Saturday, December 14, 2019

Matthew 11vv2-19

A little outline of what's going on in tomorrow's Gospel reading. It is a section full of questions.

In vv4-6, Jesus responds to John’s question about Jesus. 

Then in vv7-15, we’ll find that Jesus asks the crowd some questions about John.

And then finally in vv16-19, Jesus questions the crowd’s responses both to John and to Jesus.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A reed swayed by the wind (Matthew 11v7)

I've consulted a few commentaries about Jesus' rhetorical question to the crowds about John the Baptist in Matthew 11:7, "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?". The implied answer is no.

The options so far seem to be the following, or I guess just possibly some combination of the following:

Did they go just to admire the scenery of reeds blowing in the breeze? (R. T. France mentions this option)

Or something (someone) unstable, slight, inconsistent, easily moved, someone who adapted themselves to the prevailing opinions of the day or to the political weather? (France / Leon Morris)

Or perhaps the word "reed", the wind and the watery / wilderness context is meant to echo Israel’s experience in the wilderness and the wind blowing back the Sea of Reeds so that Israel could come out of Egypt. In this case, Jesus would be asking, is John a new Moses? (Jesus might then ask, is John the Davidic king? see v8) (This suggestion is in Peter Leithart. France thinks this less plausible but cites Davies and Allison 2:247 as supporting it.)

Or a Galilean reed blown in the wind is a symbol of King Herod Antipas' emblem, as used on his coins. It is this Herod who has John the Baptist in prison, of course, and this would fit with the mention of king's houses in v8. (This is N. T. Wright's view. Again, France thinks this is a less plausible but cites G. Theissen, Gospels, 25-42 for it).  


Of course there are many miracles in the Bible. But Jesus is the one who gives the blind new sight. Apart from the ministry of Jesus, the only person to be cured of blindness in the Bible is Saul of Tarsus who recovers from a temporary blindness when scales fall from his eyes (Acts 9:17-18). He has come to see who Jesus is. Jesus came that people might see.

(See Leon Morris, Pillar Commentary on Matthew 11:5 p276)

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Calvin on Psalm 72

He is interesting on how the Psalm applies not exclusively but ultimately to Christ:

"Those who would interpret it simply as a prophecy of the kingdom of Christ, seem to put a construction upon the words which does violence to them; and then we must always beware of giving the Jews occasion of making an outcry, as if it were our purpose, sophistically, to apply to Christ those things which do not directly refer to him. But as David, who was anointed king by the commandment of God, knew that the terms upon which he and his posterity possessed the kingdom were, that the power and dominion should at length come to Christ; and as he farther knew that the temporal well-being of the people was, for the time, comprehended in this kingdom, as held by him and his posterity, and that from it, which was only a type or shadow, there should at length proceed something far superior — that is, spiritual and everlasting felicity; knowing, as he did, all this, he justly made the perpetual duration of this kingdom the object of his most intense solicitude, and prayed with the deepest earnestness in its behalf, — reiterating his prayer in his last moments, with the view of distinctly testifying, that of all his cares this was the greatest. What is here spoken of everlasting dominion cannot be limited to one man, or to a few, nor even to twenty ages; but there is pointed out the succession which had its end and its complete accomplishment in Christ."

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Parish Magazine Item for January

I have been getting ahead.

From The Rectory

Just in case you are in want of a New Year’s resolution, how about this?

If you don’t already do so, why not take a few moments each day to STOP and pray.

It’s an amazing privilege for Christian believers that Almighty God, our loving heavenly Father, delights to hear us when we pray in faith. Given our needs and God’s power, it’s madness that we so often neglect to talk to him.

Saying the Lord’s Prayer daily and reflecting on it might be a great place to start. The Psalms and the Bible’s other prayers might be a help to us.

There are many ways to skin a cat, but let me suggest one approach to things about which to pray that could get you going. It’s a very easy to remember structure: STOP.

(1) Sorry

Are there ways you know you’ve blown it today? Things of which your conscious accuses you? Maybe things you’ve done or said or thought? Or good things you’ve failed to do? God stands ready to forgive because Jesus died for sinners like me and you. He offers us restored relationship and a fresh start. A mini daily spiritual check up might help us to make real progress this year in being more like Jesus. Pray for God’s help with these things in the day ahead and tomorrow.

(2) Thank you

Gratitude is such a secret to contentment. There may be great struggles and difficulties and you may not have all that you desire, but what could you give thanks for? Whatever your circumstances, praise God that he made you and loves you. Thank him for the blessings you have in Jesus your Saviour, for who he is, for what he’s done for you.

(3) Others

Who do you know who is in need or who has asked for your prayers? Maybe you want to keep a note of a few people to pray for. And here’s an opportunity to broaden out your vision too, maybe to pray for our nation and government or persecuted Christians on the other side of the world. You might use the church notice sheet or prayer diary, or The Sussex Gospel Partnership prayer diary to help you. Or newsletters from Mission Partners. I’m told many people find the Prayer Mate App very useful: Operation World is another useful resource to help us pray for the nations.

(4) Please

Jesus told us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” so we should be unashamed about bringing our needs to Our Father. Pray about whatever bothers you, both for your physical and spiritual needs. Ask for help too know, love and follow Jesus and to share his love with others.

I’ll be praying that you may you know God’s blessing in 2020. Your prayers too could make all the difference. STOP and pray. Why not take a few moments to do so now?

Happy New Year!

