NOW YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ THE TEXT, YOU CAN HEAR THE SERMONS AS PREACHED

Sunday, 28 April 2013

A Sermon on Change for a local Context

Fifth Sunday of Easter -  Acts 11.1-18; John 13.31-35

If you wish to listen to the sermon please click here

Saturday, 16 March 2013

5th Sunday of Lent

Isaiah 43.16-21; Philippians 3.4b-14; John 12.1-8

As we come towards the end of Lent, today marks the beginning of our journey, with Jesus, towards Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It's usually been an opportunity to really dwell on what happened to Jesus in those final days and hours before his death and just afterwards. And for each of us it's a significant time in different ways. And I'd invite you to enter into this next two weeks as best you can and as you feel is appropriate for you. God will have something for you which will probably be different to everyone else. So try and mark the time in some way and above all, listen to whatever these two weeks say to you.

What strikes me, at this point, this time around, is summed up in a statement St. Paul makes in his second letter to the Corinthians where he's talking about the work of Jesus in the world and our work as his followers. And he says,

'So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5.17)

St. Paul is talking here about the individual first of all, about you and me. He's saying that when we are baptised and follow Christ, we become a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. He's saying that we aren't simply an updated version, like we get every year with computers and software and cars and tv's and washing machines. No, when we are baptised we are brand new. The old has gone, it has died, it has passed  away in space and time and dare I say, in eternity too? When we are baptised, God makes something new.

St. Paul spells out what this means for him in the passage we've read today from his letter to the Philippians. He starts by saying that if you were looking for not just a good Jew but the best Jew you could wish to meet, it was him. He was entirely faithful in thought and word and deed to his religion, and the society and culture and tradition in which he was raised. And not only that, when his Judaism was threatened by the followers of Christ, he sought them out and helped in having them put to death.

What St. Paul is speaking of at the time he wrote this letter is what he regarded as the old Paul, or Saul as he was known in those former days. When he met with Jesus on the road to Damascus all of that changed, so much so that he didn't just change his name as a mark of the change but he regarded his past as 'rubbish'. I believe that the actual Greek word used in the ancient manuscripts is 'dung'. Paul regarded all his past as 'dung' compared to what his life as a follower of Christ meant to him. I think we get the message!

What happened to St. Paul in becoming a follower of Christ wasn't just a simple adjustment of his way of life, a slightly different point of view on things. It wasn't even a 180 degree turn around. It was completely new. Everything that he was before that encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus had completely gone and now he felt himself to be a completely new person. He said that 'knowing Christ Jesus my Lord' surpassed everything and he would do all in his power to continue to pursue that knowledge through living the way he'd been called to live by Jesus. The old had gone, the new had come.

And that's what we've got to look forward to celebrating on Easter Sunday in the person of Jesus himself. Jesus's resurrection is a completely new work of God bringing or reconciling you and I and the whole world to himself. And we should thank God every day that we live on this side of the resurrection of Jesus. We should thank God that this new creation is what we become through our baptism. And like St. Paul, it's right of us to pursue that by following Jesus Christ as closely as we can day by day.

We see in the gospel reading, Mary anointing the feet of Jesus. This woman had been given, by Jesus, a second chance at life inasmuch as her past had been forgiven by him. She too was a new person. In our Christian tradition, repentance is sometimes regarded as a 'second baptism'; and Mary obviously felt this. Anointing Jesus feet was an act of love and thanksgiving, which also foretold Jesus's death, whether or not she knew that. And the disciples' indignation at what Mary did, showed that they were, at that time, still living in their own past. They too would know that new creation in the weeks and months ahead as they met with the risen Jesus.

As we make our way through the next two weeks and especially over those three days from Good Friday to Easter Day, as we listen to whatever message is for us from all that we'll see and hear and say and sing, maybe we might be able to get a real sense of being the new creation that God has made us through our baptism and our following of Christ. And then, more importantly, living out what that means for us.



Monday, 18 February 2013

First Sunday of Lent

Jesus in the Wilderness
Romans 10.8b-13; Luke 4.1-13

If you wish to listen to the sermon as preached please click HERE (The story at the beginning is from 'The Heart of the Enlightened' by Anthony De Mello)

(The written version below differs slightly from the sermon as preached and omits the short story at the beginning)

For a long time, this first Sunday of Lent was the first day of Lent, until the Church established Ash Wednesday as the beginning of the season. On Ash Wednesday the reading usually chosen is that in which Jesus talks about prayer, fasting and almsgiving. On Wednesday I spoke about those three disciplines which we use in Lent to help us through the season. Jesus talks about prayer, fasting and almsgiving such that he reminds us that they are in fact a normal part of our spiritual life, or our religious life, or our life with God. But during Lent, the Church asks us to take particular note of them.

In speaking about prayer, fasting and almsgiving on Wednesday I said of them that they help us to re-establish our relationship with God, with our self and with others. Prayer, helps us to come closer to God, gives us the opportunity to quieten the clamour of our everyday life and listen again to God's voice. Fasting encourages us to try and do without those things, food or otherwise that cover up the voice of our own mind and body. How often do we use food to ease the stresses of day to day life; how often do we reach for painkillers when we have a pain that's telling us that part of us is hurting? Doing without those things brings me back to the real me, the me that God has made. And giving reminds us that we are made to live in relationship with other people. To make and continue relationships we have to give - time, energy, love. Right from the beginning of the human story when God said to Adam 'it's not good for you to be alone' and gave him Eve as a companion, human beings have only found fulfilment in life in relationship with others.

