All Change Again!

We will be having services on Sunday mornings at 11.30am GMT+1 (BST) in person but will continue to record the services on Zoom and on Facebook Live. Recordings will be published on You Tube on The Good Shepherd channel, the link is:

Channel content - YouTube Studio 

We follow the Revised Common Lectionary and whilst sermons are based on one reading there are others each week you can read for yourself. The idea is that if you read all the readings listed each Sunday you will have read the whole Bible in a 3 year cycle.

If you need further information please email revdlin@outlook.com

I apologise for the lack of content that has been put on here lately. Unfortunately my husband became seriously ill and spent rather a long time in hospital. He is home now and recovering but we would appreciate ongoing preayers for him.

I would be grateful if someone would be willing to act as administrator for me as I am not very tech savvy and struggle at the best of times with the website and could really do with someone who could take this at least, off my hands! It would probably take someone more tech savvy about half an hour to update the sermon transcripts and upload the recordings to the You Tube channel, where as it takes me a good hour each time!

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Sunday 11/09/2022

Thirteenth Sunday of Trinity

Readings

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

Psalm 14

1 Timothy 2:1-14

Luke 15:1-10

Reading Luke 15:1-10

Sermon

The tax collectors were seen as the lowest of the low! They were taking taxes for the ROMANS! Not only that, they were often taking more than was required and therefore became very rich if isolated from the remainder of the Jewish population and unwelcome seen as sinners. Pharisees take issue with Jesus about being with sinners, even EATING with them!


Eating and sharing food is a very normal social thing to do, many churches have social events around sharing food. The same is true especially in the Jewish tradition, feasts and celebrations are very normal. But to eat with tax collectors? NO WAY! The tax collectors kept to themselves, formed their own social groups totally separate from the rest of the Jewish community.


The Queen was very well known for putting people at their ease when they met her, she spent many hours including people, whether here in England, in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland or abroad. In creating the Commonwealth she encouraged people to come together, to care for each other just as Jesus did.

Jesus asked what they would do if they had 100 sheep and lost one – don’t you leave the 99 and go looking for the 1 that is lost? 1 lost sheep is as important as the 99 that are where they are supposed to be!


In these times, when the world is becoming more and more secular, often under the guise of being multi-faith, we have more and more children growing up knowing little or nothing of the Christian faith, they are the LOST sheep, are we looking for those lost sheep? Or are we sticking with the congregations we have? Since the Queen died on Thursday, here in London, we have had thousands of people pouring in to grieve at the loss of the Queen. A great chance to be with people to help them, guide them and comfort them. I am sure there are many ministers, pastors and priests who will be in their places of worship or mingling with the crowds to offer support to people in need during this period of national mourning.


There are another form of lost sheep, those are the people getting into trouble with the police from children to adults. We are seeing large amounts of stabbings and gun crime as well. Why? Part of it has to be the loss of activities for kids to do after school especially after school clubs that keep children off the streets and away from gangs who would look to recruit them into gangs to move illegal drugs around.


If we are start looking for these people in need and provide for their needs then they are more likely to come into the churches and more willing to engage with the Bible and ultimately with Jesus. The last thing a missing sheep needs is someone shouting at them if they have fallen into a ditch, they need to be rescued. Similarly, people who are lost need their physical need to be dealt with not having the gospel rammed down their throat. We need to get out from our churches and meet people at their point of need as Jesus meets us. I know of a group of people who came to know Jesus when they had reached their lowest ebb, they were into drugs, alcohol and their wives and families and just said something like, ‘Help Me Jesus’ and Jesus did, as a result they rebuilt their lives and talk about Jesus to others. Maybe if someone had come alongside them and helped them before they got into trouble their families would still be intact, maybe they would not have reached their lowest ebb, we don’t know but it is possible they endured more suffering than they needed to.


We need to get out there with people and help them in their need, then they are more likely to be ready to come into the church and to hear about Jesus. At my husband’s funeral, we were reminded that he came to a personal relationship with Jesus at the evening show at a children’s camp when the minister was telling the children about Jesus using a monkey puppet! John had gone to camp to drive a mini–bus and play the piano and came home committed to Jesus. John was a cathedral chorister then organ student at Peterborough cathedral from the age of 11 to 16 but it was a children’s camp when he was an adult that brought him to a personal relationship with Jesus.

Prayer

Lord as we mourn our late Queen Elizabeth, we pray you will comfort her family, give them peace to know she is with her beloved husband Philip, in your loving care. Those of us left on earth are sad that we will not see her again in this world.

May she rest in peace with you and rise in glory.

We pray for the whole Royal family at this sad time especially her son, Charles who became King Chalres lll on the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth. Be with King Charles lll as he takes on the mantle of King and we pray that you will give him wisdom, courage and strength for his reign.

We ask all these prayers in Jesus name amen.

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Sunday 03/04/2022

5th Sunday of Lent

Readings

Isaiah 43:16-21

Psalm 126

Phillipians 3:4b-14

John 12: 1-8

Reading

John 12:1-8

Sermon

An alabaster jar had a long neck and designed to be broken to access the perfume. The cost of nard was more than 300 denarii. One denarii was the wage for a day’s labour so 300 denarii was over a year’s wages! Nard is an amber essential oil that comes from Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant of the honeysuckle family which grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China and India. It was used as an incense offering by the Hebrews in the temple and the oils were used to prepare a body for burial. The scent of Spikenard is sometimes described as woody, spicy, and musty. Its aroma is earthy and suggestive of the roots it is distilled from.

We already know of Mary and Martha, first from the time Jesus was sitting teaching the men and Mary sat with them listening and Martha complained that she was left to do the work while Mary did nothing and then when their brother Lazarus died and Jesus raised him to life again.

Jesus and his disciples were eating a meal at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Jesus’ honour. As they were reclining at table – remember the table was low and people lay on their side on cushions to eat – Mary does a surprising thing! She took a jar of nard and poured the perfume over Jesus’ feet and then dried them with her hair! Can you imagine the smell released into the room when the nard was poured over Jesus’ feet, it must have filled the whole house!


Judas objected! He said the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor, normally this would be thought of as a good thing to have done but Jesus objected. Why did Jesus object? Jesus knew his earthly ministry was coming to an end and what Mary did was symbolic in a way even she did not understand. What is one of the uses? Preparing a body for burial, Jesus knew that his life would end in his death in Jerusalem and was approaching and what Mary did was to prepare his body for burial even if only it was his feet she washed! Using such an expensive item would have been a sacrifice to her, something being kept for something special and what , could be more special than anointing Jesus the Messiah, the Saviour of the world? This shows unconditional love, how much unconditional love do we show Jesus every day? Is our love unconditional or is it a bit of knowing that those who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life? What do we do in our everyday lives that shows our unconditional love for Jesus? Maybe that is something we should think about. Jesus told the disciples, they would have the poor for ever, but they would not always have him. While Jesus was on earth, he cared for the poor, the sick, the unloved, the women and children, showing the people then and everyone since that is how to live, caring about those less well off than us, caring for the sick the unloved and those not counted as women and children were not counted in his time on earth. Jesus showed by his actions how he expects his disciples to behave and that includes us.


Why was Judas concerned about one jar of perfume? An expensive one but still it was just one bottle of perfume. I think the reason is and I am sure that Jesus was aware, Judas was the keeper of the money purse and he was not so concerned about the poor people but he was concerned about himself, he was taking money from the communal purse and spending it on himself. In the book of Acts we meet a couple who were deceitful about the amount of money they got from selling some land and God struck them down. The handed over a portion of what they got for the land and told the apostles that was the total amount they received instead of saying how much they actually got for the land and that they were keeping a certain amount but giving the rest to the community.


How honest are we about the worship we offer to God, how honest are we about the amount we give to the church? Every church has expenses even this house church and the house churches of the New Testament so how do we give to the church? Are we giving all we could? We are not told what to offer to God in the way of money or anything else, why? Because God requires us to offer all we are and all we have to him. It doesn’t mean that God will call on everything we have but we have to be willing to offer it and ourselves. That is sacrificial love, the kind of love that will offer itself totally to God’s service regardless of what he calls us to do.


