Weekly Online Sermon

First Sunday of Lent – Renouncing Violence, Defeating Violence

First Sunday of Lent – Renouncing Violence, Defeating Violence

In Jewish mythology the Exodus from Egypt catapulted into freedom a people who had been oppressed and enslaved. According to the legend, it was into the desert that Moses had led a group of slaves. Oppressed and bewildered, terrified and doubting, but by the end of the story of their journey through the wilderness, they were a nation, the people of Israel. The people of God. In the time of Jesus brutality and dictatorship was once again oppressing the people.

The choice before Jesus was to submit or answer violence with violence – he chose neither, and defined a new and ultimately victorious and enduring path. In the suffering of the Ukrainian people, their courage and endurance, we see some of that ancient history being replayed – the oppressor seeking to strip a population of their identity but only achieving the opposite – the rise, the affirming, the founding of a people – a nation.

Sunday before Lent – Thinking outside the box

Sunday before Lent – Thinking outside the box

Today we hear that Jesus takes three disciples – Peter, John and James – on a mountain to pray. There, we are told, Peter sees Jesus transfigured: His face changes, and his clothes become startlingly white. In his bewilderment, Peter proposes that three tents be made, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. It is an odd thing to propose – but he is trying to interpret what is happening and who Jesus is, according to established customs – to fit the strange and the new into the traditional and the familiar, perhaps even to constrain and control what is happening. How often are we tempted to do the same thing – to resist the unexpected, to contain the extraordinary, to damp down the fire of the Spirit?

2nd Sunday before Lent – Brave the Storm

2nd Sunday before Lent – Brave the Storm

In the west of Ireland, we have our fair share of storms. Storms, quite literally, ‘go with the territory’. But they do remind us of the tremendous, untamed, unpredictable power that dwells close by, the fragility of the homes and lives that we all too often take for granted, and yet are dwarfed and overshadowed by the force of the elements. In today’s gospel story, Jesus and his disciples venture out into the sea of Galilee and a dangerous, terrifying storm suddenly arrives. To the ancient Hebrew people, the great waters acted as a metaphor for evil forces active in the world and especially for the tribulations of the just. In their mindset the sea was mysterious, elemental, which God alone could order and control. So much for the fears and superstitions of the ancients – but how can the story speak to us today?

3rd Sunday before Lent – We are not utterly fallen

3rd Sunday before Lent – We are not utterly fallen

The Kingdom of God is not something that we will one day simply be given, after we have waited long enough, suffered long enough, been patient long enough. The Kingdom of God is not to be imposed on us, as recalcitrant children, who despite it all are to be taken on a picnic. Unless we assume the duties, the sacrifices and the responsibilities of its construction. However, underlying much of traditional Christian theology is an assumption sometimes spoken, sometimes implicit, that we are incapable of doing so. The story of the Fall as an historic event, that we have lost something that we once possessed, that we need to recover a previous blessed state, is not only false, but it is bad anthropology and bad theology.

4th Sunday before Lent – If Jesus asked – what would you do?

4th Sunday before Lent – If Jesus asked – what would you do?

By the Sea of Galilee, Jesus goes up to two brothers, going about the comparatively lucrative business of fishing and tells them that he has chosen them as disciples. Conscripted, commandeered, requisitioned. James and John, the same thing, ‘Drop all that, your father and the rest of the family can keep the business going, get your coat, we’re off.’
If Jesus called you to serve him, if he came to you right now and said “whatever you are doing, stop that, follow me’ what would your answer be?

Candlemas – The Presentation of Christ – Looking back and Looking forward

Candlemas – The Presentation of Christ – Looking back and Looking forward

Simeon is described as a righteous and devout man, steeped in the law of Moses, obedient to it, an example of enduring faithfulness. A symbol, in his very person, of the old covenant, lived out, honoured, being brought to fruition. And yet he senses that there is something more to come, that the story is not finished. In that he is quite correct, for actually the story never ends, revelation is never final or full or complete, the mystery of faith is that its fullness always lies just beyond our understanding, always out of reach, yet beckoning us on.

And this is what Simeon, in the maturity of his years and spiritual depth, knows to be true. Whilst the temptations of old age are to settle in our ways, to repeat old patterns, to withdraw into the past, Simeon, and Anna, look forward. They are free. Free to think as their hearts and their consciences guide them, free to think beyond the limitations of the set ways, the general consensus, the way things are done. So too might we strive for that same freedom, that same vision.

3rd Sunday of Epiphany – Rejection and Acceptance – Past, Present and Future

3rd Sunday of Epiphany – Rejection and Acceptance – Past, Present and Future

By the time he wrote his gospel, Luke knew that the people of Israel had largely not only rejected Jesus, but also the proclamation of the gospel. The problem this caused for the early church runs throughout the New Testament, but perhaps nowhere with more urgency than in Luke’s writings, indeed unlike the other gospel writers who use this story later in their narratives, he puts this episode right at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. But what happens when the rejected, the outcast become those of power and influence, the ‘in-crowd’? What happened to Christianity when we moved from a proscribed sect, under sentence of death in the Roman Empire to its official and only religion within the space of just a few decades? ’Success’ presents its own challenges and problems – power is a very heavy burden to wield and bear. How did the Church live up to the challenge in the past, and can we do better in the future?

