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Showing posts from March, 2012

Freedom through discipline

Exodus 20.1-17
1 Corinthians 1.18-25

In 1944 Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a poem in his prison celI. It’s called Stations on the Way to Freedom. It begins:
If you set out to seek freedom, then learn above all things to govern your soul and your senses, for fear that your passions and longing may lead you away from the path you should follow. Chaste be your mind and your body, and both in subjection, obediently, steadfastly seeking the aim set before them; only through discipline may one learn to be free.
‘Only through discipline may one learn to be free.’ It’s the kind of sentiment which would have appealed to Moses. His encounter with God at Mount Sinai was a formative moment in the history of of Israel and indeed for the whole Judaeo-Christian tradition. Plenty of Methodist churches have proudly inscribed the Ten Commandments in a long arc stretching around the walls of the sanctuary area.

The people of Israel wanted to be free from slavery but, after some fruitless wanderings in t…

The most revolutionary person on earth

Romans 4.13-25
Mark 8.31-38

What does it really mean to be free? In 1939, the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer chose to return home from the United States to Nazi Germany even though Germany had just embarked on a disastrous war and even though he was a sworn opponent of Adolf Hitler. He chose to leave a free country and return to a dictatorship. He chose to give up his freedom.

Explaining why he had done so he wrote thus to a friend: ‘I must live with the people of Germany through this difficult period in our national history. Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation, in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.’

This wasn’t a sudden change of heart. It was what Bonhoeffer had always felt deep down about his Christian faith. In a…

What's in a name?

Genesis 17.3-8 & 15-16

A baptism or christening used to be the time when babies were given their names, usually very soon after they were born. That’s changed, of course. Parents now have to register our names with the government instead, and usually long before we’re baptised. And, of course, some people aren’t baptised at all, but they still have names!

Giving someone a name is something that most of us don’t get to do very often. We might get to name our pets, but even the most fortunate of us only get to name a child a very few times in our lives. People have asked me whether I like my grandchildren’s names, but that’s neither here nor there. I didn’t get to choose their names, or even to have a say. They are who they are. I got to help name their mother.

A long time ago I worked with a minister from Fiji. It’s the custom in Fiji to choose at least one name for each of your children which reflects the place where they were born. So he called one of his daughters Rose…

Doing our duty

1 Corinthians 9.16-23
Mark 1.29-39
I guess a lot of preachers will understand how St Paul was feeling when he wrote, ‘Even if I preach the gospel, I can claim no credit for it; I cannot help myself; it would be agony for me not to preach!’ It was something that he just felt impelled to do. And when he was under arrest, and couldn’t preach in person, he carried on his ministry in letters which he entrusted to his many visitors. Today, of course, he would be in his element! He would be able to blog, or even tweet, his thoughts and reach people far and wide.
Preaching is something that people feel called to do. But not just preaching. As St Paul himself recognised, we can be called to a great many different tasks by God. And then we can claim no credit for what we achieve; they are things that we couldn’t help doing; it would have been agony not to do them.
The removal of Sir Fred Goodwin’s knighthood has called into question the whole ramshackle honours system. Why should some…

Isaiah and the emoticons

Isaiah 40:21-31

The Prophet reminds us of all the different feelings we experience when we think about our world. If we were to think it’s only here by chance, or by accident, then we would just have to take what comes - the rough with the smooth. But if we think the world is here because God set the universe in motion and gave it the potential to evolve the way it has done over billions of years, then the feelings we are likely to have could be very mixed.

As the Prophet says, we might feel surprise - surprise that, compared to the vastness of the galaxies, we matter to God at all.

We might feel worried or puzzled at the immense changes that happen each year, which can sweep politicians and chief executives away like straw being blown about in a storm, or carry off towns and cities. Why does God allow these things to happen? Are they part of a plan, or are they just chance events brought about by the coming together of lots of different causes?

When we look at the immense …