We have been hearing about the war in Ukraine for a month now and the number of refugees. We know there are places donating goods to refugees and money being raised for humanitarian aid via different agencies, I am selling these ribbon pins and every penny from them will go to a humanitarian agency for Ukraine. There are people offering homes to refugees in order to being them here – if the government gets its act together to sort out the paperwork to get them visa’s! Did you also know that Ukrainian men who have been living and working here have been going back to defend their country? Did you know that ex-military personnel, ex British soldiers have been going to offer their support to fight the Russians in Ukraine?  That is sacrificial love, the threat of a European or 3rd world war starting is so great that NATO countries by name cannot fight in Ukraine but there is nothing stopping ex-army personnel going over to fight in the war against Russia and that is precisely what some have done. At the age of 19, Princess Elizabeth made this vow to the nation and what remained of the empire. ‘I declare before you all my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service’, at the age of 29, Queen Elizabeth ll confirmed that vow at her coronation in Westminster Abbey. This commitment was made not only to the people but to God as well. As king David in the Old Testament was anointed as God’s King, The Archbishop of Canterbury  anointed, blessed and consecrated Queen over the Peoples, whom the Lord thy God hath given thee to rule and govern …’. This was not the life she was expecting as a child, she only became heir to the throne when her uncle David could not make the vow she did, instead, abdicated in favour of marrying a woman who was unacceptable to the church and to the government. The Queen’s love for the Lord was the thing that helped her to make and keep that vow as this year we celebrate her Platinum Jubilee – 70 years on the throne. There is no doubt that her husband, Prince Philip was a great support to her over the years until his death in 2021 but she continues as monarch as her duty is for life, not just as long as it suits her, there is no retirement, just service. That is sacrificial love. Her love for God was so strong she was able at 19 to make a vow for life, a vow which she confirmed at the age of 29 at her coronation and is still keeping. Would any of us have had the courage to make such a vow at such a young age and still be committed to in in our 90’s? Knowing it would be a job for life. No retirement and very little privacy?

Sacrificial love. It is sacrificial love for us when we were still sinners that sent Jesus to the cross to die a cruel and painful death that we may be forgiven. Amen.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the sacrificial love of your son, Jesus Christ, dying for humankind, help us to show sacrificial love when the opportunity arises in whatever situation it may be. In Jesus name, amen.

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Sunday 13/03/2022

2nd Sunday in Lent

Readings

Reading 

Luke 13:31-35

Sermon

Here we find the Pharisees warning Jesus that Herod intends to kill him, and to leave the area.

 A fox is often perceived as being a cunning animal, here it is used as a metaphor for a cunning and destructive person. 

 Song of Songs 2:15 

Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom


Interesting the Pharisees warning Jesus as it is often the Pharisees that Jesus is speaking against! It also shows the Pharisees did not understand the words of the prophets who made it clear the Messiah had to suffer and die. Later on of course, they were the ones who called for his death!


Verse 32-33

32 He replied, ‘Go and tell that fox, “I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

the phrase “today and tomorrow, and on the third day” likely refers to the necessary movement of the plan of God within an indefinite but limited period of time. Verse 33 confirms this. NIV Theology study Bible

The prophets have been persecuted by God’s own people and this is what would happen again with Jesus.

Verse 34

34 ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Jesus’ sorrow is for Jerusalem, for God’s own people who reject him.

Verse 35

35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”[a]

This alludes to the prophecy against Jerusalem in Jeremiah which came true in AD70 when Jerusalem is raised to the ground.

So what is all this is to us today on the second Sunday of Lent. Firstly, it is a warning of a people, not just any people but God’s chosen people, who denied the Messiah and the ending of the Temple and of Jerusalem as well.

We need to make sure we are able always to say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ In other words, we need to keep in relationship with God. We need to take the time we have during Lent to reflect on our lives, to gain a deeper relationship with God and seek His will for our lives. At this particular time with the war in Ukraine more necessary than ever and having sought God’s will for our lives to act on it. We are living on a precipice, we do not know how far Putin is prepared to go to what of all the things he has threatened he is prepared to carry out. For instance, he has been heard to say that having invaded Ukraine he will then invade the NATO countries that will result in European if not world war something that we and the US are keen to avoid as it will put two opposing nuclear powers against each other.


It is in these times, when people are frightened that people turn to God and we need to be aware of that and to be ready to help those seeking God to find Him. We must also be ready to do all we can for the refugees from Ukraine and to assist those left in Ukraine, those too old and too sick to escape. Above all we must pray for peace and for the Russians themselves as they come to understand the truth of what their President has done and is doing to Ukraine and for the people of Russia to stand up to Putin.

The Christians in Ephesus were living in a Roman city, they were persecuted, and even put to death. During a course looking at the places or ruins of places in the gospel., Professor Lander Vann wondered how they had the courage to go to a city so unforgiving to Christians, he suggested that it wa the love and suport of the church and when persecution happens in one part of the worldwide church  we shouldn't say we're not being persecuted but should think of the church as one and say we are being persecuted. Using that idea, we should perhaps be thinking not Ukraine is being attacked but we are being attacked as Ukraine has a Christian presence. How does that make you feel? It certainly makes me feel uncomfortable!

Here we find the Pharisees warning Jesus that Herod intends to kill him, and to leave the area.


A fox is often perceived as being a cunning animal, here it is used as a metaphor for a cunning and destructive person. 


Song of Songs 2:15 


Catch for us the foxes,

    the little foxes

that ruin the vineyards,

    our vineyards that are in bloom


Interesting the Pharisees warning Jesus as it is often the Pharisees that Jesus is speaking against! It also shows the Pharisees did not understand the words of the prophets who made it clear the Messiah had to suffer and die. Later on of course, they were the ones who called for his death! 


Verse 32-33

32 He replied, ‘Go and tell that fox, “I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!


the phrase “today and tomorrow, and on the third day” likely refers to the necessary movement of the plan of God within an indefinite but limited period of time. Verse 33 confirms this. NIV Theology study Bible

The prophets have been persecuted by God’s own people and this is what would happen again with Jesus.

Verse 34

34 ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Jesus’ sorrow is for Jerusalem, for God’s own people who reject him.

Verse 35

35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”[a]’

This alludes to the prophecy against Jerusalem in Jeremiah which came true in AD70 when Jerusalem is raised to the ground.

So what is all this is to us today on the second Sunday of Lent. Firstly, it is a warning of a people, not just any people but God’s chosen people, who denied the Messiah and the ending of the Temple and of Jerusalem as well. 

We need to make sure we are able always to say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ In other words, we need to keep in relationship with God. We need to take the time we have during Lent to reflect on our lives, to gain a deeper relationship with God and seek His will for our lives. At this particular time with the war in Ukraine more necessary than ever and having sought God’s will for our lives to act on it. We are living on a precipice, we do not know how far Putin is prepared to go to what of all the things he has threatened he is prepared to carry out. For instance, he has been heard to say that having invaded Ukraine he will then invade the NATO countries that will result in European if not world war something that we and the US are keen to avoid as it will put two opposing nuclear powers against each other.

It is in these times, when people are frightened that people turn to God and we need to be aware of that and to be ready to help those seeking God to find Him. We must also be ready to do all we can for the refugees from Ukraine and to assist those left in Ukraine, those too old and too sick to escape. Above all we must pray for peace and for the Russians themselves as they come to understand the truth of what their President has done and is doing to Ukraine and for the people of Russia to stand up to Putin. 

Prayer

Lord, we pray for your children in Ukraine and in Russia and we ask that you help your children in those places, help those in Russia to come to understand the real situation and that those in Ukraine receive the humanitarian aid that Putin has so far refused access. Help us to stand in soidarity with those who are suffering so much and be willing to do all we can to help those refugees who come to our shores. Amen.

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Sunday 06/03/2022

1st Sunday in Lent

Readings

Reading

Luke 4:1-13

Sermon

The time Jesus spent in the wilderness is closely connected to the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert in Exodus and the temptations Jesus faces are close to the temptations the Israelites failed in the desert and 40 days and 40 nights, the length of Lent, following Jesus’ time in the wilderness following his baptism. Does that strike a chord with you? It is the same length of time for both as well as being closely connected to the Israelites 40 years wandering in the desert and the tests they failed. Many people do fast during Lent – not the whole of it but for periods during it, some may fast one day a week some may choose another way. The point is they attempt to follow Jesus.


