2014

Advent: "Up-talk"

The Revd Margaret Legg

My name’s Margaret? I’m preaching on John the Baptist this morning? But I could preach on Mary, or a miracle?

This is Up-Talk – you come to the end of what you’re trying to say and your voice rises in a kind of insecure, worrying way? So people know you’re really engaged with them and you really welcome their response. It could be considered polite, because you are acknowledging that the other may not agree and you are willing to hear that and adapt.

Advent: "The One Where Chandler Falls Asleep"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

KEEP AWAKE.

The demand seems weighed down with a threat, a threat of what will happen to you if you fall asleep. It reminds me of an episode in the 9th series of Friends, originally aired 12 years ago! In the episode, Chandler falls asleep in a meeting, waking with a start he agrees to whatever he’s asked, fearing admitting that he’s been asleep. Instead, unknowingly, he’s agreed to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Remembrance Sunday: "Remember With Fury"

The Revd Margaret Legg

The Remembrance Season reaches its climax with the ceremonies today and next Tuesday – Armistice Day, particularly important this year as we mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

How important it is to remember well. To remember well is to reflect on the valour of the many who died so we might live; it is to give thanks for the freedom we enjoy because of the sacrifice of many; it is to treasure the peace we have experienced on these shores since the Second World War and it is to spark us to work for the continuation of peace: in our lives, in our country and in the world.

Trinity: "Failure to Launch"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

Henry was hard working, but had low self-esteem. He had been hired in desperation for another body. He hadn’t been in the company for long and worried what his colleagues thought of him. He was working hard, and there were lots of people relying on him. He was in a rush, but it was raining and he was worried about his paint job, so waited in the dry for the rain to stop.

Trinity: "The Anti-Subject"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

I really enjoy watching a good television interview. Where the questioner has got the subject on the ropes, where they are asking a line of questions that you can tell the subject doesn’t want to answer. Maybe the subject starts talking about something they hope the interviewer hasn’t prepped on. Or the subject starts asking the interviewer questions. Making the rounds on social media this week, an amusing Channel 4 interview of Richard Ayoade conducted by Krishnan Guru Murthy has got lots of people laughing.

Trinity: "What Is She Like?"

What is she like? I don’t know if you ever said this about your parents, but this refrain of my children still rings in my ears as I remember asking them once again to ‘Close the kitchen door please to keep the cooking smell in’ or ‘Turn the music down – more!’

Our readings today show us something of what God is like. So do the jihadists currently establishing the Islamic State (IS). They reveal a God who condones unprovoked military action, has a blatant disregard for human life, persecutes and murders the innocent and causes untold suffering.

St Michael & All Angels: "Goodbye To All That"

The Revd Brutus Green

"We are approaching the close of the year. And we are approaching also… the close of my ministry among you.” Thus began the vicar of St John’s, Paddington, as this church was called, the Revd Dr Edward Goulburn’s penultimate sermon of December 1866. You may think that September is a little early to quote ‘the close of the year’, but for Bryan, our administrator, who begins his count down to Christmas each year at Epiphany, or in excitable years on Boxing Day, September 28 is most of the way there. Interestingly, Goulburn’s farewell sermons are on almost identical subjects to his successor Gilbert Karney’s, 40 years later; issues which at the time were dividing the church. So if it amazes you that the church can tear itself apart for 40 years over the same issue, do not be surprised. There is great precedent played out in the very church you are sitting in.

Horseman's Sunday I

The Revd Brutus Green

10 years ago on the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, the Princess Royal unveiled the Animals in War memorial just a short walk away on Park Lane. Its most famous inscription reads almost like a Hollywood tagline: ‘they had no choice’; a strange choice. The British army of that war was until 1916 entirely voluntary, the second largest volunteer army of all time, but there were certainly many humans who felt through the war a lack of choice.

Horseman's Sunday II: "To the Horses"

Horses in the bible are always key to victory. Famously ‘thrown into the sea’ with the chariots, as the Israelites made their escape from Egypt and in today’s reading it is the white horse and riders who overthrow the armies of hell, led by the naughty four horses of the apocalypse. It is doubtful that Scottish horses contributed to the saving of the Union this week but I’m certain if their opinion had been asked the response would have been ‘neigh’. Not what Richard III had in mind when he famously begged, ‘a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’, but in his case the answer was also no, which leaves us with the Union in tact and Richard freshly buried in Leicester.

Trinity: "Laughing With Enemies"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I’ve been reminded recently that it is easier to gain passionate support by denouncing something than by standing in favour of it. Against this union of Great Britain, against politicians, against the status quo, against change. I’ve been haunted by the shouts of ‘Never, never, never’ played on the radio and television as part of the obituaries of Ian Paisley from his protest to the Ango-Irish agreement of 1985.

