Sunday, 9 October 2016

Jubilantly Joyful - transcript of sermon. St Anne's Brown Edge 9th October 2016

Sermon – St Anne’s, Brown Edge 9th October 2016

 2 Kings 5.1-3,7-15c Psalm 111 2 Timothy 2.8-15 Luke 17.11-19

There are certain passages of Scripture that we can become so familiar with, that if we are not careful we skim read or do not pay as much attention as perhaps we ought.

I think this passage from Luke’s Gospel is one of those. We know the story and it all looks straightforward.

A story is told of a Church outing to a circus that was visiting the town. One of the acts was a Strong Man who did all sorts of amazing feats. He then took four lemons in one of his big beefy hands and squeezed and squeezed until the lemons were dry.

He then went around the ring asking if anyone thought that they could get any more out of the lemons.

From the Church party a small elderly man got up and entered the ring.

He took the four lemons and began to squeeze them. First one drop, then another until four large drops of juice had been squeezed out of the lemons.

That’s amazing said the strong man – how did you manage to do that?

The elderly man replied, I’m the Church treasurer.

So – let’s see what we might squeeze out of this passage that will help us live as God’s people today.

‘Now on his way to Jerusalem…

This is one of those little phrases that we might easily miss.

In Luke 9.51, we read ‘As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.’

This marks a turning point in Luke’s Gospel – this journey to Jerusalem will bring Jesus to the Cross and to a confrontation with all the powers of the world and the dark powers that lay behind them.

We might infer from the reading that nine of these lepers were of the Faith – Jews, and only one, a foreigner, a Samaritan.

A lesson we learn here takes us back to my opening words about how we can become overfamiliar with Scripture.

Could it be that the other nine as God chosen people almost took it for granted that God would cleanse them of leprosy?

I have a heard number of people who are new to the Faith and who then find great delight in reading God’s word, the Bible. They get excited about their discoveries in this remarkable book.

Have we become a tad sloppy in our reading of the Scriptures?

Do you read the Bible daily, perhaps with a good study guide to help you understand more?

Jesus’ work on the cross, which he is on his way to undertake, will open up the possibility for everyone to become a Child of God. Not just those who belong to ethnic Israel – it will include Samaritans as well. 

God’s healing power to cleanse is now to be poured out through Jesus following his death, resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand.

Romans 10.13 - for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Naaman, also foreigner, had to act in simple obedience to receive healing and cleansing.

Our obedience is to call upon the name of Jesus and accept the life of the Sprit dwelling within us.

That cleansing, that healing, that restoration – surely that should make us fall down on our knees in thankfulness.

Last week in my home Church, St John the Baptist, as part of our All Age Harvest Communion, we had a ‘Thankful Wall.’

People were invited to bring something for which they were thankful to God. We had pictures, and toys, and flowers and a whole range of different things.

So – let me ask you, what are you thankful to God for this morning.

‘One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice and threw himself at Jesus feet.’

I remember being with an American friend discussing some initiative we were both involved in. I said that I was quietly excited. He smiled and replied; only a Brit could be quietly excited.
Where is our loud voice singing out God’s praises?

Where is our exuberant joy at our salvation?

Would visitors here this morning know that we are people who have been healed, cleansed and restored back into God’s community of Love?

Will the people whom you will meet throughout the week ahead know that you carry deep in your heart the joy of the Lord?

Last week the Church remembered St Francis. With this in mind, I sat and watched one of my favourite films by Franco Zeffirellie, ‘Bother Son, Sister Moon.’ This is a highly romanticised version of Francis’ re-birth and the beginning of the Franciscan Order.

Yet for all of that the story remains powerful and strong.

How free are we, how full of joy at the simple things in the life? The song of the birds, the smell of autumn, the laughter of friends.

I am not suggesting that we go around with stupid false grins on our faces, but that we know deep down in our souls that joy that comes when we know that we are a child of God. Beloved by him - one of his precious daughters or sons.

The 14th century mystic and anchorite, Mother Julian gave us that wonderful phrase, ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.’

God alone knows what you are facing at the moment…

However, no matter whatever it is you are facing, if your cry out, as did these ten men, Jesus, Master, have pity on us. Then Jesus will respond and bring you cleansing.

You will then be able to find comfort in the knowledge that ‘all shall be well and all things shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.’

In the knowledge that although we may not see it or feel it, God is working his purposes out in our lives, we can then live in thankfulness for all God has done for us in Jesus.

Knowing that God is working out his purposes in our lives might cause us to shout out with a loud voice in praise and thankfulness occasionally.

For as we read in Romans 8.37-39

in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now isn’t that something to get more than quietly excited about – something to get jubilantly joyful about? So, how are you going to share and show the joy of the Gospel in the week ahead with the people you meet.

Let me close with some beautiful words written by his Holiness Pope Benedict XV1…
And only where God is seen does life truly begin.

Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.

We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.

Each of us is the result of a thought of God.

Each of us is willed,

Each of us is loved,

Each of us is necessary.

There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel,

By the encounter with Christ.

There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.
So, how are you going to share and show the joy of the Gospel in the week ahead with the people you meet.




Sunday, 2 October 2016

Captain's Log October 2016


Early September saw Jane and I relaxing on a fabulous holiday in Rhodes. Soaking up the sun and swimming in the sea with lots of nice wine, cold beers and gorgeous food. Plus fascinating places to visit. We hired a car and  traveled  around the whole island.

