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Showing posts from October, 2012

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…

Jesus and the Superhead

James 3.1-12, Mark 8.27-38

‘Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For all of us,’ said James, ‘Make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes ... is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle.’

I know someone who entered the teaching profession about 20 years ago and climbed up the slippery pole to become a headteacher, first of a village primary school and then of a large urban primary school on what I suppose we might call a sink estate. He was what the newspapers like to call a super head. He established a groundbreaking rooftop garden, won plaudits from the parents and raised educational standards and rates of attendance.

He had two OFSTED inspections in that time, the first one which was judged to be satisfactory and the last one which was judged - as James says it should be - with greater strictness. He and at least one other teacher were sacked and two others resi…