Lets look at Jesus in the wilderness more closely. First of all it claims he did not eat, for a human that would be beyond the expectation of life. The rule of thumb is that a human can exist without water for 3 days and without food for 3 weeks. 40 days and 40 nights is 5.71 weeks. Either God was sustaining him, his divinity made it possible to survive that or the gospel writers wrote it as a means of saying a long period of time. However, the time in the wilderness was a time of preparation, learning about his ministry and how he was to conduct it, being close to God to listen and to respond to him – none of which would be possible if he was so dehydrated or so hungry that he couldn’t concentrate so I leave you to decide for yourselves what the answer is but recommend that you do not try it at home! A day at a time at most is all I would recommend but for some even that is not possible. The important thing is to find a place and a time to cut yourself off from all that is going on around you and to spend time with God. During lockdowns, many people have found it therapeutic to be out in the countryside or in green spaces and that maybe a way for you to find your space to be with God, in his natural creation, in a park, in woods away from your desk, your normal day to day activities and to be able to concentrate on being with God.


Now what happened when Jesus was in the wilderness? He obviously felt hunger and thirst as we do, the Israelites also faced hunger and thirst in the desert. What did the Israelites do in Exodus? They complained to Moses and tried to revolt saying they would have been better off in Egypt! Each time this happened, Moses prayed to God and the Israelites were fed and watered by God whether by Moses striking a rock and water flowing out of it or by God sending manna and quail for the Israelites. God wanted the Israelites to trust him but when they came to hard times instead of trusting God they turned on him. What did Jesus do?  Jesus was hungry and the devil tempted him, verse 3:

 

The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’

 

Jesus could have done that but what did he say?

 

Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone.” 

 

4:4 Luke includes only the first part of Jesus’ quotation of Deut 8:3. Matthew also includes the second part: “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). NIV Biblical Theology Bible


Next, the devil leads Jesus up to a high place having done a course that shows the area it shows it not as a flat wasteland but as being mountainous as well so it could be a mountain that Jesus was led up – if you want to have a good sight of the terrain, what better place than the top of a mountain! Verses 5-7:


 

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’

 

Jesus was having none of it! Verse 8:

 

Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”

 

4:8 This quotation from Deut 6:13 bu/ilds on the earlier creedal confession “the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut 6:4). NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible


Finally the devil had one more temptation for Jesus v9-11

 

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

‘“He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

 

According to Josephus it was likely to be the southeast corner of the temple portico below which was a drop of immense depth (Josephus, Antiquities, 15.412) down the Kidron valley. NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible


Jesus’ response? Verse 12

 

12 Jesus answered, ‘It is said: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

After this the devil left Jesus until an opportune time – he was only finished for the moment! Jesus being fully human as well as fully divine faced all the temptations we as humans do but calling on God the Father found the strength to overcome them. That is what we are called to do, keep calling on God when we are tempted, when we are in difficulty, sick or any other problem and with the strength of the Holy Spirit we will be able to overcome – it may not always be as we want or expect but it will be God’s perfect timing and answer. Joni Errikson Tada, a woman who broke her neck and became paralysed from the neck down prayed for healing but is still paralysed from the neck down. She made a mistake diving into water that was too shallow but God did not heal her physically, he used her paralysed condition in a specific ministry. He did heal her emotionally and mentally in order to begin a ministry but he did not repair her severed spinal cord. We need to be careful in what we say to people who are disabled. So often people have been turned away from faith by people saying, ‘you do not have the faith to be healed!’ This is wrong, God may not have caused Joni to forget to check the depth of water she was diving into but he used her resulting condition to minister to others.


Another point to note is that the devil left Jesus ‘until an opportune time’, not leave him altogether just until there was another time Jesus would be at a weak point. This is how the devil tempts us. He waits for his opportunities and takes them! I would highly recommend C S Lewis’s Screwtape Letters it really highlights the subtlety of Satan. He is ever ready to exploit any situation he can. I urge everyone to make time this Lent to set a time to spend with God whether by fasting and using the time normally taken to prepare and eat food to connect with God or by doing something extra like going for a walk in green spaces and really spending quality time in reflection of your life and asking God where you should be and what you should be doing.

Prayer

Lord help us this Lent season to make time to spend quality time with you, help us to listen to you or for some maybe learn to listen for your voice and to earnestly seek your will for our lives. Help us to have a deeper relationship with you. At this time Lord, we pray that there will be peace and we pray for the Ukrainians who have become refugees and for those still stuck in the middle of a war zone and we pray that a cease fir will happen in order to evacuate civillians and the wounded and give time to bury the dead, In Jesus name, amen.

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Sunday 27/02/2022 

This morning's service is very much focussed on a response to the act of war perpetrated by Putin on Ukraine.

Readings

1 Corinthians:1-13

Matthew 5:43-48

Sermon

Today we sit wondering what the future is going to be since Putin invaded Ukraine. The lesson from 1 Corinthians is about love. Love is certainly not on Putin’s mind! Some are quoting the Bible we are living in end times and that there will be wars and rumours of wars and we must not interfere with prophecy. Well since Jesus time yes there have been wars, and wars that have been averted such as the Suez crisis but all that shows is that various leaders have not had love in their hearts. What is Paul saying here to the Corinthians? If a Christian had all knowledge, could speak in tongues had the gift of prophecy and faith to do things humanly impossible – Paul is using hyperbole here regarding moving mountains! He goes on, I may give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast but do not have love I am nothing. Without love, we might do all kinds of amazing things and appear to be extremely righteous but without love we are nothing. Putin has invaded a neighbouring country not out of love but out of greed, in his time as president of Russia he has closed off his people to news from the west, he has ensured that the only TV they have is state TV and only produces what he decrees, he has quietly amassed huge military power and we have seen images of people at so called elections, apparently stuffing ballot boxes in Russia with votes for Putin. He has remained in power not from love but from deceit and fear. When he invaded Ukraine those who demonstrated against him and his actions were quickly arrested. Many Russians do not want to be at war with Ukraine and unless Putin changes tack and pulls his troops back out of Ukraine, there will be a long, drawn-out war that is bloody and destructive and will take a long time to recover from in many ways. We need to ensure that when we pray, we pray for peace for both Ukraine and Russia as there are many in Russia who do not want war. There have been some small demonstrations, but not many as the police are being quick to arrest protesters. We must pray for Putin that he may realise the pariah he is making Russia and maybe realise he has gone too far and allow free elections for Russia that are truly free and democratic. We must pray also for his soul that God will reach him and change him. We must also pray for our own country and all those imposing sanctions against Russia, that we will weather the storm as imposing sanctions will mean that sanctions will be imposed on us. We must pray that NATO remains strong and united in love got out brothers and sisters in Ukraine and we must all be prepared to accept refugees from Ukraine. Finally, we need to pray that Putin does not attack a NATO country as that will be a case of European war. I am saddened that in 2022 another European if not world war could start because of the greed of one man. At the end of World War 2, it must never happen again and here we are in 2022 in the same position as 1939 with a madman deciding to take over a sovereign country.

We must remember the command Jesus gave us to love our enemy and to pray for those who persecute us, why? You may ask, the reason is that we have to reflect God’s love and extend His grace to these people. They were created in God’s image even if they have chosen a different path. They can still be redeemed, especially if their hardness of heart is due to the problems they have experienced in youth Our role is to love them and to pray for them and give God the chance to reach these people and turn them away from destructive behaviour. We must also join with the whole church throughout the world and pray together and show love to each other and be united in love with and for each other.

Prayer

Holy and Gracious God

We pray for the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia; for their countries and their leaders.

We pray for all those who are afraid; that your everlasting arms hold them in this time of great fear.

We pray for all those who have the power over life and death; that they will choose for all people life, and life in all its fullness.

We pray for those who choose war; that they will remember that you direct your people to turn our swords into ploughshares and seek for peace.

