Saturday, November 17, 2018

Luke 14vv25-35

Draft handout. Snappy as ever!

Luke 14:25-35 (p1048)

If you are interested in Jesus

or you want to do what God wants,

listen to this! (v25, v35b)

If you are thinking about following Jesus:

(1) You must put Jesus first, even above your family and your own life (vv25-26)

(2) You must be willing for the shame and death of following Jesus (v27)

(3) You must count the cost of following Jesus to the end before you begin

Compare it to a building project… (vv28-30)

Or to a war… (vv31-32)

(4) You must (in principle) give up everything you have to be Jesus’ disciple (v33)

(5) You must be a real disciple, not a useless one (vv34-35)


From The Rectory

What do you desire for 2019?

This parish magazine item is all about desire. But don’t worry: it’s not as pacey as it might sound!

The Church of England is very keen on what it calls Spiritual Directors or Soul Friends for the clergy. It is a kind of cheap therapy: a chap you go and talk to about your walk with the Lord and anything else that is bugging you. You can safely sound off about the parishioners, for example, theoretically!

Anyway, my “Spiritual Director” has asked me to reflect on “What do you really want?” And it occurs to me that it is not a simple business. Sometimes we do not really know ourselves. We can surprise ourselves or be mysterious even to ourselves. Your reactions, or thoughts, or things you say might reveal desires you didn’t really know you had. Or which you didn’t want to admit, even to yourself. Or which you did not realise were so strong, or so unmet or….  

In this New Year season, you might like to give yourself a spiritual health check, a mini MOT of the soul. And I think this question, “What do you desire?” would not be a bad one to ponder.

Perhaps I could make three general points about desire:

(1) Desires are good

Christians have sometimes been worried by desires, especially the more bodily desires, like the drive for food or sex. Eastern religions tend to seek detachment both from suffering and desire. But according to the Bible God made us good with good desires.

(2) Desires are disordered

Yet we all know that we and our world are far from perfect. Sometimes we desire the wrong things. Often we desire good things too much, or for the wrong reasons, or by the wrong means. It is not that we need to be free from all desire. Rather, we need our desires re-ordered. When we make things our ultimate desire, they become our god, a false god, an idol.

(3) All desires are designed ultimately to terminate in the love of God

If you are a regular at church you are probably bored of hearing me quote St Augustine of Hippo. He wrote in his spiritual autobiography, The Confessions: “O Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” Whether we realise it or not, God is our highest desire. We were made to love him and be loved by him. All legitimate desires flourish only in relation to God who is the source and goal of all things. Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. If we do, we will find that is what we really want.

So what?

Once you’ve worked out what you want, I’m not sure what the next step is. Or quite how our desires are to be reordered, except by the miraculous intervention of the grace of God. Maybe my next session with therapy man will reveal the answer, and I can report back in these pages. I reckon there will be some things of which to repent. And some things to seek, under God, as far as circumstances and other duties allow. That, I think, would give you enough to be working on, and perhaps the Holy Spirit would do the rest as your read your Bible, pray and attend church – if that’s what you want.

Enjoy your 2019! But mind what you seek. Above all, pray that you might enjoy God by glorifying him. Perhaps in 2020 we might be able to say that our desires are somewhat different and are somewhat more fulfilled, even as we groan for their full flowering in the New Creation.

The Revd Marc Lloyd

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Come Dine With Jesus (Luke 14:1-24)

A handout:

Philippians 2:1-11 (p1179) / Luke 14:1-24 (p1047)



(1) SEATING PLANS: Be Humble

Be humble, and God will exalt you (vv7-11)

Luke 1:46-53

What Jesus himself did…

-        Glory, Manger, Cross, Resurrection, Ascension

-        Washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17)

Luke 22:24-27

(2) GUEST LISTS: Receive God’s Grace and Be Generous

Jesus has compassion on a man who needs mercy and help (vv2-6)

Luke 5:29-32

Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind (v13)

Luke 6:32-36

God invites the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame (v21)

You’ve been invited – come! (v17)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Enjoying "God"

Mrs Lloyd and I have brought Tim Chester's new book, Enjoying God (Good Book Company, 2018) on holiday. (I should point out that thus far I have only read a tiny bit and not super carefully!).

Chester points out that God is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Agreed!

He therefore argues that strictly, speaking of "God" is always shorthand for God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (or perhaps for one of the persons). We do not know God in his essential and mysterious nature but only through the persons.

I think Chester claims that our relationship with God will always be clarified and deepened if we think specifically about the persons and that this will help us to enjoy God more fully.

