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Showing posts from 2016

The greatest of the prophets

Matthew 3.1-12 / Matthew 11.2-11 John the Baptist was an Old Testament prophet living in New Testament times. He clearly branded himself as an Old Testament prophet by dressing like one, eating like one, acting like one and speaking like one. What you saw on the outside of the tin, the packaging if you like, the label, was certainly what you got inside the tin. He was genuine Marmite - and, just like Marmite, some people loved him and others hated him. He was like an Old Testament prophet in that he hung out in the Wilderness and collected his followers there. Then he took them to the Jordan River in conscious imitation of Joshua, who led the people of his own day out of Exile and into the Promised Land. He was like an Old Testament prophet in that he forecast trouble ahead and then warned people that just saying your prayers and going to the synagogue on the Sabbath would not be enough to ward it off. John wasn't like some of the other protesters of his day. He wasn’t trying to la…

The Infinite God

Luke 20.27-38 The world's great religions often record controversy stories, where people come to the spiritual  leader intent on putting his wisdom to the test, or even to outsmart him and prove that he isn't as enlightened as he makes out. Christianity is no exception and the Gospels contain a number of stories where Jesus is put to the test like this. Today’s story is one of them. The Sadducees were an aristocratic group of rather sceptical people who did believe in God but put definite limits on his power. They didn't believe in an infinite or absolute God, for they held that our relationship with God can’t continue beyond death. He is God only of the living, of the present order, not a God who - at least in terms of our relationship with him - was, and is and is to come. Their question about the unfortunate woman who was forced by custom and practice to marry  one brother after another is not a sincere quest for truth, because they don't believe that either the brothe…

Rest & Recreation

Genesis 1.27-31, Luke 10.38-42 I heard a programme about rest and relaxation on the radio recently and it set me thinking because, down the centuries, the Church has been a champion of rest, constantly reminding people that Sunday is the Day of Rest - modelled on the first Sabbath, when God rested after all the hard work of creating the universe. I even heard of one church council which recently tried to ban Brownies from having a fun day on a Sunday because it’s the Day of Rest, and that despite the fact that the Brownies were planning to start the day by having fun in all age worship! We might think that’s going a bit too far, but - be that as it may - the Church  has talked endlessly about quiet times, prayerfulness, meditation and retreating from the stresses and strains of the world.  We’ve set up - I use the word ‘we’ somewhat loosely here - contemplative orders of monks and nuns. And whether we’re contemplatives or not, we’ve focused in on the still, small voice that cannot be h…

The Prodigal Father

Luke 15.11-32 The word ‘prodigal’ means ‘wastefully extravagant’. By this definition, who is the most prodigal person in the story? The younger son runs through all his assets and does so not in reckless business ventures, which would be bad enough, but in dissolute living. However, the most profligate member of the family is the father. He's prodigal not only with his wealth, but also with his good name and his love, which he showers on both of his undeserving sons despite their ingratitude and their readiness to publicly humiliate him. Let's start with the younger son. We all know people who dream about what they'd do if somebody died and left them an inheritance. Perhaps we sometimes have that dream ourselves. To cater for that appetite lurking in us, there are even programmes on TV about detective agencies which spend all their time tracking down the distant relatives of wealthy people and giving them the good news that they've inherited a substantial amount of cash.…

Sovereignty

1 Samuel 8.1-18, Romans 13.1-7, John 18.33-37 A politician arrived with ten minutes to go before a big public meeting in a local church. Unfortunately the car park was full and there was nowhere obvious to park within walking distance of the venue. (I‘ve been there!) He looked up at the sky in despair and said, ‘Look, God, I know we’re not exactly well acquainted, but if you can find me a parking space I promise to lead a totally blameless life, committed to doing good, for as long as I remain in office.’ He looked down again and there, right in front of his  car, was a parking space. He parked up triumphantly and jumped out. ‘Thanks, God, but the deal’s off,’ he said. ‘I managed to find a space myself.’

I tell the joke because it’s about sovereignty, who controls what happens, and because the question of sovereignty is one of the big issues of our time. The debate before and after the European Referendum has been partly about sovereignty, taking back control from Europe and not giving …