Archive for the sermons Category


Posted in sermons, Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 11, 2018 by fibrefairy

What, I wonder is your first memory, something major,  or something trivial but personally significant – mine is both. The moon landing and my grandparents moving house on the same day.

Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth recalls that her first memory was the celebrations at the relief of Mafeking –

I wonder if a life lived in the shadow of war made that more likely to have remained a memory?!

Remembering is a vital and important part of a human existence

Memories are part of us, they shape how we view the world, our earliest experiences colour our character, later ones form us and shape our opinions.

Good memories, bad memories

Half remembered memories

The memories we’d rather forget, traumatic events, loss, grief

The things we cling to

Memories that are half forgotten, evoked by a smell, a sound, a face.

Memory plays tricks on us too, yesterday Tim & I went back to see a house we’d viewed previously. Each of us had remembered things differently, smaller, larger, brighter, darker.

We have all I’m sure been back to a place we knew when young and exclaimed at how small it seems now.

Part of the reasons we want to forget some things is because we want to change what happened, and we know we can’t

We block out, either deliberately or our neurological system does it for us, the bad, traumatic things that have occurred, it’s a form of self-protection.

However, some things are so bad that we must remember

War is one of those things.

The commemoration of Armistice day is a multi-layered thing,

100 years on there are few alive today who lost fathers brothers and friends in the 14-18 conflict, but families and communities still remember the holes in their collective lives, we mourn the loss of potential, of individuals, of memories that were never made.

And of course, we remember and mourn those lost in successive conflicts, WW2 and others almost too many to name.

Corporately, nationally, one of the reasons we must remember is to prevent such a wholesale disaster recurring

The Great War was known as the war to end all wars.

The Peace of 1919 also saw the beginnings of organisations such as the Peace pledge Union, the League of Nations -now the UN, and post WW2 the rise of peace campaigning such as CND and others,


And yet, we live in a world that is riven by violence, war terrorism and all manner of conflict.

Clearly just remembering is not enough.

Are we doing the right kind of remembering?

Are we drawing the kindly veil of time over events in the past?

Are we romanticising history?

The philosopher George Santayana said;  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it;


It’s a particular kind of remembering that enables us to change…

As Christians the centre of our faith is remembering.

Every Sunday we obey the command of Jesus to “do this is remembrance of me”

For some, this becomes ritual, habit, tradition

The bread and the wine are just part of what we do, moving perhaps, important of course, but they have no impact beyond the door of a church

But what Jesus asked us to do was to bring that moment, the moment of his death and resurrection, in to our present.

To remember afresh each time as if it was now.

To be overwhelmed by his love and his presence each time bread is broken and wine outpoured

And for it to make a difference.

For us to experience that love so deeply, so transformatively

that we are changed, and we leave the building where we are, equipped to make a difference in our world.

This is what Jesus meant when he said “do this to remember me”

We commemorate A,rmistice in church because in 1919 the church was the centre of the community, a bedrock for many a gathering place.

But if we are to do that, if we are to remember the war dead and to pray for an end to war then our remembrance must be active

It must enable us to bring the horror and grief of war to the foot of the cross, right here in this place of worship and enable us to be transformed to work for peace in the power of the Prince of peace

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, he had not simply taken up the nearest and cheapest available form of transport

He was smashing the expectation that people had of the coming Messiah.

Many had already hailed him as the Messiah, but they were mistaken in how his messiahship would be exercised.

They were after a warlord, a rebel, someone to rid them of occupying forces and to establish the Kingdom of Israel, by force and might

Jesus came on a donkey instead of a warhorse to show them he was different, his Kingdom was to be one of peace, and justice.

Not weak and pathetic and a walkover

But powerful, transformative, seeking equity, freedom and justice for all peoples.

It was brave move and he was much misunderstood, and it led to his execution. After his resurrection his disciples spoke out, they risked the same fate, and indeed often suffered it for preaching the Kingdom of God and Jesus as Messiah rather than a ‘still to come’ warlord rebel.

The early church spoke out and lived out the truths of the Kingdom;

The upside down topsy turvey first shall be last Kingdom of God. They shared their life together, the cared for those rejected by society.

When we remember Jesus at the eucharist as he commanded, we too are proclaiming that Kingdom, a kingdom that stands against the values of our world, the Eucharist is not about  status quo and establishment,

it is a radical act of defiance against those things.

A proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

As we remember all those, who died in so many conflicts we must also find our voice, and in their memory fearlessly speak out against injustice, violence and war, working towards the time when swords will be turned into ploughshares, the lion will lie with the lamb and there will be peace on earth. We won’t necesarily make friends that way, but if we’re here for anything it is to speak out, and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

If those we remember today died for anything it was the hope that evil violence and war would end.

Remembrance is active, the greatest memorial to those who died is a world striving for peace.

In Jesus, who we remember at the altar, and in whose power we live, we have a command and a mandate to speak and live and work for that day when his kingdom comes, and justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth.

Lest we forget…Amen






The one about food, clothes and celebrity vicars

Posted in sermons on September 19, 2017 by fibrefairy

Audio -listen here

It’s that time of year again when our TV viewing is full of food, and dancing,

Great British Bake off seems to have survived the move to C4, though that talking cupcake advert is going to wear thin soon, and I’ll admit to having had a peep at Strictly for the first time ever in order to see  Richard Coles strutting his collar in Ballroom bling.

