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100 Years Since The November Armistice

Isaiah 49:13-19 When I was a child the Charge of the Light Brigade was scarcely any further removed in time than the First World War is now, but when I was born the First World War was recent history. It had been over for barely 40 years. Although it seemed like a different era, it was more recent then than the moon landings or the Miners’ Strike even are now. 
My grandfather, who fought on two fronts - in France and Italy, had never talked about his experiences until I questioned him about them as a small boy. I was fascinated. Had he killed anyone? Had he been wounded? Could I see the wounds, please? What did it feel like to be shot? My grandmother listened intently as she had never dared to ask such intimate questions!
My grandfather's reticence didn't mean that he had put the War behind him. Later, when he got Alzheimer's Disease, he formed the impression that my parents were military policemen and spent ages fumbling for his leave papers in an imaginary tunic pocket whil…
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Fake News

Mark 13.1-6 Until I saw this, I didn’t know who Jessica Rowe is. Apparently she’s a journalist in Australia, but I’ve seen the same advert - many many times - with a different face on it, someone I do know. For some reason I get a lot of adverts at the moment in which a man called Peter Jones, who appears on the TV programme Dragons’ Den, is pictured having a really rough day. He too has got a terrible black eye, worse than this one, and he looks really haggered, as though someone has set about him with a baseball bat. But it’s not true. It’s fake news. We might not like them, but Jessica Rowe gets particularly upset with these adverts because she’s in them. One day she was looking at the Internet with her nine year-old daughter when her daughter said, ‘Mummy, what’s that?’ And it was this fake advert. You and I are not celebrities so we will never feature in an advert like this one, but we can still be the subject of fake news. My Aunt rang me one day just to check whether I’d been mugg…

What it means to be a saint today

Psalm 24.1-7, Isaiah 25.6-9, John 11.1-4, Revelation 21.1-4 Technically, the word ‘saint’ simply means ‘a member of God’s People’, and in particular a member of the church. In his letters, Paul often uses the word to refer to members of the churches he’s working alongside.
But in popular usage it’s come to be associated with martyrs. In the Catholic Church, to be martyred for your faith is the surest way of becoming a saint. Witness the example of Archbishop of Oscar Romero from El Salvador, who was martyred for speaking out against those who were oppressing the poor.
One Salvadoran woman, who attended his recent canonisation in Rome, said he had been a saint from the beginning. Esther Chavez first met him when she was working in a school. She was explaining to him what she did for a living when he said, ‘I think you have a different type of job to do.’ He asked her to go and work with poor women in her home town, providing childcare for them while they went out to work, and she has been…

Conkers

Mark 10.35-45 I guess only people my age and older can remember playing conkers at school. Sometime after I left school conkers were banned from the playground. I guess we all know why!
Looking back, I remember with horror now all the children who were injured at my school during the conker season. You only had to miss, when you were taking a swing at the other person’s conker, and you could easily crack their knuckles. You can imagine them all sitting at their desks with plaster casts on their hands, unable to hold a pen.
And then there were the unfortunate children - not so many as the ones with broken knuckles - who were hit in the eye by flying fragments when their conker was smashed to pieces, not to mention the unwary dinner ladies who were knocked out by conkers flying through the air when the person holding the string had it knocked from their grasp as a well-aimed blow struck their conker with devastating force.
Of course, I’m joking. Nothing like that ever happened. I never saw …

Keeping the Sabbath

Exodus 31.12-17, Mark 2.23-28
What was Sunday like when you were a child? Was it different from all the other days? It was for me! My parents were probably a bit old-fashioned, but we weren’t allowed to play loud noisy games outside, and for a time we weren’t even allowed to watch the football highlights on ITV, even though they sometimes featured our local team, Grimsby Town.
My grandparents would have liked us to spend the day either in church or reading an improving book. They were harking back to the Westminster Confession, adopted by the Puritans after their victory in the English Civil War. Most secular work was forbidden on Sundays - opening shops, making things or working on the land. Puritans weren’t even supposed to think secular thoughts, but had to devote themselves to worship, prayer, Bible study or - for a bit of light relief - they could dip into a book of theology or religious poetry.
In the Nineteenth Century there were even popular movements set up to protect Sunday as …