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.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Luke 10:38-42 - Mary and Martha

The one main point of this short passage (be Jesus' disciple, learn from him, don't be distracted from listening to Jesus' word, even by good things / Christian service) seems so clear and vivid that sermon headings are hardly necessary, but for those who like them:

William Taylor, St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, 11 January 2015, Knowing God (6pm), The only thing that matters

(1) Luke’s comments on Mary and Martha (vv38-40)

(2) Martha’s complaint (v40)


(3) Jesus’ correction (vv41-42)

Summary / application:

Why listen to Jesus? 

What? Listening to his words in Scripture


How? Find a way!

All Souls’, Langham Place website, Richard Bewes, Having the right priorities, C077 Right on to Glory (Travelling With Jesus in Luke 10-11), 16/07/1995
(1) We are not first of all workers, but disciples
(2) We focus not on many things but on the one thing
(3) We model ourselves not on each other but on Christ

 And also for your edification, a useful summary from Darrell L. Bock's Baker Exegetical commentary on the New Testament: 

“The key image is of the disciple at Jesus’ feet listening to his word. Labor at the expense of Jesus’ word is not a good choice. The disciple is to make sitting at Jesus’ feet a priority. Jesus’ rebuke is not of Martha’s action per se, but of action taken at the expense of sitting and listening to God’s word and her attitude towards another serving in a different way. It is better to be a listening disciple than an immaculate host.” (p1039)

The most valuable thing that this world affords

I always find this a very striking excerpt from the Coronation service. These are amazing words to address to the monarch on such a splendid occasion 

'When the Queen is again seated, the Archbishop shall go to her Chair; and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, receiving the Bible from the Dean of Westminster, shall bring it to the Queen and present it to her, the Archbishop saying these words:

Our gracious Queen:
to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God
as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes,
we present you with this Book,
the most valuable thing that this world affords.

And the Moderator shall continue:
Here is Wisdom;
This is the royal Law;
These are the lively Oracles of God.'

The Bible: the words of the King of Kings, better than all the wealth of a king or queen of England and better than an empire!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Seedbed Psalter

This looks like an excellent resource for singing metrical versions of the Psalms with the ability to play well-known hymn tunes:

Parish Magazine Item for October 2018

For the last few years, our diocese of Chichester has had an annual focus (Mercy 2016, The Bible 2017, Prayer 2018). The Bishop of Chichester has designated 2019 as a Year of Vocation, when parishes and individuals are encouraged to think about their Christian calling.

With a large number of clergy due to retire soon, the Church of England wants more people to explore a vocation to full time paid ministry (especially young people and those from black and minority ethnic communities). But the idea of the Year of Vocation is to stress the calling of all God’s people whether ordained or lay. It embraces not only our church life, where we will be encouraged to use our gifts and to serve others in a whole variety of ways, but we also want to think about our family and work lives, and other forms of volunteering as something to which God calls us.

One of the great rediscoveries of the Reformation was the lawfulness and dignity of what might be termed “secular” callings. You didn’t have to be a monk or a nun – or even a vicar! – to be really holy and properly spiritual. Obviously, it’s not open to the Christian to pursue a vocation as a bank robber or a fraudster, but one can be a Christian butcher, baker or candlestick maker. And neither is there a kind of hierarchy of jobs. We sometimes think of vocations to teaching or medicine, but any job that needs doing can be a calling done with faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God. God wants us all to serve him full time, including through our employment, paid or otherwise.

We recently had a diocesan clergy conference on this theme of vocation. We were reminded of the primary call to follow Jesus. The Bible’s great concern is that we should hear the call of the gospel to repentance and faith, from darkness to light. Far more important that we seek to live a life worthy of the heavenly calling that we have received, than that we get just the right job.

Ideally there will be a recognised line-up between our personality, interests, gifts, opportunities, circumstance and needs. Sometimes callings are very straightforward and obvious. One of the conference speakers discussed the Venerable Bede, the father of English History, and his settled and acknowledged calling as a scholar and teacher. But sometimes a Christian’s calling is much less smooth. Sometimes the needs of the hour or the pressure of circumstances are so great that we can’t do what seems to be the best fit for us. We serve where God has put us. Christians are sometimes called to great suffering and to the witness of martyrdom. All Christian vocations are patterned after Jesus, but sometimes the cross to which Jesus calls us (“take up your cross and follow me”) looms very large in a life. Such Christian vocations that scorn worldly visions of success proclaim a confident hope of the resurrection.