Kate Bottley has been cooking up a storm in Celebrity Masterchef -also collared -which makes me feel warm even thinking about it to be honest!

Even without clergy colleagues and friends involved there is something compelling about watching people do stuff… getting it wrong and getting it right

And in our heads perhaps we’re thinking…. “Well I wouldn’t necessarily do it like *that*…”

At the beginning of this week I was at a 2 day conference on preaching. ( might have been best not to admit that  this early in the sermon perhaps?!). The speakers and content exceeded my expectations – it was a very inspiring 48 hours,  -but one particularly speaker struck a jarring note with me, as he talked about how to make a good sermon great he outlined some practical and theological pointers, but at times was very clear that he thought that his way of preparing was The way, even  at one point saying “ and if you’re not doing it like this you’re doing it wrong” -you could hear the intake of breath around the room, from an audience of preachers. I’m sure many of them were like me thinking “ well I don’t do it that way..why am I wrong? “

We all can fall into the way of thinking our way is the best way, and even that other ways of doing and being are invalid. Maybe it’s politics or driving styles, cooking, DIY…. You name it

In today’s passage from Romans Paul addresses the tendency of the Roman Christians, and indeed all of us, to be intolerant of difference.

He’s speaking particularly about the food arguments – not the best way to avoid soggy bottoms, but the arguments in the early church about eating meat (generally because it would have had a pagan dedication, because of the way the slaughterhouses were run) and those who chose to not eat meat to avoid that .

It was an argument that divided the church, Peter had had his dream when God told him that all foods were clean, but the Jewish dietary laws still were regarded by many as binding,  and the issue of slaughtering prayers and methods added a new dimension.

Paul says “God has welcomed (them all) who are you to pass judgement,

We need to take this to heart – God has welcomed them..

He welcomes everyone, whether they like classical music or heavy rock,

High mass or charismatic free worship.

He welcomes priests investments and priests in jeans, and priests who wear both

Children, adults, quiet ones and noisy ones

Suits and tattoos, and both together,

vegans and junk food fans.

Old people, young people, gay people, straight people, people who don’t know…

Introverts and extraverts,

God has welcomed them, us,  all.


At the end of the day we are all accountable to God. It is between him and us. Our habits, our tastes our way of being Christian or being church are all between him and us.

As a teenager in a church that was only beginning to learn this stuff, it was particularly difficult to match up my faith with the judgemental pronouncements of those around me on everything from my clothes to my social life. Thankfully it was a place I’d grown up and people knew me and my family, but for someone  coming in, that sense of not fitting would have been magnified,

And yet I believe God didn’t care if my boots were aggressive or my hair was short,

he didn’t care that my clothes were from Oxfam, or that I went to the pub after church.

God cared that he & I had a relationship, that I knew I was forgiven, that his grace was available to me.

He didn’t even mind that I was beginning to argue with and question the practices and theology of the church I was in,

God has welcomed us all

And the reason he has, is because of Jesus.

Paul tells us we will all stand before the judgement seat of God

But the glorious thing is that when we do we stand there in the grace that is ours because of Jesus.

Because of his death and resurrection

Forgiveness is freely available to us all,

Each ofus.

It is not our job to judge each other, but to love

To accept difference and diversity just as God does

To acknowledge in each other the variety and the creativity, the challenge and the collegiality. To welcome the stranger, to feed the hungry,

Without judgement

To Listen to the voices of those who are not heard, to fight for those who have no advocate,

To work for justice

To learn from each other,

To build up not pull down

In the understanding that we are  all part of the body of Christ,

We are all in this together.

It is never Them & us

But all of us

All of us, standing solely by grace,

All of us,  in need of that grace and forgiveness

All of us bowing the knee before our God, no better, no worse than those we kneel with,

different ways, with different voices, in different clothes and with different lives and yet all one by his grace.


Slow Down, You’re going too fast

Posted in faith, sermons on August 13, 2017 by fibrefairy

A clergy colleague half suggested she might play Bridge over Troubled Water to go with today’s Gospel reading. After I’d written my sermon it was this S&G title that came to mind.

 1 Kings 19.9-18

 Matthew 14.22-33

Trinity 9 Proper 14


Today’s gospel reading is a very familiar story to many of us -or at least part of it is. Walking on water has become part of our cultural lexicon, a short hand for perfection of ability and skill in a person, perhaps akin to being put on a pedestal.

What has intrigued me about this passage this week though has been less about the spectacular miracle, though we’ll come back to that,  and more about the context in which it’s set, what happens beforehand, and what we can learn from that.

We join the story immediately after the feeding of the 5000, Jesus sends his disciples off to the other side of the lake in a boat -and he remains with the crowds and dismisses them.

What I wonder is going on then, conversation? Healings? Grateful thanks?

Jesus must have been tired, and pretty peopled out – once he is along he goes to the mountain to pray.

This was not uncommon behaviour for Jesus after a busy time of ministry and dealing with people, he needed space for prayer, to reconnect,, to reflect, to be on his own.

