Sunday 15th January 2017 – The Second Sunday of Epiphany Isaiah 49:1-7 and John 1:29-42

Sunday 15th January 2017 – The Second Sunday of Epiphany

Isaiah 49:1-7 and John 1:29-42

The Collect for this Sunday 

Almighty God,

in Christ you make all things new:

transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives

make known your heavenly glory;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen

This is one of my favourite Collects – how do the readings demonstrate this Collect?

  1. Where is the making of the new?
  2. Who is having their nature transformed?
  3. Who is making God’s glory known?
  1. The opposite – Isaiah – like Jeremiah, John the Baptist and Jesus were ‘called’ even in the womb. He’d been born with the tools to be God’s spokesperson – he had a mouth like a ‘sharp sword’ and he was like a ‘polished arrow’. But looking back over his ministry Isaiah is despondent. I have laboured in vain. I have spent my strength for nothing (tohuw – chaos). Unravelling, without form. But the Lord speaks and says ‘I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth’. And Isaiah is still giving us light. He’s still showing us about God. We only see the now. We can’t see the long game. We possibly have no idea how our lives, our work, have helped others.
  2. Simon is brought to Jesus by his brother. And he’s given a new name Peter meaning ‘Rock’. Is this a joke by Jesus? He grows into his name. At our baptism we are God’s daughter / God’s son and we are growing into this position by having our nature transformed. Although like Peter, this is a lifetime’s work!
  3. John the Baptist is testifying / being a witness – in Greek the word is the same. He acknowledges he’s just the warm up artist – John’s baptising so that Jesus can be revealed to Israel. And he, like us, are asked to just tell our faith as it is. What we have seen? Which is what John does. He makes God’s glory known. Thank you John.

New Year’s Day – 1st January 2017 The Naming and Circumcision of Jesus

New Year’s Day – 1st January 2017 The Naming and Circumcision of Jesus

Although the Gospel points to Christmas, I’ve decided, because I struggle with New Year’s Eve and can fear the future, to concentrate just on the Numbers reading and the blessing we can use for the start of this year.

Numbers 6:22-27

Firstly, the context – (from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1096)

This text is located in the middle of a major section of Numbers (1:1-10:10). It describes Israel’s preparations for leaving Mt. Sinai (where the people have been camped for almost a year) and the continuation of its journey through the wilderness to the land of promise.

It also comes after the rules for the consecration to holiness for the Nazirites and what to do if there is an accidental breaking of this separation they are living eg if they do contact a dead person, how to regain this consecration. The Nazirites, men or women, were like the monks and nuns of our day. These people are so important when the Israelites are on the move. They carry within their own bodies the holiness or separation which God requires of the nation as a whole but which would be so difficult for each individual to carry out.

This blessing is designated for Israel’s time of departure from Sinai, and was to be used daily throughout their journey. This is a blessing for a journey! Hence this blessing is only for us if we are on the move. If we are stationary, stuck, unchanging, going nowhere – this blessing is for someone else not us. Where are we going? How are we changing? Both as a church and personally.

Secondly, the key words I will highlight and discuss

The Lord ‘keep you’ / The Lord ‘make his face to shine upon you’ / The Lord give you peace

  1. The Lord will keep you – I suggest this is about being secure – so important if we are on a journey. Perhaps I might quote: Jude 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, 25 to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.
  2. I suggest this only happens if we are penitent – Isaiah 59

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,

nor his ear too dull to hear.

But your iniquities have separated

you from your God;

your sins have hidden his face from you,

so that he will not hear.

3. The Lord give you peace. So hard when we are journeying especially if we don’t quite know the way!

Christmas Eve – Sunday 25th December 2016 – Isaiah 9:2-7

Christmas Eve – Sunday 25th December 2016 – Isaiah 9:2-7

There’s been 3 readings from Isaiah on the Sundays leading up to Christmas day and they all involve a child as a symbol of hope, that things are changing, that God is working afresh. As we hear about this child born in a manger at our midnight masses perhaps in faith we too can see Jesus as this symbol: for those of us listening, God wants to do a new work in us too .

Normally I would give the most probable historical basis of the passage but perhaps as it is midnight I won’t. OK, except perhaps one sentence.

This was a promise for then and as we’ve read it, it becomes a lens through which we can see Jesus and how he will be.

The child Isaiah is promising will be called:

  • Wonderful Counsellor – if we have been in counselling we might relate what the counsellor has shown us (without the details) so we now know ourselves better.  Jesus is not just a good counsellor – he’s wonderful. Through a relationship with him we know ourselves better. We have value; we are loved.
  • Mighty God – My God is so big so strong and so mighty there’s nothing that he cannot do.. It might be worth reminding people of this children’s song and sometimes in our emphasis of a loving God we forgot that the world’s problems need a powerful God.
  • Everlasting Father – Unlike Father Christmas who only comes if we’re good. Are poor children not good? Jesus is our everlasting Father.
  • Prince of Peace – May this Prince of Peace bring harmony this Christmas to our homes.

