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 »

Decisions, decisions, decisions

February 4, 2013

St Barnabas and St Michael’s 3rd February 2013

Reading – Genesis 13:1-8

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Our life is full of decisions. Over the past few months I have become profoundly aware that many of us face deep and difficult decisions, sometimes with no easy solution. We face decisions as a church: how to develop an effective work with our young people, how to make best use of the facilities at St Barnabas, how to raise up leaders for the urgent gospel work in these two parishes and beyond. We face decisions on a personal level: where to live, what job to do, how to spend our money.

So how does an ancient book written over the course of many centuries help us in our decision making? Last week I preached a big sermon on a big subject – the theme of covenant which unites the Old Testament and points forward to the New. We sometimes need the big picture of Scripture so we understand just what a mighty, majestic and gracious God we worship. But we also need to be able to connect Scripture to the situations we face, to know how to translate our faith into the nitty-gritty, everyday decisions which are so important, but often so difficult.

Let me start, then, by focusing on one verse from our Old Testament reading this morning, a verse which is perhaps quite easy to overlook: Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, towards Zoar. (Genesis 13:10).

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God of the covenant

January 28, 2013

St Barnabas and St Michael’s 27th January 2013

Readings – Genesis 12:1-9; Luke 1:67-80

It’s always frustrating not having the big picture.

Perhaps you have tried to assemble a piece of furniture and all you have to guide you is a badly printed diagram with a few random letters which allegedly are supposed to tell you which bit of wood goes into which hole.

Or perhaps you’ve found the pieces of a jigsaw all neatly bagged up but with no picture showing how you they all go together.

Or perhaps your teacher has set you a piece of homework and you realise she hasn’t given you enough information to answer the question.

You try for a while to figure it out. You make a few attempts to work out what you’re supposed to do. But in the end you just have to give up. It’s all too difficult.

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Journeying with God 1 – The Big Picture

January 21, 2013

St Barnabas, Jan 20th 2013

Readings – Genesis 11:1-9 (Colossians 3:1-17)

Last week Tim talked about the importance of baptism as the foundation for Christian unity. But he also told us that across the world there are as many as 33,000 Christian denominations – he spelled it out a bit, since while some are orthodox, others are cults, some are catholic and others are protestant. But statistics reveal that among those who call themselves Christian, there are many, many differences, some of them mutually exclusive (that is, you can’t have it both ways and both be called Christian!).

Why so many? And why such fundamental differences? This is the first sermon of a new teaching series called ‘Journeying with God’ in which we’ll be following the story of Abraham. But the story starts here in Genesis 11, many years before Abraham was born.

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