2012

Advent: "The Prophets and the Press"

Statute or freedom?

In the wake of the Leveson Enquiry and now the death of Jacinda Saldanha, one of the nursing staff caught up in the hoax phone call to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge has been staying, which side are you on in the debate over a free press? Muzzle them with statute backed regulation – they are clearly no use at regulating themselves or freedom, freedom, freedom – it’s one of the lynch pins of a democratic free society.

Ash Wednesday: "There were left the two: misery and mercy"

John 8:1-11

This is the Gospel of Christ, but it is not the Gospel of John. It is rare that Biblical scholarship is unanimous but you won’t find many commentators trying to defend it on these grounds, no matter which century you turn to. The language is not Johanine, we hear of the Mount of Olives, and Jesus disputes with ‘the scribes and the pharisees’, unmentioned in John but common in the other Gospels; it entirely interrupts the flow of the text, which seamlessly flows around it, and it is missing from almost all the earliest manuscripts.

Christmas: "Clothe Yourselves with Love!"

Luke portrays Jesus as a model Kid’s Club child, listening, asking questions, participating in the cut and thrust of the Jewish method of midrash: resolving problems in the interpretation of difficult passages of the text of the Hebrew Bible. It’s lively, argumentative and allows the students to ask questions of the rabbis who then may well fire back even better questions in response.

Christmas: "Remembering Forwards"

The mind is a strange thing. Take the peculiar case of Jedediah Buxton in the eighteenth century. In most respects he knew less than an average 10 year old but he had a prodigious head for numbers. So when he was asked how many times a coach wheel, six yards in circumference, would turn on the 204 mile journey from London to York he provided the correct answer of 59,840, in only 13 minutes.

All Souls: "Death Be Not Proud"

There are two equally important and equally damaging approaches to the question of the individual and society that may offer wisdom or temptation in equal measure. I will refer to them here as Miss Liberal and Mr Social. Which paradigm you instinctively prefer, in all probability, will entirely affect your politics, your attitude to others, and, most importantly, your theology.

Trinity: "Of All the Gin Joints..."

‘I’m walking away from the troubles in my life, I’m walking away to find a better day’. Without doubt, smooth-talking-90s-RnB singer Craig David’s sermon debut, but it’s August bank holiday weekend, everyone else’s on holiday, two of our choir are leaving, and it seems appropriate for a Gospel in which many disciples walk away from Jesus who has pushed them one step too far. 

Trinity: "Comedy and Tragedy"

The two most important dramatic genres, inherited from the ancient Greeks, but without which Hugh Grant and the Bee Gees would still be nothing, are Comedy and Tragedy. One way of thinking about them would be to say that comedies have happy endings, while tragedies have sad endings, but there’s a little more to it than that. Comedies suggest a certain meaning to life - a pattern by which things work out ok.

Trinity: "The Grasshopper and the Ant"

Last week I preached on finding God in our weaknesses, the thorns in our side; as St Paul says, “whenever I am weak, then I am strong”.  Unfortunately I may have overstated my case given the reaction of one former Kids’ Club leader who, having abandoned her kids and pushed back her sixth glass of fizz, complimented me on the immediate success of my sermon.

Lent: "Sin and Love"

A 20th Century conductor, not our Robert, once said, “Try everything once except incest and folk dancing” - which rather makes you think he had tried everything. It’s a popular sentiment these days for our rather permissive society. Not so common a philosophy in the Bible, though. Our Old Testament reading and epistle reminded us of God flooding the world because of its great sinfulness. The lament of the psalm was for God to ‘remember not the sins of my youth’, the Gospel gives Jesus’ first words as ‘the Kingdom of God has come near, repent’.

Before Lent: "Atomic Time"

There is a theme consistently deployed in the Bible and running through most of our liturgies and hymns, which is so at odds with contemporary life that it is easily overlooked, ignored as part of an old world, no longer true or relevant. Certainly it would have been more evident a few thousand years ago, but the only reason we don’t notice it today is because we have carefully concealed the evidence. We have found more and more ways of evading the truth about time:

Epiphany: "The Miracle of Wine!"

Humans, in general, like to present well. We invest in expensive personal grooming, wear bright colours and finely cut garments, go on diets and to gyms after Christmas excesses. On meeting people we often try to be funny, or clever, or sophisticated, or generous, or some George Clooney-like combination. We might not be good at it but we attempt to give other people the impression that we are someone they should look up to, or at least across at. But why is this? Vanity? Insecurity? Some personal “dress for success” motto?

Epiphany: "Just Telling Stories"

Like many people, I’ve been feeling a little sorry for Ed Miliband the last few weeks. It’s a shame for him that pity doesn’t convert well in terms of votes. I was surprised though to hear across the media, including the BBC and the Guardian, that even Ed’s intellectual guru, Maurice Glasman, had turned against him. Well I read Baron Glasman’s article and was again surprised to find it was actually very supportive, concluding: ‘we all need to show [Ed] love and support… I’m backing Ed Miliband.’ So much for stabbing him in the back.