Trinity: "Setting Our Minds on the Heavenly Things"

The Revd Brutus Green

Within the first months of beginning my life as a priest at St John’s, five years ago, I had two experiences that capture the contrary life of the ordained. In the first, on a sunny day, I was pulled off the street over towards Bayswater by a desperate man who told me that he was about to kill himself and launched into a moving story about the death of his mother. I was utterly unprepared for such a conversation but talked to him for some time, told him to drop by at St John’s, and tried to give him some reassurance. He didn’t ask me for money, and I’ve never seen him again.

Trinity: "The Problem of Evil"

The Revd Brutus Green

One of the problems that exercised the early Church, and philosophers going back to the ancient world, is the so-called problem of evil. After centuries of persecution the first generations of Christians had plenty of first-hand experience of the evil of men, not forgetting their own founder’s. As Pascal affirmed: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” And yet the Christians worshipped a God, categorically defined as good, who had alone created all things from nothing. Where then does evil come from?

Trinity: "Getting in the Zone"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

When I was at University, many years ago, I used to row. There was a certain sensation that every crew aspired to. Where the boat was running just right, and the crew were working together perfectly. It didn’t need you to be the strongest or toughest crew. It did need you to instinctively know each other. To trust each other. In another sport you might describe it as ‘being in the zone’. It is partly physical and partly psychological. At that moment the boat lifted, it seemed to glide over the water. Y

Trinity: "Remember, Hope and Build"

The Revd Margaret Legg

Beware! Today we mark the start of WW1 a 100 years ago. Beware!

This can be dangerous. In Alan Bennett’s play (2004) The History Boys, Irwin, taking a lesson on WW1 poets, tells his secondary school pupils that, ‘It’s not so much lest we forget, as lest we remember. Because you should realise that so far as the Cenotaph and the Last Post and all that stuff is concerned, there’s no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it.’ Surely not.

Trinity: "Of Beyonce & Bishops"

The Revd Brutus Green

‘It’s God’s church and he gets to make the rules.’  The pronouncement of a disgruntled male conservative after the consecration of women as bishops was finally approved by the Church of England on Monday.  The statement sounds a little bit too close, to my mind, to ‘It’s my church and I get to make the rules’; perhaps it was deliberate but it’s hard to miss the masculine pronoun from someone arguing against women bishops - claiming that in God’s church he gets to make the rules.  Of course he would say that.

Trinity: "Out of Joint"

The Revd Brutus Green
 Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
 Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
 By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
 Believing where we cannot prove;
 Be with us now and always.  Amen.

Everyone will have known moments when ‘the time is out of joint’.  Times when the extremes of human emotion pull you out of day to day living into a new unfamiliar world.

Trinity: "Beginnings and Endings"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

Beginnings are important. It’s thought that investing more in a project at the beginning of it’s development can save significant risks, not to mention costs, later on. The reasons are obvious, investing in studies at the beginning of the project gave a clear picture of the situation you were starting with and the solution or desired outcome. So for an aircraft, for example, you might have a better understanding of whether the material you were starting with was appropriate. And, you would have a better understanding of whether an aeroplane was the best end product, rather than, for example, an airship.

Easter: "Let it Go"

The Revd Brutus Green

You will doubtless know the story about an ordinary man, stuck on his roof as some West Country flood gets higher and higher, praying to God for salvation. While he’s praying along comes an old woman in a rowing boat and offers to take him away. The man politely declines claiming boldly that the LORD will provide. A few hours later, a team of Navy Seals surface with a submarine inviting him to jump below - to which, again, he politely declines. Finally, as he’s tip-toeing on his chimney, Tom Cruise abseils from a helicopter wanting to pull him away to safety but again he angrily insists, “the LORD will provide”.

Easter: "Dragons and Rainbows"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

I thought it was one of those Facebook hoax, Christians wanted to change the Welsh flag. Then I found it in the Independent, The Welsh Christian Party is campaigning to remove the ‘demonic’ dragon from the Welsh flag, to replace it with the gold and black flag of St David, to reflect Wales being a Christian country. Their concern isn’t new, they've been campaigning about it for a number of years. They link the red dragon on the flag to the dragon in the book of revelation that represents the devil. On the other hand, the English flag is feared by many as a symbol of nationalism gone too far, this despite being the Christian cross of St George, himself a Palestinian standing up for his right to worship his Christian God freely in a multi-cultural society.

Easter: "Kind Britain!"

The Revd Margaret Legg

Britain is getting kinder! ‘Kind Britain’ was the report headline this week. The legacy of recession has been a greater willingness to help others, the Organisation for Economic co-operation and Development (OECD) report suggests. Just as well, as on the same page an article that was headed ‘50,000 dementia carers forced to give up work’ stated that research for Public Health England shows that 1 in 8 are looking after someone with dementia.