Summaries of Weekly Sermons
See below for a selection of weekly sermons delivered by Anne and by our guest clergy.
Please feel free to download the full sermon by using the links after each summary.
Palm Sunday 2017
A picture, they say, is worth more than a thousand words. Messages are powerfully communicated by images, often subliminally, as advertisers well know. Businesses spend millions on logos, brands and advertisements, and quickly withdraw them, as Pepsi did during last week, if they inadvertently convey anything that could be construed as controversial or negative.
The Christian faith has, without any professional or media consultation, the most powerful symbol in all the world – the cross. It means so much too so many people. We are signed with the cross at baptism and Confirmation, and likewise, we are marked with the cross when we leave this world.
We are especially conscious of the cross as we enter Holy Week leading to ‘cross-crowned Calvary’ on Good Friday to the empty cross of Easter Day, and I hope you like our new Easter Garden as you come up the church path. Thank you to Nick & Ted for being so creative.
At a Confirmation service I was at, the bishop said to one of the candidates, “I see you have been given a present of a cross and chain for your Confirmation. I hope you will always understand and appreciate its meaning and significance.”
As we start Holy Week today, I want to share with you three word pictures which I hope will illustrate something of the meaning of the cross.
To read the full sermon please download Palm Sunday 2017 (pdf version)
2nd April - APCM 2017
I came across a story recently about a small lifeboat station which was situated along a dangerous stretch of coast where lots of shipwrecks happened. The station was really quite a small, crudely built hut and had just one lifeboat. It was manned by a small but dedicated band of volunteers who kept constant watch and were tireless in in trying to save those in trouble on the sea.
So, some of those who had been rescued and others in the surrounding area were so impressed with their work that they wanted to be associated with the little lifeboat station and gave of their time and money in support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained, and the little station began to grow.
But some members were unhappy that the building was small and looked quite crude. They argued that it didn’t provide a great deal of comfort for those rescued from the sea. So they raised money to enlarge the building. They replaced hammocks with proper beds and provided modern furniture and amenities.
Soon it had become so posh and plush that the members of the lifeboat station began using it as a club. Even though the walls were decorated with photos of past rescues and a replica lifeboat had pride of place, the members got so comfortable there that they were reluctant to go out on stormy nights to man the lifeboats themselves. So they hired other lifeboat crews to do their work.
Soon after the refurbishment of the lifeboat station a large ship was wrecked off their coast and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, half-drowned sailors many of whom were also covered in oil that had escaped from the wrecked ship.
The carpets of the now beautiful lifeboat station became soggy and stained and the smell was …well…a bit off, to say the least. At their next meeting the property committee decided that they should build outside showers where shipwrecked sailors could clean themselves up before being offered the amenities inside.
At the next AGM there was quite a discussion and quite a split in the membership. Some wanted to give up the life-saving activities which were hindering and interfering with the social aspects of the club, while others insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and the very thing that the lifeboat station existed for. But they were outvoted and were told to go off and build their own lifeboat station further down the coast – which they did.
It’s a cautionary tale that has been used as a parable about what can happen in the church.
Second Sunday before Lent Genesis 1:1-2:4a
When the opportunity to talk about Genesis 1 comes up I cannot resist it. We all know that the Bible starts with this story of creation in seven so called “days” where man and woman are created as equals. Chapter 2 then continues with a second story of creation in which woman is created out of the side of Adam and they both succumb to temptation in the garden of Eden. Because the Bible offers two accounts of creation we are clearly not dealing with history or indeed with science. These are stories with a purpose and may be compared to Jesus’ parables. The technical term for these stories is myth. About myth Richard Rohr in a recent book says this: “myths proceed from the deep and collective unconscious of humanity. Our myths are stories or images that are not always true in particular but entirely true in general. There are two general points that the tellers of this creation story want to get over: that God creates by his word and that the creation is good. We will return to these in a moment.
“WITH” Uganda Project
They say that ‘little things mean a lot”, and I’m not thinking about diamonds and gold and jewellery, though I’m not above giving a bit of advance notice that Valentine’s Day is coming shortly, and I’d hate you not to have enough time to do the necessary shopping and so be caught on the hop.
No, in thinking about little things this morning, I’m thinking about little words, two little words in particular - “for” and “with”. For you grammar lovers two ‘Prepositions’. And Prepositions are often very small words, but that doesn't stop them having a lot of different roles.