As the writer to the Hebrews says, we seek not this world alone, but by faith we look to the as yet unseen promises of God. We see and welcome these things only at a distance and admit that we are aliens and strangers on earth. We are looking for a country not our own, longing for a better heavenly country, looking forward to a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God, which he has prepared for us.   

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.  (Hebrews 11)

Sunday, September 09, 2018

The Good Samaritan - best ever sermon headings?

I’ve been away at the diocesan clergy conference this week, and I mentioned to one of my friends that I was preaching on the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and he said, “oh, I know the best ever headings for that passage.” (I understand they're not original to him either). 

So see if you like them!

In Jesus’ story we can see 3 different sets of attitudes.

(1) First there’s the robber approach:

Their attitude with respect to the man they ambush is what’s yours is mine and I’ll take it if I can.

(2) Then there’s the priest and the Levite who pass by on the other side.

Their attitude is what’s mine is mine and I’ll keep it if I can.

(3) And then finally there’s the Good Samaritan.

His attitude is what’s mine is yours and I’ll give it if I can.

Neat, eh?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Prayer as, like, good!

Like 99.999% of right thinking Christians, I feel guilty that I don't pray more. I have never met a Christian who said "do you know what? One of my biggest problems is that I pray too much."

Yet, though I feel I ought to pray, I don't find the nagging guilt at prayerlessness actually makes prayer happen - or at least not  very satisfactorily.

Better, perhaps, to focus on the great privilege of prayer.

But maybe that sounds too worthy?

Isn't it wonderful that our loving heavenly Father rejoices to be with us and hear us?

Don't we long to be known, understood and heard?

Even now the creator of the universe, the Lord of all, the almighty and compassionate God would delight to hear what's on your mind.

Maybe dwelling on these things might actually get us to pray a little more.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Luke 10:1-24 - For Those Who Like Sermon Headings

My attempt to preach this passage is here.

Richard Bewes, Luke 10:1-16, All Souls’, Langham Place, The gospel through other eyes, 25/02/1996

(1) We are couriers of the kingdom (v1, v9) – messengers – the nature of the work

(2) We are labourers in the harvest field (v2) – the urgency of the work

(3) We are lambs among wolves (v3) – the hazards of such work – a costly, dangerous work


* * *

Steve Wookey, Luke 10:1-24 - Seeking the right response - Right on to Glory (Travelling With Jesus in Luke 10 - 11), All Souls’, Langham Place, 25/06/1995


4 things to learn about Christian mission:

(1) The purpose of this mission: to prepare for the coming of Jesus

(2) The principles of the mission


(a) A need for companionship (v1)

(b) A need for workers (v2)

(c) The need for urgency (vv4-6)


(d) A need for sensitivity (vv7-8)

(e) A need for clarity (vv9-11)

(f) A need for conviction (v12ff) – the importance of this message

(3) Perspective: the priority of grace and heaven, not success in ministry (vv17-20)

(4) Privilege of revelation (vv21-24)

What do we pray for?

What are we convinced of?

What will we give ourselves to?

What do we rejoice in?

* * *

St Ebbe’s website, Journeying with Jesus: Proclaiming the message – Vaughan Roberts – Luke 10:1-16 – 15/9/13

Travelling with Jesus demands compassion and commitment, Jesus has said in chapter 9.

Travelling with Jesus also means proclaiming a message.

We don’t normally risk life and limb, but we do risk social embarrassment.

We risk awkwardness if we speak up about Jesus

3 great truths that Jesus teaches which will send us with a longing to proclaim Jesus

(1) God is in charge, not us – we can do it


(2) The gospel is liberating, not oppressive – we want to do it

(3) Judgement is a reality, not a fiction – we must do it


* * *

St Ebbe’s website, Journeying with Jesus: Appreciating the privileges – Vaughan Roberts – Luke 10:17-24 – 22/9/13

The journey with Jesus is a demanding, costly one, but it is also one full of joy with great privileges.

Privileges in which to rejoice:

(1) Spiritual power (v17)

(2) Spiritual security (v20)

(3) Spiritual insight (vv21-24)

Saturday, August 25, 2018


Gerv (Gervase Markham III) was a University friend of mine, and we both lived in North London for a while after we graduated. I can’t say that Gerv was one of my closest friends. And I haven’t been in touch with him properly for years.