Epiphany 2 – Same-sex marriage – a means of grace

Epiphany 2 – Same-sex marriage – a means of grace

The sacraments are gifts of God to meet us all in our moments of greatest need, vulnerability and dependence on him. They are available to anyone who asks for them, anyone who needs these means of God’s grace – to feel God’s presence and blessing in their lives, at some of the most joyous and heartbreaking moments they will experience. …..except that is for some people. Support for same-sex marriage within our churches has gone from a minority opinion a few years ago to become now a mainstream point of view. It seems to be on its way to becoming the majority view. And yet this means of God’s grace is still being denied to so many. What kind of witness is that to our modern world – what kind of love and compassion can that claim to be?

The Baptism of Christ 2022 – Don’t judge a book by its cover

The Baptism of Christ 2022 – Don’t judge a book by its cover

Even by the standards of the time, John the Baptist was bizarre. Dressed in rags, scavenging for food including wild honey when he could find it and eating insects including locusts. No wonder the people were questioning. But the truth can come to us in unprepossessing forms and can tell us things we may not wish to hear. John’s message was unsettling to a population that previously had been assured that they were chosen, singled out, privileged and assured of God’s favour. So why was this unattractive message in an unglamorous package taken so seriously? In this service we shall look to square that circle.

Epiphany Sunday 2022 – Even Kings bow down

Epiphany Sunday 2022 – Even Kings bow down

The three Kings, or Wise Men – the Magi – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, men who are no doubt respected, even feared in their own lands, draw near to a mere baby, nervously and as humble subjects. Their worldly power dwarfed and overwhelmed by the simple majesty of a child, whose power lies not in riches, or armies, or even worldly learning, but in humility, gentleness and selflessness. We accompany them on this task for we are pilgrims too, on our own holy journey.

1st Sunday after Christmas 2021 – A family made Jesus

1st Sunday after Christmas 2021 – A family made Jesus

Considering the central importance of Jesus in the New Testament and the prominence given to his Mother Mary in later Christian devotion, it is curious that the Bible tells us so little of his family origins and about the members of his family. So much of the Bible is concerned with just the last three years of his life and of his public ministry. And yet his experience of family life must have been crucial in forming his personality, the standards that he demanded of himself, and others, and the courage and determination that he displayed in the face of terrifying cruelty .

Christmas service 2021- Memories of a snowball fight

Christmas service 2021- Memories of a snowball fight

In many ways society progresses, we enjoy a higher living standard, at least in material terms, than ever before. We are healthier, live longer, we are becoming more aware of our environment, albeit slowly. But progress has come at a heavy price. The downside of consumerism and the pace of life is that all too easily we have become isolated in the shrinking bubbles of our own homes, shared experience, shared culture and values beginning to fade away in the 24 hour media on demand, internet shopping and Facebook driven. We should celebrate and always remember that this is the purpose of the Church – true community – to be in communion with each other and in so doing to be in communion with God.

A Christmas Miscellany

A Christmas Miscellany

One of the great themes of Advent is the journey from darkness into light. Like liberation from bondage and return from exile, light in the darkness is an ancient image of human yearning – especially powerful at times when for much of their days people lived in darkness, were subject to it, limited by it, fearful of it. And so at Advent we explore themes of hope and trust, of fulfilment and expectation.

3rd Sunday of Advent – John the Baptizer

3rd Sunday of Advent – John the Baptizer

Today we reflect on a man called John, in the Hebrew, Yohanan. It is tempting to see John as an historic figure, wild and eccentric certainly, hugely influential of course – but essentially sometime whose time came and then departed. But John’s work did not cease with the coming of Jesus, nor did it die with him. He still calls for repentance and a radical change of life, that it is not good enough to trust to your belonging to a community, your acts of worship, if at the heart of you – nothing has really changed.

2nd Sunday of Advent – Cry out in the Wilderness

2nd Sunday of Advent – Cry out in the Wilderness

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” As a recurrent theme, the wilderness expresses hardship and testing in unyielding and often dangerous surroundings; and it is also a place where transformation can take place, where the old can be discarded and the new can be taken on and practiced. And now it is we who are called upon to be the pilgrim people who journey together through the wilderness in search of our destination, in search of our true home.

Advent Sunday 2021 – Be alert and be alive.

Advent Sunday 2021 – Be alert and be alive.

Advent is a time of year when we are called upon to have a greater sense of urgency, to attend to our spiritual lives now rather than later. For we are not called to passivity, we are not meant to be idle recipients of the Kingdom; the Kingdom is not some outward imposition.

The start of a new church year offers a second chance to rediscover freshness and renewal, a time to be alert and prepared. We are to be alive to the opportunities that will and are presenting themselves everyday to make our contribution to the building of the Kingdom.

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