And to help us understand the implications of these two little prepositions – ‘for & ‘with’ - I’d like us to note that one of the themes of Paul’s letters is his visits to the churches he writes to. For example, in writing to the church in Rome, he tells them that he hopes to enjoy their presence as he passes through Rome on a trip he hopes to make to Spain. He holds very dear the memories of his visit to the church in Philippi and so on.
Even as he rebukes the church at Corinth for its divisions and squabbles, he writes about his visit to them – the opening words of today’s epistle, “When I came to you brothers and sisters…”
For Paul, presence was so important – presence not just in letters and communications but his actual physical presence with and among those he served and sought to reach with the Gospel.
He wanted to be with them and among them and spend time with them.
3rd Sunday of Epiphany 22nd January 2017
One might argue that John the Baptist was the first apostle and missionary, for he was sent into the world by God for the specific purposes both of preparing the way for Jesus and of testifying to those around him that Jesus was - is - the Son of God. The account in John’s gospel of the first meeting of the two in public - they may well have met in their early years at family gatherings, since they were cousins - does not confirm the other three gospel accounts that John in fact baptised Jesus, but it does refer to the words reported by the others as coming from heaven on the occasion of his baptism, that Jesus was the Son of God. These few verses in our Gospel reading in fact set out in some detail several points made by John the Baptist in his testimony to the crowds around him, including of course those who were his own disciples, which are fundamental to our Christian faith. John of course spoke these words in the context of his own Jewish culture, based on the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, the Anointed One, who would bring salvation to the people of Israel and restore them to the Promised Land under his Kingship and not under the domination of foreign powers such as the Romans. Let’s take a look at some of his remarks.
To read the full sermon please download Sermon 15.1.17 (PDF version)
CHRISTMAS DAY 25th December 2016
During the last few months I have become a great – grandfather – and before you say anything I know I don’t look like a great-grandfather! Anyway Billy was born in early October, and Anne and I will have the pleasure of baptising him next Sunday – New Year’s Day – down in Derbyshire.
Before his birth there was a lot of anxiety and worry as his stats suddenly indicated that an immediate caesarean operation was required. But thankfully everything went well, and Billy was born a healthy and happy baby.
Of course since he was born the worry and the anxiety has evaporated, and everyone cuddles him and coos at him at every opportunity
For isn’t it true that a baby is always the focus of attention and isn’t it true that a baby brings hope and is a sign of hope.
CHRISTMAS EVE 24th December 2016
There’s one in every family – the person who just can’t leave Christmas presents untouched under the tree, but shakes them and feels them and smells them, just to try and guess what’s in them.
Or before they open the present, will do the same – squeezing it and rattling it and doing everything except opening it.
And then there are people who try to conceal what they’re giving and wrap it up in cardboard or in a box that bears no resemblance to what’s inside.
Yes, every family has such a person – to the frustration of everyone else.
And, you know, Christmas has become well wrapped up over the centuries – in fact sometimes how it’s presented bears little relation to what really happened in Bethlehem that first Christmas.
Take Bethlehem itself. Nowadays it must be one of the most famous towns in the world, but in Bible times, it was a place of little or no importance – so small and insignificant that its name was not even included in a list of the towns of Judah which was drawn up in Joshua’s time.
MARY - 4th Sunday of Advent, 18th December 2016
Today the 4th Sunday in Advent our focus is on Mary whose call to be the mother of Jesus we heard in this morning’s Gospel.
In Palestine 2000 years ago, marriages took place at an earlier age than they do now. Indeed the average age of couples getting married today is probably the highest ever. Some commentators would say that Mary was about 14 years old when the angel announced to her that she was to be the mother of the Messiah.
Marriage in Palestine was a 3 stage process. First, there was the engagement made when the partners were only children, and arranged by parents or a match-maker. The couple themselves may never have met.
Then later on, nearer the age for marrying came the bethrothal. This was when pledges were made, and after the bethrothal there was no going back, no casual changing of minds. If the bethrothal was broken it had to be by a formal divorce.
That was the stage that Mary and Joseph were at – although today’s translation says they were “engaged”, the more accurate reading is bethrothed.
JOHN THE BAPTIST - 4th December 2016
Advent is a time of preparation. Some of us naturally fall into the role of being the ‘preparer’ in our families – the one who thinks of the details that need covered, the lists that need made. John the Baptist was a ‘preparer’. He had a responsibility to make sure something would actually happen. That people would start getting ready for the arrival of Jesus. Not as a baby but as a grown man starting his public ministry.