I wonder how this approach maps on to biblical usage?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Luke 9:1-13 - Some headings

My current attempt:

(Suffering is real and painful and is often given as an objection to the Christian faith)

For Jesus:

Suffering is not simply a hypothetical issue to be discussed (vv1-2)

Suffering is not (normally) a direct consequence of extreme personal sin (vv2-3, v4)

Suffering is a warning of the judgement to come, which we all deserve (v3, v5)

Suffering should lead us to real repentance before God’s patience runs out (vv6-9)

* * *

Bock's outline:

Lessons for Israel (vv1-9)

(a) Tragedy and the need to repent (vv1-5)

(i) Massacre by Pilate and the call to repent (vv1-3_

(ii) Tower of Siloam and the call to repent (vv4-5)

(b) Parable of the spared fig tree (vv6-9)

(i) Instruction to destroy the tree (vv6-7)

(ii) Delay and warning (vv8-9)

* * *

All Souls’ Langham Place, Richard Bewes, Suffering - a dead end? - G027 Series: The Bible Speaks Today (Issues of Topical Concern) - 09/11/1997


(1) We are all living in a fallen world

(2) We’re all living in a temporary home

(3) We are all living on borrowed time


(4) We’re all living as debtors to love

* * *

St Ebbe’s, Al Gibbs - Questions Of Life: What is Jesus looking for? 15/03/2015


(1) The role of suffering: suffering is meant to make us repent.

It shows us that something is wrong and that something needs to be done about it

(2) The need for repentance

Suffering is a foretaste of the judgement of sin and a worked example of the horror of sin

(3) The urgency of the hour

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Ethos, logos, pathos

Is this a useful way of thinking about preaching?

Which do we particularly need to work on?

How can we develop these?

Harvest is brought to you by the letter "G"

You could do something for harvest with the allure of alliteration's aidful art.

Maybe the kids would enjoy how many food / harvest words beginning with "g" can you think of?!

The ground has produced a harvest.
The crops have grown.
They are all good gifts of the grace of God.
We should respond not with greed but with gratitude and generosity.

Friendship evangelism?

British evangelicalism has often had a strategy of so-called "friendship evangelism". Tell your friends the good news about Jesus is a no-brainer but there are at least two possible problems with this.

(1) No friendships?

Some Christians have few real friendships outside the church for all sorts of reasons. Maybe quirks of personality. Perhaps busyness at church activities and meetings. Obviously there are some cultural and worldview bridges to cross between contemporary British evangelicals and the average local pagan.

But as a strategy this whole approach is questionable, is it not? We do not befriend people solely for the purpose of propping up our club, as if the Village Hall committee were a bit short of helpers and the current team were tasked to target people they might recruit by getting them round for dinner a couple of times and then popping the question. The friendships must be genuine if there is to be honest and ethical friendship evangelism.

(2) No evangelism?

But I imagine most of us get stuck at the friendship stage. We are for ever building up the friendship. It is too soon to mention Jesus. And then the friendship really matters to us, so it is a bit risky to mention Jesus if that might jeopardise the friendship.

Better than a friendship evangelism strategy, how about this:

If we love people and we believe we have the best and most vital news in the world ever to share, it will be hard to shut us up, though, won't it?

This is of course easier to say than to do. Pray for the Rector in this too!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Consider the ravens

We need to let the context determine exactly what lesson Jesus wants us to learn from the ravens because considered in themselves they could be thought to be pretty anxiously obsessed with getting food for themselves and with sex and such other worldly concerns. Granted that they do not plan barn expansion and luxurious retirements, the raven would protest that he works pretty hard and thinks about little other than feeding himself and the kids. He does not necessarily have his mind fixed on God and his kingdom. Although perhaps I risk being uncharitable to the Christian ravens.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Henry VIII

It is obviously an understatement to say that Henry VIII was a remarkable person.

I found this comment from MacCulloch's Cromwell interesting:

"Henry, when not showing off his masculinity in sports and open-air pursuits, was... an addict of books, even though he often got other people to read them to him. The large accumulations of them in his various palaces were one of the most genuinely individual features among his displays of monarchical conspicuous expenditure. He spent laborious but clearly enjoyable hours annotating his collection, usually with some particular political or theological purpose in mind." (p141)

Luke 12:22-34 - Do Not Worrry - A draft handout

FWIW the handout went through a bit of an iteration this AM so I am going with this version 2 if the printer co-operates!

LUKE 12vv22-34 (p1045)



What is life all about? (V15, v23)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore…” (v22)

Anxious about the necessities of life?

·       Illustration 1: God feeds the ravens (v24)

·       Worry is pointless (Vv25-26)

·       Illustration 2: God clothes the lilies (vv27-28)

·       Worry is unnecessary (v28-31)

The antidote to worry: trusting your loving heavenly Father (v30)


Don’t worry / Don’t think of a pink elephant!

