Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Independent Living in East Sussex

The Independent Living Service (formerly managed by the Anchor Trust) seem to provide all sorts of free useful help to people who might need some assistance living independently in East Sussex, including advice on benefits, handymen, aids for daily living, community activities etc. I haven't spotted a website? but you can read a bit more blurb here. Phone 01424 464890 or freephone 0800 9174569 - email ils@intouchsupport.co.uk

Saturday, August 27, 2011


We just walked past a church with a large poster outside saying:

It's nice to be important
but it's more important to be nice
Well, yes, I guess so, but we couldn't help thinking that perhaps they could find something a little more Christocentric, gospel-filled etc. to say to the world.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The difference Jesus makes

Again by popular demand (!) some jottings from this week's sermon. Readings: Hosea 2vv14-23 & Mark 2:18-22:

Don’t you just love a good wedding?
It’s not just the delicious canapés, and the champagne and everyone in their glad rags.
A good wedding is such an occasion of happiness and hope.
Weddings are full of joy.

It would be most odd if the guests at a wedding were gloomy and miserable, if they refused all the food and drink and behaved more like they were at a funeral than a wedding.

That’s the argument that Jesus uses in our reading.

Some people ask Jesus (v18),
“How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

Jesus answers (v19):
“How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?
They cannot, so long as they have him with them.”

It would be totally inappropriate for Jesus’ disciples to fast during his ministry on earth because he’s the bridegroom and the’re like guests at a wedding.
Guests at a wedding are meant to rejoice.

The point is that Jesus brings joy.

For Bible readers, it’s charged with significance that Jesus calls himself the Bridegroom.

Throughout the Bible, God is described as the husband of his people.
Israel is an unfaithful bride, she flirts with other gods and becomes a prostitute, but God is determined to win her back.
That’s what’s going on in our reading from Hosea.
Despite her unfaithfulness, God says he will allure his people again and speak tenderly to her.
God will be his people’s husband and they will be betrothed, engaged, pledged to one anotherm for ever in righteousness, justice, love, compassion and faithfulness.

In the Bible, God is the bridegroom and his people are his bride.
And now Jesus turns up, claiming to be the bridegroom.
So, implicitly, Jesus is claiming to be God, The Bridegroom, come to win back his people.

It’s rather like the healing of the paralysed man, earlier in the chapter, that we thought about a couple of weeks ago:
Only God can forgive sins,
Jesus can forgive sins
Therefore Jesus must be God.

God is the bridegroom,
Jesus is the bridegroom,
Therefore Jesus is God.

The Bible often describes the climax of history as like a wedding banquet.
Jesus is throwing a wedding party, and we’re all invited to the feast.

The Lord’s Supper that we’re about to share together is a little foretaste of that wedding feast.
It’s meant to be a joyful celebration, yet we often make it more like a funeral that a wedding!
We’re meant to enjoy this Communion together.
You don’t have to stare seriously at your boots!
You’ll allowed to acknowledge the other guests at the fest.

In Jesus’ ministry on earth, the future was breaking in to the present.
Jesus was always feasting, and remember last week, 2vv15-16, eating with sinners.
That’s exactly what Jesus does at Communion: he shares his bread with sinners.

Jesus’ ministry was like a bit of heaven on earth, a bit of the future in the present.
Jesus’ healing miracles, for example, are a sing of the way Jesus is going to transform and renew the whole creation.

Of course, we’re not in heaven yet!
Jesus says, v20:
“But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”
On Good Friday, Jesus will be taken away from his disciples, his life will be  taken away.
On that day, it was appropriate for Jesus’ disciples to fast.

There were other times when the first Christians fasted too, and we might fast from time to time.

Jesus is not with us now in the same way that he was with his first disciples in his earthly ministry.
Now, Jesus is both with us by his Spirit, but also absent, bodily.
We have some of the blessings of Jesus’ presence now, but not fully and finally.
The Wedding Supper of the Lamb is yet to come.
We live looking forward to that day.

The Christian life is a battle.
We’ll have our struggles and sorrows.
Jesus often spoke of the cost of following him.
Our lives won’t be one long wedding party from now until eternity.

Yet we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Jesus brings joy.
The Christian life is the most blessed life, the most happy and hopeful life.
It’s the best way to live.

The Apostle Paul says:
“Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

It’s possible for us to get this all out of balance.
The Old Testament required just one fast day a year, on the Day of Atonement.
And yet some of the Jews of Jesus’ day were fasting every Monday and Thursday.
We too can get the balance wrong.

Joy is to be the key-note of our Christian lives.

Do we know the joy that Jesus brings?
Have we pledged ourselves to Jesus, the bridegroom, are we seeking to be faithful to him?

