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Showing posts from August, 2011

God's message to a nation rocked by riots

Isaiah 51.1-6
Matthew 16.13-20

The opening verses of Isaiah chapter 56 are like recent events in reverse. Some young people around the country took advantage of a spot of lawlessness to do what was wrong and to seek their own personal gain. When they set out they certainly did not consider their law-abiding and God-fearing ancestors. Instead they headed down to the local electrical store or off-licence, determined to help themselves.
Isaiah speaks of ruins being turned back into an Eden, a place of plenty and ease, gladness and joy, whereas on our television screens the streets in some parts of London, Manchester and Birmingham were turned from prosperous shopping centres into arid and empty ruins where ordinary passers-by felt suddenly vulnerable and afraid. Isaiah talks of melody breaking out. Our experience has been of sudden discord.
At the end of this morning’s Old Testament lesson God addresses the people directly through the Prophet, and urges them to listen to his m…

Taking things for granted

Romans 12:1-8

Raise one eyebrow
Lick your elbow
Twitch your nose
Wiggle your ears
Touch your nose or chin with your tongue
Make a fist and put it in your mouth
Tickle yourself

Bend your middle finger and place the rest of your hand on a table or on a flat surface like a book, or even on the back of a chair. Then lift your thumb, and your index finger, and little finger. No problem, right? Now try the ring finger.

Lift your right foot a few inches from the floor and then begin to move it in a clockwise direction. While you’re doing this, use a finger your right index finger to draw a number 6 in the air... Your foot will turn in an anticlockwise direction and there’s nothing you can do about it!

Stare at the middle of the black and white picture, (if you can, look at the little cross or plus sign), for at least 30 seconds and then look at a wall near you, you... You should see a bright spot which twinkles a few times, and then do you see?

Most of the time the different parts of our …

The True Bread and The Prosperous Vineyard

Psalm 80
John 6.24-35The old Testament reading in the evening lectionary is the story of Solomon’s encounter with the Queen of Sheba. You can read it for yourselves in 1 Kings chapter 10, but it’s not a passage which lends itself to preaching because there’s not very much to remark upon so we haven’t read it tonight.
The most notable thing in the passage is that the Queen of Sheba asks Solomon enigmatic questions. In the Qur’an Solomon persuades her to adopt the worship of the one true God, but in the Bible she merely praises God and the way that God has blessed Solomon’s reign. Apart from that the passage seems to be telling us that Solomon’s wealth, although it was amazing, was as nothing compared to his wisdom. In that sense, 1 Kings chapter 10 echoes this morning’s reading from Isaiah 55. Wisdom is free. There is no need to spend lots of money trying to find it and anyone who tries to buy wisdom and God’s favour is on a fool’s errand.
And so we turn, instead, to the…

The Perfect Pitch

Isaiah 55.1-5, Matthew 14.13-21, Romans 9.1-5The opening verses of Isaiah chapter 55 are set in a market place. The Revised English Bible softens the market trader’s pitch in the opening verse and makes it sound far less arresting than the Prophet intended. The passage should really begin with something like, ‘Hey, gather round everyone!’ or ‘Listen up!’
To picture what the Prophet has in mind you need to think yourself back to Wakefield Market a good few years ago. Here is someone selling dinner services, or tea services. ‘Ladies, I’m not offering you one tureen,’ the pitcher says, perhaps twirling a tureen around his head. or throwing it up into the air and catching it expertly on the way down, ‘I’m not even going to offer you two tureens. Because you - the good ladies of Wakefield have such an excellent eye for a bargain - I’m going to throw in a third one as well and, also, because it’s your lucky day today, you’re not just going away with three tureens, I’m going to …

Wildflowers & Weeds

Romans 8.15-25
Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43What does Jesus’ story mean? First of all, perhaps, it’s a reminder of just how hard it can be to tell the difference between ‘wheat’ and ‘tares’.
Even a Palestinian farmer might have difficulty distinguishing wheat from darnell because the young plants are both similar to grass stems and look very alike when they’re first sprouting. It’s only as the seed heads mature that you can easily tell the difference between them, and by that time uprooting the darnell might uproot some of the wheat as well.
For us, of course, the confusion is even worse, as this little game we played earlier might reveal! Our problem is that weeds and crops are shifting categories which can be hard to separate.

So, for example, oats can be both a cereal crop and a weed, the domestic variety being closely related to the weed. This means that wild oats are the English equivalent of ‘darnell’, plants which - when they are immature - are virtually indistinguishable fro…