The Revd Marc Lloyd

Monday, November 04, 2019

Privilege, Entitlement and Gratitude: Parish Magazine Item for December

From The Rectory

I’ve just had a nice hot shower, for which I’m particularly thankful, as yesterday morning the power was off. Our eldest almost needed a boat to get to the school bus today, but he lived through it! It’s great that there’s a good school virtually on our doorstep and transport so readily available.

And so we could go on. There are so many things which we normally take for granted. Some of us do not have what we might like, or some of the shiny new things we notice others have. We may have to watch the pennies very carefully. But compared to most people down through history or around the world we have so much. The vast majority of the populations of Liberia, The Central African Republic, or Burundi, would find our consumption and waste almost offensive. A time traveller from Medieval or Victorian England would marvel at the affluence and convenience of life in modern Sussex. The choice available in a 24-7 supermarket is almost ridiculous and can be bewildering. And I am tempted to go and count the number of cheeses one could buy from our own village shop to make the point.

Yet we so easily take all this and more for granted. Perhaps we wouldn’t say so, but we behave as if we feel entitled. We can readily fly into a rage if the internet is slow, or the laptop takes an age to update at an inconvenient moment. Or we can feel so disappointed if that meal or event isn’t just so. Or expectations are sometimes so high that nothing can please us.

This December, amidst all the feasting of Christmas and the uncertainty of a General Election, let’s pause to thank God for all that he has given us, for the innumerable blessings which we enjoy. If we do not have all that we desire, we certainly have far more than we deserve.

Remember Remembrance? Gratitude is something we can learn from those who found themselves in the mud of the Somme. That hell on earth showed them with new eyes all that there was to give thanks for at home. Many soldiers came from poverty, but the trenches revealed in a new way the horrors of which human beings are capable.

And in the Second World War, on the home front, the privations of rationing were a reminder to some of the plenty of better times.

Or think instead of that first Christmas. Jesus was totally privileged. Absolutely and rightly entitled. He was by nature God the Son, the Second Person of the Eternal Trinity. Yet he chose to leave all the glory of heaven for the poverty of a no-where-place. In the words of the carol:

God of God, Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb

He was born in disgrace and fear, soon fleeing as a hunted refugee with a price on his head. A majestic throne was his by right, but he chose an animal’s feeding trough. Not only so, but for much of his short life he had no where to lay his head. He would die a shameful death for us, in our place.

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becomes poor.

(From a Hymn by Frank Houghton (1894-1972) based on 2 Corinthians 8v9)

May you and your family enjoy a very happy and thankful Christmas. May God give us grateful and joyful hearts that we may be content with little or much.

The Revd Marc Lloyd

Friday, October 25, 2019

Preaching the gospel from Acts 6:1-7

There are many true, useful and interesting things on could say from Acts 6:1-7.

For example, one might say:

  • The church can grow despite persecution when the good news of Jesus is proclaimed. 
  • Growth can bring problems.
  • The early church had problems which threatened the growth of the church.
  • It is important to address issues which might impede the spread of God’s word.
  • Prayer and ministry of the word are priorities for the church.
  • Practical acts of caring and good administration are important too.
  • Practical jobs should ideally be done by those who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
  • Leadership and service are shared with people having different responsibilities and roles.
  • The Apostles led the church but everyone was involved in making / agreeing decisions.
But what is the burden and thrust of the passage that will not only inform the mind but move the heart and activate the will?

And in particular how does it proclaim the biblical gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, for that is surely the purpose of Scripture and of all faithful preaching?

Yes, we need teaching about church life and how we might organise things and so on, but we need each Sunday to hear good news which will be life and joy to us as we trust in Christ.

So how would you do that from Acts 6:1-7. Oh, and one of the services is an all age too!

One of the issues with reading this and other passages in Acts might be expressed as the narrative / normative dilemma: when is Luke telling us what happened and when is he telling us what should happen? Or perhaps more accurately, how and in what respects is this narrative normative? Acts is not first of all a handbook for church government. Granted, for example, that the early church took a decision by casting lots, and even that it was right to do so, does not mean that all church decisions should be taken in this way in the future. Or to relate it to this passage, the seven were all men with Greek names. Does that mean that all deacons should (a) be men and / or (b) have Greek names? Thinking about this can alert us to our own assumptions. The whole of Scripture will help to inform our reading and applying of this passage. And we must do that with the good news of Jesus front and centre.

The spirit formed community of the church serving one another in love is one fruit and expression of that gospel. She is the New Israel experiencing new covenant blessings in which all are invited to partake.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Matthew 13) All Age Game / Intro.

Look away now if you are coming on Sunday!

I am planning to have a weed or not quiz, and then to go on to mention Jesus and the gospel!

I've got images of these plants on the screen and the idea is that everyone will have a red card to hold up for weed and a green card to hold up for not weed:

Weed or not quiz!

What is a weed?

A plant in the wrong place

OED: “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants”

Aggressive, invasive, hard to get rid of, likely to take over

Stinging nettles - Urtica dioica

Daffodills – Narcissus - variety called King Alfred – deer resistant! / deter deer

Sticky weed - Galium aparine – goosegrass - The small, hairy seeds are produced in large quantities, of between 300-400 seeds per plant, are easily distributed and can persist in the soil for 6 years.