Which one do you need now is a way of concluding.

3rd Sunday of Advent – Sunday 11th December 2016 – Matthew 11:2-11

3rd Sunday of Advent – Sunday 11th December 2016 – Matthew 11:2-11

After my 3 month sabbatical all went well in my preaching last week. I hadn’t forgotten how! 

I’m going with the advent wreath theme we use so this week – how is John the Baptist portrayed as a forerunner of Jesus? This is interesting this year because John being in prison can’t see for himself. 

  • I’m wondering if John has lost hope. He’s hearing rumours but he will be hearing two sides: those who have gained: their faculties, their lives, their loss of hope, restored and those who are ‘anti’ Jesus – he’s not fulfilling the role expected as a Messiah.
  • If John has become unsure: remember in the womb he recognised Jesus, he baptised Jesus and then heard the voice from heaven ‘This is my son, my beloved son with whom I am well pleased’, so how can hope in Jesus be restored.
  • If the prophets gave the people hope, Jesus has reversed roles and is now giving hope to John the Baptist. He is helping him see but using the format from Isaiah 35 and 61 – verses John will be familiar with.
  • All John’s disciples are asked to do is tell him what they have heard and seen. Like us as Jesus’ disciples

December can be good times: discos, delights dinners, but also debt, darkness and divorce.

We have to be symbols of hope.

It’s worth reminding the congregations about the four present rule: something to play with, something to wear, something to eat and something to read. This has value because it stops the guilt and the over present buying especially when money is tight.

We have to be symbols of hope for those on their own.

If you live a long way from some members of your family, it’s easy to think we’ll leave it this year.

2nd Sunday of Advent – Sunday 4th December 2016 – Matthew 3:1-12

2nd Sunday of Advent – Sunday 4th December 2016 – Matthew 3:1-12

After three months sabbatical, I’m back for Advent 2 – all a bit scary after not preaching for 3 months. 

I’m going with the advent wreath theme so this week – how is John the Baptist portrayed as an Old Testament prophet?

  • He’s in the wilderness – the site of several encounters and struggles with God. Elijah himself went into the wilderness when his life was threatened.
  • His call is penitential – the prophets cried out against the people, especially those with power to change their ways so that the ‘wrath’ won’t come.
  • He has a ‘leather belt’ just as Elijah has
  • His food is feral – just as the Israelites in the wilderness with their manna and quails
  • He’s definite, black and white, no room for manoeuvre in his message. The one coming will sort the wheat from the chaff
  • Like Elijah, John is an outsider bothering those in positions of power. He demands that they change and there’s a threat if this does not happen

The outsider challenging those on the inside.

Penitence is part of the larger Advent narrative of longing for God’s Kingdom and looking for God’s Kingdom which is here but not fully. It’s as if you can’t see where God’s Kingdom is if you’re blinded by arrogance and sin.

12th Sunday after Trinity – Sunday 14th August 2016 -Luke 12:49-56.

12th Sunday after Trinity – Sunday 14th August 2016 –Luke 12:49-56.

At the start of the ‘Trinity’ season, I’m asking about the different persons of the trinity knowing that they are indeed one God. 

From this passage:

what have I learnt about God the Father?

what insights have I about God the Son?

what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

1. what have I learnt about God the Father?

  1. Do you think Jesus is ready to spend time with his Father? He’s getting very irritated and stressed.
  2. Our weather forecasting has become even more accurate and we still can’t interpret the present time. God the Father help us.
  3. Jesus calls the people who can interpret weather signs but not what’s in front of them ‘hypocrites’. Lord send our arrogance away.

2. what insights have I about God the Son?

  1. Jesus gets stressed! v50
  2. I wonder why Jesus chose ‘five in one household’ And why only intergenerational division?
  3. Jesus brings division. That’s not a popular rallying call. Heal our divisions our faith has brought.

3. what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

  1. The Holy Spirit comes in ‘tongues of fire’ after Jesus has died and been resurrected. The dying needs to come first. Jesus you will have to wait.
  2. Luke 3 v 16 “John answered them all, ‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’” This ‘fire in our belly’ will come. It will drive us to go to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel.
  3. This interpretation of the present times – again a gift of the Holy Spirit. There is a certain annoyance that the people are refusing to do this. The prophets amongst us need to be encouraged and heard.

9th Sunday after Trinity – Sunday 24th July 2016 -Luke 11:1-13.

9th Sunday after Trinity – Sunday 24th July 2016 –Luke 11:1-13.

At the start of the ‘Trinity’ season, I’m asking about the different persons of the trinity knowing that they are indeed one God. 

From this passage:

what have I learnt about God the Father?

what insights have I about God the Son?

what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

1. what have I learnt about God the Father?