Jesus brings joy.

Secondly and finally, Jesus brings radical transformation.

That’s the point of all this talk of new and old cloth and new and old wineskins in vv21-22.

I’ve never tried this, and I’m not about to, but apparently, v21, a new unshrunk piece of cloth, patched into an old garment, will pull away and make the tear worse.
V22: new wine will burst old wineskins.
New wine requires new wineskins.

Jesus is doing something new, and it requires new structures, new ways of life.

Jesus brings in a New Covenant, and so we no longer live under the law of Moses as the people of Old Testament times did.

Jesus is doing something radically different, something new and explosive.
Jesus can’t be fit in to our existing way of living and thinking.
Jesus changes everything.
Jesus is not an add-on or an optional extra.

Jesus came to be our husband, not our hobby!
It’s no use getting married and living as if you were still single.
Jesus claims the first place in our lives.
We can’t follow Jesus on our terms, as long as he’s not too inconvenient.
Jesus is Lord.

Trying to fit Jesus in to the existing way of things can be the worst of both worlds.
A compromised Christian will be a miserable Christian.
Following Jesus wholeheartedly isn’t easy, but it’s the way to joy.

Jesus brings joy.
And Jesus brings radical transformation.
Let’s commit ourselves afresh to following him and allow him to radically transform us, to dictate the way we think and live.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

10 Commandments for Preachers

Some moments from Sinclair B. Fergerson's Themeolios article, 'A Preacher's Decalogue' (Vol 36, issue 2, Aug 2011):

systematic exposition did not die on the cross for us; nor did biblical theology, nor even systematic theology or hermeneutics or whatever else we deem important as those who handle the exposition of Scripture. I have heard all of these in preaching . . . without a center in the person of the Lord Jesus. 
And later on imagination in preaching:

Imagination in preaching means being able to understand the truth well enough to translate or transpose it into another kind of language or musical key in order to present the same truth in a way that enables others to see it, understand its significance, feel its power—to do so in a way that gets under the skin, breaks through the barriers, grips the mind, will, and affections so that they not only understand the word used but feel their truth and power.

Luther did this by the sheer dramatic forcefulness of his speech. Whitefield did it by his use of dramatic expression (overdid it, in the view of some). Calvin—perhaps surprisingly—did it too by the extraordinarily earthed-in-Geneva-life language in which he expressed himself. So an overwhelming Luther-personality, a dramatic preacher with Whitefieldian gifts of story-telling and voice (didn’t David Garrick say he’d give anything to be able to say “Mesopotamia” the way George Whitefield did?), a deeply scholarly, retiring, reluctant preacher—all did it, albeit in very different ways. They saw and heard the word of God as it might enter the world of their hearers and convert and edify them.
And J. C. Ryle's, "preach as though you has asthma" made me smile!

J. C. Ryle’s counsel: “Have a clear knowledge of what you want to say. Use simple words. Employ a simple sentence structure. Preach as though you had asthma! Be direct. Make sure you illustrate what you are talking about.”

Introducing "new" songs

Any suggestion for good content-full newer / contemporary feeling Biblical songs to introduce to a congregation more used to traditional hymns? And how to go about it?

Our usual musical accompaniment is a keyboard. Occasionally there's a guitar.

Our regular play-list is Hymns Old and New plus the following at the back of our in-house poduced service book:

The Lord's My Shepherd (I will trust in you alone), Stuart Townend
Jesus is Lord - the cry that echoes through creation
Before the throne of God above
How Deep The Father's Love For Us
We are heirs of God Almighty
In Christ alone my hope is found
Light of the world (So here I am to worship)
From the squalor of a borrowed stable
Would you ditch any of those to replace it with something else?

I suggested He Walked On Earth Showing Glimpses of Heaven (Behold The Lamb of God) but the choir thought it wasn't very suitable for congregational singing and that perhaps more syncopated stuff might be tricky.

I'm wondering about:

Oh To See The Dawn


See What A Morning

What do you think? Other ideas?

Do you think it would help for the choir to listen to a CD of the song at their practice?

In our music I want us to aim for the best of the old and the best of the new. Generally speaking, I'd like us to be able to sing one of these newer songs most weeks. I think it might be best to begin and end with a strong traditional hymn (e.g. Praise My Soul The King of Heaven, Christ Triumphant, How Great Thou Art, something like that), sometimes there might be a children's song (either traditional like The Wise Man Built His House on The Rock or more modern like Our God Is A Great Big God), maybe something 60s-90s ish, Kendrick-esque (e.g. Meekness and Majesty), and a newer song. Oh, and we really need to sing the Psalms...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


A friend recommended dafont.com as a good source of free fonts for producing striking publicity and so on.