Sunflowers – Helianthus - some discussion online of whether or not they are weeds! – perennial sunflowers can grow wild, spread rapidly and be invasive causing problems for farmers

Mock strawberries - Duchesnea indica – not edible, yellow flowers

Aster – daisy like – come in white purple and red – often mistaken for a weed

Japanese knotweed - Reynoutria japonica – many common names: fleeceflower, Himalayan fleece vine, billyweed, monkeyweed, monkey fungus, elephant ears, pea shooters, donkey rhubarb, American bamboo, and Mexican bamboo

Orange hackweed - Pilosella aurantiaca - fox-and-cubs, orange hawk bit,[3]:208 devil's paintbrush, grim-the-collier – can be v invasive – notifiable in some parts of the world, eradication programmes

Mountain mint - Pycnanthemum muticum – often mistaken for a weed – leaves look like they’ve been dusted with icing sugar

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor - book group jottings

Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor:

Discovering Joy in Our Limitations Through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus

 (Crossway, 2015)

(Updated shorter re-write of Sensing Jesus)

Some jottings for a pastors' book group

Did you find the American / anecdotal / personal aspects a help or a barrier?

Did you find it interesting / striking / usual?

Did you enjoy the somewhat poetic style?

Was it a useful reminder of Jesus the Perfect Shepherd as the model for under-shepherds?

Part 1: The Calling We Pursue

What are your desires (in / through ministry)? (Chapter 1, p17ff)

What do you want Jesus to do for you? (p29ff)

Do you want to do large things famously and fast if possible?

Would you be content to be an unnamed mountain – with faithful obscurity? (p20)

Are you worried that you might e.g. receive praise for a sermon but know little about how to follow Jesus in your living room? (p26)

Did it challenge your ideas of success / what the pastor’s vocation ideally is?

Do you agree our constituency has issues with celebrity pastors and success culture?

Are you tempted to be hasty and neglect mattering things? (p26)

What does it mean to be a pastor and a human being? (Chapter 2, p33ff)

Is there a risk of sacrificing our humanity to the pastor role / persona / identity?

Do you agree that “Christian life and ministry are an apprenticeship with Jesus towards recovering our humanity and, through his Spirit, helping others do the same” for, through, with in Jesus to the glory of God? (p35)

Do you need to recover your humanity? In what senses?

What about the bodily / physical and local?

How might you do that?

What in your background / home life has shaped you? (Chapter 3, p45ff)

How do you tend to relate to men and women?

What are your fears? Are you tempted to use your fists or to run?

Do you embrace the mundane, invisible, uncontrollable, unfinished work of the pastor? (p58f)

How are your private prayers?

Do you agree this seems ineffective?

Are you trusting Jesus or appearances or sub-Jesus methods?

Part 2: The Temptations We Face?

Do you feel the temptations to be:

Everywhere for all? (Chapter 5, p73ff)

Fix it all? (Chapter 6, p89ff)

Know it all? (Chapter 7, p103ff)

Immediacy? (Chapter 8, p117ff)

(In a way these are temptations to be God!)

Are you too quick to throw lots of Bible words at stuff? (p91ff)

Are you in a hurry? Would anyone ever think of you as patient?!

Augustine (p103): you only really understand any Scripture when it tends towards you loving God / your neighbour

Do you need the mantra “I am not the Christ!”? (p35)

Part 3: Reshaping Our Inner Life

How is your inner life?

Do you give attention to it?


How are you with solitude / silence / quiet?

What are your main ambitions? (cf. Chapter 9, p135ff)

Are you seeking wisdom?

How is your walk with God?

Do you long above all things to behold the face of God in Christ from the Scriptures? (Chapter 10, p151ff)

Do you think your pace is healthy? (Chapter 11, p169ff)

How could it be better?

Do you normally manage to live in an appropriate day at a time kind of way? Does the past or the future press in unhelpfully?

How do you feel about emotions?!

Do you think about the emotional toll of different aspects of your work? What drains / energises you?

What are you most burdened from / for? (p170)

Portions of the Day (p169ff) – persuasive? Useful?

Do you “strategically rest in order to vigorously keen going?” (p183)

Part 4: Reshaping the Work We Do

Did you value what he said about:

Visiting the sick (chapter 12, p187ff)

Touch (p188ff)

Calling the elders to pray for the sick / James 5:14 (p194ff)

The care of sinners / church discipline (Chapter 13, p199) – was any of this applicable to the C of E?!

Local knowledge (Chapter 14, p213ff)

Slowing down

Leadership (Chapter 15, p229ff)

Ways of training other leaders

Do you think of these as important parts of your work?

Was what he said helpful?

Do we cause unintended harms which should be red flags to us? (p211)

Do you agree that “pastoral care is mostly presence, being with someone in the midst of what troubles them”? (p191) How are you at that?

What areas do you neglect / decisions do you leave to others / things you don’t sweat?

Are you good at really giving permission and living with the consequences?

Do you micromanage everything / some things?

Is leadership “mostly about trying to embody what we invite others to follow”? (p229) So what?

Useful to ask: is this the right thing? In the right way? At the right time? (p236ff)

Romantic realism – neither defeatist empiricist resignation nor total romanticism (Chapter 16, p245ff)

* * *

Did you find the Bible handling persuasive?

Might the book change how you carry on at all?!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Thank you for Jesus - for prayer and meditation

Father God, thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ,
for my union with him by faith in the Holy Spirit,
and for all the benefits which I have in him.

Thank you that he is eternally begotten of you and reigns for ever.

Thank you for the creation of all things by and for him.

Thank you for his sustaining of all things.

Thank you for his revelation under the Old Covenant,
for his mediatorial work in saving and leading your people Israel
and for the many prophecies and types concerning him.

Thank you for his incarnation in the womb of the Mary.

For his birth.

His circumcision.

His exile and return from Egypt.

His infancy.

His childhood.

His youth.

His obedience.

His growth in wisdom.

His life and work.

His baptism.

His fasting and temptations.

His ministry.

His teaching.

His miracles.

His death.

His burial.

His resurrection.