He knew he was dying of the cancer, which had affected him for many years, and about which he had written very openly online, and now he has gone to glory.

I find myself unreasonably sad.

Others will have paid tribute to him much better than I can. (See also) My partial memories may well be mistaken, but I would like to try to say something, however grossly inadequate.

I understand Gerv did something quite important to do with the interweb, for which we should all be grateful. He was highly respected in the world of Hacking, which he said quite straightforwardly that he did for Christ.

Gerv was very clever. And funny. And highly principled. Hugely generous. Kind. Honest. He could be very direct and tenacious. He had a whole-heartedness and a single-mindedness about him. A passion and integrity. I will think of him as one of life’s great characters. I feel grateful and enriched that I knew him a little, and would have liked to have known him better.

The way in which he responded to his cancer has inspired many. He was certainly looking with confidence for a better country, a heavenly one, which God has prepared for him and for all who trust his promises. The text which springs to mind when I think of Gerv is Hebrews 11:38 – “the world was not worthy of them.”

Pray for his wife Ruth and their three sons.

70 or 72?

Luke 10:1.

Metzger tells us the external evidence is almost evenly divided.

And if we ask about the symbolism, interestingly, the number of the nations in Genesis 11 is 70 but in the Septuagint (the LXX, the Greek Translation of the Old Testament) there are 72.

Metzger, "Seventy or Seventy-two Disciples?" in Historical and Literary Studies, Pagan, Jewish and Christian (Leiden and Grand Rapids, 1968) pp67-76 lists about 20 instances of the use of 70 or 72 in ancient Jewish literature.

There are lots of 70s in the OT:
The souls in the house of Jacob
Moses 70 elders (Ex 24:1, 9; Num 11:16f, 24f), sons and priests
70 year events

72 appears only once in Numbers 31:38, where 72 cattle are set aside for sacrificial offering.

According to a late rabbinic tradition, Moses' commandments were heard in 70 languages (b. Sab. 88b, The Alphabet of Rabbi Akiva).

The Sanhedrin had 70 members when the High Priest isn't included (m. Sanh. 1:5-6).

72 also in the Letter of Aristeas 46-50 (72 translators of LXX) and in 3 Enoch 17.8; 18.2-3; 30.2 (72 princes and kings in the world).

72 is therefore by far the more difficult reading and scholars prefer it!

Bock opts for the originality of 72 but thinks it has no symbolism.

Dr J Hely Hutchinson - The Psalms & The New Covenenat

There's so much good free stuff on the internet, but I bet these Annual Moore College Lectures from August 2018 by Dr James Hely Hutchinson from the Institut Biblique Belge entitled "Answering the psalmist’s perplexity: new-covenant newness in the book of Psalms" would be really worthwhile. Detailed handouts are also available for each lecture.

The Romance of Protestantism

Douglas Wilson follows Deborah Alcock in arguing that a romance consists of four elements:

(1) courage
(2) high endurance
(3) generosity
 and (4) warm affection

and applies this to the Protestant Reformation. Grace Agenda Lecture 2017 video. Or if you prefer to look at Pastor Wilson's notes

Our hearts: freedom, sovereignty, responsibility?

Christians of an Augustinian or Reformed stamp insist that the Bible teaches both the absolute and complete sovereignty of God (including over the human heart) and human responsibility and accountability (including for the state of our hearts which are subject to original sin).

It is not as if one idea is an Old Testament one and the other is found only in the New Testament. Or that Jesus taught one and Paul another. We cannot pit John against James, here. 

Sometimes the Bible teaches both God's sovereignty and human responsibility in adjacent verses. 

One such example would be Proverbs 21:1-2:

Verse 1:

"The king's heart is in the hands of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases."

And, the rest of the Bible would tell us, what is true even of kings is true of all human beings. God is sovereign over all human hearts. 

Verse 2:

"All a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart."

Human beings are responsible and accountable to God, who will judge the heart. 

Biblical guidance

I think I have told you before about the man who was desperately seeking guidance from God.
He rightly knew he ought to look to the Bible.
But unfortunately he adopted the open the Bible at random and point at a verse method.
He prayed very hard, opened his Bible and pointed to Matthew 27:5:
“So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
Well, he thought, that’s not very promising so he tried again:
He read Luke 10:37: “Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
He thought, well, maybe one last go, and he found himself pointing at John 13:27: “Jesus told him, "What you are about to do, do quickly."