It’s evening, and we’re told in a “ meanwhile….back on the lake” kind of way that the boat that this disciples are in is being battered by the waves and it’s a way from the shore, presumably both shores.

And then there’s a blank in the story, because it is not until early morning that we see Jesus walking out towards the boat on the water…

So what was going on through the night?

Did Jesus know that the boat was having a tough voyage? Was he ignoring the plight of the disciples? How were they feeling?

Although he’s not with them, there are echoes here of the story of the storm, where Jesus sleeps on, despite the panicking disciples and the raging winds.

We can only imagine, but probably with good reason, that Jesus has spent the night praying and resting, regrouping, and spending time with his Father God.

Then and only then does he step out to meet his friends.

It is underlined once more for us the importance of rest, of prayer, of stillness.

We live in a busy age, where so much is expected instantly,  fast communications, fast food, fast results. We’re impatient for answers to emails and messages, we want next day or even same day  delivery ( my kids are astounded at the 28 days thing that mail order stated back in the day!)

We expect action, and we expect movement. We are deeply suspicious of doing nothing, or what might look like doing nothing. Time and again Jesus shows us that just being is of vital importance.

Burnout is a huge issue in our society, among all sorts of people and in all sorts of spheres of work and leisure.

We expect too much of ourselves and especially of those around us.

As Christians, we need to learn to spend time just being, it’s been said we were created as human-beings not human doings.

That time of just being is time that contains prayer,  it contains rest, connection with our creator, and our brothers and sisters, and the rest of creation.

We can be seduced into thinking that something is really urgent, that it must be dealt with Right NOW

But very often it needn’t be, The priority of prayer and its rhythm in our lives is foundational. Thought and reflection are vital to how we work, how we exist.

There is a movement towards this in our world, the renewed emphasis on retreat, on mindfulness. There are movements like the slow food movement, encouraging the rhythms of waiting, of thinking , and yes resting. But we need to encourage this, to live it ourselves, to bring balance to our lives.

When Jesus did act, when he went to meet the needs of his disciples, he was able to do something amazing to lift their faith, and to inspire Peter to do likewise.  He had spent time with his father,  in their creation, and then he could literally step out into it, in control, in the right place.

We rush at things, we cram in activities and programmes,  we want quantifiable and tangible results, and yet, counterintuitively, the deepest and most profound work in and around us will come when we are immersed in God, spending time with him,  resting and restored in his presence.

There are perhaps parallels here with the story of Elijah that we heard from the Old Testament.

Elijah identifies himself to God with a list of everything he has done, his activities,

And God responds with an illustration, the wind and the fire, which in all their bluster do not contain the voice of God, and then, the silence and stillness and the quiet voice.

In reponse Elijah once more lists what he has done, and God responds again by sending him into the wilderness, the quiet desert place. Yes, he has a task to do, but the main thrust of that task is anointing his successors. Elijah is not indispensable!

The focus is away from doing, away from frenetic activity and towards the still centre, that is found in the presence of God himself.

Peter rushed at his task… out the boat… Lord let me come to you.  He did exactly what was asked of him, but he panicked, he was frantic,  he took his eyes off Jesus and he began to sink.

When we have much to do when we see tasks and ideas ahead of us. When the urgent begins to push out the important, our only hope is to be still,  to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,

To know that we are created to be before we  do

To trust that from that still place in God, we are able to do everything he calls us to do, and he is there to take our hands, and hold our gaze so that we do not sink beneath the waves.

Sermon for Midnight Mass 2015

Posted in sermons with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2015 by fibrefairy

How many of you have already seen the new Star Wars film I wonder?

The Star Wars fans in my house were counting down to its release  with almost as much anticipation as for Christmas! Any trailer or preview was eagerly devoured, and analysed…“what do you think it will be like?”

They weren’t disappointed, I’ll probably wait for the DVD, and I’m not going to give any spoilers either!

There is definitely a bit of a space theme in the air this Christmas, what with the Force Awakening and  a British astronaught in space  -boldly going where no redheads have gone before!

And then there’s the John Lewis advert…

A man out in space, on the moon, on his own?

It’s a bit of a mystery this one.

Is he lonely? In which case isn’t a telescope so he can see everyone else having fun a bit of a cruel gift!?

Or is he wanting to be isolated, distant somehow, leaving them all to get on with it!

It’s a short film which can be interpreted in many ways, whether or not it makes people do their shopping at john Lewis I don’t know, and last I checked they didn’t deliver to the moon yet –I hope Tim Peake took his presents up with him!

There is a quotation often attributed to the first man in space Yuri Gagarin, but was actually said about him by the then President Khruschev  ; that he’d flown into space and hadn’t seen God… a neat line for the  leader of an atheist state to  use in  his anti God rhetoric.

For many people the idea of God is of someone “out there”, perhaps not logically  in space, but distant, removed from our world, if he/she /it exists at all.

The understanding of God is rather like the man on the moon in the John Lewis advert. Someone watching from afar, leaving us to get on with it.

“Surely”, we say,  if God was God he’d do something about everything that’s going on in our world”

Wouldn’t he help?

The message of Christmas, is that yes he would, and yes he did.

