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.
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 »
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.
You parents know what it’s like … Mum, can I have … please Mum … Mum, I want it, I need it now! Again and again and again … until you snap, ‘Oh all right! Take it, be off with you and give me a moment’s peace.’ Or perhaps your children are a bit older, even grown up and left home, but over time you realise the same request keeps coming up, over and over again over a period of time … and you know they’re not going to stop until they get what they want.
You love them really … but in the end, self-interest takes over and you’ll do anything to shut them and get some peace. Even sometimes against your better judgement. Children know how to get just what they want, eventually. Luke 18:1,
Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up …
One of the things that we like doing at St Barnabas is holding quiz nights. Our next is here on 22nd June and we invite everyone to come along. Last time we were soundly beaten by a team from another church, so what I thought I’d do this morning is try and help us prepare for our revenge. So here are six questions I will to put to you, and all you have to tell me if they are fact or fiction. Are you ready?
The Marathon Race in the Olympics was named after the chocolate bar maker who sponsored it. Fact or fiction? (Fiction)
Queen Elizabeth the Second is the longest reigning British Monarch (Fiction)
Prince Philip was born on the island of Corfu (Fact)
The top row of the Olympic rings are in order from left to right blue, black and red (Fact – the bottom two are yellow and green)
The first women’s cycling event at the Olympics didn’t take place until 1948 (Fiction – the first road race took place in 1984, the first track event in 1998)
Windsor Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror (Fact)
Who here prefers Coke to Pepsi? Are you sure that in a blind tasting, you could tell the difference?!
Or who here has ever bought a designer bag, perhaps Gucci or Burberry, at a bargain price? Or a Rolex watch from a market stall? How did you know you were getting the real thing? Or were you content with an imitation?
Every day we are challenged to be able to tell the real thing from the imitation. And to make decisions accordingly. Whether it’s buying baked beans (Heinz or own brand?) or free range eggs instead of the cheaper options, or something bigger like buying a Skoda instead of a BMW or an Audi … our ability to tell the difference is crucial to the way we live.
In fact, in our reading today from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells us that his ability to tell the difference is a matter of life and death!
The parable of the sheep and the goats is unique to Matthew’s gospel. And when we read it, something feels a bit wrong about it. After all, as a church we teach that we are saved by grace (that is, the undeserved favour of God), and that we can do nothing to contribute to our salvation except trust that our sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Yet in this parable, Jesus says that one day – the day when he comes again, when he returns to bring history to completion – on that day, we will be judged according to something we’ve done, or not done. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd to you?
What, I wonder, is your passion in life? Do you have an interest or a hobby that means you will give up almost everything else to pursue it? I think it’s a rare person indeed who does not have something on which they love spending time and energy, whether it’s following a local football club, or doing a particular craft activity, or watching a certain TV series, or playing a sport. All of us one way or another have our own particular, if not peculiar, passions and interests. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We live in a wonderful, beautiful and complicated world that God has made, and it’s not surprising that some detail of it catches our attention. I’ve recently been doing a lot of bird-watching, and I’ve really enjoyed spending my afternoons trying to identify the little brown jobs wading through the mud in front of me.
We all know what it’s like to have a passion. But let me ask a slightly different question. Do you have a passion when it comes to your Christian faith? Does the fact that you believe and trust in Jesus cause you to spend time and energy pursuing and deepening your relationship with Him? To change the picture slightly, if I was to take your spiritual temperature this morning, what do you think the thermometer would read? Cold – I’m just going through the motions at the moment. Cool – I know it’s kind of important, and I sort of want to be here. Warm – yes, I definitely feel positive about church, and I look forward to coming. Hot – I couldn’t imagine not being here, and I am excited about the way the Holy Spirit is at work in this place.