Obviously that’s ridiculous.
It ought to teach us to think about the context and purpose of what the Bible says.
It’s all the Word of God to us, but not always in a straightforward and direct way.
The Bible is all written for us, for our learning, but it doesn’t always apply to us exactly as it did to its original hearers.
We have to think about what it meant for them and what it means for us today.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Just Be True To Yourself? (2)

Oh, and another thing. Being true to yourself is also limited moral advice because you do not fully know yourself. You are sometimes a mystery to yourself.

As many atheists have seen, we are not the masters of our own house: we are the play things of the "gods".

And the Christian would say you are made in the image of God for eternal life. You have capacities you cannot even dream of. What you will be in Christ has not yet been made known.

Just Be True To Yourself?

The snatch of Thought for the Day which I heard today seemed to conclude along the lines of, "well, even if you don't believe in God etc., at least we can all agree that we should try to be true to ourselves."

Well, can we agree on that?

I don't think so! Not, at least, from a traditional Christian point of view.

You see, myself is part of the problem! Yes, human beings were created good, in the image of God, but they are also totally depraved. That is, not that we are as bad as we might be, but that every aspect of our being is affected by The Fall. We are originally good, but also subject to original sin, which goes deep down to the basic level of who I am. I can't escape my sinful self.

All my thoughts and desires are affected by my spiritual deadness and my bias to sin. So it's no good even to try to be true to myself in my better moments or my vision of who I would like to be, because I never have a thought that is entirely Godly and my idea of my best self is distorted.

Human effort might tidy up our appearance and allow us to sin more efficiently and less disruptively, but I need a new heart, a life transplant - a new self which is more me.

Be true to yourself? No, because I am pretty messed up.

We need Jesus the Truth to set us free from ourselves if we are to be the people God intended us to be and who we will be in Christ in the New Creation.

The way to be most fully and happily yourself is to be found in Jesus by faith. That way, nothing good is to be lost. We give up our lives to Jesus - and he gives ourselves back to us in him, transformed and renewed, and awaiting that day when we will be true to ourselves.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Some Psalms (2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 13)

God willing I am going to speak to the leaders on camp from a slightly random selection of early Psalms. In case they are of any interest or use, some handouts below.

Psalm 13 handout

How Long, O LORD?

Psalm 13

4X in 2vv

How long did David live in vv1 and 2?

(1) The Psalmist’s problems (vv1-2)

(a) God (v1)

Cf. Ps 10:1

Cf. Gen 3

(b) His own thoughts and the sorrow in his heart (v2a)

(c) The triumph of his enemies (v2b)

(2) The Psalmist’s prayer (vv3-4)

(3) The Psalmist’s praise (vv5-6)

Romans 8:28f

Psalm 9 handout

A Primer on Praise and Prayer

Psalm 9

Emotional honesty, but also form / literary artistry (acrostic poem)

The value of set prayers / liturgy / hymns / the psalms etc.

Explicit and deliberate praise (cf. Ps 8:1, 9)

Who / what do you praise?

V1 – Praise the LORD – Yahweh

V1 – with all my heart

Reasons to praise God:

(1) What he has done (v1)

Cf. creation – Ps 8:1, 3, 7-8

(2) Who he is (v2)

What does the Psalmist encourage us to praise God for and pray about?

(1) God gives the Psalmist victory over his enemies (vv3-6, 19-20)

(2) God will rule in righteousness (vv7-18)

Psalm 7 handout

Psalm 7

Mixed metaphors / 4 or 5 striking images

The Psalmist’s enemies are like a ferocious lion (v2)

who is pregnant with evil (v14)

and who falls into the pit he has dug (vv15-16)

because the Lord is a righteous judge (vv3-11)

and a powerful warrior (vv12-13)

2 possible objections to this picture:

(1) Enemies?

John 15:18, 20

1 Peter 5:8

(2) God as judge and warrior?

Cf. Ps 6:1-2

Psalm 6

Psalm 6

Be honest with God

Great suffering can be an authentic part of the true believer’s experience

(1) The Psalmist’s problems / plight / predicament

God! (v1f)

Physical agony (v2)

Anguish of soul (v3)

Enemies (vv7, 8, 10)

(2) The Psalmist’s prayer / appeals / arguments to use with God!