For thousands of years the prophets of Israel were bringing out trailers and previews of God’s great plan,  the Messiah was as eagerly awaited as a blockbuster movie,

We read many of the word of these prophets  in our Christmas services,  they herald the hope that God will come and save his people.

The last of these  previews came in the form of John the Baptist, Jesus’s cousin, who said “ he’s here , he’s coming and he’s going to be a world changer”

God’s plan for our world , for us, was not to remain distant, nor to “ sort us out”  by remote control,  like  a sort of divine drone  mission.

Instead God came himself.

And he came not like an alien invasion, but as one of us , as a child

Into the world in the same way we all came, born of a human mother.

Jesus was God and he was human,

And in him lived everything of God and everything of humanity..

God came to live with us, to dwell with us, literally to pitch his tent alongside ours.

That image speaks to our world today, God is alongside us, moving with us – tents are mobile, not static, our world is fast moving, ever changing, many people are forced to keep moving; but at our core we are the same human beings, with the same needs and emotions.

Jesus lived our human life, he knew sadness and joy, pain and rejoicing just as we do

God with us came to show us a way of living that was and is radically different;

loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us.

But the key thing is that these are not dictats from afar.

Jesus is the New Hope for our world,  he is God among us,

He is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not put it out.

In his death and resurrection he conquered the power of death,

And he offers to us a new way of living, a way that will change the world,

Not from the outside but from within, from us.

When we allow him to live with us, when we acknowledge  our need of this new life and hope, then  the force of God’s transforming love will truly awaken in us; and  the light that can never be put out shines in us.

The Kingdom of God is not far off,

Peace on earth is not a distant nice idea.

Jesus didn’t just come as a little baby to look cute in Nativity plays

He really did come to change the world, but not on his own., although he’s perfectly capable!

He calls us to join with him in this work of transformation. This re-creation, which begins with our own turn around,  our own change.

He calls us to be the answer to the question “ so what is God doing about it?”

and we need to chose what our  response to him will be

Will we acknowledge him as God, and allow the light to shine in our darkness, to change our world and our lives

Or would we rather God at a distance,  left in the manger,

So near and yet so far.


This Christmas, how will you answer the question

“what on earth is God doing?”

God is with us, the Light shining in the darkness.

Will you carry that light in his world?





On why we can rejoice …

Posted in sermons with tags , , , , on December 13, 2015 by fibrefairy


Today is Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice!  the 3rd Sunday of Advent ; a ‘twin’ of   Laetare, the 4th in Lent when traditionally Advent fasting restrictions were lifted a little;  over half way through Advent, where the focus turns to the future and we allow ourselves to glimpse the light. Today we  remember John the Baptist in in the Advent themes,  his heralding of  Jesus and of The Kingdom of God.

The liturgical colour for today is Rose,  symbolising a lightening of Advent purple, and we have lit the rose advent candle.

The name comes from the opening prayer or Introit in Latin Gaudete! –Rejoice and is taken from Pauls words to the Philippians, and as we have heard, echoed in our readings.

Zephaniah tells us that the Lord will rejoice over his people with singing, that we are loved and renewed

And Paul exhorts us to rejoice always! And again rejoice!

Only the gospel it seems hits a slightly jarring note…

“ you brood of vipers” John hisses at the crowds, it doesn’t sound as though there is much here about rejoicing!

But in Johns message there is indeed much to rejoice at,

But also much to be challenged by –because true joyfulness does not come easily, and it is all the more joyful when it has been achieved well rather than easily won.

John calls his listeners to bear fruits worth of repentance

He seems in this to be talking about actions –  we hear him calling various sectors of society to account in the way they carry out their life and work. He calls all people to live out their lives in a way that has integrity and Kingdom values,

However  to change the way we behave is difficult – to act in the way of the Kingdom, the way to which John points is not an easy call.

John is pointing, as we know to Jesus, who he says will baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire

This then  is the key. We are called to repentance – a change of direction, a complete turn around,

Not just  about individual issues or sins but the whole of our lives, our direction of travel. Not just a once off, but continually returning to the path, redirected like we might need  to do with a distracted toddler or puppy

& so  in  doing that, in understanding that need to change,  to direct our lives towards Jesus, we are given the power of the Holy Spirit in us, not just for that moment but  continually.

The Holy Spirit works in us, refining by fire, rejoicing over us, encouraging us. Transforming us, from the inside out

And then,  only then the fruit comes,

We cannot “bolt on” the fruit of repentance any more than we can tie apples to a tree & say it’s fruitful. We cannot really live that life and behave in the way of the Kingdom without first having turned, and received the power of the Spirit from Jesus.

We need that refining fire in our lives, burning away the dross and the sin, changing us from within to be more like Jesus

This is our hope, our calling

This is what it means to live by Kingdom values, only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit, as we constantly turn back to God.

& when we do! When we know God singing over us, renewing us, and when our lives bear the true fruits of repentance, then that really is something to rejoice about!

Both/And : a sermon for Christ the King

Posted in sermons with tags , , , , on November 22, 2014 by fibrefairy

I wonder if you’ve ever been in West Quay or some other public place when some celebrity or other is making an appearance, or signing a book. Or perhaps you’ve been part of a crowd at a concert or a sporting event, or even a royal visit or parade.