We pray for leaders on the world stage; that they are inspired by the wisdom and courage of Christ.

Above all, Lord, today we pray for peace for Ukraine.

And we ask this in the name of your blessed Son.

Lord have mercy.

Amen


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25th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings

1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Mark 13:1-8 

Reading

Mark 13:1-8

The destruction of the temple and signs of the end times

13 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’

‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’

Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth-pains.

Sermon

As they leave the temple, one disciple looks at the buildings of the temple and talks of their magnificence, he still has not learnt! Majestic and magnificent buildings mean nothing to Jesus, in fact the bigger and more magnificent they are the less impressed Jesus was as he had been preaching about the first being last and the last first, so it continues with buildings! As the leaders and teachers had rejected Jesus, they will be rejected as prophesied in Jeremiah and Micah and according to Micah 3:12:


Therefore because of you,
Zion will be ploughed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.


This is exactly what did happen in AD 70, the Romans came down in force and destroyed the temple and it has never been rebuilt. Buildings no matter how magnificent will not remain if the people who run them reject Jesus, God will reject them and remove himself from them. And so it happened in AD70.


When they were sitting on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John and Andrew ask Jesus privately when this would happen and what sign there would be that they were about to be fulfilled. Jesus gave a warning to the disciples that they needed to be alert, not to be fooled by people who would claim to be him and deceive many. The Jews thought the Messiah would be a warrior who would release them from the oppression of Rome. Was this about the coming time in AD70 when the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed or was this to come in the future when the end of the world would come? Look at what Jesus said next:


When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth-pains.

 Was Jesus warning the disciples of what was to come in AD70 or was he warning of the end of the world?

Some people think Jesus was referring to AD 70 and some to the end of the world and still others think both!

Reading the first century historian, Josephus, it is clear that these things happened in AD70 but equally we are taught that at the end when Jesus comes as King in glory to judge, there will have been such things as wars, earthquakes and famines happening.


Look around you now, climate change has caused these things to happen already, uncontrollable wild fires, flooding and whole islands disappearing, many in the world starving, glaciers melting in Alaska. Things we have caused ourselves and yet at the end of COP26, the promises being made have been watered down. Whilst there are no wars as such between nations involving weapons, there are definite tensions between nations, terrorist acts by para military groups and individuals. There are people starving in parts of the world. People being used as pawns by governments for their own agendas.


It would seem that Jesus may well have been talking about the immediate future and at the same time issuing a warning about his second coming and what will precede it and yet, the world becomes more and more secular as time goes on, and the end of COP26 has resulted in watered down pledges regarding the use of fossil fuels.


Today we remember the fallen of all wars and conflicts from the first world war to the current day. I wonder when we remembered the fallen, how many people felt that they would be proud of us today? Sadly, I fear there may well be a lot of pride in the young people of today, the ones protesting and actively doing what they can to change things but for others less so.


This world will end one day but it need not be because we are too selfish, too cowardly and too self-interested to actively deal with climate change and therefore lead us on the path of the extinction of not only animal and plant species but of human beings as well.


It all sounds rather negative, however there is hope yet, that is the hope of people and the power of people. Governments can only do what the people want, if they don’t elections can turn the current government out. We need to pray and keep praying about the future, pray that people come to Jesus, get involved with activists and live more greenly ourselves. Some time ago it was found there were micro plastics in tea bags, not to mention the glue that holds the tea bags together yummy!  Reading or hearing about that I made sure I stopped using tea bags and changed back to loose tea. OK it takes a little more effort and if I am on my own, yes, I will use a tea bag but most of the time I use loose tea in a teapot and also make sure no loose tea goes down the sink as it can block the sink. I buy meat from Farmdrop a grocery store online that uses local farmers and because of that I know the meat I buy is British. Sainsburys only state that the meat they sell was packaged in the UK, it could have been produced anywhere! This adds to the food miles travelled.


With the shortage of long-distance lorry drivers, my son has told me a lot of companies are returning to using the railways to transport goods, Tesco is one of these firms. This means less air polluting trucks are being used. It also means less congestion on the roads. We can try and walk, cycle or use public transport more to get around or change to electric vehicles, those who own their homes can look at installing heat pumps or solar panels and of course ensure their homes are properly insulated. Other ways we can help is to grow things even if it is on a windowsill, you will be amazed at what you can grow! I planted the seeds from a tomato in my fridge and I had tomato plants, the same with the seeds from peppers. Everything we grow helps with the air quality around us. The future is not so bleak as it may seem, in a democracy, power is most definitely with the people as long as those people vote in elections both local and national. There is a thriving Green party, gaining more votes at every election. We all need to be praying about the state we are in but also be active in changing things whether it be joining a specific group, political party or just because we feel it is the right thing to do With concentrated prayer and being willing to stand up and be counted can make a big difference. If people see our passion and care for the planet, for other people will become more interested in who we are and what we stand for. I am willing to teach crafts to anyone interested in either making gifts or joining together in groups to make and sell goods made from sustainably sourced, natural materials to earn money as a co-operative.  There is good to come if we make the effort to be part of that change. Amen

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24th Sunday after Pentecost

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Psalm 127
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44 

Reading

Mark 12:38-44

Sermon

Today we hear of opposites! The scribes and the widow.

Jesus begins by warning about the teachers of the law. What is his problem with them? Remember he has been preaching about the first being last and the last being first? Here he is talking about the people who rate themselves as being more Holy, more righteous than anyone else. He is not condemning people for being rich as these teachers seem to be but their attitude and where their heart is. If we become teachers – ministers or pastors we effectively become servants. That is what the word minister or pastor means. We are ordained to serve not to be served and in so doing we should be setting out the way to live for all people, encouraging them, seeking to help them when they are in need, and to love them as we love ourselves as we lead and teach. So what is wrong with the teachers of the law in Jesus day?


Mark 12:38-44

38 As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the market-places, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.


Jesus is talking about teachers who go around lording it over people, taking the best for themselves and worst of all, saying lengthy prayers that are meaningless! They make themselves noticed by their flowing robes, taking the most important seats in synagogues and places of honour at banquets, they say long prayers wanting to appear more righteous than everyone else. These were the very same people who were unable or unwilling to answer Jesus questions and now Jesus condemns them. They are not serving anyone except themselves and their egos, all they are concerned about is being seen to be better than anyone else, the best seats in the synagogue – that would be seating nearest the ark, they want to be recognized as special and given preferential treatment at banquets. As they were not allowed to be paid for their work as priests, they were dependent on patrons and wealthy widows were easy prey! The system was open to real abuse and of course this made the weakest and most vulnerable in society easy prey! The weakest and most vulnerable of course were the widows with no male to protect them.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where people gave their offerings. Many rich people came and threw in large amounts of money then a widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth very little and Jesus says:

‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’

Those rich people tossing in large amounts of money would not miss it one bit, it was meaningless to them but the widow, giving those two small coins, gave all she had to live on. It meant a great deal to her and yet she was willing to give it to God. Remember I said last week we have to be willing to give all of ourselves to God? That is precisely what this widow did. She gave everything. It does not mea we will have to give everything but we have to be willing to give everything to God. This past week we have seen COP26 taking place, we have heard and seen how climate change has already affected some areas in the world, have the world leaders said, ‘this is terrible we need to make drastic cuts right now to decrease global warming and to repair the damage we have done and are doing right this minute? No! they are taking small steps, the money pledged to these countries who create the least greenhouse gas emissions are suffering from the loss of their homes and livelihoods to climate change as the sea takes over more and more land, in Alaska the glaciers are melting and swallowing up people’s homes and businesses, drought has left people with nothing to feed their families. Have they received the financial aid they were promised from rich, polluting countries? No! This must break Jesus heart it breaks mine to see what is going on and that world leaders are still burying their heads in the sand, more concerned about popularity and numbers than real life and real disasters! What is God calling us to do? What can we do to cut emissions? A lot in fact. We can refuse to buy food from supermarkets that do not make it absolutely clear where the food comes from. Sainsburys have a crafty way around this stating of meat, ‘packaged in the UK’. That does not mean it was raised in the UK. It would be better if we are to eat meat to eat less of it and to buy from farm shops, farmers markets etc where the food is guaranteed to be seasonal and grown on local farms. If people boycott food in supermarkets, the supermarkets will be forced to stop selling food from other countries. Yes, it is more expensive to use farm shops etc but we are also being asked to cut down on the amount of meat we eat anyway.  especiallGovernments may make policies but the general public have a great deal of sway when it comes to doing the right thing! Who knows? We may be able to change the minds of governments for the good. Today I leave you with this challenge, ‘what can I do to make a difference to the climate crisis?’ amen

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Ruth 1:1-18
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34 

Sermon

Jesus is teaching as is usual a leader of the Jews was passing and stopped and listened to the debate going on, he was impressed by Jesus answers and asks a question. Unlike the Pharisees and Sadduces, whose aim is to trip Jesus up, this teacher of the law respectfully seeks Jesus summation of the law.


