Monday, November 26, 2007


Back from our church weekend away at Letton Hall. I have to say that despite the numbers, the time away went brilliantly!!! The accommodation was spectacular (designed by Sir John Soan!), food was wonderful and nothing was too much trouble, beds were comfortable, place was not too hot or cold, amazing grounds, no street lights, traffic etc...

Here's what a couple of people have said already on email...


Just wanted to say what a great weekend we had. It was amazing how well everyone bonded and although I was originally disappointed that the number of people attending was significantly less than first indicated, I suspect that the smaller group actually worked better.

I thought the sessions were really good and, for me, helpful in terms of my approach to prayer.

I also appreciate that a lot of thought has to go into the planning to make this sort of event work well, so again many thanks for all your input.

Kind regards, Terry"

and from Hitesh...

"Thanks – It was great to be with you all – we enjoyed ourselves and got back home safely – hope you were all blessed as were... Have a good prayerful week ahead..."

Well for those of you who would not/could not come... it seems you really did miss out!!! I will let those who did come (Barbara Batten, Margaret Mayhew, Anne Hunt, Terry and Kathy Perry, Matt and Norah Tattersall, Tim Bourne, Deb and Steve Hanwell, and Hitesh and Sarla Dodhia) speak from themselves because they and they children who came (thanks Sarah for your help!!!) seem to have had a superb time. Friendships were made or deepened, fun and worship were shared, and things hopefully were learned together about prayer using the Lord's prayer as a framework.

We will look to go again but earlier in the year, probably some time in 2009.

Anyway, good to be back, very tired, but very encouraged... I am at St Bs on Sunday morning, but there is the Advent carol service in teh afternoon at 3pm.

More later in the week I hope!



Monday, November 19, 2007

Herewith Tim's ecellent sermon from Sunday... Sobering stuff but important for us all to take note of!

Theme: Principles, not rules
1 Introduction
Jesus said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
Those words from our Gospel reading this morning give a message that’s still all too relevant today. People talk about the coming of Christ’s kingdom, but often they see that only in terms of a sort of “big bang theory”, of the idea that Jesus will come again soon, taking over the world and transforming it in God’s power.
The book of Revelation is often the trigger for this; it has a lot of passages that can be misinterpreted.
2 Why?
It’s true that Christ’s kingdom is coming. It gets closer every day, and I hope we’re all contributing to it. But Jesus himself said that no-one can know how or when it will come, and I’d rather believe him than any of these strange self-styled prophets.
But people do like to be told what to do in detail - it saves the need to think, and we’re all inclined to be lazy about thinking. There’s an attraction about a religion that doesn’t require us to think, that tells us in detail everything we need to do to achieve salvation, or nirvana, or whatever we call our ultimate objective.
That wasn’t Jesus’ way, though. On many occasions he showed that he had little patience for those who thought rules were the way to God.
3 Just 2 principles
Jesus gave his disciples just two commandments: Love God, and Love your neighbour. Living by those two principles, and letting them guide everything we say and do, is all we need.
But what do they actually mean?
Love God – and hate anything that is against God, anything that gets in the way of loving God, anything that makes God come second, anything that separates me from God's love.
Love your neighbour – and hate anything that comes between me and my neighbour, anything that forces us to take sides.
In particular, I need to beware of anything that makes me feel I am better than my neighbour, anything that creates intolerance. Most of the sects I mentioned earlier thrive by being separate, by believing that they are the one small group that will be “saved”, that they have the exclusive rights to God's truth. God's truth just isn't like that; it's for everyone!
4 Commitment
The advantage of having rules is that if you don't break any of them, whatever you do must be OK. When we have such general principles to live by, doesn't that make life impossibly difficult?
Well, yes – except that we have God's Holy Spirit to help us, and of course our fellow Christians. We have to decide things for ourselves, though. Only you can decide how far you're prepared to go in returning the love God has shown you.

Let's take just two areas as examples: our time and our money. Those are two things most of us have less of than we'd like, so how we spend them is always difficult. I'm going to describe three positions, but in fact there are many shades of grey in between.
Some choose to be on the edge. They usually come to church at the big festivals, and quite often at other times, but when something else comes up it usually wins. They probably put a token pound or so in the plate, without really thinking about how that relates to what they spend on other things.
Others are definitely involved. They're at church most weeks, and don't automatically say no when asked to do something. God matters to them, and they try to reflect that in the priorities they set – but don't always succeed! They give what they think they can afford, remembering what God has given them.
There's another group, though probably very few could claim to be in it all the time. They are committed – God comes first. That doesn't mean they spend all their time in church, of course, but it does mean that when it's important, a church commitment comes first. It also means that God has first claim on their money, something it's very hard to accept. Those words give the wrong impression, though; if we're committed, we give because we want to give, because it's a way to show our love – just as it will be when we give lavish presents to our loved ones in a few weeks at Christmas.
(In Old Testament times everyone was expected to give a tenth of their income, in terms of crops and increase in livestock, and a similar practice continued in this country until well into the last millennium (C16).)
No-one can tell you how committed you should be; you have to work that out for yourself.
As many of you know, I belong to a barbershop club. Just by becoming a member, I make quite a commitment. As well as the regular Thursday evening rehearsals, I have to find time to learn new music, and I'm expected to be available for a fair proportion of the occasions when the chorus sings in public, which happens maybe once a month. Being on the edge certainly isn't an option!
5 Conclusion
What's the difference between being involved and being committed?
Think of a bacon-and-egg breakfast. The hen that lays the egg is involved; the pig that provides the bacon is committed!
Jesus gave his disciples just those two commandments: Love God, and Love your neighbour. They're all the rules we need; all that's left is for us to commit ourselves to applying them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sorry for the silence...