There’s something about celebrity,  authority, influence that draws us in, makes us want to be close, to jostle for  proximity , to get a signature or have even have a conversation with the person.

In a work situation we’ve all been or seen those who linger after meetings, hanging around for a word with the boss, hoping that we might gain something to our advantage.

Today in the Church we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King,

A day when we can focus on Christ as the final authority, the King in Glory, Lord of all the earth.

It’s the final Sunday of the Church’s year – and  reflects that culmination of all that has gone before – the birth, the ministry the death & resurrection, the growth of the church ;and we are reminded of what ultimately Jesus is, becomes, King.  King of all of everyone of everything.

A King with the power of judgement, of understanding, of oversight.

In our reading from Ephesians we are reminded that  he is above all things, in authority over all powers , all people, that God’s great power that raised him from the dead works in and through him. Such amazing authority.

On a day like today we could be forgiven for thinking that Christ as King is distant from us, that he stands only in judgement, in authority and power.

But just as today we remember Jesus as king in glory, we also recall the thing that is different – that makes him so different from any human king or leader or boss;

He is not an unapproachable King, or one who is detached and remote,

He’s not someone we can only aspire to be in relationship with, to know or be known by as we might with a human authority figure.

Because the same Jesus who is King of all the earth,

was also the baby in a manger, whose arrival we begin already to anticipate in the coming weeks

He is King and he is Immanuel – God with us

He is Lord of all and he is our brother.

He is Judge of the world, and he is Jesus; God come among us, Word made flesh, walking with us.

He is human, and he is almighty God.

And because of both these things, because of his death, and the resurrection by God’s mighty power as Paul puts it,

we can be close to him, without queuing or jostling or hanging round at the water fountain.

We are known and we know  because he is both human and divine.

In being both King of all  and human he ushered in the start of a kingdom that is like no other.

The Kingdom of Jesus is no ordinary hierarchical structure – despite being called a Kingdom, and having a King.

The Kingdom of God, of Jesus the King, is built on the radical foundation that a King can become the simplest most vulnerable member of his own Kingdom

The Kingdom is upside down, topsy turvy

The idea of what authority and power mean are challenged

In the Kingdom of Jesus, they mean being merciful and inclusive, welcoming all and turning no one away. They mean paying the late comers the same as the all dayers, and forgiving the son who ran off with the money.

They mean inviting everyone to the party, and making them all part of the family.

The power & authority in the Kingdom of Jesus lies in putting it all down, giving it all up – being prepared to be last even when you could have been first. They lie in death first, then resurrection. They lie in the manger, the cross and the empty tomb.

Leadership here is about letting go of what you want, and walking with those you lead, understanding what they need.

Love and care here is for everyone, recognising the greatest in the least, and the least in the greatest, understanding that what we do we do for everyone – including the King

These are the values on which the Kingdom of Jesus is built.

The values on which that illustration of judgement are based.

What ever you do for the least, you do for him because He *is* the least.

They are not simply representative – Jesus became human, he became poor and hungry, naked and imprisoned.

Everyone is made in his image, because he became like us.

Today we are reminded that Christ is King, with all the authority of God, all the power and all the strength, King of heaven & King of our lives, yesterday, today and forever.

but in the amazing way of the Kingdom, he is human, alongside us, walking with us,

In the weeks ahead we anticipate that closeness, that presence as we wait for his coming as a human baby,

And we look too to his coming as Christ the King in Glory at the end of time as we know it., when we too shall be in glory with our King.

Both/ And, King and brother, Lord and baby

God with us, God for us

King of Kings, and Lord of Lords – Hallelujah! Amen

a different Kingdom: a sermon for remembrance

Posted in sermons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 9, 2014 by fibrefairy

Remembrance Sunday 2014 : The Beatitudes

It’s not often we hear someone in public life stand up and give a speech that radically surprises us.

We don’t expect our politicians to say anything radical or earth shattering any more , we’ve heard it all before, several  times.

Somehow we think know how the world runs, and  our somewhat cynical  expectation is that everyone is as bad as the next person, and it doesn’t  much matter which colour tie they wear who what their badge is.

There can also be sadly that same expectation in church. What  do we  think we’ll hear preached, or taught? maybe we come and we don’t expect to hear a different message or the status quo challenged?

I wonder if it was similar in first century Palestine? I wonder if the listeners to any speaker, whether political, or perhaps more so religious, thought that they  knew what was coming.

If human nature hasn’t changed much, and I don’t suspect that it has very much .I expect that was  indeed the case;  and so when Jesus stood up to speak, what he said and how he said it would have been all the more radical and challenging.

The Sermon on the Mount, from which today’s reading is taken was nothing short of an extraordinarily radical sermon, the things Jesus said and the approach to life that he was advocating would have shaken his listeners completely.

Over the course of the years, familiarity has lost the sense of the radical that the original would have had,

We often approach the Beatitudes, the “ blessed are…” statements  with a rather cozy comforting feeling,  the idea that they’re there to make us feel better,  nice Christian mottoes with vague positive meanings.

They’re absolutely not!