Cf. Ps 2:12

Mercy (v2)

God’s unfailing love (v4)

The glory and praise of God (v5)

(3) The Psalmist’s prospect / hope / confidence

Turning point in v8

V4 – Turn – v10

Psalm 3 handout

Salvation to Sing About

Psalm 3

3 ‘levels’ to think about when reading the Psalms:

(1) The Psalmist (maybe David or a king or...)

(2) Jesus

(3) Us - believers in Jesus

Title – see 2 Sam 15-19

(1) When mocked by many enemies… (vv1-2)

2 Sam 15:30

(2) … cry to God to save you… (vv3-4)

(3) … and you will be delivered (vv5-8)

Ps 127:2

V6 – cf. Ps 2:11

Psalm 2 handout

Why do the nations rage?

Psalm 2

(1) The nations stupidly rebel against the LORD (vv1-3)

Cf. vv6-7 & 2 Sam 7:11-14

Acts 4

Gen 3

(2) But God has established his King (vv4-9)

Cf. 1v1 & 2v4

Ps 37:12f; 59:8

Jn 19:19

Acts 13:32-33

Phil 2:9-11

Matt 28:19

(3) So “kiss” the Son (vv10-12)

Cf. v12 & Ps 1v1

Ps 46

Ø  God’s enemies: fear – flee to the Son

Ø  God’s people: fear, rejoice, serve, blessed, safe, refuge

Confidence and boldness in evangelism

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Parish Magazine Item in which I dare to mention Brexit

Whether you voted ‘leave’ or ‘remain’, you could be forgiven for being sick of all talk of Brexit. I’m afraid, even at the risk of boring you, I am going to mention it, though I hope to avoid giving away my own EU-leanings. Please don’t write in if you think you detect a bias!

There has been much talk of freedom and independence from advocates of ‘leave’. And such themes have been on my mind especially this summer, as, at our Ventures camp for 11-14 year olds, we’ve been studying the book of Exodus, in which Moses famously leads the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom. You can see how Brexitiers might love that.  It seems there were Remoaners amongst the Israelites. Many of them seemed to have despaired of the brighter future which God promised as they journeyed in the wilderness. They had rose-tinted memories of their time in captivity. They forgot their ill-treatment and complained that they were relatively well-fed when they were slaves. God might have brought them out of Egypt, but was their independent isolation any better? What would they eat and drink? Was God really powerful enough to bring them into a Promised Land of their own, flowing with milk and honey? Did God care? Perhaps they should have remained. You can almost imagine them saying “we didn’t vote to be poorer and unemployed!”.

Well, any Brexit analogy here is probably already overstrained and best abandoned. But the Bible does have much to say about freedom and slavery. Sometimes when we please ourselves it can seem as if we’re making a bid for great freedom. But the Bible tells us that all sin is really slavery. The liberation we hope for is an illusion because our own desires, the world around us, and the forces of evil master us. Jesus put it starkly: “"Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) By nature, all of us are trapped by our own misplaced longings.

When we know we’re spiritual addicts, Jesus’ promise comes to us as wonderful good news: “if the Son [that is, Jesus himself] sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

In the Bible, freedom is not a merely negative idea. It is not just the absence of constraint. It is not only freedom from slavery but something positive: freedom to live not for ourselves or our own desires, but for God. It is freedom for life as it was meant to be lived. In the book of Exodus, we are repeatedly told that the Israelites wanted to go out into the desert so that they might worship God. And likewise, the Christian is set free from slavery to sin to live for God and others.

The Apostle Paul too makes much of this theme of freedom and slavery. He says that believers have died with Christ so that they are no longer slaves to sin. He tells the Christians at Rome: “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:18) Or again, “now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap is holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Christian freedom, then, is not autonomy from God. We are always dependent creatures. And why would we want to be “free” from God? Jesus transfers his people from the service of sin and self to the service of God. And, as The Prayer Book puts it, God’s “service is perfect freedom”. We were made to love and serve God, and it is as grateful recipients of his grace that we can find true fulfilment and purpose. We’ve no need to seek to earn God’s love – he loves us anyway. So, we can serve him gladly out of a sense of who he is and all that he’s done for us. We could have no better Master.