Sometimes we mistake someone’s intention for instance, I have become very wary of people on Facebook who ask very quickly about my marital status. My response is that Facebook is not a dating site and if that is what they want to go to a dating site! Sometimes however it turns out that dating is not what they are wanting and we can move on.


Clearly Jesus understood that this leader was not like the previous ones whose only desire was for real understanding. He was respectfully asking Jesus to sum up the law. This is not surprising as the Jews counted 613 commandments in the Pentateuch – first 5 books of the Bible which with the prophets are the scriptures of the Jews. Not only were there 613 commandments but each one was discussed to prescribe what was included or excluded in the commandments such as the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy and not work, the rabbis and leaders then dissected every bit of people’s lives and decided what counted as work and what did not, something that has been updated as technology has increased. Today if you go into an area where there are very orthodox Jews, you will find them not turning on  lights from Friday evening dusk until Saturday dusk but if a gentile offers to turn on lights they will accept the offer but they are not allowed to ask someone to turn the lights on for them.


Aren’t you glad you are not Jewish with all those commandments to keep?


The thing is their sacrifices were not enough, they did not remove their sins but there was a new covenant coming one made in the blood of Jesus Christ himself, this new covenant superceded the old commandments with only 2 requirements:

Mark 12:29-31

29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”[b] 31 The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”[c] There is no commandment greater than these.’

This is what Jesus answered, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

He then goes on to add, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’

Burnt offerings and sacrifices were used when one had sinned to be reconciled to God. These would become unnecessary when Jesus became the one perfect sacrifice for all people for all time because Jesus sacrifice would be the only sacrifice that would genuinely forgive the sins of humans.

What the leader said next, coming from a leader testifies to Jesus being the Son of God. In addition, it also showed he understood more than the disciples did about who Jesus was!

32 ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour

as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’


Jesus had given such importance to the second commandment that it was linked to the first commandment.


So what can we take from this? That we should always be looking to help those who need help, comfort those who need comforting, feeding those who are hungry or thirsty, visiting those who are lonely or in prison regardless of their position or status or wealth.  We have seen the best of people during the pandemic, people really living up to that commandment from the skipping Sikh, Captain Tom. Marcus Rashford and many others who remain quietly getting on with what they are doing, not making the news or getting media attention. We need to keep that going it is what we are called to do, this is what Jesus expects of us and we need to look around and see what we can do to help others. As prices are rising and pay may not be rising at the same rate, when people are caring for disabled and needy relatives and need breaks.


The first commandment to love the Lord our God with everything we have, which means we  need to keep praying and reading our Bible in order to keep close to God. Amen


22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Readings

Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52 

Reading

Mark 10:46-52

Sermon

Jesus was wending his way to Jerusalem. His disciples still didn’t get the message! There was a man called Bartimaeus sitting at the side of the road. Bartimaeus was blind but had no doubt heard the crowd coming along and called out to Jesus. The only person to call Jesus, ‘the son of David’. As the crowd came close Bartimaeus started calling out, Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.’ What did the disciples do? Did they stop everyone and ask Jesus to come and see this blind man? No, not a bit of it! They still had not learned! Jesus however, told the disciples to call him. I suspect Jesus waited to see what the disciples would do and probably felt despair that once again they missed what he was about. The disciples called to Bartimaeus, saying, ‘Cheer up, he’s calling you.’

The first thing to note is we don’t know whether Bartimaeus had been blind from birth or had gone blind but somehow he recognised who Jesus is, using the title, ‘son of David’. When called, Bartimaeus jumps up throwing off his cloak and presumably following the noise, reaches Jesus, who asked, ‘what did you want me to do for you?’ Bartimaeus replied, Rabbi, I want to see.’ Jesus did no more then tell him to go, his faith had healed him. Then Bartimaeus did as he was told and his eyes were opened.


The second thing to note is that Bartimaeus trusts Jesus implicitly and seemed to know that Jesus was likely to help him. He had probably heard of other people being healed but it seems he understands a little more having called Jesus, son of David.


Think back over the last few weeks

First we here of the rick man wanting eternal life but walked away sad when Jesus told him to sell all his wealth and give to the poor then to follow him. His wealth got in the way, he was too interested in his wealth.


Then we heard of James and John who wanted to be assured of a place on Jesus right and left when he came into his kingdom, places of honour, in modern times in a board room the places where the second in command and the personal assistant would sit. What was their problem? The desire for power!


Peter wanted to prevent Jesus dying, thought he knew better than Jesus! It is frustrating when people do that, I have experienced it recently over the condition of John and whether he could come home. Finally, he was allowed to come home and as I expected, he improved 100% once he came home. I have since asked why they did not listen to me and received an apology as they accepted that, having lived with him for 45 years, I actually did know more about John than they did!

Peter thought that saving Jesus life on earth was the most important thing, to keep Jesus with them, not realising Jesus came to die, he came to be the one sacrifice for all people for all time.


Bartimaeus only wants to see, once he had received his sight what did he do with it? He followed Jesus. A complete contrast to the rich man!


We have seen over the last few weeks that in Jesus’ Kingdom, everything is turned on its head! The first last and the last first. How do we stack up? Are we the humble subjects Jesus wants or are we more fond of wealth than following Jesus, are we more fond of position than following Jesus, are we more interested in self than following Jesus. This week I am going to ask that each one of us looks at our lives and compares them to the examples of the rich man, James and John, Peter and blind Bartimaeus.

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21st Sunday after Pentecost

Readings

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45 


Reading

Mark 10:35-45

Sermon

The disciples ask Jesus if one could be on his right hand and the other on his left in his glory. Traditionally in any formal meeting the chair has his or her second in command on the right-hand side and PA on the left then everyone else sits anywhere they like round the table but those three places are for the 3 most important people.


How often do humans crave recognition of their importance!


Jesus had been preaching his upside-down world where the last shall be first and the first last ie the most highly thought of should sit at the foot of the table and the least thought of at the head of the table on either side of Jesus.


If we are truly following Jesus we shall be seen for what we are at the bottom of the table we should not need accolades, people should see us as different by the way we live and the things we do.


It proves how little they understood because Jesus response was,

V38  ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?’


How naïve! James and John had no idea of the suffering that Jesus was to go through before he came to his kingdom but yet they eagerly said they could drink the cup Jesus was going to drink and be baptised with the baptism he is to be baptised wth.


Jesus of course was referring to the suffering and death of a criminal on a cross to gain his position and that anyone seeking power would need to relinquish power, glory and honour and go through suffering and death to receive it all.


The Jewish leaders had no real need to go to the Romans to have Jesus killed, they could have stoned him as they later stoned Steven but they wanted to humiliate Jesus as much as they could therefore they wanted him crucified as criminals were crucified by the Romans stripped naked and hanging on a cross dying slowly with people jeering at him.


Jesus then tells them that the people who would occupy those places would be those for whom they have been prepared, that was not within Jesus authority!


No wonder the rest of the disciples were miffed at hearing their request! Which showed they did not get it either! Had they done so they would have said hey let them ask to sit in those places it matters nothing to us. But they complained!