These are challenges that are designed to really make people think about their lives and how they lived them,

Blessed are those who show mercy and forgiveness, without looking for a return,  who open themselves to the stranger and the foreigner without differentiation;

and  those who are poor in spirit,  who know they’re broken  and messed up and in need of  forgiveness, change and help…

blessed are the peacemakers, not just those who want peace but those who stand in between warring factions and risk themselves, their lives their reputations & their lives for reconciliation …

blessed are  those who ache with every fibre of their being for  what God wants in the world…


It’s these people, Jesus says, who understand what the Kingdom of God is all about,

For the Kingdom of God is not like any earthly rule or dominion.

It’s not based on power, and might, empire or influence, its not based on beating your neighbour,  or being stronger or more important, or amassing more than they have.

It’s not based on keeping up a front and pretending you’re better than you are.

The Kingdom of God is about turning the values of the world on their heads –perhaps turning the world the right way up again , it’s radical , different and costly

It’s not what we’re used to,  nothing like we’ve known before.

The kingdom of God is not about “me”

Its not about  them & us

It is about the other,  about welcome,  forgiveness, radical peace, and living God’s way.

This way of living is not natural to us,  it’s not how  humanity lives given the choice – and today is a day when we recall that sombre fact; we recall and remember  the legacy of kingdoms built on power and might and aggression, rather than the values of the Kingdom of God.

But living the way of the Kingdom of God is only possible with Jesus.

Today at the memorial, we listen to the Last Post,  that poignant symbol of night, and death.

We stand in silence, as we remember all those who have died in war,

and we resume with the Reveille, the Rouse –the call to wake, to Live

Death. Sleep and Resurrection

That ceremony reminds us not just of those who have died for this country and so many others,

It reminds us too of what is at the very core of our Christian faith, it reminds of of what Jesus did, to enable us  to be forgiven, and to live a different way,

His death,

the silence of the grave

and then his glorious resurrection are what give us the chance  of a new and radical way of living,   a change in ourselves and in our communities, a challenge to the world around us as we learn in his power to  live not for ourselves and the old ways,  but for the Kingdom of God , for mercy, peace, forgiveness, justice and life.


Trinity 18a ” to God what is God’s”

Posted in sermons on October 19, 2014 by fibrefairy

Trinity 18  : Matthew 22: 15-22


Don’t you just hate trick questions?  The sort that you know there’s never going to be a right answer to – someone is trying to catch you out whatever & however you answer.

The Pharisees are at it again with Jesus –and this time they’ve hooked up with the Herodians –

Now these two groups are not naturally allies, politically and religiously, pretty much the only thing they agree on is that they don’t like Jesus!

So the fact that the two factions are together is right at the start a warning..

And they give him a bit of buttering up – I don’t know about you but it doesn’t sound terribly sincere to me..

And then they ask their question  “ is it lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not?”

A question they think will trap him, make him unpopular with one lot or the other for sure…  bring him into  the bad books of the Romans or the Synagogue..

So What will he say?

Many people underestimate those around them. They think they can delude them somehow, maybe as much as they are deluding themselves..

But Jesus sees right through these manipulators who are trying to catch him out –

 You hypocrites, he says, why are you trying to trick me?

Straight back at them, and while they’re reeling from the shock ( though why they weren’t used to Jesus  by now I don’t know)

He says to them show me the coin used for the tax – in other words, a Roman coin

This coin was the legal tender under Roman rule – it would have had a head of the Emperor on it  – and some reference to the belief that he was Divine –  so  truly devout Jews would not use it as it fell into the category of idolatory.

Jesus is putting his questioners on to the back foot straight away by asking them for a coin – they had  one – he didn’t.

They knew that he knew that Jewish law forbade such an image.

And he asks them to identify the name, Caesar , and the title –often “ Son of God”

And he says Give to the Emperor what is the Emperor and  to God what is God’s

It’s not as simple as it sounds –

Jesus isn’t advocating, I don’t think, some kind of separation of “Church & state”  as it were, this would have been a concept alien to that time , apart from anything else,

Instead Jesus is saying something much more all encompassing.

Much more profound than a sort of “ separate out  the bits of your life and do them both right”

He’s established already that these critics deal in this Roman coinage –

They already pay, reluctantly or otherwise, their secular dues  – they’ve paid the emperor, now what are they also paying God?

Jesus hasn’t uttered two separate but equal statements –it’s not an equation that you can balance out

Instead he is reminding them that everything is God’s

Even what they pay the state,  not just what’s left over, not the extra, the  loose change for the money box in the temple – but everything.

Our lives aren’t separated off into “the stuff that Gods not bothered with” and “ the stuff God is bothered with”

“All things come from you, and of your own do we give you”

is a line we say so often in our offertory prayers – but what does it mean?

How would it look if we involved God in our shopping?  Is he bothered if we shop at Asda or Morrisons, or the farm shops? What do the choices we make about our food and our clothes look like if we’re including God in them?

What about our banking?  Our saving or our borrowing?

Do faith and money mix?

If we really believe that God is God of everything, and all things come from him, then yes they have to.

