Tuesday, December 30, 2014


We had a good day out at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle. I can reccomend the bacon bap (don't bother with the sausages) and the cream of white onion soup was surprisingly good.

The Life centre was much less packed than the Science Museum in London (though not free) and on the top floor there was some soft play type stuff the kids could go and fight with.

The body exhibit showed that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. And the planatarium suggested that the heavens declare the glory of God.

Mystery was mentioned and at one point and the commentery said that there was something we do not know yet.

However, if the history of science has taught us anything, it ought to be that much of our firmly established scientific consensus is almost certainly wrong, or at least not quite right. I reckon that caveat ought to be written above the doors of such places that tell us so confidently about the origins or nature of the universe.

See further Steve Jeffrey's talks here and here.

Twitter style Christmas nativity sketch script


And indeed lots of other excellent looking free resources from Dr Clarke on the same website.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Lloyds' Post-Christmas / New Year "Letter"

Once again, I (Marc (36)) have been too lazy and preoccupied to send any Christmas cards, so having recovered a little from the excess of Yuletide religion, I thought I might occupy myself during the lull with a side of A4 or so of boasting and going on about myself.

Thomas (9 months)’s main news is that he was born this year. After lengthy portents of his arrival, it was just as well that we didn’t go for that walk around the lake before he made his speedy appearance. Thomas Nehemiah Towy was born on Sunday 23rd March at12:36pm weighing 8 lbs 12 ozs. He is now crawling, pulling over coffee tables, eating all manner of foods, making lots of sounds, clapping and waving, and has six teeth.

Matthew (3) is doing a couple of mornings a week at Daisy Chain nursery. He is a jolly chap and is perhaps the family’s best prospect as a prop forward.  

Abigail (4) has started at Dallington C of E Primary School. She is already reading better than her father. She feels rather surrounded by boys at home and is making up for it by wearing lots of pink.

Jonathan (7) has declared himself the best in the Universe at mathematics. Completing worksheets in thirty seconds seems to be the chief criteria. He now happily occupies himself with his Lego train set.

Yvonne (The BIG 30!)’s church toddler group continues to thrive and she occasionally does some bits of playing a church stuff and elsewhere. There are now some mornings where the older three kids are out and the youngest one sleeps so Yvonne has had a couple of hours to herself for the first time in the last few years.

Marc has been appointed Rural Dean so naturally it is now Champagne and caviar daily at the Rectory, which we are thinking of renaming the Rural Deanery. Sadly the post fails to come with a palace and a driver. The appointment process is a bit like winning 3rd prize in a clerical beauty contest and being the only one not to refuse the prize. Being Rural Dean means that everyone else’s’ problem is now Marc’s problem too but there is precious little he can do about them.

Marc’s PhD, which he started just after 1066 at Oak Hill, continues to languish. It seems likely Middlesex will appoint a Director of Studies and Marc will apply for (another) extension.  He would still be happy to bore you on the subject of the Lord’s Supper and the Bible – compare and contrast kind of stuff – but is some way off 100 000 original and significant words on the subject.

Life in the churches seems to plod on happily enough. Sadly for us, The Revd The Lord Wrenbury, the Assistant Curate at Dallington, was promoted to glory this year, so now Marc really does have to try to be in three places at once, which proved a problem, especially, for example, at Midnight Communion.

We had a good Oak Hill Mission as part of Passion for Life. We can’t say revival has broken out but for the most part the congregation were charmed and it seemed to be a positive experience of having lots of keen, able, nice young people around.

Although it is an extraordinary amount of work at certain points in the year, we had a very enjoyable and worthwhile camp at Danehill. We were delighted that for the first time some youngsters from these parishes came along as paying members. As ever we are seeking Bible believing leaders and any old 11-14s for next year so….

During the enthusiasm of camp we acquired a new kitten, Bella. She’s very lively, but as a result Esther has more or less moved into the wooden Wendy House in the garden and is rather shy about venturing indoors.  

We are also seeking another Ministry Trainee probably from September 2015, so if you know anyone who might be suitable for rural gospel ministry….

We have a had a complaint about Caleb the dog’s excessive woofing so he now has a special collar to wear when he goes out to play in the garden, which sprays him in the face if he barks. This does have the disadvantage that we can now forget he’s out there, but he has yet to be abandoned there for a whole day.