Have you ever been passed over for something? It can hurt and rankle in this world but we are called to be better than that, we are called to be humble and to be the last and let others be first. We are not to look for positions of power in the Christian life regardless of what the world does, Jesus kingdom is totally different and whilst we are living in this world we need to remember we are not part of the world, we are different we are of Jesus world which is totally different. We need to practise that humility whilst here on earth because a reward from Jesus is worth more than the praise of human beings. So in the coming week lets look at how we deal with various situations and see what we need to change. Amen


14th Sunday after  Pentecost

Readings

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 

Reading

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Sermon

The first thing to remember here is that once God had given them laws, the majority are found in the book of Leviticus apart from the Ten Commandments which were given to Moses in Exodus.

Having been given laws, the Rabbis would sit around discussing what these laws meant in real life ie what did , ‘do not work on the Sabbath actually mean’?  So rules were made as to what constituted work and what did not, This is something that remains under review as technology increases. Today in an orthodox Jewish family, they will not turn on electric light on a Sabbath, they will not ask a Gentile to do so but should a Gentile offer that is fine -they would also hope that the Gentile would return to switch off the lights as well.

Of course when they first made rules about what work was, electricity had not been discovered so as new inventions happen, so the Rabbis look at how it impinges on their laws. The Pharisees were keen to show rituals in public to show their Jewishness off, for instance going to the market at a time when they knew it would be a time of prayer so they stopped and said their prayers in the middle of a public place! This way they were seen to be righteous and holy.

So we know the Jews were good at making rules within God’s laws but they also were good at making traditions over and above what God had imposed.

It seems they were well practised in the hand washing department! I imagine the Jewish people were better prepared for Covid that anyone else!


Jesus was not condemning the law God had given but the traditions that the teachers had built up around the law. The Pharisees were those who made a particular point of their Jewishness extended the hand washing rituals required of priests to the general public! These traditions were being treated as though they WERE the law!


Jesus for the first time publicly denounces Jerusalem’s teachers! He quotes the  prophecy of Isaiah to them.


When we move on to verse 14 Jesus is teaching the people saying nothing you take in from the outside makes you unclean, what DOES make you unclean is what comes out of your mouth from your heart! In other words, food you take in will just pass through and the waste expelled from your body. It doesn’t go anywhere near your heart. When you want to let your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend that you love them what symbol do you use? A heart. The heart is where we consider love comes from the heart is the lifegiving muscle in our body without which we cannot live and it is the organ associated with love. When our conscience tells us something needs to be done and we do it we say it comes from the heart.


When we feel things in our heart we express them with out mouths and that is where the danger lies. What are we saying with our mouths is it something from love or is it something from anger or hate? Jesus is saying impurities don’t come from food we eat but from the things we feel and then spit out through our mouths. That is where impure and unclean things come from. There used to be a saying, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never harm me’ that is sooooooo wrong! It should be, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but WORDS CAN TEAR MY HEART OUT.’


This is a warning to all of us to be careful in what we say, to be loving and gentle with people not just those we love but everyone.  As the last part of our reading says it is from the heart that evil thoughts come and lists

sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’


We need to keep a close relationship with God through reading the Bible and praying in order to protect us from the barbs of Satan. One of the main things is how we respond to people looking to be kind and helpful not dismissive of people. I am horrified that we have a government who has paid Afghan people to be interpreters etc and has left them to their fate without bringing them out of the country. Not only that but a journalist has reported that sensitive documents in the embassy were not destroyed but details of people who had been working or applied to work for the UK were left strewn around so that the Taliban could just pick them up and know who was working for or at least friendly to the UK military,  The US are continuing evacuations until Monday yet we have stopped, leaving people stuck there to face the wrath of the Taliban. Maybe we can do something to help those refugees coming here from Afghan but we must also remember those who were left behind and pray for them. Lets do that now.

Lord we lift to you the plight of the Afghan people suddenly coming under the rule of the Taliban. We pray for those who were left behind who had the right to the UK and we ask that you protect them and help them get to safety, Lord we ask your blessing on them. We pray also for those who have relatives in the UK who are worried about them be with those people and give them peace as they wait to hear news of their relatives back in Afghanistan. Lord help us to open our hearts and our doors to those refugees arriving with little more than a suitcase and have their lives to rebuild. Such a frightening time for them and especially for the children, be with them, surround them with your love and bless them and bless them, help them to find homes and jobs and help them to settle quickly into this country. We also pray for military personnel injured in the war in Afghanistan who must be feeling angry and wondering what on earth they lost limbs for be with them Lord and guide them forward a d we pray for the relatives and friend of who died in Afghanistan, making the ultimate sacrifice the most any soldier can do in war. Give them peace and help them come to terms with what has happened In Jesus name we pray amen.

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11th Sunday after Pentecost. 

Readings

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Psalm 130
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51 

Reading

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Sermon

This is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He is the apostle called to reach the Gentiles. Who were the apostles? There are 13 of them in total, the 12 called originally were men who had been with Jesus for the three years of his ministry – this was how training was done then for teachers of the Law, now those called to ministry usually spend 3 years in college but attached to a church for practical experience during that time. The difference is Paul, who was a Pharisee who was persecuting the Christians! He was called in a very different way for a very specific purpose – to take the Good News to the Gentiles! These are the only 13 people who can be apostles no-one these days can write the New Testament and it is these 13 who did as well as starting the Christian church from scratch. No-one these days can do that and therefore no-one has the right to call themselves apostle. Those who follow the apostles into overseeing churches are called Bishops which means overseer and those who evangelise are called evangelists.


What we see in this morning’s reading is a letter written to the Ephesians from Paul about their behaviour. Paul must have had reports of problems within the church about the behaviour of those in the Ephesian church. What has Paul to say to them?

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.

It would seem that people were not being truthful as to what they were not being truthful about we are not told but the instruction is clear, be honest with each other do not lie maybe you feel out of line with others either in the church or outside the church the message is the same, be honest! If you pretend to be the same as others in the church instead of talking to someone about what you feel and admitting you feel different, you will never be able to change anything and to become like the others. It could hurt someone else who is struggling if they think you are fine and don’t realise you are struggling, it could even be the thing that turns that person away from the church. It may be that you might feel more comfortable in a church that has a different form of churchmanship. We have many denominations with different forms of churchmanship and this is good as long as they all accept each other because God created us as individuals and because of that one size does not fit all! Some are helped by liturgical worship, some prefer more charismatic worship neither are wrong they are just different ways of worshipping according to what different people find helpful! Outside of the church we need to be honest with others, don’t hide your faith or join in with behaviour you find dishonest. It may be normal for people where you work to make personal calls during the working day, but that is stealing time from your employer, the person who is paying you to work a set number of hours, it may be common practice to embellish expense claims but it is theft from your employer.

We can all be angry when things go wrong and we must be careful about what we do with that anger! When we become Christians our emotions do not suddenly change, if you were born with a temper that flares up that is not suddenly going to change but it is something we have to work on. Some people hold it in and it can build and then burst out and not only the thing that has caused the anger but everything in the past since the last outburst comes out and can be very hurtful to other people. If something makes you angry, it is better if you take yourself away from the situation, calm down and then go to the person or group that has caused the anger and talk through the issues. Harder is when we use the internet, it is so easy to fire off an email and then regret what we have done. The best thing is if you feel it is necessary to write an email when you are angry, at least leave it in your draft folder for 24 hours and then read it again. By then you may want to edit or discard your email! This leads on to the next thing, do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. This is very important, if you stew over something overnight it will mean you will not have a good night’s sleep and the door is open for Satan to attack! It also means you are likely to be tired and not at your best the whole of the next day. The longer you allow the anger to burn inside you the more opportunities you give Satan to attack! Satan is devious and sly. I would recommend everyone read CS Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters to see  just how sly Satan can be!

Stealing and honesty go together and whilst we know stealing is bad we need to be aware of the subtle ways of stealing there are. The odd personal letter put through the firm’s franking machine etc I have already spoken about these things.


We need to stop saying unwholesome things that could be swearing or being very critical and it is wrong but we should be saying things that build someone up instead of knocking them down, thinking about their needs being compassionate and really concentrating on what others are saying not just listening with half an ear and missing important clues as to their needs.