Who knows how Brexit will turn out – assuming it happens, of course. It is sometimes claimed that many who voted ‘leave’ now have buyer’s remorse and would change their minds if asked again. We’re told that we’ve been lied to and that people didn’t know what they voted for. God’s promises are clear and sure, however. You won’t regret looking to Jesus for freedom from the desires which promise so much, but which can easily enslave us. Even the most ardent Euro-sceptic should admit that only the Son, not Article 50, can make us free indeed.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Calling of Levi All Age Gimmicks

So can anyone help me on all age gimmicks on the calling of Levi and the passage that follows, please? (Luke 5:27-end)

It could be something about surprises or appearances and reality. Or the right and wrong sort of people / unexpected choices.

Surprisingly, Jesus calls someone who seems the wrong sort of person who does the right thing.

And those who might seem the right people do the wrong thing and reject Jesus.

We are all spiritually sick to the heart, but those who think they are healthy risk rejecting the great Doctor.

We won't see our need of Jesus until we admit the seriousness of our spiritual illness.

I might have to plagiarise Glen Scrivener's sermon which goes something like:

Jesus is the ultimate commander in chief who calls you.
Jesus is the ultimate happy host at the party who throws a banquet for sinners.
Jesus is the ultimate doctor who came to make sinners whole.

Then there could be something around eating or eating together or new and old etc.

No screen is available.

Who knows how many children / willing volunteers there will be!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Parish Magazine Item for August

I don’t know how much the academic year impinges on your consciousness. The ages of our children mean that the summer holidays are a big deal for us. From September, for just one year, our 4 will all be at Dallington C of E Primary school. Our youngest, Thomas, is starting school for the first time, so it seems like the end of a long era for us!

For many, August and September are a time of transition, whether it’s new classes and/or teachers, new schools, colleges or universities. Let’s especially be praying for the young people from our benefice who are about to leave home for the first time and for the work of The Universities’ and Colleges’ Christian Fellowship (UCCF), the Christian Unions. You can read more about them at:

We’ve presented those Year 6s leaving Warblers, our after-school club at Punnetts Town School, with bibles and the Year 6 leavers at Dallington and Punnetts Town schools and elsewhere receive a copy of the Scripture Union book, It’s Your Move, all about starting secondary school.

Many of our young people will see these changes as exciting new challenges, but its perfectly normal if there’s also a little anxiety about the unfamiliar.

Whether or not this summer sees great change for us, for everyone, the future is uncertain. Anything could happen! Indeed, as I’ve thought about writing this article, I’ve wondered whether there will be further cabinet resignations before its published, how much Brexit turmoil there will be, and perhaps even whether the government will somehow have fallen. Who knows?!

As we face an uncertain future, I’ve encouraged the children at Dallington School to remember two biblical texts from the letter to the Hebrew Christians. Here they are:

(1) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Everything changes, but God never does. Jesus is utterly reliable and trustworthy. Whatever happens, he has promised to be with his people. He will not leave those who trust in him comfortless.

So, as the writer to the Hebrews says:

(2) “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus told his followers not to worry about tomorrow. So many things might concern us, but if we are wise, we wont waste our energies speculating about what might or might not happen. Rather, whatever we face, we face it looking to Jesus, inspired by his example and confident in his care. All our circumstances might change in an instant, and Christians are not insulated even from terrible disaster, but we do have Jesus’ promise that he will help and sustain us. He walked the path of change and the most dreadful suffering before us, and through his victory over sin and death, he is more than able to save us completely, to bring us safely through to glory. We really can rely on him.

Whether your summer is tranquil or full of turmoil, perhaps you’ll find a moment this August to sit in the garden or lay on the beach and reflect on those two great Bible truths. They point us to Jesus, a sure anchor in a world of change. The new academic year is perhaps an opportunity for a fresh start: to pray for God’s grace that by the help of his Holy Spirit we might be able to face the future confidently knowing that Jesus does not change. He has gone before us and will be with us even to the end of the age. If we are believers, our security in Jesus Christ is absolute and that unalterable fact is a stronghold against fear of the future. The future belongs to our loving Lord. Much along the way may be painful, but the wonderful final outcome of all things is not in doubt.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Echoes of Exodus

Alistair J. Roberts and Andrew Wilson, Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption through Scripture (Wheaton, Illinois, Crossway, 2018)

Amazon from £8.98

Over the last couple of days on holiday I have read this little book (176pp) and I really loved it. Short, readable chapters on how the Bible uses and develops the themes of the Exodus. Full of insights. Engagingly written. Doesn't waste words. Pastoral and doxological orientation too. The book will wow you with the Bible but it should also do your soul good and drive you to praise the Word who has brought us from slavery to sin and death that we might worship him with hearts and lives set free.