Getting Started in Personal Bible Reading & Prayer

Is the following helpful? What else would you say / say differently?

It would be great to aim to read the Bible and pray briefly most days.

Be realistic. Starting with a few minutes each day is better than setting the alarm for 5am, hoping to do an hour’s Bible Study, but hitting the snooze button.

Where and when would work for you? Lots of people prefer first thing in the morning, but another pattern might suit you better.

Bible Reading
Begin by praying, asking God to help you.

Use a modern translation of the Bible. At church, we use the New International Version (NIV), which would be a good choice for most people. Children or those for whom English is a second language or those who struggle with reading might go for something like The Good News Bible (GNB) which uses simpler language. The English Standard Version (ESV) might be good for in depth study.

Read systematically rather than opening the Bible at random. Use a bookmark! Perhaps start with one of the Gospels, e.g. Mark.

Stop to think about what you read.

Perhaps ask yourself questions like:

What does this passage tell me about God / Jesus / myself / the world / following Jesus?
Is there a promise to obey or a command to follow or a warning to listen to?
Are there examples to follow or avoid?
What do you find striking / surprising about what you’re reading?
What do you think the main point or big idea of what you’re reading might be?

Pray in the light of what you’ve read:

What could you praise or thank God for?
What could you ask for his help with?

You might find some Bible Reading Notes would help you. The Good Book Company sell a good range!  http://www.thegoodbook.co.uk/bible/daily-bible-reading


Just talk to God naturally in your own words. You could sit or stand or kneel or whatever works for you. Some people find it helps them to concentrate if they put their hands together and close their eyes, but you don’t have to. It may also help you to pray out loud quietly under your breath.

You could think of using a structure like:

SORRY – say sorry to God for anything you’ve done or said or thought or failed to do, since you last prayed that comes to mind.

THANK YOU – say thank you to God for his forgiveness, for Jesus and the good news about him and for any other blessings for conscious of e.g. your sleep, your breakfast!

PLEASE – ask God to help you. Pray about the day ahead. Pray that you might be more like Jesus today and that you’d be a blessing to others.

It’s good to remember to pray for others too e.g. your family and friends.

Local or national or international events might inform your prayers.

You might like to make a note of a one or two different things to pray for each day to broaden your prayers and give variety.


MONDAY: Uncle Ted
The missionaries we support in Japan

TUESDAY: The local school
The government

WEDNESDAY: The God-children
The Vicar!

You might like to finish your prayers by saying The Lord’s Prayer or use other written prayers from time to time too (e.g. The Collects from the church notice sheet).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Diagnosis Sin

By popular request (i.e. at the request of one of my church wardens) here are my notes from this morning's sermon on Mark 2:13-17 - with due acknowledgements to those previously cited. There's even a paragraph cut and pasted from Rev'd Glen Scrivener, I think.


We’re going to be thinking in our sermon today about someone who invited his friends to a meal to meet with Jesus, and I’d like to ask you to think about doing the same.


This week we’ve seen astonishing scenes of rioting and looting in London and elsewhere.
The kind of thing we expect from failed states in Africa or the Middle East has been spreading across England.
As far as I know, there was no looting in this parish!
But its still a shock to us that such things could happen in towns and cities we know well.

Commenting on the London riots, David Cameron said:
“parts of our society are not just broken, they’re sick”.

We live in a sick society.

In v17 of our Gospel reading, Jesus too talks about people being sick.
Jesus said to them:
“It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

So, let’s consider those comments from Cameron and from Jesus.

Are we sick?
What is the nature of our sickness?

I want to think with you about the symptoms, the diagnosis, the causes, the prognosis and the treatment.


Plain enough.
Obvious something is wrong.

Peaceful protest à rioting, looting, criminal damage, arson, lots of other crimes, 3 men are dead as the result of a hit and run incident.

The death of Mark Duggan, which sparked it all, was quickly forgotten and we saw opportunistic theft.
Greed was rampant.
There was a casual disregard for the law.

Mobile phone theft: headlock - “oh, don’t bother” – walked off

More than 1600 people have so far been arrested

Daughter of a millionaire Company Director was looting too.
Student at Exeter University – an intelligent person.
Poverty is obviously not the cause!
Lack of education is obviously not the problem.


Parts of our society are sick.

But we need a deeper, more far-reaching diagnosis than that.

Ed Miliband (political balance!): “we all need to look in to our own souls…
We need to confront irresponsibility wherever we find it.
We need a sense of right and wrong.”