The alternative to setting your heart on food and drink and running after such things: seeking God’s kingdom (vv29-31)

Irish logic? (Vv31-32)

The motivating power of grace: Seek the kingdom which God has been pleased to give you – not anxious worry about God and his kingdom!

Invest in heaven! (v33)

You / your heart will follow your money! (v34)

What is life all about? God and his kingdom! Cf. The Lord’s Prayer

Luke 12: The kingdom of God, worry and giving

I am not planning to use them, but just in case anyone finds these little headings from Hugh Palmer useful:

The rich fool: greed without gain

Worry: ulcers without profit

(1) Kingdom priorities (v31)


(2) Kingdom confidence (v32)


(3) Kingdom generosity (v33)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Evangelical preaching: diagnosis, application, exposition, explanation

I have been listening to The Revd Vaughan Roberts, who is one of my favourite preachers to plagiarise.

I would say that significantly more than half of the sermon could be called diagnosis and application rather than exposition or explanation, though there is certainly a good measure of that. The theological ideas are arguably relatively few and simple but we are shown our need of them and the difference they might make.

The preaching actually connects to how we might think and act.

For example, we are encouraged to think about what produces excessive emotional reactions in us and to chase down the rabbit holes to discover what we are really running after.

We feel that at least to a degree the preacher empathises with us and is seeking to understand us.

Issues of identity and security are explored and related to relationship with God our heavenly Father. What determines your sense of self? What or who are you trusting?

I would say that is less than typical of some evangelical preaching, or at least of how we typically think of it, and that there is much to learn here.

Worry (Luke 12:22-26)

A little quaint, perhaps but...

“The Robin and the Sparrow"

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend I think that it must be,
That they have no Heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me.”

Elizabeth Cheney 

Luke 12:22ff

I may use this on Sunday AM so you may wish to look away now:

Most preachers re-use some of their material from time to time.

And it seems that the Lord Jesus was no exception.

Who knows how often Jesus preached.

Maybe most days, perhaps several times a day or for several hours.

And so he probably didn’t have time for lots of extra sermon preparation as he travelled around.

You can imagine the disciples saying to him, “O, Jesus, tell us the one about the whited sepulchres again!”

Or, “Jesus, what about the one about the man with the plank in his eye?!”

The oral tradition of the time depended on repetition and that helps to account, under God, for the remarkable preservation and agreement between the gospels.

We’re more familiar with this famous passage from the version in Matthew’s gospel where it forms part of the sermon on the mount.

And we’ve looked at that passage together before.

But here it has a different context which brings out particular aspects of its meaning.

Starting the reading at v22 is really starting mid-way through!

When we come to the “therefore” in v22, we ought to know from our Bible study training that we should ask: “What is the therefore therefore?”

What is the logic of the passage that is being pointed out here?

Because of that, therefore this.

Because of what Jesus has previously said, now here comes the application which follows from it.

So the application of what exactly?

Let’s recall that brilliant little parable of the rich fool which Jesus told which we studied last week.

Towards an evangelical theology of place II: church buildings

Evangelicals are sometimes fond of saying that church buildings are really a nothing: rain shelters, more or less glorious.

God does not live in temples made by human hands. Absolutely.

But consider 2 things which give our buildings significance:

(1) Meaning and value are partly socially and historically constructed.

Which sounds fancy. What it means is that Elton John's glass or Elvis Presley's guitar are worth much more than any old cup or instrument to many people.

Say your church has been at the iconic, religious, cultural, physical heart of your village since AD 800 and that prayers have been offered there every day time out of mind. Does that make the building magic? Of course not. Does it physically change it? Probably only fairly minimally. Does it matter? I think any reasonable person would say it does. Even if it does not matter to the Evangelical preacher, he can be sure it matters to the villagers, even those who rarely attend!

Calvin would not want you to play ping pong on the Lord's Table, though it is just a table. Consider that.

(2) Neutrality is impossible.

Even an empty white box of a building has a significance and sends a message (maybe God hates stuff, or beauty, or something!). You building must have some sort of shape, so maybe a cross is not a bad one.

If you are Christian at all you need some kind of Table and you need to put it somewhere. You probably want a pulpit or lectern of some description.

So we need to think about this stuff.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Don't worry - easy?!

 Don't worry (Matthew 6 / Luke 12)

(1) "That’s easy for you to say!"

Well, yes, it is. Relatively. Maybe. We’re not exactly living the high life at the Rectory but we are relatively comfortable and secure compared to many, in some ways, I suppose.

But remember that these are the words of Jesus. He was born in relative poverty and had lived in exile as a wanted baby. He had no where to lay his head. He would die as the worst sort of common criminal, seemingly with only the clothes on his back to his name. He was buried in a borrowed grave. He knew whereof he spoke.

(2) "That’s easy to say!"

Well, yes, it is.