We are told to get rid of all bad feelings and treat everyone with kindness, care and consideration. In other words, loving your neighbour as you love yourself. We all make mistakes there are times when something winds us up and if you have the kind of temper that flairs easily, it is a hard thing to control but with prayer it is possible most of the time. We do get things wrong sometimes and that is why we have a time of confession during the service every week so what I want to do today is ask you to think back over the past week and to think about what we need to ask forgiveness for, ask the Lord to show you what you need to change and then spend dome time in prayer, ask the Lord to show you what you need to change and for the strength to do so.


Talk

The first thing to remember here is that once God had given them laws, the majority are found in the book of Leviticus apart from the Ten Commandments which were given to Moses in Exodus.


Having been given laws, the Rabbis would sit around discussing what these laws meant in real life ie what did , ‘do not work on the Sabbath actually mean’?  So rules were made as to what constituted work and what did not, This is something that remains under review as technology increases. Today in an orthodox Jewish family, they will not turn on electric light on a Sabbath, they will not ask a Gentile to do so but should a Gentile offer that is fine -they would also hope that the Gentile would return to switch off the lights as well.

Of course when they first made rules about what work was, electricity had not been discovered so as new inventions happen, so the Rabbis look at how it impinges on their laws. The Pharisees were keen to show rituals in public to show their Jewishness off, for instance going to the market at a time when they knew it would be a time of prayer so they stopped and said their prayers in the middle of a public place!


So we know the Jews were good at making rules within God’s laws but they also were good at making traditions over and above what God had imposed.

It seems they were well practised in the hand washing department! I imagine the Jewish people were better prepared for Covid that anyone else!


Jesus was not condemning the law God had given but the traditions that the teachers had built up around the law. The Pharisees were those who made a particular point of their Jewishness extended the hand washing rituals required of priests to the general public! These traditions were being treated as though they WERE the law!


Jesus for the first time publicly denounces Jerusalem’s teachers! He quotes the  prophecy of Isaiah to them.


When we move on to verse 14 Jesus is teaching the people saying nothing you take in from the outside makes you unclean, what DOES make you unclean is what comes out of your mouth from your heart! In other words, food you take in will just pass through and the waste expelled from your body. It doesn’t go anywhere near your heart. When you want to let your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend that you love them what symbol do you use? A heart. The heart is where we consider love comes from the heart is the lifegiving muscle in our body without which we cannot live and it is the organ associated with love. When our conscience tells us something needs to be done and we do it we say it comes from the heart.


When we feel things in our heart we express them with out mouths and that is where the danger lies. What are we saying with our mouths is it something from love or is it something from anger or hate? Jesus is saying impurities don’t come from food we eat but from the things we feel and then spit out through our mouths. That is where impure and unclean things come from. There used to be a saying, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never harm me’ that is sooooooo wrong! It should be, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but WORDS CAN TEAR MY HEART OUT.’


This is a warning to all of us to be careful in what we say, to be loving and gentle with people not just those we love but everyone.  As the last part of our reading says it is from the heart that evil thoughts come and lists

sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’


We need to keep a close relationship with God through reading the Bible and praying in order to protect us from the barbs of Satan. One of the main things is how we respond to people looking to be kind and helpful not dismissive of people. I am horrified that we have a government who has paid Afghan people to be interpreters etc and has left them to their fate without bringing them out of the country. The US are continuing evacuations until Monday yet we have stopped, leaving people stuck there to face the wrath of the Taliban. Maybe we can do something to help those refugees coming here from Afghan but we must also remember those who were left behind and pray for them.

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10th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Psalm 51:1-13
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35 

Reading

John 6:24-35

Sermon

Did the crowd see the disciples get into a boat to cross the lake? We are not told but it would seem likely as they ask Jesus when he got to the other side of the lake.


Jesus knew their hearts, they only looked for him because they saw the signs he had performed and he had fed them. It was all about what he could do for them in the here and now with no thought about who he actually was or who he came from. To have healed people and turned one boy’s lunch into a feast for thousands didn’t make them question this.

Jesus tells them not to work for food that spoils but food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’


The Jews were used to the idea that doing good works was what pleased God – keeping the law, caring for those less well off than themselves, working hard. Also the amount of wealth and good health they had was deemed an indication of their standing with God, the more you had, the more righteous you were!


Jesus came to bring a different message. As they were unable to live by the law, in the future, eternal life was gained by God’s grace to humans, we actually could do nothing to gain eternal life all we have to do is have faith and believe in Jesus, the Son of God and God would do the rest.


Over 2000 years later and with the benefit of hindsight, we know that Jesus died for us and for all humanity past, present and future! God accomplished His work through Jesus and there is nothing we can do to earn it.

Whoah! Before you get carried away, no that doesn’t mean you can break laws, stop caring for and helping others! James also writes on this!


James 2:14-19

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.

It is BECAUSE of our faith in a loving God who sent his equally loving Son who died for us to take away our sins that we in return should be WANTING to help those who do not have as much as we have, those in trouble and those who are sick and that includes those with mental health issues as well as physical issues.

As for the law, we are expected to keep laws of the country in which we live as those in authority only have that authority because God has allowed them to. The only thing we do not have to do is keep laws of the country when they are in conflict with God’s law. Remember how Jesus was tested on this very question?

Luke 20:21-25

21 So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’

23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 ‘Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?’

‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.

25 He said to them, ‘Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’


This makes it clear that we cannot earn our way to eternal life, we cannot do anything that is good enough to gain eternal life, it requires the Grace of God!

After all the things they had seen and heard the next request was astounding! They asked what sign he would give them that they could see it and believe! As if they hadn’t seen numerous signs already!

So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”[a]

They attributed the manna appearing to Moses and were asking for a sign greater than this to prove that Jesus was greater than Moses. They missed the point entirely, Moses did not provide the manna, God did.

32 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’

They wanted to be given this bread and Jesus responded:

35 Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

In making this statement Jesus was stating he was the Son of God and that it was him to whom all authority was given by God. They did not understand this generally although it is possible that those who truly believed and followed Jesus did get it but Jesus was using parables so that those who were not true disciples would not understand the meaning of his parables and sayings. I am sure there were a lot of people who were as confused at the end of this event as they were at the beginning!

For us it is simple, we need to believe in Jesus and have faith in the fact he is the Son of God and we will be saved. However, if we truly are Christians, we need to expect that our lives will be changed, the more we listen to God and obey him, the more we will be changed into the people He wants us to be, the people He created us to be. Do we obey Him? Are our lives being changed? I’ll leave you to ponder on the way your life is going.

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2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21 

Did anyone spot the second miracle? Maybe not, it frequently gets overlooked! Before we get to that let's look at what was happening here. Jesus was doing more than just feeding over 5000 people - don't forget,  the number 5000 referred only to the men, women and children were not counted in those days.

People would follow Jesus everywhere, it makes you wonder how they managed to arrest and crucify Jesus who had such support until you realise many of them were  only following Jesus because people were being healed! These were not true dsciples, while Jesus was doing something for them, he was fantastic, the best thing since sliced bread! These were not true disciples, I am sure some became true disciples and maybe some already were disciples,  but in the main they followed Jesus because of the miracles of healing being performed. They certainly did not understand the significance what was happening.

Jesus told disciples to sit people down and askedthem how all these people could be fed!  how to feed them, the disciples were flummoxed, feed all these people? It would cost more than half year’s wages feed all these people! In a practical sense this was an impossible task. but nothing is impossible for Jesus! A bpy had 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish which he gave to Jesus. Even so among that number of people? One person’s lunch? Never! For humansthis was  impossible but anything is possible for God. Jesus takes bread and fish, gives thanks to God and broke it up gave to disciples to distribute. When everyone had eaten enough the disciples were told to collect up what was left. They collected 12 baskets full. Interesting they tell us how many basketfuls were left. 12 baskets equals the 12 tribes of Israel! Jesus was telling them that He is the bread of life for all the Israelites all 12 tribes! The Gentiles of course would be fed as well but Jesus did not want to muddy the waters and kept it to the saving of the Jews as it was Jews he was reaching.

When people saw this sign they said surely this is the prophet who is to come into this world. They were right! They wanted to make him King and when he realised what they were trying to do he withdrew up a mountain.

