… that we may give ourselves to the service of God.

May 28, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 27th May 2018

Readings – John 13:1-17; Romans 8:5-17

If you have seen or heard anything of the Royal Wedding, you will know that one of the major talking points was the sermon by the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry. For some people it was a real highlight. Ed Miliband tweeted it was almost enough to make him a believer which probably says more about Ed Miliband than Archbishop Curry. For some it was an embarrassment and something that was totally out of character with an essentially British occasion. For me, well, it was fine as far as it went. The trouble was, it didn’t go that far.

Of course the world needs love. Of course love comes from God. Of course if we truly loved, societies and nations would be transformed. But if it was that easy to love wouldn’t we have made the world a better place already?

In fact the more you look into it, the more you realise that the whole idea of love is really quite difficult, and although a Royal Wedding may not have been the place to highlight these difficulties, it would have been good to acknowledge in some way the cost and the commitment involved in love, particularly as one party had been married before.

So what else could or should have been said about love? For a start, it is very important to realise that there are different forms of love. The love that a prince has for his bride is not the same as the love that exists in a family, for example. Nor is it the same as the love that you might have for your favourite football team or for ice cream or chocolate. And it is certainly not the same as the love that builds up and binds a church together. Read the rest of this entry »

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… to seek the forgiveness of our sins

May 15, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 13th May 2018

Readings – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Matthew 5:21-26

On the surface the church in Corinth was an exciting place to be. The services were full of the Holy Spirit. Men and women would regularly stand up to prophesy. People frequently prayed in tongues. The sermons were full of eloquent rhetoric and those outside the church spoke well of its leaders.

But if you dug a little deeper, you would soon find that the church faced all kinds of problems. For a start, each leader attracted their own group of followers and the church was splitting into factions. When the church came together for a meal, some brought lots of food to eat, and some brought nothing, showing the huge gap that existed between the rich and the poor. There were some who resented Paul’s leadership and spread rumours he wasn’t the man he claimed to be.

So when Paul sat down to write to the church in Corinth, he knew had to deal decisively with this issue. He was well aware that whenever there are splits, factions or divisions within a church, that church is less than God intends it to be. No matter how exciting the services, no matter how impressive the leaders, if there was no unity, then the work God wanted to do in and through the church was being undermined. Read the rest of this entry »


… to offer our praise and thanksgiving …

April 24, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 22nd April 2018

Readings – Luke 17:11-19; 1 Peter 2:4-12

Being a leper in first century Israel was a miserable existence. Whether or not you actually had leprosy was beside the point. Everyone could see you had a horrible disease and they did whatever they could to stay away from you. You had no friends, no family, nowhere you could call home. The only support you had was from your fellow lepers. You would stick together for survival, living on the very edge of society, shunned and barely existing, wondering where your next meal would come from.

And there was no point turning to the religious leaders for help. They told everyone you were under the judgement of God. You were in their eyes unclean, a threat to their ritual purity. If they saw you coming, they would definitely pass by on the other side of the road. You were a hazard to be avoided at all costs.

But for one band of lepers at least there was a glimmer of hope. They had heard about Jesus. Reports had reached them He had a particular heart for the outcast, the poor, the broken. And so they thought maybe, just maybe, He could help. Of course there was a risk Jesus might reject them. It wouldn’t be the first time someone had turned their backs on them. Yet they really had nothing to lose.

So when they heard Jesus was in the neighbourhood, the ten of them got together and approached – not too close, but just near enough that He could their appeal: Jesus, Master, have pity on us. Now we have no way of knowing what they expected Jesus to do. Perhaps they were hoping for an instant miracle – if so, they were sorely disappointed. Jesus’ response was not exactly rejection, but it certainly wasn’t anything dramatic: Go, show yourselves to the priests.

No doubt the lepers had been to the priests many times already. It was the job of the priest to examine a person’s skin and decide if he or she was unclean. And it was the priests who had already banished them from society. So you might well wonder why these ten lepers decided to do what Jesus said. But they heard His words, they obeyed, and they went. Read the rest of this entry »


We have come together in the name of Christ

April 21, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 15th April 2018

Readings – John 10:11-16; Hebrews 10:11-25

So spring has arrived. The lambs are skipping in the fields. A new cricket season has started, and the weeds in the garden are growing wild. But for students up and down the land now is not one for thinking about the turning of the year, for, as many of you know well, exam season is well and truly upon us. And if being a young person wasn’t stressful enough in its own right, the next couple of months will be full of questions such as “Have I done enough?” “Will I be able to understand the exam paper?” And most importantly, “Will I make the grade?” We should never underestimate the stress our young people are facing right at this moment and we need to do all we can to support those among us working in education.

lambs

Of course the vast majority of us have finished with exams long ago. But I do sometimes wonder if they still leave their mark upon us. For example, there are many people who spend their whole lives wondering how exactly they are supposed to get into heaven. They’ve heard about God who is the maker and judge of all people, and they know that one day they will meet Him. And quite frankly, they do not know how to prepare for that day. They keep asking themselves, “Have I done enough to make the grade?” “Will God be pleased with me?” “Will He, indeed, let me in?”

