Weekly Online Sermon

Fighting the right battles – 9th Sunday after Trinity

Fighting the right battles – 9th Sunday after Trinity

You only have to look at the issues of gender and sexuality to see how churches have become obsessed with fighting changes that wider society has long since adopted and recognised as moral progress. The irony is that there are real battles to fight. Many today live in denial of their own spiritual needs, of the need to feel connections beyond themselves, to their community and the world that surrounds them, to the landscape, the creatures that we so often treat as mere things for our use and the environment that we continue to pollute and abuse. How can we as disciples recapture some of the passion and energy of the heroes of the Christian faith, and provide true moral leadership, without regressing into some of the narrow-mindedness and judgmentalism of the past?

Who are you? Who will you be? – 8th Sunday after Trinity

Who are you? Who will you be? – 8th Sunday after Trinity

In writing his gospel Luke has a number of issues to address. As eye witnesses of Jesus’ life and teaching are passing away, he wants to leave a lasting record and legacy of those days, he wants the gospel, the good news to be freely available to all who are ready to hear, and also he wants to stiffen the sinews of those who continue to follow Christ, to put iron in their resolve, to bolster their determination. So he relates the story of the householder and the servant, part encouragement and part admonition and warning. In our own way, we too are subject to the same concerns and obstacle to our own spiritual growth. What is holding us back from becoming the person we are meant to Be?

What is rich? Is it a sin? – 7th Sunday after Trinity

What is rich? Is it a sin? – 7th Sunday after Trinity

A gospel that preaches “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” and “Alas for you who are rich, you have had your time of happiness” can cause us to shift uneasily in our seats. For in reality who of us, using a comparative measure, is not rich? The term ‘rich’ is rather imprecise. By comparison to the starving even those with a loaf of bread are rich, would it not appear that Christianity and particularly St. Luke’s gospel carries an almost universal condemnation?

But something changed between the short-lived and urgent days of Jesus’s ministry and the faith as it came to be considered by the writers of the gospels and Acts. Is it a sin to be rich? Is it a virtue to be poor? How are we to live lives usually considerably longer than Jesus and his disciples? Do the lessons of Luke’s day have something to teach us in our own time?

How can the Kingdom come? – 6th Sunday after Trinity

How can the Kingdom come? – 6th Sunday after Trinity

One could argue that each era of the Church has been typified by an emphasis, an over emphasis of one aspect of the Trinity to the detriment of the other – interacting with great tidal movements in human history; in part shaping them, but also being shaped by them.The earliest church was a Jesus movement, founded by his closest disciples, people with personal experience of him, who then handed on to the next generation who remained faithful to a person who they had never met, but who still felt close enough almost to touch.

Almost overnight, and on the whim of one particular Caesar, the Christian faith went from being the most dangerous choices one to make, to one of the safest and the most socially advantageous, no longer outlawed but out in the open, adopted by the Roman Empire as its official religion, the cult of a person transformed into a vast organisation that matched, in certain ways, the structures of power and domination that had adopted it. And a price was paid. How deep and how long that price extended is a burning question for today

Sorting our priorities? – 5th Sunday after Trinity

Sorting our priorities? – 5th Sunday after Trinity

In the story of Martha and Mary, perhaps all of us can feel rather sympathetic to Martha, some from more personal experience than others, and we might also be tempted to think that Jesus reacts, or at least Luke has Jesus reacting, rather typically as a Palestinian male of his time. He has blithely accepted the hospitality, seemingly taking such work for granted as a woman’s rightful place, whilst at the same time as he disparages its value. Would he prefer to have gone hungry?

So, I can see how this story has the potential to be rather irritating to all those people who selflessly and often without the credit that they deserve, give so much to the church and their community behind the scenes.

On the other hand, we could read this story rather differently. But not focusing too literally on the words reportedly exchanged, but on the lesson that Luke is trying to teach, both to his readers at the time, and also to us.

