorrow, we might want to pause and consider what the Lord makes of all this.

Because it seems to me that we have gone a long, long way from Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 4:5 there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Now if each denomination was simply a slightly different local expression of the same faith, that would be OK. I don’t think God ever called us to worship in exactly the same way no matter what our culture or background or language. But the divisions run much deeper than that. Even on the fundamentals Christians seem so often unable to agree, and then we wonder why we are not making the impact we all hope and pray for.

Take, for example, the question of baptism. Most, but not all, denominations practice baptism and recognise it’s important. But what that baptism represents – well, that’s quite a different issue. Some see baptism as about expressing a personal faith. Some see baptism as a means of joining the church. Some see baptism as a commitment to raise children within the promises of God. With all these different understandings, it’s little wonder folk who enquire about baptism appear to have such a little grasp of what they are asking for. If we ourselves are unsure about baptism and what it represents, we can hardly blame others if they seem to have missed the point.

So today I want to go back to the life of Jesus to remind us what baptism is really all about, and why it should make a difference to our lives, and there are three questions I am going to try and answer:

First of all, who came up with the idea of baptism and why?

Secondly, why was Jesus baptised?

Thirdly, why are we baptised today? Read the rest of this entry »

Journey to Jesus

January 6, 2019

St Michael’s, January 6th 2019


So many people have been away for Christmas? How far did you travel? What was the journey like? Did you get back safely?

Nowadays travel is something that’s fairly straightforward. It doesn’t take too much effort to hop in a car, or catch a train or a bus to your intended destination. But in Jesus’ day travel was far more difficult. This morning we are going to hear about some wise men who travelled a long way to visit Jesus.We don’t know exactly where they came from, but we do know they came from the East.

And if you go to Israel today, one thing you quickly learn today is that the country east of Israel is not good for travelling. In fact it is desert, nothing but desert, for miles and miles and miles. It is hot, it is windy, it is dry. And travel through the desert is long, is slow and is very dangerous.

How do you think the wise men travelled through the desert? We don’t know for sure, but probably they came by camel. Now camels are suited for desert conditions but they aren’t the easiest creatures to handle. If a camel doesn’t want to do something, it won’t do it. They need rest, they need feed and proper care.

So I hope you can see you wouldn’t go on a long journey through the desert by camel unless you had a very good reason. There were all kinds of dangers, and you had to know exactly what you were doing. It all makes our journeys at Christmas time rather easy by comparison! The question that I will therefore be asking this morning: is why did the wise men decide they had to make this journey?

We’ll be thinking about the answer a little later on in the service. Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas 2018 – Meeting Jesus today

January 2, 2019

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 30th December 2018

Readings – Luke 2:15-21: Galatians 3:26-4:7

It was tough work being a shepherd around Bethlehem.The land roundabout was hard, rocky terrain, with the desert only a few miles away, and there was the constant challenge of finding fresh pasture. Wild animals posed a constant threat, particularly at night. You were outside in all weathers and even if it never got to freezing, the spring and autumn rains would soak you to the bone. The religious leaders who lived comfortable, mostly indoor lives, very much looked down on you and considered you beyond the pale, because you couldn’t get to the synagogue very often. You were considered as belonging to the edge of society, and no-one really envied the hard, physical work you were doing.

That is why I find it so fascinating it was to these rough, tough shepherds that the news of the Saviour’s birth was first proclaimed. Now to us it is no surprise that the angels went out into the fields around Bethlehem, and our carols and nativity scenes have a rather idealised picture of happy peasants being pleasantly surprised by their glad tidings. But Luke is making an extremely powerful point here we often miss. The good news of Jesus’ birth is not just for the rich, the respectable, or the religious. The good news of Jesus’ birth is also for those on the edges, those excluded or ignored or overlooked. That the shepherds were chosen only serves to reinforce the angel’s message: Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

If you are a regular here at St Barnacles, you have probably heard me preach this kind of message many times before. But it is constantly worth repeating. I still have people who ask me, “Is it OK if I come to church this Sunday?” or who say, “Jesus can’t be interested in me, I’m not religious.” Actually the Christmas story tells us that God is profoundly interested in each and every one of us. It’s about God choosing the most unlikely of people to take part in the most important event in human history: a young, unmarried mother; a carpenter living in a village no-one had ever heard of; shepherds living on the edge of society; even wise men from distant, pagan lands.

And just as God chose the most unlikely of people back then, so He continues to choose the most unlikely of people even now to build His church. The apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, in 1 Corinthians 1:27-28: But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – the things that are not – to nullify the things that are… And God still has a heart for the foolish, the weak, the despised. He still wants to include us in His plans and purposes to bring the good news of Jesus to the world, no matter what we may think of ourselves, or how others may label us. That is the astonishing message of the shepherds’ story, and I hope it is one everyone here has taken on board.

Read the rest of this entry »