  1. We can call God ‘Father’ – whether this is a term of endearment or the patriarchal strict role it is still a human name. We know what a ‘Father’ is.
  2. We are encouraged to ask for: the earth to be a better place, our ‘bread’, our forgiveness and not to be in a ‘time of trial’. Our needs physical and spiritual.
  3. We can ask for the ‘Holy Spirit’ knowing this prayer will be answered with a ‘yes’.

2. what insights have I about God the Son?

  1. He too needs to spend time with God.
  2. Jesus is encouraging us to be persistent in our prayers.
  3. Jesus seems to be enjoying the repetition of the slogan about ask, seek and find.

3. what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

  1. I wonder why we have to ask for the Holy Spirit and why it’s not a given.
  2. I wonder if the asking ‘teach us to pray’ is part of the searching.
  3. Searching requires persistence and I think knocking requires taking a risk. The Holy Spirit needs to energise us for both of these.

St Thomas – Sunday 3rd July 2016 – John 20:24-29.

St Thomas – Sunday 3rd July 2016 – John 20:24-29.

At the start of the ‘Trinity’ season, I’m asking about the different persons of the trinity knowing that they are indeed one God. 

From this passage:

what have I learnt about God the Father?

what insights have I about God the Son?

what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

1. what have I learnt about God the Father?

  1. Jesus has been exalted to ‘Lord’ and also ‘God’. This exaltation is through belief and seeing Jesus in his resurrection body. We are blessed because we believe but haven’t seen.
  2. Cuts into scars. Scars have healed but the marks remain. We should be proud of our scars.
  3. ‘Do not doubt’ v27 Is this possible just to say ‘I don’t doubt?

2. what insights have I about God the Son?

  1. Jesus’ body is able to go through walls. His cuts have healed into scars. All different to how he was before he died.
  2. Jesus knew about what Thomas had said. He seems to know all.
  3. Thomas’ confession does not seem to impress Jesus. In fact Jesus is rather scathing.

3. what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

  1. How do we believe when our minds are filled with doubt. We need always to be able to ‘see’ – the changed lives or others, the way worship is conducted, the way we long for God’s spirit.
  2. Those who are not there (each Sunday) may find it hard to believe the testimony of others. We do need an individual encounter.
  3. ‘Do not doubt but believe’. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

5th Sunday after Trinity – Sunday 26th June 2016 -Luke 9:51-end.

5th Sunday after Trinity – Sunday 26th June 2016 –Luke 9:51-end.

At the start of the ‘Trinity’ season, I’m asking about the different persons of the trinity knowing that they are indeed one God. 

From this passage:

what have I learnt about God the Father?

what insights have I about God the Son?

what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

1. what have I learnt about God the Father?

  1. The Kingdom of God is forward looking. v62 There is an urgency, a single minded dedication to its cause.
  2. God the Father does not command fire to come and destroy this village.
  3. God can see through our excuses, our ‘but’s.

2. what insights have I about God the Son?

  1. Jesus has a forwarding party to prepare for his coming. This journey to Jerusalem is organised.
  2. He’s ‘on the ball’ to rebuke James and John for their wrong thinking.
  3. Jesus seems to be ‘on a mission’. Ready, urgent, giving snap answers, giving short commands. Woffle has disappeared.

3. what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

  1. Is setting his face to go to Jerusalem an act of will or is he being pulled there by the Spirit? Is the Spirit acting like a magnet? v51
  2. How is Jesus coping with the days drawing near to be taken up? How is he sleeping at night? v51
  3. How is Jesus not getting distracted by others’ needs and wants?

Celebration of the Queen’s 90th Birthday – Sunday 12th June 2016 -Matthew 22:15-22.

Celebration of the Queen’s 90th Birthday – Sunday 12th June 2016 –Matthew 22:15-22.

At the start of the ‘Trinity’ season, I’m asking about the different persons of the trinity knowing that they are one God. 

This Gospel was proclaimed at our Queen’s Coronation and it seems right to have this reading on Sunday.   

From this passage:

what have I learnt about God the Father?

what insights have I about God the Son?

what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

1. what have I learnt about God the Father?

  1. God gets 1st call on our loyalty, our devotion and our money.
  2. Jesus is known as someone who teaches ‘the way of God with truth’. John (4:24) tells us often that we can only worship in spirit and in truth
  3. Everything belongs to God so what can we give him?

2. what insights have I about God the Son?

  1. Jesus is known as someone who is ‘sincere’ and teaches with ‘truth’ and doesn’t show ‘partiality’ to anybody.
  2. Jesus ‘amazed’ them. His quick thinking and wise answers are surprising.
  3. Jesus is utterly challenging. What are the Pharisees doing sending their disciples and the Herodians?

3. what inspiration may I gain from God the Holy Spirit

  1. Jesus defeats their plotting and their wishing to entrap. Jesus is ‘aware of their malice’. May we know what’s behind the questions we get asked. And be able to respond appropriately.
  2. It feels like a tough call to be able to see clearly what belongs to the ‘Emperor’ and what belongs to ‘God’. We need the Spirit’s guidance and courage.
  3. How has our Queen given to God and not to power?