Can we become sanctuary? – 4th Sunday after Trinity

Can we become sanctuary? – 4th Sunday after Trinity

Today’s gospel reading lays out in one short story, not only the very essence of the Christian faith, but also its connection with the past and the profound change that it ushers in as Jesus both evokes that which has gone before at the same time that he radically breaks with it. For Jesus stands within a great continuity, but he also represents in himself and in his teaching a great disruption, a refining clarity of mind that is able to strip the faith to its absolute essentials.

We like to think that we would always be the people to welcome Jesus if he knocked at our door, and if he asked to stay, we would surely invite him in. But are we really prepared for him to turn our lives upside down, are we ready to make the changes he would require, the sacrifices he would expect? What if it turns out, that we might be the wolves? Are we ready to set Jesus free, or would we decide to lock him up?

Keeping Jesus locked away – 3rd Sunday after Trinity

Keeping Jesus locked away – 3rd Sunday after Trinity

In the Gospel reading Jesus says: “Go! I am sending you like lambs among wolves…… Whenever you go into a town and are made welcome, eat what is set before you, heal the sick in that town, and say to the people there, “The Kingdom of God has come near you.’ ”.

We like to think that we would always be the people to welcome Jesus if he knocked at our door, and if he asked to stay, we would surely invite him in. But are we really prepared for him to turn our lives upside down, are we ready to make the changes he would require, the sacrifices he would expect? What if it turns out, that we might be the wolves? Are we ready to set Jesus free, or would we decide to lock him up?

Faltering first steps – 2nd Sunday after Trinity

Faltering first steps – 2nd Sunday after Trinity

On his way to Jerusalem Jesus instructs his disciples in the demands and the expectations to come. Discipleship is a hard road ahead he warns, you had better be prepared for what it will require of you.
We know in our hearts that we always hold something back, out of caution, out of fear, out of the simple desire to place our own desires, our own advantage, our own comfort before the call of Jesus that we can hear, that is often repeated to us, but we have learned to temper, to compromise and to water down.
But if we can acknowledge this tendency, we are at least taking the first faltering steps towards spiritual growth and the development of our souls

One and All, Individual and Universal – 1st Sunday after Trinity

One and All, Individual and Universal – 1st Sunday after Trinity

The story of the healing of the afflicted man, sometimes referred to as the Miracle of the Gadarene Swine, is a story about one man, a profoundly personal experience, but also about the wider community of his time, the way that mental ill health and spiritual pain were both viewed, and indeed created, by the socially and politically oppressive systems of their day. We should also note the seeming disregard of the narrative towards the suffering and death of the pigs, and the terrible loss of their owners. Are they both metaphorically and literally ciphers? Is the antipathy in fact directed elsewhere? What does the story teach us about the time of Jesus, and indeed our own?

Trinity Sunday 2022 – We are our relationships

Trinity Sunday 2022 – We are our relationships

It was once said by a famous politician that ‘there is no such thing as society’, but one could counter by saying that there is actually no such thing as an individual. For our experiences of one another, temporary as those encounters may sometimes be, can well influence who we are and who we later become. And if even transient encounters can shape us, how much more profoundly might we be affected and re-made by some of the most loving and powerful relationships of our lives? We do not remain the same, we are not untouched – we grow, we are moved, we become a quite different person to the one who might have been. We live our lives, we find our meaning in and through relationship. When we look at the Trinity we see this reality already expressed, already lived, timeless and eternal.

Pentecost 2022 – Flames of Transformation

Pentecost 2022 – Flames of Transformation

People’s imaginations are ignited; they can be fired up with energy, emotions can become inflamed, someone has a fiery temper, our hearts can be on fire, we can have a burning desire to succeed, or a burning hatred. When we use the imagery, the metaphor, the meaning of fire we are saying something very clear, very dramatic. That whatever is happening goes far, far beyond the everyday, the normal the expected, the controllable. When we say something, a place, an emotion, a person, is on fire, we mean that they are energised, passionate, erupting, growing, expanding – out of control. When something is on fire it rages, it spreads, it is reaching out, running away with itself; it is wild, elemental, untamed, unstoppable. People can often ask the question ‘What actually happened at Pentecost?’ I wonder whether a more fruitful question is ‘What happened after Pentecost?’.

