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Showing posts from June, 2012

The Mustard Seed Story And Community Organisers

Ezekiel 17.22-24
Matthew 13.31-34

All Age Version
The story of the enormous turnip is about a tiny seed that grew so big that it was able to feed an old man and his wife, a boy and his sister, a cat and a dog, and even a mouse. The mustard that seed Jesus describes in his story isn’t the sort of mustard we eat in mustard and cress sandwiches. It’s a plant called ‘black mustard’ which starts out as a teeny tiny seed but quickly grows to almost three metres high. Birds can nest in its branches and it grows larger than any other garden plant.

When we turn to the other example, baking bread, a tiny amount of yeast mixed with flour and water makes a loaf that’s three times bigger than all the ingredients on their own.

Actually, in the time of Jesus a baker didn’t use yeast but - more usually - sourdough, which is a quarter or so of yesterday’s bread dough kept overnight in a warm place and then mixed with today’s dough. The sourdough is sometimes called ‘the mother dough’ because it makes the …

The Diamond Jubilee

Micah 6.6-8
1 Peter 2.9-10
Matthew 5.1-16

I suppose the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is really a celebration of the kind of country we should like to live in, and the kind of values we would like to live by in that perfect country. It would be a country where the ultimate ideal is to observe what is good in God’s eyes, which is to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.

Matthew Parris said on Radio 4 yesterday morning that the best thing about the Queen is that she didn’t really want to be queen. She only became queen out of a sense of duty. Later in the same programme someone else accused Matthew Parris, quite rightly, of presuming to know what the Queen is thinking. But it’s certainly true that greatness was thrust upon her family. They didn’t expect to be all that special.

When she was a little girl the Queen and her parents expected to be minor royals all their lives long. When she grew up she could therefore have looked forward, perhaps, to being the patron of …


Romans 8.14-17
I was listening to the Today programme on Radio 4 while I was driving to work one day the other week and I was intrigued to hear two back-to-back interviews which had been recorded the previous day, so the participants couldn’t have heard one another, and yet they both talked about being connected. One of the interviewees talked about it as a bad thing. The other talked about it as a good thing.

The first interview was about European banks. ‘The problem,’ said the financial expert who was being interviewed, ‘Is that all the banks are inter-connected. To use a nerdy expression,’ he went on, ‘the problem is their connectivity.’

What he meant was that if a Spanish bank goes bust that might not seem to be a problem for people in Britain. Spain’s quite a long way away and most of us don’t invest our money in Spanish banks or keep our savings in them. Even Santander in the UK is separate from its Spanish parent company. But, he went on, there is a hidden connection between our …

Engelbert Humperdink And The Holy Spirit

Ezekiel 37.1-14 Acts 2.1-21
Recently I was watching the Eurovision Song Contest and the UK contestant, Engelbert Humperdink, put me in mind of this passage from Ezekiel. I thought he was dead until it was announced that he was going to represent us in this year’s competition. Of course, he isn’t dead, but on the other hand he didn’t look very lively either. At one point, during the interval when people were supposed to be voting, the presenter went up to him and said, ‘How are you, Engelbert?’ to which he replied, ‘Pardon?’ And if he didn’t seem quite with it in the interval, he didn’t seem quite with it during the performance, either. He looked a bit like dry bones that have had life breathed back into them so that they can have one last go at reliving their former glory. But this is not the 1960s and Engelbert is no longer at the top of his form.
In the prophecy, God says to Ezekiel, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is …

Looking Forward To The Birth

Romans 8.22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

If you’re waiting for a baby to be born it’s very hard to imagine what he or she will look like when the time comes and you finally get to hold them in your arms. That’s part of the miracle of parenthood; getting to hold a tiny, fully formed human being who, a few minutes before, it was impossible to picture in any but the vaguest and most general way.
Before Matthew was born we were invited to attend the 12 week scan at the hospital. ‘Bring your older children with you,’ the midwife advised, ‘They will love being able to see the baby inside you. It will help them to relate better to what’s going to happen because the baby will seem more real to them.’
So we all went along, expecting to see a clear picture on the monitor of Matthew lying inside Helen’s womb. But no such luck. We were living in Wigan at the time, and the hospital seemed to be operating with secondhand ultrasound equipment passed down by a hospital that had now got more up-to-date kit…

Are You Calling Me A Liar?

John 17.6-19
1 John 5.9-13
The writer of John’s Gospel and the Epistles of John says this at the end of his first letter, in chapter 5 verse 10: ‘Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son.’

This sentence put me uncomfortably in mind of an incident that happened in Darnall last week. A man came into the office complaining because he had been in trouble for missing an appointment with his employment adviser. He insisted that when he told me he was taking his little daughter to hospital, so that the doctors could look at a rash all over her body, I had said: ‘I don’t care about your daughter.’ When I denied this, of course, he stood right in front of my face and started shouting, ‘Are you calling me a liar?’ I wasn’t calling him a liar, but I did end up calling the police.

If I wasn’t calling him a liar, what was I doing? Well, I felt I was just refusing to agree with his version of events. And th…