But Jesus gives us good reasons not to worry. Worry is pointless and unnecessary. We cannot add to our lives by worry. And we need not worry because our loving heavenly Father will take care of us and bring us at last to the promised land of the New Creation.

We might have money worries, but we do not have to cultivate them. Jesus is not saying that we are never to think of money or plan for the future. But we need not be consumed by worry about these things. We can cast our anxieties on him, knowing that he cares for us. 

Rather than just saying "do not think of a pink elephant" / "do not worry", Jesus gives us a positive focus: seek first the kingdom of God. 

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Christians Against Poverty are Christian Shock!

The BBC2 documentary Debt Saviours available on iPlayer is well worth an hour of your time.

The crew did lots and lots of filming and they have, of course, chosen the most engaging, striking material. Naturally they had an eye to any issues or angles. A bit of controversy is good for ratings.

And though the BBC is not a bastion of evangelicalism (!) I would say CAP comes out excellently. Even if you are not a God-botherer of exactly their brand, there is so much to admire.

One issue is that perhaps CAP are doing what some think the government or maybe the financial services industry should do. Well, I don't buy that. But the government aren't doing it, are they?

As someone has on Twitter, in fact, it is the Christians who are working with the most vulnerable most effectively and this could be multiplied in many other areas. When Richard Dawkins and the National Secular Society run food banks and schools and drug rehabilitation, maybe we should listen to their arguments a bit more carefully. Until then, as someone else said, by their fruits you shall know them.

And, surprise surprise, Christians, like, believe in God and the Bible and Jesus and prayer. And they invite people to church. And give them free literature. Of course! They think the gospel is good news worth sharing which actually works. Trusting Jesus and church membership would actually help people in debt if they gave it a go.

But this is done with gentleness and respect and the highest possible ethical standards. Say, "thanks, I'm not interested in all the God stuff, but can you help with my debt?" and bob is your father's brother.

If I knew anyone with debt issues, I know what I would Google, even if I were a militant atheist.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Sam Harris' argument summarised

Look, we are just going to have to agree that we know what rationality is and that it works. And what "good" and "bad" are, at least at the extremes.

Peterson's (and other right thinking persons') response: These are problems!

How do we go from "facts" to values?

Peterson v Harris

Peterson seems to benefit from much more specific science and knowledge of the philosophical tradition. His arguments seem much more precise and there is less need for hand waving.

"I can't believe, even if I wanted to"

Nah. I don't buy that. You have to doubt your doubts.

What does your atheism do for you? Are you willing to give that up?

You can believe lots of things that don't seem possible to you.

And you can feel profoundly lots of things you think are untrue.

You can do what you want in this area.

You've got to get over yourself.

To believe is to give intellectual assent and to trust, to depend, not so much to feel persuaded or be able to prove something.

Carry on!

Towards an Evangelical Theology of Place

It is really hard to think about anything for 10 minutes. But say you made an evangelical think for 10 minutes about place or the related idea of space, what might he say?

(The is interesting as the C of E thinks about the parish system. And as society things about Anywheres and Somewheres).

Though Christians have had something to say about time, space and place are perhaps less discussed in our Systematic Theologies.

Space and place are created things and are good.

Place is space with meaning and purpose, space with stuff in it or viewed from a point of view.

In the Old Testament place really matters. There is Eden and the land and the world. There is the temple and the promised land. There can be special and common places and clean and unclean places. And the goodness is to spread. The earth is to be made more like heaven.

The earthly scheme somehow is modelled on heaven according to the book of Hebrews. Heaven is a place too, mysteriously.

People are embodied and that is good and makes place necessary.

The incarnation, resurrection and ascension require a place. Though there is also a extra - the divine nature.

The Spirit can bridge spaces e.g. between earth and heaven.

What happens in the NT? Does all the Temple / Land stuff go to Jesus or is there more?

What of church buildings? Are they mere rain shelters (however glorious)?

Can there be a kind of sacred space?

In Acts there could be said to be a kind of salvation geography and a scheme which is somewhat place oriented: Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the Ends of the Earth.

A friend pointed out that Acts 17:26 might be relevant. God is sovereign over places and is at least in some sense interested in them with respect to nations.


Harris v Peterson

One of the most interesting things about the Harris / Peterson discussions on the interweb is that both nights the audience "voted" to shut itself up (no Q&A) so that the grown ups could go on talking. That showed a certain intellectual humility which they can be proud of, I think.

A Christian Response to Dr Jordan Peterson

What are the best Christian responses you have seen to the work of Dr Jordan Peterson?

I should stress there is so much to appreciate in Peterson's work: a sense of responsibility, truth speaking, taking suffering seriously, the Bible as a fundamental guide, insights to human nature, the snakes in my own heart etc.