It’s not about what we do with what’s left over  when the tax and the mortgage or the rent is paid, and the food is bought and the heating bills paid

It’s about all those things too. It’s about doing what God is asking us to do with all those aspects of our lives , living right, making the right choices.

I can’t tell you what those choices are –

I’m not your ethical financial advisor ( you’ll be pleased to know) I’m not the food miles police or the clothes judge –

Though I do think fair trade is the place to start, and I think we have to consider who, how and in what way our clothes are made,

But really the point is that God is God of everything,

There’s not one bit of our lives that God should not be involved in –

I don’t mean that we stand in the supermarket and pray about which toothpaste to buy, God gave us commonsense too.

But too often we’ve  dismissed whole sections of our lives, our world, money in particular,  as being “ the Things of Caesar”  and decided that we don’t need to bother God about them.

When in fact the opposite is indeed the case.

All we have is Gods,  – so what are we doing with it?

This passage really creates more questions than it answers.

And that’s Ok, because they are questions we need to ask of God.

what should I be giving,  where should I be investing, or borrowing from? What should I be spending my money on?

Bringing these questions to him is part of our response to his love, his great giving to us. It’s part of our worship if you like. As is our response to his answers!!

Questions like this are not optional extras

They are part of God’s transforming work in us.

Paul talks of how the message of the gospel came to the Thessalonians  not in word only but in power and in the Holy Spirit.

They were changed not just in what they said,  but in what they did, how they acted.

Our challenge is to give to God all of us,  every aspect of our lives, to be transformed by his power in Jesus, to have those questions answered and to act on what we hear –  as we remember that everything we have comes from him.

Grace 2

Posted in sermons with tags , , , , on September 27, 2014 by fibrefairy

this one is for tomorrow – twice at another church in the same team. I really didn’t intend so much overlap from last week , but there it is…!  ( and another Sara Miles quote too!  (if you haven’t read her stuff..why not? read it!)

Trinity 15 year A

The Parable of the Two sons
recording of sermon for Trinity 15a
Politicians and children often have something in common, when faced with a question they don’t want to answer they do their darndest  to wriggle out of it – they ask a different on, say something unrelated.. you know the scene!

Jesus didn’t always give a straight answer to questions either, but rather than being evasive he tended to turn the spotlight back on the questioner & their motives often with powerfully uncomfortable results!

In our Gospel today Jesus has been challenged by the chief priest and the elders, they’re, as always trying to catch him out, they want to trip him up, probably to catch him out on a blasphemy charge, or some other violation of the Jewish law.

They want to out him as a radical and a heretic.  So they ask him in whose authority does he teach.

Jesus isn’t daft – if he said God’s then he’d be hauled off on the grounds he was usurping authority; if he said his own, far worse, that would be blasphemy too.

But Jesus doesn’t answer –instead he asks them a question – what about John?  Where was his teaching from?  and they realise they’ve been had again. Caught in their own net of rules and expectations.

Jesus doesn’t persist with the authority theme though, instead he talks right into the root of the problem, telling the parable of the two sons.

He doesn’t elaborate, or waste words, but simply says to these religious leaders ,

“tax collectors & prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God before you”

That would have hit them right between the eyes. Jesus has picked two of the most reviled and despised   jobs in society tax collectors were enemy collaborators,  who cheated their country men  for their own gain,  and prostitutes were considered lowest of the low, unclean, unworthy, unredeemable.

These outcasts were entering the kingdom of God, the life and presence  of  God among us??

How very dare he suggest such a thing?

But what Jesus said , shocking and radical as it was, and indeed is, is the truth,

For these religious leaders were blind, so tied up in their notions of respectability and right-ness

So concerned for their reputations and their rules,

They worked  on the basis of who was in & out,

Outcasts were essential to their ways of thinking because outcasts define the centre,  without outcasts,

well it would be unthinkable, everyone would be included.

They’re whole world view was built on

“we know we’re right because they’re so wrong”

WRONG says Jesus,

What’s happening here is that the religious leaders are missing the point

Missing the point of what the Kingdom of God is all about

For the Kingdom of God is not a country or a structure with borders and passports

It’s not a Kingdom  with an immigration policy that wants to legislate  about who is in or out, who belongs or who doesn’t.

The Kingdom of God is about grace, undeserved love, mercy forgiveness from God to all of us

Grace flows from  Jesus  incarnate -God with us, the Word made flesh, present with us.

Grace flows from  the cross and  from the empty tomb.

Grace is radical, generous and yes, frankly offensive.

It offends our notions of right & wrong,  it offends our comfortable status quo, it offends our walls our barriers and our insistence on in & out, worthy and unworthy.

God is merciful without reason,  his love is for everyone, saint, sinner Archbishop, drag queen everyone.

Radical mercy disrupts the mentality of  centre & outcast, it blows it open

Sara Miles says

“ Jesus keeps making the point that salvation doesn’t depend on worldly status or even on religious observance. In a whole series of stores Jesus demonstrates that God deliberately chooses the stranger, the outcast the foreigner, the sick the unclean  – in short the Wrong people – to show the scope of his love”

And we find that hard.

Tucked up in our churches, feeling like perhaps we’ve got this sorted.  We know what we believe and what we’re doing.. and yes if we’re honest we know that a bit because of the people out there – the people we’re not.