7th Sunday after Easter and Ascension – Our Theology is our Psychology

7th Sunday after Easter and Ascension – Our Theology is our Psychology

In the annual sweep of gospel readings we have come this week to a profound moment of change. It is still Easter, but though the story of the risen Christ continues, for the disciples at least, Jesus is no longer among them.

Whenever and however the actual events unfolded, and whether the story of the Ascension is largely symbolic and allegorical or not, it powerfully describes both a single time in history and also a universal experience. Our world and our lives are constantly in a state of change and flux, that which we felt to be fixed and permanent can often disappear before our eyes, to be replaced by new realities that we could scarcely imagine. The church too, perhaps at its best, occupies the liminal space between the world and the divine, between the temporary and the eternal. Ascension is such a time – a hinge, a turning point, a watershed, for Jesus and the disciples to be sure, but also for us, both in itself, and as a symbol of all that is both permanent and impermanent in our lives.

6th Sunday after Easter – Hearing the Spirit – Living the Spirit

6th Sunday after Easter – Hearing the Spirit – Living the Spirit

How many times have we heard people speak of the Spirit moving them to a certain course of action, only to notice that it is indeed a fortunate coincidence that the Spirit and their own self-interest and prejudices seem to be so neatly in tune? As Galatians exhorts us, are we patient and kind, generous, faithful, gentle of heart and action and speech, do we hold back from advancing our own comfort and instead seek the comfort of others? Or do we create false boundaries around ourselves, and see some people as less than, not as worthy or as loved by God because they come from a different country, speak a different language, worship God in different ways, or perhaps they love people of they own sex, or have identities and lifestyles that we find new and strange? What role do our own personalities play in hearing the authentic call of the Spirit?

5th Sunday after Easter – The Logic of Love

5th Sunday after Easter – The Logic of Love

Of the three virtues that Paul names as over and above all, faith and hope and love, it is love that he names as the greatest. In many ways faith is not only a gift but also as an act of will. We can now see what the disciples later came to perceive, that mutual love is the hallmark of the Christian community, and without it the community cannot claim to be Christian at all. However, this love must extend beyond the demands of mutual dependence and reciprocal service, one hand washing another. It must extend beyond the group that merely cares for its own members and reach out to those beyond its boundaries and notions of what is fitting, included, or acceptable or worthy. Former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple once said ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members’. But if we believe this do we truly live out the logic of that statement?

4th Sunday of Easter – A choice between two Empires

4th Sunday of Easter – A choice between two Empires

‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.’

The feast of Dedication was a very particular festival of the Jewish year, and a very profound statement about allegiance and faithfulness, contrasted with disloyalty and betrayal. You can imagine that now under Roman rule the Feast of Dedication took on new meaning and relevance, with this time Roman pagan invaders, and those who resisted as best they could, set against some in the Jewish elite who sought to curry favour with their conquerers. In certain ways our modern world, with its accelerating inequalities and divisions resembles the Roman world of Jesus, into which he delivered his Gospel of hope and of choice. As a church and as individual Christians, those choices come starkly to us again as once they did before, though perhaps in new and updated ways.

3rd Sunday of Easter – Two Visions – One Gospel

3rd Sunday of Easter – Two Visions – One Gospel

Today’s gospel is a rather curious reading.

You might get the feeling that underneath the words on the surface there is a sub-agenda. And you would be right. On the face of it, the rather convoluted words appear to say one thing, but something else is actually taking place. Because John is drawing together some loose threads in this final narrative, this epilogue of his gospel. The main action concerns the relationship between Jesus and Peter – something needs to be put right, something needs healing; but in the background there is also ‘the beloved disciple’. The relationships are clearly complex, at times anxious, perhaps needy, certainly all too human. What can we learn from the episode itself, and the lives that the disciples then go on to lead?

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