His appearances to his disciples.

His ascension.

His reign in heaven.

His intercession for us.

His gift of the Spirit.

His coming return to judge the world.

And the coming consummation of his Kingdom in the New Creation.

Or, no doubt better: The BCP Litany

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Portions of the Day

Zac Eswine suggests that biblically the day can be divided up into four main portions:

The morning (6am / sunrise - noon)
The noon day / afternoon (noon - 6pm / sunset)
The evening (sunset / 6pm - 10pm)
The watches of the night

Each has its own themes, opportunities and temptations.

Even if you don't find all the details here convincing, it's worth reflecting on. Eswine cites a number of biblical events (e.g. from the life of Christ) and characteristics associated with each.

Each portion of the day might begin and end with a short time of silence, reflection and prayer.

Although Eswine doesn't make this point, these times might correspond to Morning Prayer, Prayer During the Day / Midday Eucharist, Evening Prayer, Compline / Night Prayer.

The Morning is resurrection time. It is time to rise up and give God thanks and praise. It is a time for singing. It offers opportunity and grace, a fresh start, possibilities. There will be work to be done, but first we can receive from God and offer him the day, looking to his strength.

The afternoon is the time of the greatest light and heat. It can be a time of scrutiny and pressure. We must toil and bare the heat of the day. We will be tempted to grow weary and droop. Or be distracted. It is not yet time to relax and we must resist the lure of Happy Hour! Again, we will need God's grace.

The evening is a time for grateful rest, for refreshment, perhaps for hospitality. We must not use the coming darkness as a cover for evil. We can rejoice that we have gone another mile, or at least another step. We must leave behind the undone work. God willing, there will be tomorrow.

It will do us good at some point to look back over the day: what flowers are there to celebrate and is there any muck that needs clearing up?

The night may be for sleep and dreams. In a way we will always be alone with God. There might be times of watchfulness and wakefulness.

And just as there are rhythms to the day, there is a weekly sabbath and seasons of the year too.

These quick jottings from memory might encourage you to get hold of the chapter if you can:

The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus, (Crossway, 2015) Chapter 11: Finding Our Pace esp. pp172-182

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Emotional Work Load

It is easy for some of us to think of our work in terms of number of hours put in or number of tasks ticked off or the like.

But it might be helpful to think also in terms of "emotional workload". Visiting a bereaved family or taking a funeral will feel very different from grinding through some admin or working hard on a sermon.

Even if you really enjoy taking weddings, it can feel quite full-on if there is a lively and full church and you naturally want to concentrate on doing it as well as you can for the couple's big day!

You might want to factor in some down time or recovery time or walk the dog or something after particularly intense pieces of work. You could even think about praying and being quiet!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Wedding Meetings Checklist for Vicars

No doubt you will have better, perhaps paperless, ways of doing this but as a reminder to self and in case it is any help, when meeting a wedding couple, probably at some stage you will need either for yourself or to give to them:

Passports and proof of address / other ID checklist
Access to Parish Finder to check re banns
List of qualifying connections and evidence
Banns of marriage form / way of capturing all the data you need for the registers
Any other questions you need to ask about legalities and form of service
Suggestions on hymns, music, choreography, readings and prayers, who might take part (role of father / parents, best man, bridesmaids etc.)
Sort out witnesses and what will happen during signing of the register
List of authorised forms of service (Common Worship, BCP etc.) links / examples
Headings and other content for order of service (e.g. image of church if desired)
Rules about photos, videos, confetti, music, sound systems etc.
Your diaries to fix your next meeting, check for other weddings etc.!
Info on marriage preparation / suggested reading
Suggestions for organists / other musicians
Info on flowers in church
Details of costs, how and when to pay etc.
Some Christian literature e.g. a gospel and a tract
Your contact details
The parish magazine / newsletter / invites to other church services and events
Details of rehearsal and who is needed

What else?


Ask any minister how he or she is and there is a fair likelihood that the answer will include some form of "busy!"

Sometimes we say this to justify our existence and herald our hard work.

Often it is true: we are busy.

There's a balance to be struck in these things. Some of us thrive on a deadline. We don't want to be underemployed.

But some of us are sometimes too busy: stressed, frazzled, chasing our tails.

Why is that?

Perhaps pressures from the denomination, or congregation, or community. Sometimes there is just too much stuff that has to be done urgently and we've got to do it.

But more likely I think much of the problem is self-imposed pressure.

Maybe we actually like to be needed. Or we don't trust others to do a good enough job. Or we've worked hard but not smart. Maybe we've not invested in recruiting and training others.

Whatever the causes, too busy for too long is not good for us and our people. A meeting every night in the Vicarage for 10 days will take its toll on you and your family. You can't do too many 8ams to 10pms without wilting.

We do have quite a lot of control over our own diaries and we ought to try to use it well. Likely no one makes sure we clock in at 9am and out at 5pm. A few of us might be tempted to be lazy. But more often I think we're tempted to log in before 7am and check the phone at midnight and....

We and our family and friends actually need us to take our days off. Ideally a full 24 hrs each week as a minimum. Better still with the evening before thrown in if we can.

Saturday is probably not the best clergy day off with Sunday looming. Why not take a Friday? And if you've already done 60 hours by Thursday, you don't have to put in another 8 hour day on Saturday to have earned your merger stipend. Give yourself a break! Yes, work hard, but don't bust a gut!