So when we pay attention to these three of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we are simply restoring ourselves in right relationship to God, ourself and the rest of creation; and in that there is healing and we can truly say that if we follow these in Lent, then Lent can become for us medicine for body, mind and spirit.

Today we are reminded in St. Paul's letter to the Romans about what it means to be a Christian; what it takes. It takes belief, in heart and mind, and a confession, from the mouth. It's one thing to think something, or to hold something in your heart as true. But it's another to say it. Actually saying out loud what we think or believe in the presence of others makes it public and establishes it outside ourself. And in doing so it changes both our self and the world around us. And it changes the way the world sees us too.

And that of course is a huge challenge. It's only something we can do when we have a certain level of confidence in ourself. And I guess all of us are challenged from time to time and sometimes very vigorously about our Christian faith. We can only have the confidence to be really open about what we believe when we have that solid relationship with God and our self that the prayer and fasting that are meant to be part of our day to day Christian life help us into; as I talked about a moment ago. One of the hardest things in the world in the present day and age in this secularised Western world is to have the confidence to tell others about our faith and to be open with others about it, and to have it give shape to our life. But St. Paul assures us that being able to make the confession with confidence leads to salvation, which at it's heart means health of body, mind and spirit in this age and eternal life in the age to come.

When we meet Jesus in the gospel reading today we might be a little confused at the outset. The same Spirit of God that has come upon him at his baptism now leads him into the wilderness where he is tempted by the devil. Surely, you might think, the Holy Spirit would lead him away from temptation. But those of you farther on in the Christian life will know that in this life, the way things go is very much like this. God seems to lead us into times and places where our faith is tested more and more. And here in this reading as we linger over Jesus's temptation we can get a ready insight into the ways in which these things can sometimes work. And I'm going to take just two - doubts and lies.

The devil says to Jesus; 'If you are the Son of God.....' We can very often run away with the idea that the devil is out to get us to commit some huge sin to separate us from God. Well, it's true that he wants your soul. But he doesn't need you to commit murder to get it, when a simple game of cards will do the trick, as C. S. Lewis reminds us in his wonderful little book The Screwtape Letters. All the devil needs to do it sow the seeds of doubt in your mind and heart. And doubt will gradually do its work to drive that wedge between you and God. The devil tries to sow the seed of doubt in Jesus's mind - 'IF you are the Son of God...' How does he know he's the Son of God in the first place? Who told him? Is who or whatever told him reliable? Is he sure it wasn't just a figment of his imagination? The questions can be many. Once our mind and thoughts get going, the wedge of doubt drives deeper and unsettles us more and more. And that, to the devil, is job done. Faith gradually become fear. But Jesus counters the temptation with a quotation from scripture; on each occasion. He brings the word of God to bear on the problem and reassurance comes.

And then the devil tries another tactic - lies. 'I'll give you authority over the kingdoms of the world because it has been given to me', the devil says to Jesus. But it is a lie because the world was created and belongs to God. We have to be on our guard in the Christian life. What can seem good and right can be anything but. What can seem to be able to build up can wreck and bring down, if we aren't careful, if we aren't watchful. Authority and responsibility can be misused because human beings are very prone to delusion. We put great store by democracy in this country; but a bad decision isn't made good just because it's made democratically. Where two or three are gathered together, the devil can have a field day, just as Christ can be there also. We have to be on our guard. And as often as not, the word of God in scripture can help cut through the lied and deceit and delusion.

All of this seems quite sombre, and the start of Lent often seems to be. But we live this side of Easter when we know the outcome of the story. Jesus is victorious and even though we might be in the depths of disaster and despair He is able to lift us out of it. St. Paul and Jesus himself have reminded us today how our Christian life works. On the face of it it's like any other life; but as St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians 'your life is hidden with Christ in God'. It's God himself who sustains and upholds our whole life, who will go down into hell to lift us out of it; who died on the cross to give us life. And it's only as we believe it and confess it and live it, that we come to know the truth of it.


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Ash Wednesday

Joel 2.1-2, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 5.20b-6.10; Matthew 6.1-6, 16-21

Lent - Medicine for mind, body and soul.

If you wish to listen to the sermon please click HERE
(The story at the beginning is from 'The Heart of the Enlightened' by Anthony De Mello)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

3rd Sunday of Epiphany - Signs, Sacraments, Miracles and.....Relevance?

1 Corinthians 12.1-11; John 2.1-11

Jesus turns Water into Wine
In this sermon I talk about 'joining the dots' to reveal a picture of God; about signs, sacraments, miracles, the Church and the Church's relevance to and credibility in the world. If you would like to listen to the sermon please click HERE

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Baptism of Christ

The Baptism of Christ
Isaiah 43.1-7; Acts 8.14-17; Luke 3.15-17, 21-22

If you would like to listen to the sermon, please click HERE



Sunday, 4 November 2012

On Saints, Women Bishops, Archbishops & Ecumenism

All Saints Sunday Sermon

If you'd like to listen to the sermon please click here