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Showing posts from 2012

Courage to Wait

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36

A prayer from Christian Aid, written for Advent, begins, ‘God of the waiting,
give us courage to wait.’

During the week I run a post office, and people are not very good at waiting. One day four big heavy bags of coins were delivered. By the time I’d taken delivery of them and then manhandled them into the coin safe the queue was getting restless. Not long after, but when I was safely out of the post office, a disgruntled customer snapped off the ‘Please wait here!’ sign. Somebody wrote a note saying they had queued for twenty minutes - surely an exaggeration. But then one of our trustees had been to the Co-op Bank where she was kept waiting for 25 minutes. And there was a clock in the branch, on that occasion, to prove it. We have to do a lot of waiting, don’t we?

‘God of the waiting, give us courage to wait.’ But why should we need courage? Wouldn’t patience be a more relevant gift? What exactly are we afraid of?

Two Feisty Women and What They Show Us About The Way of Jesus

Ruth 3.1-5, 4.13-17, 1 Kings 17.8-16, Hebrews 9.24-28

Here are two Old Testament readings in the lectionary - a hard one and an easier one. The hard one comes from the story of Ruth, and it’s a hard reading to talk about because it is so alien to our understanding of what women should aspire to in their lives.

Ruth was an immigrant, and worse still she was the daughter-in-law of an elder widow, Naomi, whom she had to try to support. Purely because of her own unselfishness and loyalty to Naomi, whom she could just as easily have abandoned and gone back to her own family, she found herself stuck at the bottom of the economic pile and the future didn’t look too bright for her.

But Naomi had a cunning plan. Strictly speaking, the head of her husband’s clan - Boaz - had a duty to take care of them both. Clearly this wasn’t happening, otherwise Ruth wouldn’t have been going out scrounging for barley - picking up the gleaners left behind by the reapers in the field. But by God’s providence Rut…

What it Means To Be A Priest

Hebrews 5.1-10

The writer of Hebrews tells us a great deal here about his understanding of Jesus, but he starts with his understanding of what it means to be a priest. Of course, in the traditional Methodist understanding of priesthood we are all priests, so perhaps he is also telling us what it means to be a Christian.
Part of our job is to be a go-between, a bridge, between God and people on the fringe of our church life - people who are supporters rather than joiners - and people in the neighbourhood too for whom we are their community church. A lot of people look to us to do God shaped things for them. They're not ready yet to it for themselves. They might never be ready! They want us to do religion vicariously for them, on their behalf.

Of course, being a Christian doesn't mean that it's necessary for us to do anything on behalf of other people or that we have to represent them to God as a priest would normally do. None of us needs an intermediary, we can all approach Go…

Celebrity Come Dancing & The Righteous Servant

Isaiah 53.4-12

This passage resonates so strongly with the experience of Jesus that, from the very beginning of the Church, Christians have identified the subject of the prophecy with him. Yet the Prophet identifies this person only as the righteous servant - perhaps the faithful remnant of God's people who had been taken into exile with all the unfaithful ones. 

One of the most striking things for me about Celebrity Come Dancing is the way that the dancers are punished for the mistakes of the celebrities. Indeed some of the dancers are harnessed over and over again, series after series, with people who have two left feet, or are seriously overweight or who just can’t dance. No matter how hard they work, and sometimes they work very hard to choreograph creative and entertaining routines and then dance until sweat pours off them, they are doomed to be condemned by the judges. The righteous share the fate of the unrighteous. And thus it ever was.

In ancient Babylon the righteous servan…

Jesus, Downton and The Million Pound Drop

Mark 10.17-31

It would be easier for a great ocean liner to float on a puddle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

My wife, Helen, is a local preacher and she usually gets me to look at her sermons. She generally writes them before I sit down to think about mine, so it can be very difficult when I find that she’s used some excellent illustrations because then I find that I want to borrow them. Fortunately she’s in another circuit, so I can go ahead  with a clear conscience - anyway - and share with you two of her illustrations about today’s Gospel passage.

The first is from the television series Downton Abbey, so I hope you’re some of the many millions who tune in faithfully every Sunday night! The central couple in the story of Downton Abbey, around whom all the others revolve, are Lady Mary Crawley - the eldest daughter of Lord Grantham - and her cousin Matthew Crawley, Lord Grantham’s heir. Throughout the different series they have had a stormy, on - off sort of relatio…

Jesus the Bridge

Hebrews 1.1-4 & 2.5-12

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews begins by reflecting on the way that God has spoken to his ancestors through prophets like Moses, whom he would have believed to be the writer of Genesis. Genesis, as its name implies, talks about the creation, but the writer of Hebrews says there is something missing from its account. All of the things that Genesis describes were created through Jesus, God’s living wisdom.

He uses terms to describe Jesus which border on ideas that were later branded as heresy. Jesus is a bridge between God and creation. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the imprint of God’s very being. But is that quite the same as being God? Some later readers interpreted Hebrews as meaning that Jesus is not the same as God but like God, more like him than human beings but not totally and exactly the same. Whatever the writer really meant, these later interpreters were condemned for their pains.

The first men and women fell short of God’s plan for…

How did Starbucks get its name?

Genesis 2.18-24

How do things get their names? For instance, why are Starbucks coffee shops called Starbucks? Was there a Mr Starbuck? Well, yes there was, but he was a character in a book, in the novel Moby Dick. The founders of Starbucks named their coffee shops after him because he loved coffee.

Or what about the colours we paint our homes with; where do they get their names? From professional paint namers, of course! All of the names are carefully chosen to sell more paint. Barley White is supposed to conjure up the image of a warm summer’s day, with skylarks singing overhead and poppies bobbing gently on the breeze as we stroll through a field of harvest white barley. Love Note is supposed to remind us of the love letters we either sent, or received, on tinted lilac paper before the invention of mobile phones. Soft Stone is supposed to make us think of country cottages or dry stone walls. Tuscan Sunset is supposed to conjure up that romantic holiday in Italy. And Antique Map... Han…