As ever we’d love to hear from you and you are always welcome to come and visit or stay.

Blessings for 2015,

Marc, Yvonne, Jonathan, Abigail, Matthew & Thomas Lloyd, Caleb the dog and Esther and Bella the cats.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A few extra Christmas Cracker jokes

In addition to these, stolen from a friend on Facebook:

What did Cinderella say when the chemist lost her photographs? Someday my prints will come.

What's white and goes up? A confused snowflake.

What does a frog do when his car breaks down? He gets toad away.

The Wise Men as Intruders

The Revd Prof Oliver O'Donovan has an unusual take on the Magi:

"image yourself on the receiving end of their enquries, as they barge into a Jewish pastoral idyll which is none of their business and which they do not understand. They put the wrong question at the wrong moment to the wrong person, hopelessly confused by Hellenistic political theology and astrology, and the result is tragedy. The story ought to be an object-lesson in the importance of not meddling."

Though this is radically subverted in the rest of the sermon. We might think walls are needed for the florishing of any society but the Epiphany is God bringing in the bulldozers and the dynamite:

"The oh-so-sensetive, delicate, unprejudiced awareness of the appropriate communication is jarred, painfully, stridently, by this monstrous cosmic tactlessness, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body. This is mixing incompatibles with a vengence!"

The brief sermon is a call to Evangelism which ends:

"Pray that a new generation of nosey wisemen and insensitive enquiring Gentiles may be rewarded, and that our walls may be rebuilt to accomodate them!"

The Word In Small Boats (Eerdmans, 2010) pp16-18, a sermon preached on 6th January 1991.

Epiphany / Wise Men / Kings Sermon Mathew 2:1-12

Last year I seem to have said something like this. It shows some signs of some hasty cutting and pasting and I seem to recall that a good proportion of it was plagiarised from The Revd Dr Michael Jensen, The Blogging Parson.

How many kings in our passage?

The Bible doesn’t call the wise men kings and it doesn’t tell us there were 3 of them.
Assume 3 because of the number of gifts.
Perhaps many more.
They must have had an entourage to be able to travel safely with such treasures.
Servants, guards

So how many kings?

2 kings in our passage:
King Herod and King Jesus (vv1-3 etc.)

Let’s think first of all about the wise men, then about King Herod and finally about King Jesus.

The Wise Men

Magi / Wise men / kings?
‘Magi’ (v1), which is word we get ‘magic’ from.
These were the star-gazers : the astrologers

Stars often stand for rulers in the Bible

When Julius Caesar was back-stabbed by Brutus and the boys in 44BC, the ancient writer Suetonius said that “a comet shone for seven successive days... and was believed to be the soul of Caesar”.
It became known in Rome as “Caesar’s star”.

The recent work of Dr Michael Molnar, an astronomer of Rutgers University in New Jersey, provides some fascinating background.
Using astronomical calculations and historical accounts, Molnar shows that in the year 6BC the planet Jupiter – which appears like a star to the naked eye – appeared in the constellation of Aries.
Jupiter was the planet associated with kings, and Aries was linked to the Jews.
On 17th April in 6BC, Jupiter was eclipsed by the moon in Aries.
Later that year in August, it appeared to change direction and move, before becoming stationary on December 19th.
This pattern seems to match very well what we read in Matthew’s account: that the star rose, and then, after the Magi’s interview with King Herod, went ‘ahead of them’, “until it stopped over the place where the child was”.

We’re told that these wise men came “from the East” (v1)
The descendants of those converted in the time of Daniel (when he was Prime Minister of Babylon)

Perhaps the best guess is that they were from Babylonia, that is, present day Iraq.
If you go straight across the desert, it’s 540 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem.
Despite the spoof version of the carol, of course, they didn’t come “one in a taxi, one in a car, [and] one in a scooter sounder his hooter.”
They had to walk or ride.
The journey would have taken at least a month, probably much longer.
According to v11, by the time the wise men get to Jesus he’s not in the manger any more – he’s been able to upgrade to a house.
By now Jesus is called “a child” rather than “a baby” (vv9, 11).
Verse 16 suggests that the wise men may have been travelling and searching for Jesus for up to 2 years.
A journey like this would have been an expensive, difficult business.