You are meant to be set aside for the ministry of the Word and prayer so that is what you should do. I know there is the tyranny of the inbox and the treadmill of meetings and prep and the clamour to visit more and... But word, prayer, sacrament is your thing. Do this. Slow down. Be quiet. Think. Pray. Remember Jesus and his gospel. His love. Start the day not with the church's social media presence but in the presence of God. Hear him say to you again in Christ, "you are my child, whom I love. With you I am well pleased." That is the only basis for faithful and fruitful service.

How are you? Loved! Forgiven! Saved! Secure!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A prayer point

Sadly, often good godly Christians move around between churches for not the best reasons.

Pastors should discourage that. If people turn up at your church, it will often be best to suggest they go back! Or if they are determined to leave, at least to do so well by asking to see the pastor of the church they are leaving to talk and pray.

Of course it is great to see our churches grow. But transfer growth is not really what we are after.

Why not pray that this year we might see at least one person go from no contact with any church to firm faith in Christ and committed membership in our church?

And let's also pray for God's richest blessing on the other churches locally that they may grow too. If they are used by God more than our church is, let us resolve to rejoice in God's goodness. It is, after all, not a competition! There are plenty of not-yet-Christians so go around. Other churches and ministers are our friends and allies not our rivals and we are on the same side. Although we long to be fruitful for Christ, we should deliberately delight when God prospers our brothers and sisters down the road.  May he give us grace to do so. And perhaps, if we learn this lesson, it might be safe for God to allow us a measure of "success" too without it going straight to our heads.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Acts 1:12-end

Some jottings / headings:

The Bible a weird and fascinating book: the ascension and Pentecost coming and a PCC / synod meeting to sort out a technical admin issue?

Narrative and normative: this is not just a dusty history lesson, but what are we to learn from it exactly?

It was a church that obeyed Jesus and waited

It was an apostolic church – but of course it wasn’t just the apostles

It was a church that joined constantly together to pray

It was a church that made good decisions together:

It was a church that read the Bible in a striking way as significant and authoritative for its life and all about Jesus

It was a church which trusted in the sovereign plans of God

It was a church that intended to provide convincing testimony to the ministry, ascension and resurrection of Jesus

It was a church that saw itself as the New Israel

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Nine Years In and Pressing On

My family and I have served three rural Anglican churches for almost the last nine years. Like all of life, there have been ups and downs. There are challenges and encouragements. The views are very lovely. There are only 2000 people on the whole patch. Our more evangelical church gets maybe 50 on a good Sunday. The others 20 each, allowing for Pastor Inflation!

It has been wonderful to see a number of people come to Christ for the first time. And some people come alive in their faith and start serving. And people become real leaders. The ministries of the church have grown significantly. Toddlers and After School Club have been full. There is a new youth group and mum’s bible study and community choir and art group and people are reading the Bible together and….

But we have not seen the revival, for which we still pray! Things are small and fragile. Everyone who was here when we got here is now almost ten years older and 80 is different from 70. I am still good for the age demographic! My wife remains the youngest committed adult in one of our churches and my kids are the sometimes the only ones on a Sunday. In fact, if I did the graphs, I doubt I could even say that we have grown by 10% year on year. We expect the gospel to grow and the Word of God to bare fruit but the results really are down to God. It is really hard to persuade mature people that they should revolutionise their whole lives for the sake of the Biblical Jesus who, let’s face it, has some plausibility issues to your average secular Brit. With deaths and people moving away, I have decided that humanly speaking one is doing well if the congregation size more or less holds up, though we are not satisfied with that.

Three keen Bible believing families would make a huge difference. But I have resigned myself to the fact that the cavalry is probably not coming!

God calls us to love these people and to faithfully serve them and with them to seek to hold out the word of life to others. You must die to the what ifs and the lust for a bigger glitzier platform or a great name. The Senior Pastor for Vision and Preaching at 1st Mega Church has his own issues and challenges. Biblical ministry is not easy anywhere. And even if you went somewhere else you would take yourself and all your baggage with you!

What are some things I would say to my younger self (or indeed myself today still)? There are so many things but let me restrict myself to three paragraphs:

·        Being the Senior Pastor and the only professional minister will feel and be very different from your time as Assistant Minister and there’ll be so much to learn. People might cc you on almost every email. You will feel responsible for everything from finance, buildings, safeguarding, to the quality of the coffee and the fliers. You can’t do it all. You’re not the Messiah. And what happens in the church (either good or bad) does not affect that you are a much-loved child of your heavenly Father.

·        You should find some way to daily deliberately delight in Jesus which works for you. Maybe what is sometimes called The Quiet Time! That really is key. And it is best for your people and work as well as your own soul. What your flock needs is not necessarily a better prepared sermon or a swifter response to its correspondence but a better prepared Pastor who is swift to pray. Guard your heart above all things. And seek out whatever help with that you need. SORT IT OUT!

·        Keep the main things the main things. Prayer. Jesus. The Bible. Dependence on the Spirit. People. Be bold in your evangelism and pastoral care and training in ministry. Who knows? Maybe the Brigadier would like to meet up with the spotty young Rector and read the Bible. And if he laughs and says “no” and dines out on what a silly sausage you are, that would be okay too! Jesus faced rather worse. It would be a privilege to share in a little of the scorn and defeat of the Crucified King.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Prescriptipn drug dependency worrying

From The Rectory

The BBC reported today:

Prescription drug dependency worrying - health chiefs

Hundreds of thousands of people in England are getting hooked on prescription drugs, health chiefs fear.

Image result for pillsA Public Health England review looked at the use of strong painkillers, antidepressants and sleeping tablets - used by a quarter of adults every year.

It found that at the end of March 2018 half of people using these drugs had been on them for at least 12 months.

Officials said long-term use on such a scale could not be justified and was a sign of patients becoming dependent.