The authors advocate a musical reading of the Scriptures which is attentive to patterns, echoes, key changes, transpositions, crescendo and so on. The metaphor is worth reading about and dwelling on.

This book is extremely worthwhile for its specific content: it helped me to notice lots of things I had not seen before. But I find the whole approach convincing too: the Bible is surely meant to be read as a unity with differentiation, with attention to the use and re-use of themes and imagery. The argument for this kind of reading is made by hearing it done.

The book would repay close study with a re-reading of the passages mentioned. It will make you want to read the Bible more and again, I think. Sometimes you will have to track down the allusions yourself as not every single reference is given every time. Naturally the better you know the Bible the easier it will be to benefit from the book.

Whenever I am teaching a particular Bible book I might well check what Wilson and Roberts have to say about the Exodus themes in it. Genesis - Revelation is pretty much covered here, obviously in some cases very briefly, but their thoughts seemed on track and useful to me.

Incidentally, the book also shows off the wonderful unity, intricacy and artistry of the Bible. Although not a logical proof, the kind of reading offered here surely makes the case for the divine inspiration of Scripture. Only God could have caused such a number of different authors over such a variety of times and places to produce such a coherent masterpiece which speaks to all generations and cultures of the Redeemer.

There are helpful questions for review and further thought. Subject and Scripture index.

Get and read this brilliant book! I hope you can tell I really liked it and think it is fab.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A foretaste of the parish magazine item, in which I mention The Big Lunch

From The Rectory

If I may say so, I thought The Big Lunch, a community event organised on Rushlake Green on 3rd June, was particularly excellent this year. It is quite amazing how this event has grown and this year’s big crowd and glorious sunshine was a huge contrast to the Dunkirk spirit I seem to remember from a previous year when a small group of us huddled in the wind and rain.

The Eden Project communities website describes The Big Lunch like this: “The Big Lunch is the UK's biggest annual get together for neighbours.  It's a simple idea - that for a few glorious hours, cars stop, shyness stops and neighbours come together in the street to meet, greet, share, swap, sing, plan and laugh.  In 2017, 9.3 million people took to their streets, gardens and neighbourhoods to join in for a few hours of community, friendship and fun.”

I guess it’s no secret in the parishes that I enjoy my food. And perhaps an occasional pint too. But I think we would all agree that food and drink are important in bringing people together. To eat and drink together can be a sign of friendship and fellowship. Deals are sometimes done or relationships develop over a meal or a drink. Eating and drinking are often part of the most important celebrations in life, as well as being a basic human necessity, of course.

And the Bible has a surprising amount to say about food and drink – much more than I can go into here. Leaving plenty for another day, we can sketch out a few headlines.

At creation, God gives human beings animals and plants for food, to sustain them, and for their enjoyment. We are by design hungry and thirsty, dependent creatures, physically, but spiritually too.

At the very beginning of the Bible we are told of the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in The Garden of Eden. The primordial sin was disobedient eating – snatching forbidden fruit in unbelief and ingratitude.

Jesus often spoke of food and drink and of meals and parties. He described himself as The Bread (or perhaps we might say, Food) of Life. He is the essential staple of our existence without whom we cannot really live spiritually and without whom we would not have eternal life. Jesus offered those who would trust in him an unfailing supply of living spiritual water which he said would bubble up within them to give them life and to sustain them, satisfying their inbuilt thirst for God.

The gospels often show Jesus eating and drinking. I imagine he would have loved the Big Lunch! His opponents falsely accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard. And they objected to the company he kept. Jesus would eat with the hated and often corrupt tax-collectors, who worked for the occupying Roman army, and with prostitutes. Those whom everyone thought of as notorious sinners were welcome to come and eat with Jesus, and were called to a transformed life. We can think of his Feeding of the 5000 as a picture of the life he offers which will bring God’s people to the Promised Land of the New Creation, eternal glory in Jesus’ everlasting kingdom.

Jesus’ disciples were his companions, which is literally those who share bread together (via French and Latin etc.: com – panis – with – bread).