They risk their lives for Jesus’ sake, by defying the murderous king Herod.
The wise men tell us it’s worth taking the time and effort to find out who Jesus really is, whatever it takes.
It’s worth crossing a continent to find out about Jesus!
Thankfully, we don’t have to journey across deserts on camels, but we do need to investigate Jesus’ claims for ourselves.

The magi as representatives of the nations
Jesus the king of the whole world

The wise men show us that Jesus is of far more than local significance.
Jesus matters for everyone.
Jesus’ coming is good news for all people and nations – these wise men from the East included.
He’s good news even for you and me, 2000 miles away and 2000 years later.
Indeed, the miraculous star tells us that Jesus is of cosmic importance.

The Magi’s model response
Joy (v10)
Bowing down and worshing (v11)
the Magi came to see a King, and pay him homage.
The word is perhaps even stronger than that :
they came to worship him – they ‘knelt down’ before him

Wise men sought Jesus – they still do. Will you?

We (and Herod) don’t have to make a long, expensive, dangerous journey.
The wise men models of courage and commitment: willing to risk the wrath of Herod for the sake of Christ.


Contrast Herod and the wise men
The wise men had to depend on the stars and make a great journey
Herod has the Scriptures and the chief priests right there in the palace and Bethlehem was just down the road

Much easier for us…

Christianity Explained

New Year’s Resolution: to make use of the Scriptures, to read them regularly, to know them

The slaughter of the innocents - The shadow of the cross
What humanity does to God
People don’t want Jesus as their king
The coming of Christ is disturbing (v3)


No doubt the wise men chose their gifts carefully
Matthew bothers to tell us what the gifts were, so presumably he wants us to think about their significance

the first ever Christmas presents:
G, F & M
Gifts fit for a king

G, F & M are mentioned together is the Song of Songs 3:6-11 – G, F & M are associated with the arrival of the bridegroom-king

Cf. the Queen of Sheba bringing Solomon gifts of gold and spices

Later in Matthew, Jesus is called one greater than Solomon.
Jesus the new and better Solomon
The wise king
Great king David’s greater Son
The Son of David whose kingdom will last for ever
The promised Messiah, rescuer king
The bridegroom – church the bride of Christ

Traditional explanation of the gifts
We Three Kings
Goes back to the 4th Century

G – king

F – incense – priest / God

Gold, frankincense and myrrh are also all associated with the altar of incense in Exodus 30
Jesus the New Temple

M – death

Cross – pain killer, embalming fluid
Damien Hurst, For The Love of God – jewelled skull - riches and death, a kingly death
memento mori

Jesus the New Moses – baby the wicked king attempted to murder but whom God saved
Mention of Egypt (v13) reminds us of Moses
Jesus will be a ruler and rescuer of his people like Moses

2 kings – Herod and Jesus
Which King will you obey?
King Herod or king Jesus?

What will your response to Jesus be?
Like the wise men, will you seek him, boldly, persistently, whatever the cost?
Will you bow down and worship him with joy?
Would you give him your treasures?

In The Bleak Mid Winter (Christina Rossetti)
"What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him:  give my heart"


For Epiphany / Wise Men / Kings / Magi Stuff Yet Once Again

Is there anything origianl to say about the Wise Men, or at least a fresh way to say it? All age family service stuff and a normal sermon are required here a day or two after my Christmas holiday so all suggestions or pointers welcome. It would be nice not to be reduced to recycled PowerPoint. I reckon the good folks have heard me on G, F & M; King, Priest, Sacrifice and Jesus the New Solomon possibly more than once. Wise Men sought Jesus, they still do has been used before too.

I notice Ian Hislop's programme about the Wise Men is available on Radio 4 Extra again for the next month or so.

Peter Mead's, Pleased To Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014) has a chapter on Matthew 2:1-12.

http://marclloyd.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/for-epiphany-wise-men-3-kings-magi-stuff.html - the links in the comments are worth a look too

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas - The True Fairy Tale

It seems the Archbishop of Canterbury (who was poorly) was going to say that Christmas is not a fictional fairy tale with a fantasy happily ever after ending but good news of great joy. Good stuff. 