It is indeed worrying. But it is also extremely complicated.

Certainly doctors and patients should be more careful. An opioid drug, for example, will likely be addictive and indeed ineffective after time. Higher and higher doses may be given. Users may be distracted, anxious or dulled. There are all sorts of possible risks and side-effects. In the States, even more than in the UK, prescription drugs are very often a gateway to illegal ones. Detox may be needed and harm can be long lasting.

Depression, insomnia and pain are all chemical because that is what we are at one level. We are biological machines. But the answers to these “conditions” are not necessarily pills – or not pills alone. Medication can have a very important place but it often functions by stamping rather bluntly on a symptom, often with collateral damage, rather than addressing any other underlying problems. The place of pills can be as a safety mechanism to give us temporary space to explore other issues. For example, if we have terrible hip pain, we might take pain medication until we have recovered from our hip replacement surgery. Things might not be so different with our mental health.

We need to also think about how we think and feel. For example, diet, exercise and various social activities (like joining a choir or getting a dog) can make a great difference to some depression or lowness of mood. Talking treatments can work well for some issues and should be more readily available.

We are more than our brains. We are embodied minds in community. And we are made for relationship with others and with our Maker.

Believers may suffer from all the problems which we have mentioned and more. But, other things being equal, they do have one of the basic building blocks of mental health in place: God!  

God does not promise his people good health or good mental health. But right thinking involves relating rightly to God. To do so is to align ourselves with reality and is the best way to live in God’s world.

Habits of quiet, prayer, Bible reading, worship and Christian fellowship are also, unsurprisingly, good for us.

Monday, September 09, 2019

How To Read The Bible and Pray In Church



THANK YOU for being willing to do this!

What are your loves and hates?

You can’t please all the people all the time!

Threshold learning outcomes… Stand up, Speak up, Shut up!

In an ideal world…

Style of services: not a slap dash game show and not a stuffy military parade?

Relax, enjoy it (but not too much!). It will be okay! You are amongst friends!

Engage with the congregation before and after – try to make eye contact etc.

Pray, prepare, think!


(1) Worship of God

(2) Edification

Everything must be done decently and in order!

We are aiming to please God and help others. The congregation may not like it but it might be good for them!


WHEN? The Rotas and arranging a swap if necessary


At Warbleton we aim to have a few moments prayer before the service around the keyboard (say at 10:50am) for all those who are taking part in the service. Please do join us if you can.

You might think some of this is stating the obvious but…


Of course, in a way it’s not rocket science but it does matter and make a difference and can be done so badly or so well.

You are reading the Word of God! God is speaking, addressing us. We encounter Jesus in the power of the Spirit here.

“This is the most precious thing the world affords. These are the lively oracles of God!”

Pray. Think. Prepare. Practice?! Serve.

Please use the same New International Version as we have in the pews. Either use the lectern Bible or a pew Bible or print it out or write it out or bring your own! If you are feeling really keen and have the time and energy you could even try to virtually memorise the reading so that you can concentrate on your delivery not on reading.

There is no harm in checking you have the correct reading and that there is a bookmark in the Bible and that you know where the reading comes in the service. Does the other reader think they are doing your reading? You might like to turn to the second reading after your reading if you are he first reader. It is normally OT then NT or OT / Epistle / NT then Gospel.

E.g. Ephesians is a New Testament Epistle – Ephesians 2:1-10 / John 1:4, 6-9, 12, 14-end / 1 Kings 3:5-5:2

Or “v” / “vv”

The contents page is your friend!

We normally sit for the readings and stand for the gospel readings at Communion services. Standing for the gospel is just traditional but it perhaps is a way of recognising the centrality of Jesus and his incarnate ministry?

Slow down a bit.

Speak up a bit. Use the microphone provided. You need to speak into it and probably be closer to it than you imagine or really project.


Try to begin clearly and strongly with confidence.

Do not under or over interpret especially if the interpretation is unclear.

If there are rhetorical questions, do you know what answer they are expecting? E.g. Romans 8

Try to think about the theme / tone / aim / genre etc.

Be yourself but you could probably put a bit more life and feeling into it but don’t go crazy!

Your reading may be more dynamic if you slightly emphasise the key verbs (and adverbs) of action etc. e.g. try this sentence: “Suddenly coming to the house he threw them out with great force for he was angry with them beyond measure”. If you print out the passage (e.g. from Bible Gateway) you can mark on it where you plan to pause and underline words you wish to emphasise and so on.

Think about how emphasis / commas (pauses) etc. can change the meaning: “I am opening the door already (?)”; “Let’s eat Grandma”

Serve the text and the people. You wouldn’t be tempted to show off of course.

Consider a suitable and sensible variety of pitch, pace, pause and volume.

Plan your introduction and conclusion.

“Our first reading is taken from Acts chapter 7 verses 3 to 5 and can be found on page 3333 in the church Bibles. Acts 7v3, page 3333.” Pause. Normally no further introduction is needed. Or Marc might say something by way of introduction.

If the first pronoun is ambiguous and you know to whom it refers either change it or add in the correct answer e.g. not just “He said” but “He [that is, Jesus] said:” or just “Jesus said:”

Give them a moment to find the passage if they want to.

Pause before the ending response.

Traditional endings (see Common Worship / Prayer Book / Service sheet or book):

Either, This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Or, in a Communion service, This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you O Christ.

(Or, Here ends the second reading.)

“May God add his blessing to this reading from his Word”

Or just stop!

We never read the headings as they are not part of the original text (except for the titles in the Psalms, which we should read, followed by a pause.)