Now once upon a time there was a monk in Germany who wrestled exactly with these same questions. His name was Martin Luther. He was so worried about not being ready to meet with God, he would constantly go off to confession and admit to some small or trivial sin he thought he had committed. His confessor was a very wise and patient man, but in the end even he reached the end of his patience and said, “Why don’t you go off and do something that really needs confessing – like killing your mother or father? Or committing adultery?”

Fortunately Martin Luther didn’t follow his confessor’s advice. Instead he turned to the pages of the Bible and looked again at his whole relationship with God. Did God really intend him to spend his whole life worrying whether he had done enough to earn His favour? Or was there some better way to live? So Martin began to read the Bible and to study and to pray. And as he did so, he made a profound discovery that changed his life and the lives of countless Christians afterwards.

For what he found as he studied the Scriptures was that there indeed was nothing that he could ever do through his own effort that would please God. When God came to judge him at the end of his life, there would be no good works he could plead sufficient to let him into heaven. God’s pass mark would always be 100% perfection and there was no way he could even get close to that standard. Read the rest of this entry »


Not a tame Jesus

June 19, 2017

St Michael’s 11th June 2017

Readings – Luke 8:26-39; Revelation 1:1-8

I wonder how many of you know the Chronicles of Narnia? Over the years these apparently simple children’s tales have become one of my all-time favourites and, as you may know, at the very centre of these stories is the mysterious figure of Aslan. Aslan is a lion, but not just any lion. He is a brave, kind, good lion, with the power to defeat evil and save all who call on His name. But Aslan is no pet. There is something fierce and rather mysterious about the figure of Aslan. He comes and goes as He pleases. His roar shakes kingdoms and inspires terror. As Mr Beaver says in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “He’s wild, you know. Not a tame lion”.

Now I was thinking about this quote about Aslan as I came to our gospel reading this morning. You see, I suspect one of our issues with the Bible is that too often we try and turn Jesus into a rather tame and rather comfortable Jesus. We have our favourite passages which rightly we treasure, but the danger can be, we sometimes gloss over the rather more mysterious aspects of who Jesus is.

That is why this morning I want to look at the story of the healing of the man called Legion. Because the more you go into it, the more questions it raises. What was Jesus doing allowing demons to go into a herd of pigs? What about the livelihood of the pig-owners? What happened to the demons when the pigs drowned? There are some deep mysteries in this passage which I cannot fully answer, and it is an unsettling reminder that Jesus is rather greater and more awesome than we so often like to imagine.

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A response to the result of the Referendum

June 27, 2016

St Michael’s, June 26th 2016

Readings – Psalm 2, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Matthew 12:15-21

(Transcribed from recording)

Gracious heavenly Father,
Our simple prayer is that we might hear your words,
know how to apply that word to our lives,
and know how to serve you faithfully in all that lies ahead,
in Jesus’ name. Amen

So, the people have spoken. By 52% to 48% the decision has been taken to leave the European Union. For some of you, that is a cause of great joy. For some of you, it is a cause of great sorrow. Some people will see that this is as God’s will for the country. Some people will see this is as God’s judgement for the country. But the question I want to ask this morning, is how should we, as a church, respond. I don’t have a full script for a sermon this morning, in fact I don’t have anything written down, but I have very briefly, four key principles, which I believe we need to bear in mind. Read the rest of this entry »


The God of Growth

February 25, 2014

Baptism service, St Barnabas, February 23rd

Readings – 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 13:31-33

It’s wonderful watching the way children learn to speak. At the moment, of course, N is still very young and he hasn’t yet mastered the English language, although I’m sure he has ways of letting you know what he wants. But soon, very soon, he will start to learn a few words, and then a few more, and then before you know it, it will probably be very hard to stop him talking.

Then one day, not too far from now, N will suddenly discover questions. “Why are doing that, Mummy?” “Yes, but why?” “Mummy, why are you cross with me?” “Mummy, why do I have to go to bed?” And soon he will be wrestling with all those great questions of life that matter so much to three and four year olds – for example, why the sky is blue or why water is wet or why you cry when you fall over. I probably expect his parents are already practising their answers with S and certainly they’ll need to be ready.

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