Jesus also gave his people a meal of bread and wine (The Lord’s Supper / Holy Communion / The Eucharist) as a fulfilment of the ancient Passover celebration in which to remember God’s rescue of them from sin. That meal too is a foretaste of what the Bible calls The Wedding Supper of the Lamb, the heavenly climax of all things to which Jesus invites all those who will trust in him. There can be nothing more important than responding to Jesus’ free invitation to this biggest and best of banquets, and there is no more wonderful prospect.   

When you next eat and drink with others, perhaps you will take a moment to think of that great feast that is to come, and to thank Jesus for it. Enjoy all your lunches, big or small!

The Revd Marc Lloyd

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Wedding Preaching

I suspect I might not agree with Bishop Michael Curry on everything.

And maybe his sermon was a little long and a touch repetitious. I didn't hear every word as the dear children were beginning to clamber around the sitting room, allowing the dog to steal their food and risking spilling their drinks.

And its possible that not all English Anglicans could carry it off quite as the Bishop did.

But surely there is a lesson to us here that most of us could afford to risk showing a little more enthusiasm, passion and intensity from time to time. According to the content of our preaching, we could deliberately speak as though we have a joyful, urgent and important message which we believe and which we think others ought to hear.

Too often I think my own sermons might be a little staid, not really having the quality of exciting life changing news with which I long to engage my hearers. I suspect I lapse into giving a take it or leave it statement of the truths of Scripture, whereas I ought to strive to hold up and to hold out Jesus Christ and his gospel, to be received with a hungry faith.

Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of today's televised wedding sermon, let us pray that the Holy Spirit enables the bold and powerful proclamation of the Lord Jesus in pulpits around the world this coming Lord's Day.

Friday, May 18, 2018

An OK Dad?

I am struck by the dedication in the non-autobiography of Frederick Forsyth I have just dipped in to. "For my sons, ... in the hope that I was an OK dad." I guess many people if they look back on their lives would say that there are few things more important.


Frederick Forsyth, writing in 2015, says: "My life has been blessed with extraordinary good fortune, for which I have no explanation."

After giving some examples he goes on:

"I have been married to two beautiful women and raised two fine sons, while enjoying so far robust good health. For all this, I remain deeply grateful, though to what fate, fortune or deity I am not quite sure. Perhaps I should make my mind up. After all, I may have to meet Him soon."

(The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, Penguin / Corgi, page 18)

Failing to score political points

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that politicians attempt to score political points. That is part of their job. But I thought that Diane Abbott tried to do so particularly overtly on yesterday's Question Time. Though on a couple of occasions she failed to do so by accusing others of saying or thinking things that they disavowed. To those who are listening, these are shots which are off-target. In fact, they are own-goals which just make the sticker look silly, careless or low.

The Pentecost 2018 Lectionary texts

Are Tories rats?

A member of the audience on Question Time last night was wearing a t-shirt with the slogan: "You are never more than 10 feet from a Tory" with a large picture of a rat.

Now, I am all for free speech, but this seems to me cheap, wrong-headed and offensive.

No doubt there are mean, nasty, greedy, treacherous people in all political parties.

It is quite wrong to assume that all Tories are rats.

Some might say it's unfair to rats!

But surely one might be a conservative because one thought that smaller government or lower taxation or individual opportunity or conservation of the good were core principles of freedom or the flourishing of society more represented by the centre-right than the Left.

To mix metaphors, it is just wrong to think that all Tory votes are the deliberate promotion of selfish fat cats.

And these days, of course, one might find it hard to find a Tory, say in London.

Disproportionate force

A member of the audience on Question Time last night made a good point about disproportionate force, I thought.

If a team of police officers come upon terrorists with knifes, the armed officers would not throw down their guns and pick up knives so that they use proportionate force.

The point about proportionate force is actually that we want to use the minimum necessary force.

The State and Grenfell

There was quite a bit of discussion of Grenfell on Question Time last night.

Part of the story of the story is, it would seem, a catalogue of state failure.

I was struck by the fact that much of the response was a call for more or better state.

I can't help thinking that can't be all that needs to be said.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Acts 3:11-19 - An outline

Acts 3:11-19 (page 1095)

(1) What the people have done (v13b-15): rejected and killed the author of life

(2) What God has done (v13, vv15b-18): glorified and raised Jesus from the dead

(3) What the people should do (v19): repent and turn to God

(4) What God will do (v19): wipe out their sins and send times of refreshment

(and see v20-end!)