Some first points of response might be:

(1) Sometimes his mythological psychological readings of the Bible are a bit weird and sometimes traditional Christians would call them plain wrong. They are also not necessarily the chief concern of the Bible writers / the church who, like, really care about God!

(2) God actually does exist and that really matters. Likewise the specifics of the life and teaching of Jesus, the Word of God etc. The after life.

(3) Peterson says he lives as if God exists. But doing so would mean active involvement in the community, life and discipline of the church and this would give important spiritual and ethical shape to life. The Christian vision is of a community, a people, not just the honest seeker after truth on his own with his books and You Tube.

(4) Even if you buy a kind of evolution, it is questionable to what extent that should shape how we ought to act.

(5) It is right to encourage responsibility etc., but you probably need rather more forgiveness, grace and external power (The Holy Spirit) in your system than much of Peterson's teaching sometimes seems to imply.

(A friend kindly pointed out that Dr Alistair Roberts has thought about this rather more than I have: )

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Meaning, purpose, morality

Sam Harris seems to argue that it is a bad question to ask what the meaning or purpose of life is. He thinks we all agree that something extremely horrible is bad and that we can imagine something "better". We move away from pain. But he seems to struggle to explain and ground the good in something objective. He struggles to speak of a real deep down ought. Evil is just a maladaptation.


Sam Harris is also wrong that the fundamentalists are basically right because for one thing it ignores context. The Christian is not intended to live like an ancient Israelite under the Old Covenant.

Basic intuitions

Seem to be the best foundation that Sam Harris can offer. He has to fall back on language like "we are clearly designed to have these intuition". But he presumably does not think we are designed.


Sam Harris is also wrong to think that sophisticated metaphorical readings are modern rationalistic things e.g. driven by science. The Fathers loved that sort of stuff!

Canonical Interpretation

Surprisingly, perhaps, Jordan Peterson is good on the fact that the twist at the end of the Bible story (say, the cross and resurrection) shapes how we should read the whole. The overall context, the end of the developmental narrative, shapes how we should read the whole.


Sam Harris is quite wrong to think that it was scientific rationalism / humanism that "corrected" Christian fundamentalism either historically or philosophically.

The thing is, you need God to have rationality. And that is what we in fact needed.

Good friends

want the best for the best you. They will cry with you and celebrate with you. They want to move towards a better future with you.

(More stealing from Peterson).

The Big Story

You are hardwired to want to know the big story of humanity and how you fit into it and move it on.

Thankfully, the Bible.

What makes us "happy"?

Jordan Peterson thinks it is experiencing success in pursuing a goal we value. We should go after meaning not just pleasure.

How To Develop Yourself / Your Personality

Stolen from Jordan Peterson.

So, you know the big personality traits?

Peterson argues that you could persuade yourself to do some little stuff that would help you to extend your range, perhaps again and again. Repeated small steps might be really powerful.

For example, if you think you are perhaps over controlling, a bit rigid, hyper-organised, disagreeable etc. you could get a dog. You would have to think of it's needs and live with the fact that it leaves hair around the place.

Or if you lack openness and creativity, you could read a book slightly outside your usual choices.

If you are over conscientious, find some way to relax a little bit some time.

You get the idea! Enjoy!

Remembrance - Parish Magazine Article / Sermon Outline

From The Rectory

Since this year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War, it seems especially fitting to devote this November letter to the subject of Remembrance.

Remembrance Sunday happens to fall on 11th November this year too.

All three churches in the benefice will observe the traditional two-minutes silence at 11am and details of the services are included later in the magazine. We hope you’ll be able to join us for this important community occasion even if you’re not a regular in church. There is even a bring and share lunch at Bodle Street Green village hall if you’d like to extend the occasion. I’m sure those from Warbleton and Dallington could get away with turning up too, but I didn’t say that!

So much could be said about war, peace and remembrance and there will be an opportunity to reflect further in these themes at our services. For now, maybe I could make three simple points:

(1) We are such forgetful creatures, and there are some things we ought especially to remember.

You probably know the experience only too well of walking in to a room and wondering why you went there. Often I can’t remember the most basic details of the last fortnight, and I don’t think that is just because I am now the wrong side of 40. We are forgetful. Sometimes necessarily and even thankfully so.

But there is so much we really ought to remember. Not least the horrors of war. And the sacrifices of all those who died that we might know peace. We should take seriously the pledge we make each year: “We will remember them.”

Above all, however, the Bible urges us to remember God our Creator and Redeemer. We owe him everything and it is in relationship to him that meaning and purpose are to be found.

(2) God remembers.

Although we too easily forget, God always sees and knows. He remembers and cares. Every life, every moment matters to him. And all will be called to account. Justice will be done. Wrongs will be righted. In the end peace will reign. All those who are forgotten by history and by their descendants are remembered by the Almighty and Eternal God.