The actor and comedian, Russell Brand said he’d committed criminal damage during a previous anarchist demonstration partly because of the void inside.
He said the solution to the London riots must be spiritual.

At the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart

Later in this gospel Jesus says:
“What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean’.
For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
All these come from inside and make a man unclean.”
(Mark 7:20-23)
Sometimes we excuse ourselves when we read a list like that.
Well, I’m not a murderer!
But think about the list again:
What about evil thoughts, greed, malice, deceit, envy, arrogance, folly?
Can you see any traces of any of those things in your own heart?
I know I can.

Our sins? Our sickness?

Not just black youths.

MPs expenses – the amounts involved make some of the recent thefts seem trivial.
MPs had to repay over a million pounds in falsely claimed expenses, and there aren’t that many of them!
One MP broke the rules to get an £8000 flat screen TV and home entertainment system.
He did it by filling out forms, but it’s not so different from helping yourself through the window of Commet, is it?

The irresponsibility of the bankers – global economic crisis.

Phone hacking – influential people in our society.

Closer to home?

What would you do if you thought you could get away with it / if no one would know?
If there were no consequences, what would you do?

Would you be fiddling you taxes or your expenses?

Would you run from your responsibilities?

Thoughts of our hearts: murder, lust.

Pride, censoriousness, judgementalism (v16) – holier than thou attitude

In v17, Jesus speaks of the healthy who do not need a doctor, the righteous.
But the Bible says: “There is no one righteous, not even one”

Jesus hasn’t come for those who think their healthy and righteous.
They see no need for Jesus and so he has nothing to offer them.

Jesus is like a doctor.
And no one goes to the doctor if they think they’re in perfect health.
We have to admit our need, before we’ll come to Jesus.

Jesus came for the riotous not for the righteous.

There are no righteous people!

All of us are riotous by nature:
We’re in revolt against our maker.

All of us are sick within.
We suffer from a heart-condition that affects the whole human race.
We have a soul-sickness.


What are the causes of our societies’ ills?

Government cuts.
The end of education maintenance allowance.

A consumer society.
The looters had bought in to consumerism!
They are being good comsumers.

A lack of responsibility.



Ultimate cause: Our root disease: Rebellion against God.

A rejection of God leads to a rejection of all authority.
God has established the authority of the family, state.
Reject God, and its not surprising that the state and the family follow.

Atheistic Darwinism, why shouldn’t I help myself to designer trainers, jeans and the latest i-phone if I can get away with it?
After all, there is no God.
There’s no ultimate meaning to the universe, no objective morality.
We’re all just the product of time and chance.
Laws and private property are just human constructs.
Survival of the fittest is the name of the game.


Society going from bad to worse.
Anarchy? Tyranny?

We will reap what we sow.

The Bible says: “The wages of sin is death.”
The judgment of God.
God putting the world to rights.

There is hope for all who will admit that they are sick sinners.
No one is beyond Jesus’ cure.

Don’t write off anyone.
In our reading, the religious crowd thought that Jesus shouldn’t be interested in Levi or his friends.
Surely he was beyond the pale?
But Jesus would heal and transform Levi and use him as his disciple.


Education, character, virtue.
Where do character and virtue come from?
Character and virtue don’t grow on trees!

Something must be done!
The government must do something.

Some good proposals might emerge.
But there’s a great danger of sticking-plaster solutions, of treating some of the symptoms but not reaching the root of the disease.

Jesus the doctor!
He is an expert physician, a soul surgeon.
He can make anyone healthy, whole, clean, righteous.

The only qualification for coming to Jesus is sin.
All you have to bring is your sin.
It’s those who know their need of Jesus for whom he has come.

Jesus is a Doctor for sick sinners.
He did not come into this world to congratulate the healthy
He did not come to condemn the sick.  
He came to heal the sick – that’s what a Doctor does.

He did it by taking our spiritual sickness into Himself.  
He deliberately contracted our terminal illness.  
On the cross he died the death of sick looters, sick politicians, sick hypocrites, sick me and sick you.  
That’s how much He is for the sick. 
Then He rose up again and offers to meet you in your sickness – not with condemnation but with healing.


Did you notice the emphasis in our passage on Jesus eating with sinners?
The idea comes in v15 and twice in v16.
Eating with someone in Jesus’ day was a special sign of friendship and fellowship, of partnership and belonging.
And often it’s the same in our day.
How many of our occasions with family or friends or business associates involve eating together?
Our word “companion” literally means one with whom we eat bread.
As we come to the Lord’s Supper, Jesus welcomes sinners to eat with him.
Jesus shares his bread with us: he makes us his companions, his friends, his partners.
We share and participate with Jesus.