John arrived at a very dull time in Israel’s history. Religion had become humdrum and predictable. People had forgotten what it was like to be challenged, and then John arrived. Demanding attention. He had a job to do. John was not schooled in discretion but was to be a challenge declaring the uncomfortable side of God’s word.
His was a new voice, a new message. He is a voice announcing that God is near, entreating them to wake up and prepare themselves for the One who was about to come. John was to shake them from the jail cell they called “life”, a jail cell formed by wanting nothing to be upset. They liked the stability, the familiarity of their lives and their religion. That's why John was so threatening.
Sermon for 4th December 2016 8am service
“A King is coming, but he is not the kind of king that people thought was coming. This King had no great army, no great house, and no riches. This King was a baby who was born in a barn. This is full of mystery.”
These words were not those reported by Matthew to have been used by John the Baptist, when he addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees by the river Jordan, but they might have been, since they of course refer to Jesus, the one more powerful than John who was coming after him. I have in fact quoted these words from a passage that our youngest grandson was asked to read out last Sunday morning in All Saints Church Toronto.
This reading continued:
“You know, a mystery is hard to enter sometimes. People can walk right through a mystery and not even know it is there. That is why this time of Advent is so important. The Church learned a long time ago that people need a way to get ready to enter the mystery of Christmas, so they set aside the four weeks of Advent. During this time, we are all on the way to Bethlehem. We are all making the journey. We are all getting ready to enter the Mystery of Christmas. So let’s go with the prophets, the Holy Family, the shepherds, the angels, the Magi and all the rest, to make the journey that was not just back then. It is also now.”
To read the full sermon please download Sermon 4th Dec (PDF version)
STAND FIRM AND HOLD FAST - 6th November 2016
We live in a world that is full of confusion and unrest. There is all the uncertainty over Brexit, will it be hard or soft and what kind of a deal will ultimately be struck, if it even gets that far.
And our world is in such a mess. Violence and war in so many places, the bitter fight against terrorism such as in the battle for Mosul, the terrible suffering in Syria as barrel bombs are dropped on innocent civilians, there is the worrying outcome of the American presidential election and the quality of both candidates. Add to all that, the ever-present warnings of how much more ecological damage our world can take.
So the words of Paul to the Thessalonians in our epistle this morning are particularly apt and relevant - “Stand firm and hold fast.” It’s not always easy to do. In most situations it is difficult and a struggle as we try to hold our nerve and hold on to hope.
To read the full sermon please download Stand Firm and Hold Fast (PDF version)
JAMES – FAITH & WORKS - 2nd October 2016
There is perhaps no more practical book in the Bible than the Letter of James. It struggled to get included in the Bible when the books of the Bible were being agreed at the end of the 4th century, and Martin Luther was never keen on it, because, he thought, it didn’t speak enough about Jesus.
But we can be happy that the Letter of James did come to be regarded as scripture, because it grounds the faith into our everyday life. Did not Jesus himself say, ‘Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven but they who do the will of my Father’.
James reminds us that our faith, if it is to be real and authentic, has to result in action. As James says in our epistle today, “faith without works is dead.” What good are words of comfort if they are not backed up by deeds of compassion?
MOTHER TERESA - 11th September 2016 – Lost Coin
Last Sunday, in a ceremony attended by about half a million people, Mother Teresa was made a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.
Not surprisingly, once anyone is in the media spotlight, there has been a lot of debate and discussion not only about whether she should have been fast-tracked up the ladder of sanctity, but also about the quality of her work. It seems a bit daft, to me at least, that critics should be complaining over the cleanliness of her homes when, in fact, she was trying to minister to, and alleviate the suffering of those who are considered the lowest of the low in the poorest areas of Calcutta.
After all, she was called “The saint of the gutters”, a place that is not known for sweet smells and health safety policies, and she was trying to help and bring comfort to the people no one else was caring about.
To read the full sermon please download Mother Teresa
PRAYER - 24th July 2016
Some time ago in a church magazine a cartoon appeared of a little boy kneeling down by his bed to say his prayers. Underneath was this caption, “Dear God, same again as last night!”
We can smile. Yet most of us know how hard it is at times to pray, to find time for prayer, and how easy it is for our prayers to become routine and repetitive – of the ‘same again’ variety!
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell - who was a speaker at the recent clergy conference which all the Liverpool clergy were invited to attend by Bishop Paul - admitted, “There always seems to be a good reason to put off praying, or when I do set time aside, my mind wanders, or I gallop through words that should be taken slowly.”
So it’s no wonder that the disciples asked Jesus in today’s Gospel “Lord, teach us to pray.”