Come up in time so you are ready and go away afterwards (without rushing)! You could sit on the end of a pew to make everyone’s life easier!

Tricky pronunciation: don’t worry! Just be confident. Virtually all pronunciation is only a best guess / convention (Sheep noises and ancient Greek!). Do ask me if you want to know my guess but don’t feel the need to bother! Or copy a good audio Bible such as David Suchet’s reading on the NIV which is available free online. Be consistent. (It is more distracting if you mumble apologetically and say a name three different ways)

Anything else?


(Marc will normally say the Collect and announce the Lord’s Prayer)

There are many ways to skin a cat.

Be sensitive. Respect confidentiality. We should only mention people by name if the thing in question is public common knowledge or we have their permission. Do not announce that Smith has cancer in the prayers unless you know for sure from himself Smith that he is okay with that and you think it is helpful! (The people mentioned in the notice sheet will have given their permission but that does not mean that we need a run down of all their symptoms and issues!)

Are there children present? If so, can you make your prayers child-friendly without them being too childish! A shorter word might work just as well as a bigger one.

Normal English and your normal voice are fine, please!

Read the Bible passages and allow them to influence your prayers. Or you could base your prayers around some other passage of Scripture or Scriptures. It is good if our words to God are a response to his words to us.


What are intercessions? ________________________________________

You are talking to Almighty God our loving heavenly Father so be respectful but not cringing. You come in Jesus, righteous in him, as a much-loved child and the Holy Spirit helps you so be confident (bold in Christ!) rather than self-confident.

You are leading corporate public prayer so “we” / “us” not “I”

Normally we do not need lots of extra CONFESSION, or THANKSGIVING, or PRAISE or LAMENT or … We are not really looking for extra sermons, or poetry readings or….

We want to pray according to God’s will with a sense of his priorities. We ask for what we need not just what we want. We pray for the progress of the gospel and the coming of the kingdom and our conformity to Christ etc. The Lord’s Prayer is the classic pattern. There are lots of other Biblical prayers we could read out or use as inspiration. See e.g. Don Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation on Paul’s prayers.

It is traditional to pray for the CHURCH and the WORLD.

You could write out the prayers in full or have some notes, which ever works better for you. There may be something you want to slot in on the day if we find out the Queen or a key member of the congregation has died for example! I do not suggest total winging it on the day improvisation!

You could use a mixture of set and extempore prayers, some more formal, some more informal.

The Collects provide another kind of pattern:

1. The address - a name of God

2. The doctrine - a truth about God’s nature that is the basis for the prayer

3. The petition - what is being asked for

4. The aspiration - what good result will come if the request is granted

5. In Jesus’ name - this remembers the mediatorial role of Jesus

We might pray for all people and all Christians, maybe especially those persecuted for their faith.

We might pray especially for the Anglican Communion, for Archbishop Justin and for our own Bishops Martin (Mark and Richard). We might pray for the deanery, benefice and parish. We have a special responsibility to pray for the parish. It is fine to pray for ourselves and those whom we love, but of course we also want to lift our eyes from the merely parochial.

We might pray for the Queen and her government and for the leaders of this and every nation.

We might pray for those known to us who are in need and for those who have asked our prayers.

We might pray for one or all of our mission partners (the partner of the month) but not for all of them by name every time please.

We might pray about something significant from the news but not everything!

We could have some silence.

We could use responses. Traditionally:

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Or, Lord hear us; Mercifully hear us.

And at the end maybe:

Merciful father, accept these prayers for the sake of your son our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Or other appropriate responses, but maybe that is tricky and distracting? The responses should fit the prayers. They could be planned in advance and so included in the service sheet or on the screen. Or, when I say, “Father in heaven” please respond “bring in your kingdom.”

You can say something by way of introduction if you like but keep it brief: “e.g. A prayer for ourselves:”

It could be one long prayer but probably several with a chance to say AMEN between them is better. Perhaps 3 longer prayers or 5 or 6 shorter ones? It might help if we can see the AMEN coming e.g. “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Give some content. “We pray that you would give the PCC wisdom as they plan the year ahead” is better than “We pray for the PCC” but too much specific information and unnecessary information is off putting: “We pray for the PCC which is meeting at 7:30pm tomorrow in the church rooms.” God does not need your lengthy explanations. People might benefit from a bit of context / info. but keep it short. You might even include why we are praying for this stuff (e.g. the glory of God) and what we want to result (e.g. the praise of his name).

God seems to welcome argument in prayer! Lord, we have no one else to help us, remember your promises, keep your covenant, save your people, honour your name etc.!

We could pray for some big broad-brush stuff (we pray for the spread of the gospel) and some details (that Jimmy will be given a school place).

We normally pray to the Father, through the Son in the Power of the Holy Spirit: address God (the Father), do not swap around between persons of the Trinity or you will likely get into a muddle and end up saying, “Father, we really just thank you that you died on the cross for us”, which he did not!

Pray prayers that we can join in with – not too idiosyncratic or sectarian e.g. avoid, “We pray that Wales would beat England…”

Less is more. 5 minutes maximum. 2 or 3 minutes is fine. Leave them wanting more not wishing you would shut up!

Not everything every time. No need to pray for all the PCC, their partners and pets by name ever week!

Please avoid praying for the dead. If you wish you can say something like “We remember with thanksgiving all those who have died in the love of Christ and we pray that you would bring us with them to your eternal glory”. Or “we give you thanks for all who trusted in Christ and for all those whose faith was known only to you.” We of course pray for the family and friends of those who have died and for all who mourn.

We pray in fellowship with all the church around the world and down the ages.

