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Jacob's Dream

Genesis 28.10-22 This an interesting passage because so much of it can be read in either of two ways, a rather negative way or in a really positive way. In the dream God says to Jacob, 'I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go… I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ On the face of it this is a wonderful promise. Jacob is a penniless fugitive without a friend in the world, but God will be with him, watching over him, ensuring that he will prosper. On my 19th birthday Helen gave me a little book. It finished with the words, 'Let’s be friends for ever and a day.' But God's promise to Jacob isn't ‘for ever and a day.’ God says, ‘I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ It's not really a promise, it's a deal. To use management jargon for a moment, it's activity based. While they're engaged in the project together, God will be there for him. But what if the project ended? What if the goal was rea…
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Breaking Down Walls

Peter’s strange dream, where he found himself eating giraffe, and antelope, elephant and parrot, wasn’t a call to give up being vegetarian and tuck into all kinds of meat. Nor was it a promise that he would soon be going on the sort of exotic holiday where you get to eat something unusual - like my son who recently went to Peru and got to eat alpaca, which he said was delicious. He also spent a night in the jungle but I haven’t heard yet whether he got to eat any juicy ants.  Peter could have woken up and thought, ‘Oh good! I’m going on holiday!’ and made his way round to the estate agents. But he didn’t, and that’s because just as he woke up some people who weren’t Jewish knocked at the door and asked him to come and help them, and their families and friends, to join the Church and become followers of Jesus. That made Peter realise that the dream was about building bridges and breaking down walls. People can look different, and have different languages and customs, but in the end we’r…

Bringing the past into the present

Deuteronomy 4.9-13 This passage is an example of bringing the past into the present. The technical term for this is ‘anamnesis’. Here the people of Israel are asked to remember the covenant made between them and God on Mount Sinai. This is where God gave the people the Ten Commandments to follow, and promised to look after them so long as they were obedient. Moses appears to be talking to the people forty years after the original event that he's recalling. Like himself, a very few of the older members of the community might actually have been there as participating adults. Some of them would have been there to witness it as children. Many would not have been born.  But Moses would not have sympathised with the argument, put forward by the Brexiteers, that important national commitments have to be re-examined every so often. For him this past event must be continually brought into the present and made binding on each new generation. 'You must be careful not to forget the things you …

Magnetic fishing

John 21.1-15
Our story tells how Peter and his friends went fishing with something called a drag net, or a seine net as it’s properly called. This is a very ancient way of fishing. There are pictures of people doing it in tomb paintings in Egypt that were created 5,000 years ago. And it’s the way that people used to fish until very recently in the Sea of Tiberias, or the Sea of Galilee as it’s better known today. The net has floats tied all the way round the top to keep it on the surface of the water, and weights tied all the way round the bottom to make it sink. The crew start lowering the net into the water and the boat sails in a big circle until it’s created a purse made of net. Then the crew use winches to gradually make the space inside the net smaller and smaller until they can haul it on board. But in the time of Peter and the other disciples who went fishing on Lake Galilee the boats didn’t have winches. So if they caught the fish the modern way it must have been very hard work.…

A living covenant

Deuteronomy 26.1-11 A living covenant In Jewish worship God’s covenant with Israel  is never a dry as dust historical event from way back when, it’s a living reality, remembered and celebrated in the blessing at the end of every meal and in every act of worship. It’s a promise for the here and now. Every Jewish person is instructed to behave as if they had been there on Mount Sinai when the covenant was given, and to recite the story of how the covenant promise came about and was fulfilled. It is to be ingrained in the whole of life.
This tradition continues in the Eucharist. In the blessing after the meal we invokethe new covenant sealed by Jesus’ blood, shed on the Cross, and make it just as real for us as the old covenant is for Jewish people. The Cross is not just another event in ancient history. It’s not even just the defining event of human history, the turning point which forever reshaped the future relationship between humankind and God; it is both of those things, of course, bu…

To be a peacock or not to be?

John 12.1-8 What do you think about the peacock? I don’t mean, what do you know about peacocks? Or even do you like peacocks? I mean what’s your gut reaction, your first thought, on seeing a peacock?
Someone once described peacocks as ‘the most beautiful birds in the world’. Alexander the Great certainly agreed. He was so impressed by peacocks that he made it a crime to disturb or kill one. Early Christians liked them too. Peacock feathers were believed to keep their colour forever so Christians saw them as a symbol of the resurrection. 
Is that the sort of thing you think when you look at this picture, that peacocks are magnificent, lovely birds? Do they give you a good vibe?
In contrast some Arab people believe the peacock isn’t a cause for wonder but a bad omen. Legend has it that peacocks are supposed to be good at killing snakes but, according to one story, the peacock let the side down by allowing the serpent to slither past him into paradise. The serpent confused him by wrapping it…

Whither Hope in the Age of Brexit & Climate Change?

John 12.1-8 In the ancient myth of Pandora a beautiful woman is sent to earth with a box full of gifts for a man called Epimetheus. Epimetheus was so delighted with Pandora that he married her and forgot all about the gifts.
This was a pity because his brother, Prometheus, had upset the gods and the box contained their revenge. On their instruction, Pandora opened the box and let the gifts out. But the gifts were all harmful things, designed by the gods to divide and upset people.
According to one version, when Pandora realised that the gifts were not meant to be a good thing, she quickly put the lid back on the box, trapping the last one inside. But in other versions she was too late and they all escaped.Either way, the last gift or curse left in the box, or the last to escape, was hope.
The ancients saw hope as a bad thing because it stops us from making the best of the way life is now. If we're constantly hoping for something better to turn up we won't confront the problems fac…