I'm afraid I dreadfully plagiarised Glen and Emma Scrivener for my carol service sermon this year. I hope they don't mind! And a respectful nod to Professor Tolkien (On Fairy Stories - PDF)

Here is "my" effort - the audio of which should be here evenually:

The Christmas story can easily seem like a fairy tale.
There’s a magical birth.
And supernatural messengers.
And mysterious visitors from far away.
And a wicked king.
All it needs is a talking snowman and it would be a suitable family film for Christmas afternoon!

But it’s more than a matter of these details.
The Christmas story is a story of love, hope, fear, danger and faith.
It is the story of a new dawn – of light coming into a dark world.
Ultimately, the Bible’s story will be the story of the greatest ever hero, come to the rescue.
It will be the triumph of life over death, of victory through a great sacrifice.
And because of that baby, born in a manger, nothing will ever be the same again.
Christmas is the decisive turning point in the Bible’s story.
For all those who put their trust in Jesus, they really will live happily ever after.  
Not that life with Jesus is one long happy fairy tale.
Sometimes the most terrible pain is part of the story for us, as it was for Jesus, but we know the end of this story.
We know that love wins.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

All the great stories we tell are really reflections of the Bible’s story.
Without a crisis and a redemption, there’s really no story at all – you’re left with some kind of Modernist novel.
If a story’s going to have any kind of plot, there has to be a problem that needs to be overcome.
And that’s what we find with the Bible’s story:
It’s the story of the good world God made gone wrong through human rebellion.
It’s the Bible’s story which makes sense of our intuition that this world is not as it should be.
Whenever we cry out for justice we’re agreeing with the Bible’s vision of the way the world ought to be.
It’s as if we have a dim memory of Eden and a longing to return.

As our opening prayer said, in the pages of Holy Scripture we can read the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience to the glorious redemption brought us by the Holy Child.

The Bible is a story of paradise lost and regained – only better.
We could sum up a thousand pages of Scripture as: “Jesus kills the dragon and gets the girl”.
It is the ultimate, the original, fairy story.
Jesus is the long promised rescuer-king, who, at the cost of his own life, overcomes evil and wins his bride, the church.
The whole world is under the terrible curse of sin, but there’s the ancient promise that one day, a child will be born who will undo the curse.
At last, that child has come.
Jesus is our knight in shining armour - our prince, who will undo the sleep of death.
He is the one in whom all the old prophecies find their fulfilment.
He answers all our deepest longings and dreams.  
Jesus is the hope of the ages and the desire of the nations.
On this child hangs the destiny of the whole world.
He will bring light to the darkness.
His will be an everlasting kingdom of justice, righteousness, peace and joy.

We know that in fairy tales all is not always as it seems.
That Grandma might turn out to be a wolf.
And so it is in this story.
Not wolves and grandmas – but all is not as it seen.
The child born in poverty is a prince.
The helpless baby is the Almighty creator of the heavens and the earth.
The king of the ages is found, not in a palace, but in a manger.

The Bible offers a happily ever after story that seems too good to be true.

Yet the Bible’s story is not a matter of make believe.
Here is the true fairy story – a fairy story that actually happened in real life history.
This is not “once upon a time in a land far away” but “in the days of Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria, in the town of Bethlehem.”   
The no nonsense shepherds could say to one another:
“Let’s go and see this thing which has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They could check these things out for themselves.
They could see the promised king lying in a manger.
“And they returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they were told.”

This true story stands up to historical investigation.
And it goes on changing countless lives around the world today.

The whole point of the Christmas story is that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
This is the greatest story ever told.
But it’s more than a story – more than an idea.  
God himself entered human history as a man.
Jesus is the Down To Earth God.
Everything hangs on that fact.
The eye-witness John says:
 “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
God, the author, has entered his story.
God has come to the world he has made to sort it out.
Jesus stands at the centre of the human story so that your story and mine find there meaning in his birth, life, death, resurrection and return.

It’s our response to Jesus that determines the conclusion of our story:
“to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children God”  

The Christmas story is not just for the kids.
And it’s not just for Christmas.
Here is the true story of our world.
And it’s a story that invites us in.

Will you find time this Christmas, like Mary did, to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart?
What does the birth of Jesus, the Saviour who is Christ the Lord, mean for you?

Like the Shepherds, will you find out for yourself whether or not these things are true?

Like the wise men, will you bow down and worship this child who was born to be your king?

May God enable us to do so. Amen.