And yet Jesus says to us too “you’re missing the point”  it’s not about all this, it’s about Grace, and its free and it’s for everyone,

And we struggle –

Because we’ve made it comfortable, and static, and we don’t much like change or mess.

Rachel Held Evans , a Blogger & Theologian writes “

I don’t like the idea of God using people and methods I don’t approve of and yet that seems to be God’s favorite way of working in the world—outside my expectations, right where I’m prejudiced, against all my rules.”

My rules, our rules aren’t what matters.

What God is doing is what matters and he is working in whom so ever he chooses, not to our direction, or preference but because he offers his grace freely to us all.

And we all need it, we’re all sinners. There’s no centre and no outcast, we’re all the same – in need of God’s grace. We cannot dictate what God does because we’re the ones needing that mercy and forgiveness, as much as the next person, and the next and the next..

The glorious thing about Grace is that we can just say yes to it,   open our hearts and our eyes to what God is doing,  ask for his mercy and join in with what he’s doing – wherever it is.

As we experience the radical grace & mercy  of God we’re called  out of  being  like the second son, lip service and no action,  into being like that first,  changing our mind, admitting our failures and  going off gladly to do our Father’s work.

Let us pray for an experience of that transforming grace in our lives and communities.



Grace 1

Posted in sermons with tags , , , on September 27, 2014 by fibrefairy

The first of two sermons that ended up being on grace! Trinity 14 Year A
recording of Trinity 14

This one got preached three times, twice  in the morning at one church and then at another for Evensong;

The Parable of the Generous Landlord

It’s very easy to cry “ unfair” isn’t it. If you’ve ever spent much time round children you know that they are particularly good at  comparing and pointing out injustices! He’s got more juice that me, that’s not fair it’s my turn. That’s a bigger slice of cake than I have, Why can’t I stay up as late as she can?

If we’re honest it doesn’t stop there does it?

Which of us hasn’t had at least an internal moan about what someone else has, whether material or otherwise? The grass is always greener, someone else go a better deal,  had better weather on holiday, has children with better exam grades, or  something..

And out it spreads –what about our attitudes to  immigrants  or people reduced to claiming benefits,  people being rehabilitated whether from crime or drugs or other destructive behaviours.

“ do they really deserve that  help? “ we ask ourselves, and feel resentful and cross..

There is nothing new under the sun.

Jesus told this parable,  The landowner is hiring;  one group of people are right there at the start –full days work, full days pay –they’re sorted

And a bit later there’s still some need for more workers, so the ones who had maybe dithered or perhaps they were helping a family member, getting the kids sorted, getting  granny up –now they get hired, they’re not expecting special treatment – but wow, the landowner offers them a full days pay –sure thing.

And throughout the day he keeps hiring, and he keeps  offering full pay even to those who for whatever reason – and let’s be honest we don’t know what,  got hired just before knocking off time.

And the early workers kick off… what’s going on –we’ve worked jolly hard all day, and in they come , taking our pay and our jobs, lazy good for nothings…

But the landowner says to them “ you agreed.. I’ve not cheated you, I’ve just been generous to those who came after”

And there’s nothing much more to be said is there? No case for an argument really.

God is that landowner

He calls us all, all the time he is calling us, and them, and the others.

The people down the road who haven’t got a penny, the young chap who is trying to blot it all out, the  city lawyer with the big house and the polished life ( you think) .

The young mum struggling everyday to get up and keep going on no sleep.

He’s calling those who haven’t had a day when they didn’t pray and those who swear more than they say Amen

He’s calling everyone,  because we’re all sinners, and we all need his grace,

None of us deserve his grace, but God is outrageously and extravagantly generous

He doesn’t hold back or impose conditions, he just offers, and all we need to do is accept.


He sent his Son,  himself to live among us,  to die, to rise again – to conquer the last  thing that scares , fears and plagues us. Death itself.

He gave everything so that he can give us everything.

All that is God, all that he has, is freely and generously offered to us, to them, to the other, to everyone.

It’s scandalous


It turns the world and its values of exclusion and judgement on its head, upside down

But that is what grace is.

It’s all of God for all of us,

Transforming us from within, transforming our relationships our lives and our world. Showing us beauty where we have not seen it,  life where there has been death.

Poured out again and again, from the cross and the empty tomb, this grace…

forgiveness acceptance love change eternity joy…

Remembered at this table as we eat together, extravagantly feasting at Gods table, remembering with thanksgiving his immense love.

None of us can say “it’s not fair” as we watch others blessed

None of us dare,

Because none of us deserved this.

None of us can set the rules as to who is in or out.  We are all “ in”

one of my favourite writers  Sara Miles having come to faith from atheism simply   through taking bread & wine & encountering  God  “ the god I didn’t believe in, suddenly in my mouth, real”


“God’s grace is frankly offensive in its indiscriminate love of archbishops and prostitutes, drag queens and bankers, thieves and millionaires”


And all we must do is respond with love and openness  and allow this overwhelming  scandalous, generosity to change us daily to become more and more  like the one who gives  so freely to us,

Becoming part of his outpouring of grace to others

Part of his mission of transformation to our world

Not  merely watchers but part of the story.

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