(3) But surprisingly there is one thing God says he will not remember.

It bears saying again it is so unbelievable. Amazingly, there is one thing God says he will not remember. Not literally that it will slip his mind, of course. Rather, he will deliberately refrain from calling it to mind and acting upon it. God will forget his people’s sins. He will put them away and wipe them out. Because of the supreme sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, all our foolishness and rebellion can be erased. Sometimes we have to live with the consequences of our mistakes, but in eternity they will never be brought up again. God has pledged himself to remove believers’ sins from them as far as the east is from the west. He will bury our wrong-doing in the depths of the ocean. Not because he turns a blind eye to vice or winks at evil, but because Jesus has fully paid the price for sin. Jesus’ victory over sin and death and hell towers over all the conflicts of human history and of the human heart. That is worth remembering.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Respect Assembly

Today's Collective Worship Assembly: Theme of respect - things people are afraid of (images) - the Bible tells us many times to fear God - it means awe / reverence / respect not cringing terror. Enjoy your day!

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) - A handout

Luke 12:13-21 (p1045) – The Parable of the Rich Fool

A parable =

(1) A good thing: blessed with success (v16)

How should we respond to success?

(a) Gratitude to God

(b) Generosity to others

(2) A questionable thing: “I will build bigger barns” (v18)

Reasonable provision for self and others but…

(3) A bad thing: hording, selfishness and laziness (v19)

(4) A bad thing for the rich fool: God will judge him (v20)

He makes 2 great mistakes:

(a) He forgets about God

Notice the frequency of “I / my” etc. on the lips of the rich fool

(b) He forgets about death and the judgement to come

(5) A good thing: God will judge the world with justice

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed

A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (v15)”

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself

but is not rich towards God (v21)”

V22: Therefore… - read on for how Jesus applies this parable!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) - collecting some posts

I have found in this little section rather more than I could fit into a single all age harvest thanksgiving:

So, who made Jesus arbiter and judge?

There are no doubt many ways of reading this fascinating little exchange in Luke 12 which leads into the Parable of the Rich Fool. What follows is no doubt a guide to Jesus'  thinking here. But consider the question and answer and at least 2 ways of reading it, which could be seen as antithetical or harmonizable.

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

"Who appointed me as a judge or an arbiter between you?", Jesus asks.

Answer 1 is rightly or wrongly, "nobody". 

Jesus might be saying this belongs to a secular or civil realm.

Or I have no legal authority here.

Or this is not my concern. Or not my chief concern.

Or why can't you sort this out between you?

Or go to the courts or priests or whatever.

The section which follows certainly implies that Jesus cares more about the heart and eternal destiny of the questioner than about the precise financial and legal settlement required.

But Jesus often asks questions or makes statements which are ambiguous and permit a fuller or deeper meaning, or even which are meant to provoke a more profound response.

Answer 2 might be "God the Father". You are the Messiah, the New and Better Moses, the Son of God come in the flesh. The judge of all the world is before me, so, maybe, though I understand you have bigger fish to fry, you could please just quickly help us with this one which is a big deal to us and our families. You have all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus, so you are Lord of family disputes and inheritance rights.

But as far as we know the man didn't say that.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) - Another outline

Another way to go might be something like:

(1) Something good: blessed by God with success

(2) Something questionable: just build bigger barns!

(3) Something wrong: wrong motives, wrong ends, wrong calculation etc.

(4) Something terrible: the coming judgement of God on the unprepared

(5) Something very good: God is good and loving and righteous and in control and will put the world to rights.

Or something like that and so on. You get the idea.

The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) Applications

It is of course vital to note Jesus' "therefore" in v22 which gives his application to his disciples. But assuming you are preaching that next week, you might apply or indeed expound the parable itself thus:

How to respond to success:

(1) Gratitude not pride

(2) Generosity not hording for yourself

(3) Useful purposefulness not self-indulgent luxury

You can find a final "G" like Goal-oriented or "Doing good" or something for yourself if you like.

Don't condemn lawful enjoyment of God's gifts, but tell them that eat, drink and be merry for one day in the far future we die and that is the end is not right! Yes, the parable says, eat, drink and be merry but remember God and his laws because you might die tonight!

Enjoy your day!

Friday, September 28, 2018

What is a racist incident?

Now, obviously, definitions of anti-Semitism have been much discussed of late. I'm afraid I have not followed that debate terribly closely.

And this is not an area I know anything about, but today I caught sight of a document which seemed to say that the organisation will adopt as its definition of a racist incident the Macpherson report definition of a racist incident as "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person".

I think it lacked a footnote. 

Now, this may or may not be a useful working hypothesis. It might have value as a simple and clear way of collecting police statistics, for example. But we have to be clear here that what we are saying is that we are going to call anything someone thinks is racist, racist for certain purposes. 