Anything else?


Common Worship

An English Prayer Book

The C of E website

Grove Booklets

This 5 point list of hints is a good and practical beginning:

This longer interview from The Briefing is helpful on public bible reading:

Check also this helpful advice for choosing a public bible reader:

I am always happy to help and give training, feedback etc.

Friday, September 06, 2019

A Brief Review: Daniel Strange, Plugged In

From The Rectory

I don’t manage to read as many books as I’d like. And I have a dreadful memory. But I think my stand out Christian book of the year so far is by Dr Daniel Strange, the Director of Oak Hill Theological College in London, where I trained. Dan’s Plugged In: Connecting your faith with what you watch, read and play (The Good Book Company, 2019) is a really great read which is born out of years of teaching this stuff to would-be vicars and others. This is a book from which every Christian could benefit.

Plugged In

Even if you’re not interested in the question of Christ and culture, you ought to be. It’s one of the old chestnuts of theology.

Culture is how we do stuff. It’s our art and books and music. But also, our way of life, our habits, whether we bow or shake hands or do a high five.

Theologians have asked to what extent Christ is interested in culture. Is there a Christian culture or many? Does Jesus judge culture? Or abolish culture? Or save culture? Or transform culture or what? What cultures will there be in heaven and the New Creation?

One of the best things in the book are the worked examples of Christians engaging with culture by Dan’s students which he included at the end. Extraordinarily, Dan shows us how we can think Christianly about Zombie movies and even Japanese domestic toilets. Those are just examples, but we can see from them that Christ has something to say to and about every area of human activity.

Anyway, you should read the book. It’s only 160 pages long. And it costs less than £7. And it’s remarkably engaging and readable. I like to scribble in the margin of my books and I was tempted to underline something on almost every page.

One big idea of the book is what Dan calls subversive fulfilment. The subversive bit is to do with judgement on culture. Nothing in our world is perfect. And everything has the potential to be a kind of false god whom we worship, who offers us some version of salvation. So, Jesus always says some kind of NO to culture. For example, Jesus would say to Celebrity Master Chef that there is more to life than fame or food.

But there is also fulfilment of culture. Everything comes from God and rightly understood points to God. He is the source and goal of all that is good in culture. So, all the deepest longings which we often express in inordinate or misguided ways can be satisfied in God. Celebrity Master Chef should point us to true glory and to the heavenly banquet of the New Creation when there will be no unhealthy competition or elimination of losers or food that is horrid or poisoning or….

The Revd Marc Lloyd

Thursday, August 08, 2019

On Fortnite

Fortnite is the biggest computer game of all time. One hundred people recently took part in the final of the world championships in an enormous arena in the States with their gaming displayed on huge screens. The victor won $3 million.

It has been fascinating to hear some of the triumphant teenagers interviewed. One hopes to buy a new desk. Another wants to get his mum a house. A lad commented that his parents didn’t like him playing so much, but after the pay out they are kind of pleased.

Prince Harry has opined that this addictive game should be banned.

We may take Fortnite as an interesting test case in Christian ethics. Is Fortnite a sin? May / should a Christian play? Should the nippers be allowed to snipe at strangers online? Is it time for the government to step in?

Of course, the Bible does not mention the Play Station or the X-box. But it sufficiently equips us for every good work. God has given the church all she needs for life and godliness. So together we can work out both how to get to heaven (by trusting in Jesus, as the Bible says very plainly) and how to live in the meantime (becoming more like Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, which takes a bit more figuring out in some of the circumstances).

Christian liberty should lapse into neither licence nor legalism. We are free, but not merely to please our sinful selves. We are called to obey Christ’s law of love but that does not mean that the essence of Christian living is a list of DOs and DON’Ts, nor that we are seeking to build up points in some kind of moral bank account so that God will love us. As the Apostle Paul said (possibly quoting his interlocutors): “Everything is permitted [perhaps in a sense!] but not everything is beneficial.”   

Fortnite is at least questionable. The aim of the game is to kill and avoid being killed. If we take it at all seriously, we would have to spin the whole thing as a fake Just War, which takes a certain amount of imagination. The game is free to play, but it the firm behind it make money by selling in-game enhancements to pre-teens. These include dance moves and changes in appearance known as “skins”. It is hard not to see these are a terrible waste of money which feeds a woeful superficiality and a concern to be seen as on trend. Would it be better to play the piano or go for a walk? Probably.

And yet there is a snobbery against so called e-sports. The kind of worries that some people have about computer games have been expressed through history about the book, football and the telephone. Computer games can certainly develop some skills (manual dexterity, strategy and team work). Sometimes they foster community and a striving for excellence. Technology is not the root of all evil. It depends how it is used.

Christian theologians have long recognised the role of lawful recreation in the Christian life. But this should not be to the neglect of other duties. Can you love God and love your neighbour while playing Fortnite? Probably. What if you play for the eight hours a day on a school day required to become world champion? Just possibly, but it presents much more of a challenge. Anyone who wants to be the best at anything in the world probably has to treat it as their full-time job. Fortnite Player would not be a forbidden job for the Christian (as bank robber would be) but it is unlikely that your pastor or your parents would recommend it as the best way to add to the sum of your own or of human happiness in general.

For most, Fortnite is probably okay and relatively harmless. There are ways in which it might both help and hinder, to which we must be alert. I think Prince Harry is right that there is a danger of the whole thing consuming impressionable young people’s minds. But the answer to that is not a ban on Fortnite. We want to live out and compellingly hold forth a better vision by telling a better more exciting story of God the creator and Jesus the redeemer. “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart!”