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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 …
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Belonging

Deuteronomy 23.3-8 Mark 7.24.-37
What does it mean to belong[1]?
For some people belonging means doing things together. They feel part of their community by turning up to services and meetings, taking part in projects and making things happen with a group of other people.
For some people belonging means having a good time together. They feel they belong to their community if they go to fairs, barbecues, housewarmings, football matches, baby showers, carol services, christenings and weddings.
For some people belonging means knowing lots of people - walking down the street, or going to the shops, and bumping into friends and acquaintances, or getting on well with their neighbours, or having a crowd of people they can mix with.
And for some people belonging means where they live - the place where they grew up, which shaped the way they talk, where they feel most at home. None of these ways of belonging is better than the others. And none of us can belong in all of these ways at once. 
We don’t a…

A Different Parable of the Talents

Luke 19.12-27
There’s an interesting variation on Luke’s Parable of the Talents among the Rabbinic parables in the Babylonian Talmud, which was compiled about five hundred years after the time of Jesus. 

The Talmud says, ‘Our rabbis taught: “...the spirit returns to the God who gave it", [which] means, “Give it to him pure as he gave it to you.” 

‘This may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who distributed royal garments to his servants. The attentive among them folded them and deposited them in a chest. The foolish among them went and did their work in them.

‘Days later the king asked for his garments. The attentive among them returned them to him all sparkling; the foolish among them returned them to him all soiled.

‘The king was pleased with the attentive, but angry with the foolish. Regarding the attentive he said: "Give the garments to the treasurer and let them go to their homes in peace."

Regarding the foolish he said: "Give the garments to the treasurer an…