Evening came, Jesus had not reappeared so disciples got into boat to cross the lake to Capernaum. The wind got up, the waves were rough and it was getting dark still no Jesus. When they were 3-4 miles from shore saw Jesus walking to them on the water, At first they were afraid! Not surprising!  Imaginations can run riot when we are frighte ned and especially in the dark on choppy waters. Jesus called out to them not to be afraid, then they were willing to take him into boat -immediately arrived at other side. This is the miracle often missed -  the boat suddenly arrived at the other side of lake, immediately Jesus climbed in, disciples didn’t have to row anymore they were there! There are times we all feel alone, as those disciples must have done after Jesus had retreated up the mountain and left them alone.awondering if Jesus would come back! This is not unusual for humans to feel, left alone, not feeling the presence of Jesus with us During the pandemic many times people felt alone, didn't feel Jesus with them maybe being in hospital with covid, maybe seeing people dying around them. The person who has lost their job, had PIP payments stopped, not sure where money or food was coming from. Maybe they have prayed and it just felt like no-one was there. Instead of looking inwards, look outwards look at amazing staff caring for you, absolutely exhausted still keeping going doing job trained to do even though Jesus doesn’t feel near still listen to audio Bible, when nurse washing you, changing sheets, think of it as Jesus hands doing it Jesus hands caring for your job or PIP payments when someone turns up with food for you, someone who hadn’t been told of your plight, think of it asJesus putting your name in their head, Jesus still watching over you. Even if you can’t think straight, because of Illness or just how things are, because everything is going round and round in  your head remember Jesus is with you, He loves you  and cares for you.

Faith and belief are necessary t,hey cannot be separated, we need to believe and then to have the faith to know that Jesus is with us all the time. Pilgrims Progress the book a group of us are reading shows this so well, and it is summed up so well in the beautiful poem, Footprints in the Sand which I will finish with:


One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."

He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."

Amen!

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Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 

Psalm 23

What a lovely and comforting Psalm often used at funerals as it is so comforting. 

The Lord is my shepherd, this is a common theme throughout the Bible. The loving caring  shepherd of the Old Testament becomes even more so in the New Testament when Jesus claims to the the Good Shepherd and we find that God wants us as His children!  If God is our father what does he want for us? The best of course! What does he do for us? He holds us when we are sad or in trouble, He comforts us.

Reading Pilgrims Progress makes me think more about how we actually live and work. How often do we seek help from those around us before seeking help from God? How often when something goes wrong do we get on the phone to friends, relatives and not God? How often do we share good nes with friends and family here on earth before sharing with our heavenly Father? Too often! How hard we make our lives! How often have we gone to bed at night with problems going over and over in our minds with no answer and we toss and turn when if we had just given over the burdens to God we could have slept through the night peacefully.

With the Lord as my shepherd I lack nothing and that includes peace of mind! God created a beautiful world for us to live In.

Have you ever wondered why we often feel so much better when we are out in green spaces, or in the sea or river? Why we can feel so energised after being in the countryside? Because God created the countryside and the coast for that purpose! He knows we need places to go to be refreshed and energised. Only now as we face a climate crisis has the government accepted the need for green spaces and the importance of the natural world.

During the past 18 months, many people have found comfort in walking in the countryside or by the sea, this is not an accident! This is God providing for us;

He makes me lie down in green pastures He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.

Maybe we should remember this more often! If God provides all this for us, knowing what we need, isn’t this something that tells us we can trust Him to listen to our worries and problems!

Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.

The darkest valley or the valley of the shadow of death, the valley in view here would have been a deep rocky wadi. A dry streambed carved by rushing waters in the spring but dark and forbidding most of the year. Dangers include flash floods, attacks from animals or outlaws. David is not afraid. Why? Because the Lord is leading him and protecting him.

As you may recall, David was chosen by God to be the successor of Saul. Insanely jealous, Saul spent ages tracking David, trying to kill him, No matter where he went, Saul kept making plans to kill him but the Lord was protecting him the whole time.

So what does this mean for us? We need to make sure that every day we wake up we pray dedicating the coming day to the Lord maybe you do this best through music, maybe through simply being still and praying or maybe having a walk in a park or in the countryside or even just in your own back garden just having a bit of time to be quiet, thinking of what you have to do that day and offering it to your father in heaven. Maybe if you are artistic you find it easier to draw things, if you like writing write a letter, whatever feels right to you do it. Through the day, if you feel stressed taking a few minutes to tell God your heavenly Father about whatever has caused this stress before carrying on. If you are at work and there is nowhere quiet, go to the toilet and talk to your Father, maybe if you have a chaotic household grabbing a few minutes to talk to your father in the toilet but if you can, go out into a green space and then at night give time to reflect on the day that is gone and pray again asking your father to take the burdens you may be carrying and to give you a peaceful night. It may not be something that is stressing you out, it may be a decision you need to make and are unsure of which option to take, something like that. Most of all thank your father for being your father and for all the things he is doing for you and has done for you in the past and thanking him for the day, for the people you love and for everything you have. Amen.


8th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings: 

2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 

What a job! The apostles were tasked with setting up the Christian church. At the time, the only Scriptures they had were the Jewish Scriptures, our Old Testament. The New Testament had not been written at that time, the apostles were actually writing it as they worked! The church in Ephesus had both Jews and Gentiles amongst the congregation and this caused a problem. Jewish male babies were circumcised at the age of 8 days whilst Gentile male babies were not. The Jewish Christians seemed to have felt themselve superior and were trying to impose their ideas on their Gentile congregations. Paul was writing to tell them that circumcision was no longer necessary and that the new covenant created by the death and resurrection of Jesus, set aside the old covenant. Why? Was it wrong? No not at all! The problem was that the Jews were unable to keep the laws! The Pharisees kept the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. They were proud and made sure at prayer times they were somewhere busy so that everyone saw them praying and thought of them as being very righteous. That is not what was meant to happen and if you cannot keep the whole law and the spirit of the law you were condemned. Therefore the covenant made through the body and blood of Christ, is a  covenant of grace, God's grace to us sinners so that Jesus came to be the one and only sacrifice for all people for all time. 

We are creatures of habit and we are brought up to keep rules in school they often have rules about walking on the left or the right this is in order to prevent accidents as is the rule not to run in the corridors, sensible rules and wise in a building containing a large number of children. However, as you can see, we are taught to keep rules and we are well practised in it. As we are heading to a time all lockdown laws are withdrawn, the Prime Minister is telling us to be careful and take responsibility for ourselves and others to keep everyone safe. This is something new and will be difficult as we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, he spent time asking people to socially isolate, wear masks etc but people would not do it therefore, it had to be made law. People understand rules and laws but not the grace that the new covenant is built on, God's grace. 

What does it mean for us? churches are full of rules, some are for health and safety, some are to do with ordination. We are a ountry full of individuals we were created in that way by God and so we all have different likes and dislikes ideas of what is right and what is wrong but most of that is personal choice some like gospel music, others prefer traditional hymns and with a mix of cultures we also have cultural elements to be considered. We are lucky to have the huge variety of churchmanship to choose from but we should not loo down on other forms of churchmanship we should embrace sll the differences that the various cultures bring to this country and where there are serious problems we need to be gentle in our correction for we are all sinners. A group of us are reading Pilgrims Progress and one of the things that struk me about Mr Evangelist is how gentle he is in correctiong Christian. Sadly this is not always the case in churches and it has turned some people away from God. 

This country has seen a huge increase in racial tensions, in racial slurs and some very abusive behaviour. We have also seen a rise in violent crime. The authorities are scratching their heads trying to find ways of stopping this. 

Maybe the church could lead the way and show it is perfectly possible to show love not hate and to welccome different cultures and to embrace other cultures. 

I leave you with these thoughts, can we be the behinning of a change in attitude towards culture, race and gender and maybe encourage the rest of the country to start repairing relationships and to grow in respect for each other.

Prayer: Lord during these dark and troubling times, let your light shine out from Christians and their churches that we may get through these troubling times with love and respect for others no matter what their creed, colour or gender knowing that all people are created in your image. Guide us and help us to guide others we pray in Jesus name amen