Clearly it would be absurd to say that all perceptions are reasonable, well-founded, sustainable or true. 

If we adopt this definition, then racism will (for these purposes) be in the eye of the beholder. We will then need another category of intentionally racist incidents or probably racist incidents or something, won't we?

Or am I missing something?

When was the Bible written and formed?

Jono and his school have asked:

When was the Bible written and when did it reach its final form?

So I did a quick bit of Googling and this is my answer:

Obviously, scholars like to argue about this stuff and no one knows exactly for certain!

Traditionally it was thought that Moses basically wrote the earliest first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy – sometimes knows as the Torah or Pentateuch). The early Rabbis date Moses birth to 1391BC and the early church Father, Jerome, says he was born in 1592 BC.

The rest of the Old Testament was written, edited and compiled by lots of different people over a long period, book by book and with collections of Psalms and Proverbs and so on.

The Old Testament finishes 400 years before the birth of Jesus. It had almost certainly reached its final form as we have it today by the time of Jesus and Jesus accepted our Old Testament.

Jesus almost certainly died in AD 33 and then the New Testament was written. Maybe some notes were taken in Jesus’ lifetime. It seems pretty certain to me that some, much, maybe all of the New Testament was written before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 but some people think bits of it might be rather later. For example, some people think John’s Gospel might not have reached its final form until AD 110. However, the oldest fragment of the New Testament we happen to have today is probably The Rylands Library Papyrus P52 which is 8.9 cm by 6 cm at its widest and is kept at Manchester University. It is part of John’s Gospel and is a copy which dates from 100 – 175 AD.

The letters and books of the New Testament circulated separately and together from very early on and the church basically agreed that the writings from the Apostles and their circle belonged to the Bible, but there continued to be some arguments about whether some books should be in or out.

The first official list of New Testament books as authoritative exactly the same as ours which we know of comes from Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria’s Easter letter of AD 367. The Catholic Church formally listed the decision on which books belong to the Bible in AD 382 at the Council of Rome.

Pride in Education

(This is not an article about LGBTQI+ issues in schools. Please move along nicely!)

I have been gnawing on my tongue over the years before saying this...

There is so much talk about pride in education. "We take pride in our appearance / work / achievements / the quality of our community and relationships" and pretty much any area of school life. Notice boards ask children: "What are you proud of today?".

I can kind of see positive versions of what such language might be trying to say - and of course I affirm that good intention.

If it means, other things being equal, we want to consistently try to do and be the best we can be then several cheers.

But, friends, remember this, the Christian faith and the Western Tradition which it has shaped has declared pride to be a deadly sin - perhaps the chief, primordial sin. Virtually any vaguely educated English speaker once knew that it goes before a fall (The Book of Proverbs 16:18. In the King James Version of the Bible).

The Romans did indeed celebrate pride and in the end it did not go well for them. See Fall of Rome (Google). Maybe we should save Western Civilisation by rewording our straplines and redesigning our school displays.

Christianity in fact introduced to the world an almost unheard of virtue: humility. That is, we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Or maybe better, we should think not so much less of ourselves but of ourselves less. You are wonderful, but enough of that, what about others?

But the Christian still knows how to celebrate and even to boast. You see, our achievements are real and good. But they are all a result of grace, of gift. What do we have that we did not receive? There are no self made people. Yes, you did your bit, maybe, but Christians say God made you! Whether or not you buy that, what of your parents, friends, teachers, circumstances? If you think it is mostly down to your DNA well, why be proud of the accidents of genetics? In fact, if the universe is just chance, pride makes little sense - but that's getting a bit deep and off the point.

 So humility. But also gratitude and praise.

For the believer, let him who boasts boast in the Lord. And indeed, in the cross of Christ: the humility of God!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Success and how to respond to it. Or not.

There is more than a hint in the text of Luke 12 that the rich man in the parable is not exactly a model. God Himself calls the man a fool in v20. But let us parse his folly. Where exactly do his mistakes lie?

Much could be said. But part of his problem is his reaction to the success he experiences in v16. His ground has produced a good crop. Fantastic! That is, after all, one of the key aims, other things being equal, of arable farming.

How does he react? He has a good problem. V17: “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”

But a plan is at hand: v18: “This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”

It is easy to be too down on this fellow. Building projects are okay. The Lord does not hate storage or larger out buildings as such. The man has gotten his possessions, as far as we know, lawfully. They are rightly his. Prudent provision for the future and enjoyment of what you have are perfectly legitimate.

But I think we can see a number of issues.

As I said in the previous post, v20 reveals two big mistakes. The man forgets about God and about the judgement to come. He thinks only of himself and though he plans for the long-term future, he has no apparent post-mortem plans!

But we can say more about the man’s reaction to success.