To read the full sermon please download Prayer
CONSECRATION SUNDAY 2016
When my brother was clearing out the attic of a house he lived in, he found an old Irish Times newspaper of 1916, and it made fascinating reading.
For example, on the front page was a big advertisement for a ‘Maxwell Wonder Car’ which you could have for £235! It had 19 improvements on the old model, including detachable wheel rims and lino covered floor boards.
Another selling point was that tyres were now expected to last at least 5000 miles!
There is an ad for Gallagher’s cigarettes which are guaranteed to “make a strong fence against all worries” You could buy 10 for 4 old pence.
The Post Office were looking for staff. Female telephonists were starting at 12 shillings a week rising up to one pound, 6 shillings. But once they got married they would have to resign. Tell that to the new Prime Minister!
To read the full sermon please download Consecration Sunday Sermon (PDF Version)
THE GOOD SAMARITAN – 10th July 2016
Our Gospel today – the Parable of the Good Samaritan- was a deeply controversial and challenging piece of teaching to those who gathered around Jesus as he taught in Galilee.
And that same parable – and the question which prompted it, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ – is as deeply controversial and challenging today for the citizens of Europe, and perhaps more particularly in Brexit Britain.
Immigration, perhaps more than anything, dominated the whole Referendum debate about whether to leave or remain in Europe, and it continues to be an emotive and divisive issue for politicians and people alike.
St Thomas' Day - 3rd July 2016
One of the most entertaining and enduring characters of British sitcom must be Victor Meldrew in ‘One Foot in the Grave’. Entertaining, yet exasperating in his pessimism, complaining endlessly as he encounters misfortune after misfortune with that wonderful identifying phrase ‘I don’t believe it!’
Today is St. Thomas’ Day and there is not a little of Victor Meldrew in Thomas, and it’s only in the fourth Gospel that he really comes to life.
Patronal Festival - ST PETER June 2016
Somebody coming back from a trip to America recently recounted the difficulty they had – ordering a sandwich at lunch time!
It was in a sandwich bar where they were made fresh according to order. A sandwich cheese, ham and mayonnaise was ordered. The first question back was ‘What kind of bread?’ ‘Er White’ was the answer. And then came a rigmarole ‘ We have rye-wheat, wholegrain, pumpernickel, herb/tomato &basil, and so it went on. The choices were more than the visitor could cope with!
When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi with his disciples, his simple question ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ was answered with multiple responses – ‘Some say Elijah, others Jeremiah, others some of the prophets.’ Their replies are circumspect, cautious, 3rd hand, giving nothing away about their own opinions and beliefs.
St Barnabas 12th June 2016
Yesterday was St. Barnabas’ Day. He doesn’t feature very highly in most peoples’ lists of saints and may be considered a little obscure, but really he is one of those “attainable” saints whose example is within all our reaches and has much to teach us about daily living.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Barnabas is described as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit”.
To read the full sermon please download the PDF version.
Sermon for 5th June 2016 (Second Sunday after Trinity)
I stand to be corrected, by one or more of the retired revs present, but I think that the raising to life of the son of the widow of Nain is the only instance of Jesus carrying out a miracle without first having been asked or approached for help.
He happened on this occasion to come upon a funeral procession, that of a young man who was the only son of his widowed mother. In the Jewish culture of the time, a widow had no inheritance rights, so to lose a beloved child who was also the family breadwinner would reduce her to relying on charity.
Whether Jesus was aware of the circumstances, or guessed, or was told, we do not know from Luke’s record; all we are told is that “when the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her.”
To read the full sermon please download the PDF version.
CHARLES & JOHN WESLEY MAY 2016
Commemorations and celebrations are very much a part of life. Throughout the year we have family birthdays and anniversaries, and there are national events which are remembered and celebrated. In a few weeks’ time the whole country will be celebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday with street parties, and we will be having our own party for the Queen after church on Sunday 12th June. It’s still a matter of regret that she wasn’t able to attend The Queen’s Birthday Bash held in her honour last month. What a night she missed!!!!
The Church too has its roll-call of saints and the special days on which we commemorate them. Two weeks after the Queen’s official birthday will be St. Peter’s Day and our own Patronal Festival.
Last Tuesday was a special day of celebration and commemoration for our friends in the Methodist Church. For them the 24th May is called Aldersgate Day because in 1738, within a few days of each other, both Charles and John Wesley underwent a conversion experience during meetings of the “Holy Club” which met in Aldersgate Street in London.
To read the full sermon please download the PDF version.