Weekend away next week - very poor turnout and feeling very disapppointed but those of who go will have a great time. Sad that some feel it right, good and Christian to drop out or to wait to see if they might get a better offer... Oh well...

Here's Sunday's sermon:

I love going away on holiday and when I do I love to go and visit some of the sights. One of the best places I have ever visited is Chicago. It is beautiful - right on the banks of Lake Michigan. It has loads of really amazing buildings - some quite old by American standards with nice bricks and stone and carving; some really new with smoked glass and chromed steel. Some of the most successful companies in America have been and are based there. Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem doing a bit of sightseeing. The disciples are amazed at some of the things they see. They are particularly taken with the size of the Temple - they notice how big the stones used to make it were. Jesus warns the disciples that one day these great buildings will be destroyed. That’s sad, especially if they were as amazing as the ones in Chicago are. Jesus’ point though is: these buildings might be used by companies who make all sorts of amazing things that we might really want, that help make life good - PS3, drums, trainers - but if we have the best trainers, a fantastic drumkit and a new PS3 and don’t trust in God and listen to Jesus then we have missed what life is all about.

So where do place our trust? What do we hope for? What makes life good for us? Lower taxes? A new car?? Aromatherapy???

Back in Jesus’ day, people were pretty anxious. They were people living in an occupied land, kept ‘secure’ by foreign soldiers. They longed for freedom. There was also a strong feeling that they were living in ‘the end times’ the end of the world was near. The metallic taste of fear was in the air. There were sections of Jewish society that played on that fear - the tax collectors who helped to finance the political status quo - the all encompassing influence of one nation, Italy and the Roman system of government - oh and line their own pockets too! Another such section of society was the Temple. Instead of being a place where God was worshiped, and people were liberated to live for him - they were being crushed by the weight of the letter of the law, and being tithed financially dry. This suited the religious leaders - it kept them in jobs, in the lifestyle they loved, and in the respect of the masses.

Jesus deplored this. It stood rank and file against the coming kingdom of his God and father, with it’s inverted values that benefitted the many not the few. Whilst the Temple and the rest of Roman influenced society was an amazing structure, there was a time coming when God would tear it down and raise it to the ground. This, along with the persecution of Jesus’ followers would lead ultimately to his return.

Jesus is unnervingly specific in his predictions - in the future, disciples could expect to face famines and earthquakes, wars, the break up of families and community strife. This is just part of the process of freeing that the Son of Man will himself complete.

Yet this is an unnervingly contemporary gospel. We too live in anxious times. Whilst our land may not be occupied, in many places we are the occupier albeit in the name of peacekeeping. Yet we are occupied, or at least our political leaders are pre-occupied with the very real threat of Islamic terrorism. With that threat and nuclear programmers being developed if not in Iraq then certainly in Iran and North Korea then we maybe also feeling a bit apocalyptic. There are also those in our society who play on our fears - offering us loans we cannot repay, health remedies that may not work, legal advice to sue when what happened was a genuine accident - and the all encompassing influence of one nation America, her MacDonalds culture and ‘democracy at all costs.’

An anxious people look for surety in all sorts of places and some find it in religion. But if the church is ever a place where people are drawn in and all your gifts, talents, time and money are used up here, then it makes us no better than the Temple enforcing the unenforceable.
The church should be a place where we are encouraged, where we meet with God and are empowered by him , where we are sent out to face earthquakes, wars, family break up, community strife.

It is here where we learn what suffering means - or put a better way, where life is headed. Jesus doesn’t try to down -play or explain the sufferings he talks of - except that we see later that he himself would walk the same road, being rejected by the same institutions of power and influence, taking suffering to it’s conclusion. And yet his death marks the death of those who play on our fears - the Temple curtain tears in two. Not one stone will be left one on another.

We have no way of knowing whether any of what Jesus talks of here will happen. Except... the things Jesus predicted happening to him happened. Except... men and women around our world have been and will suffer in exactly the sorts of way that Jesus suggests.

Go on - place your faith in the institutions of power; see if that massage helps long term not just for you but for others; long for the Iraq war to end or Tony Blair to resign - or place your trust in a God who made the world, loves it, suffers, dies and rises again in it, and who is freeing it’s anxious people from fear one at a time. Amen