“I” and “myself” are very prominent in vv18-19.

Where is the man’s gratitude to God for the blessings he has received? Man plants and waters but only God gives the growth. The man may have worked hard and wisely, but there is no such thing as a self-made man, not really. We are all we are by the grace of God. It is gift all the way down so the right response to success is always gratitude and never pride.

Has the already rich man been tithing? And could he be even more generous? What good could his money do for his family, friends and community? What would it look like to love his neighbour with his wealth? He might easily transform the lives of many strangers in need. What gospel work could he support that might have a massive eternal impact?

Yes, enjoy the good things God has given you. But do not think only of yourself, your ease and enjoyment.

Where is the man’s sense of vocation to rule and subdue the world, to make earth more like heaven? What is his vocation beyond ease and merriment? (v19) It is good and godly to eat drink and be merry but the Bible says that a life plan which reads “take life easy for many years” is suboptimal. Yes, sabbath and lawful recreation, but not a 40-year holiday.

Jesus himself sums up the man’s mistakes in v21: he stored up things for himself but was not rich towards God.

What does it mean to be rich towards God? That deserves another post.

The Rich Fool (Luke 12) - 2 mistakes

Of all the thousands of sermons that I have heard and preached in my life, I can recall relatively few, but one of the outlines that has stuck with me is about the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21), about which I am due to preach on Sunday.

The preacher said that this man foolishly made two big mistakes:

(1)   He forgot about (or chose to ignore) God

(2)   He forgot about (or chose to ignore) the judgement to come

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

"God must have something better planned for you!"

Godly and well-meaning Christians sometimes try to comfort one another. Say you didn't get that amazing-looking perfect-fit job you had set your heart on. Some keen brother or sister is likely to say to you, "well, God has an amazing plan for you life: he's got something much better in store for you."

Has he? Well, yes and no. It all depends what you mean by better.

You didn't get the great 60K job? God has 90K and a company car in store for you? Maybe. Maybe not.

It is vital for our happiness and long-term faith that we are clear exactly what God has and has not promised.

Yes, he has amazing plans for you and for the world which really are better than all you could hope and imagine.

But it may be martyrdom - and perhaps a secret unheroic one at that. It might be unemployment. Or mental health problems. Or financial insecurity. Or just plodding on in the ordinary.

God has promised to be with you and to make you more like Jesus and to get you to glory, if you will trust in him. And that is better by far.

We do look to a better city, but it is a heavenly one who's architect and builder is God. He means to give you great riches. Maybe in the next five minutes; maybe only beyond the grave.

What is your best? It is cross and then resurrection. That, we know, is God's plan. The rest is just detail, circumstances, background. In a way it hardly matters.

The great thing is to set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, and on things to come. We pray for God's kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven, but it is only given to us to play the part we are given. It may be in great apparent success or not, but the victory is already won and it is glorious beyond our comprehension. All our triumphs and failures, real or imagined, will be caught up in God's better, best plan. As we await the consummation and renewal of all things, we take the next step with Christ before us and with us and in us. We are more than conquerors, even if outwardly we are wasting away.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Giles Fraser on the cosmological argument

I caught a bit of this programme as I drove to a meeting this week and it struck me as interesting on the idea of God as necessary being.

Luke 11:1-13 a sermon outline

Look away now if you plan to attend Dallington or Warbleton Parish Churches in the AM. Here is the latest draft of the handout:

Luke 11:1-13 (page 1042)


“Lord, teach us to pray” (v1)

(1) A PATTERN: ‘When you pray, say, “Father…”’ (vv1-4)

(i) The priority of the kingdom of God (v2)

(ii) Provision of daily necessities, physical and spiritual (v3)

(iii) Pardon of sin (v4)

(iv) Protection from temptation (v4)

(2) A PARABLE: God is a better friend, who is able and willing to help, so pray with bold persistence (vv5-8)

(3) A PROMISE: God is a better father, who knows how to give good gifts to his children, so pray with expectant confidence (vv9-13)

Monday, September 17, 2018


From Our Own Correspondent: Fergal Keane's letter to his newborn son, Daniel, back in 1997. Audio. 


Prayer - a poem

You may wish to look away now if you are expecting to hear me preach on Sunday morning.

Luke 11:9

The Difference

Author unknown

I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day. 
I had so much to accomplish that I didn't have time to pray. 
Problems just tumbled about me, and heavier came each task. 
"Why doesn't God help me?" I wondered. 
He answered, "You didn't ask," 

I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on, gray and bleak. 
I wondered why God didn't show me. 
He said, "But you didn't seek."

I tried to come into God's presence. I used all my keys at the lock. 
God gently and lovingly chided, "My child, you didn't knock." 

I woke up early this morning and paused before entering the day. 
I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.