However it was back to business on my return with hardly time to stop and breathe.
An evening spent with my friends at Doxey Parish Church exploring ways in which they can share and show the love of Jesus. They have a lot of new build around them and so that is creating both challenges and opportunities.

Then another day looking at ‘Frontline Discipleship’ with LICC. (
We are delighted at the way they have worked with the Diocese in helping to create a package that we hope will embed the principles of ‘Frontline Disciples.’  We are currently working with them to craft and develop a programme whereby we will walk alongside a parish/benefice for a year with various inputs covering various aspects of ministry – i.e. worship, sermons, pastoral care, etc.

Stafford County Show – the planning team enjoyed a fabulous meal together as we looked back to 2016 and made some plans for 2017.  The real work now is to consolidate the core ministry of hospitality and providing a sanctuary at the Show.  Pray we might find people who will want to engage and join the Captain’s crew!

I did have one very silly Sunday that saw me preach at Trentham Parish Church at both their 9.30am and 11am Service. Then dash off to Egginton (nr. Derby) to run an PCC Away Afternoon for the benefice of Anslow, Rolleston and Tutbury. We were exploring a Benefice MAP that would provide a ‘Common Vision – Locally Expresed.’ I then stayed on and preached at Evensong at Rolleston.

Thankfully the next day I was at The Hermitage for a Quiet Day.

FCN ( continues to feature a good deal at the moment as we are busy making plans for our Harvest Service and AGM which the Staffordshire Group are hosting. We have developed a very helpful informal gathering in a local eatery in Stafford where we simple ‘chew the cud.’ Joining us on these occasions is Stella Mills, Agricultural Chaplain for Derby and Becky who is the RABI local rep as well as Staffordshire FCN folk. It is great to see the sharing of ideas and links and the offer of following something or someone up.

Stafford 10K – this happened on the 10th anniversary of my mothers death. As my mum suffered from a heart condition I asked for sponsorship for the British Heart Foundation and have been delighted to have raised £145.00. I set a target of £79.00 – £1.00 for each year of my mum’s life, so this figure is fantastic. I was also really pleased to complete the run in 58.24 – which is only slightly slower than the same distance in 1998 albeit that was a much tougher course in Saltash, Cornwall.

The month concluded with Review Meetings with Bishop Geoff and Archdeacon Matthew and then Head of Missions, George Fisher. They all seemed very pleased with the way things have been progressing. God is good!
Some appointments October 2016

Saturday 1st
Away Day for St Marys and All Saints, Trentham. They are currently in Vacancy and we are looking to create a MAP that will go towards the Parish Profile. The parish is being looked after by their curate Andy.

Monday 3rd
Trustees Meeting of Sunrise Ministries – Selly Oak, Birmingham.

Tuesday 4th
Meeting in the morning with Matrin Strang, Vicar for Doxey Parish and then in the afternoon with John Marshall who heads up ‘Love Stafford.’

Wednesday 5th
‘Chew & Chat’ – informal meeting at Rising Brook Baptist (Brook CafĂ©) 12.30pm and all are welcome – very informal, we eat lunch and chat!

Thursday 6th
 Representing FCN at the YFC Harvest Service St Chad’s, Stafford.

Sunday 9th
Preaching and leading Service of the Word at St Anne’s, Brown Edge.

Monday 10th
The Mission Caravan is being serviced. ‘Barnabas’ is really coming to the end of his life. He could still make a good prayer cell or  someone might want to renovate him. Then there is the question of a replacement!  

Saturday 16th
Attending the Germinate Conference.

Monday 17th
Meeting with my Spiritual Companion

Tuesday 18th
FCN Harvest Service and AGM at Rodbaston Hall. The Staffordshire Group are playing host and organising this day.

Saturday 29th
Rural Mission Solutions – webinar. This is part of the series we have been covering on Seasonal Mission Opportunities. We will be looking at the ‘winter season’ – Advent to the beginning of Lent. If you have any good ideas or know of resources we would be delighted to hear from you. Barry Osborne is also running a webinar this Saturday 1st October on ‘Image’ For more details visit…

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

'The Divine Dance of Redemption' - transcript of sermon - St. Marys and All Saints, Trentham 18th September 2016

Luke 16.1-13 'The Parable of the Shrewd Manager'

On my recent holiday, I took two real books and one on my Kobo.

On the Kobo I had ‘Soulfulness’ by Brian Draper. Then I had Paula Gooder’s sequel to ‘Heaven’ – ‘body – biblical spirituality for the Whole person’ and finally Tom Wright’s ‘God in Public’ – How the Bible speaks truth to power today.

I read all three books concurrently (not finished them yet) and was delighted with the way all three books coalesced.

Draper’s ‘Soulfulness’ picks up the idea of ‘mindfulness’ which is very much in vogue at the moment. In case you are not familiar, mindfulness is a discipline of being in the moment, being aware of each and everything around you and what you are feeling. Not being distracted by phones or agendas or anything else.

Draper develops this from a Christian perspective and invites us to ‘soulfulness’ – knowing who we are truly are in God and from that place of knowing to be able to engage with others and with all of God’s creation.

Paula Gooder picks something of this up as she explores Paul’s view of the body.  

She argues that for the most part in the West we have a Platonic view of the body and the soul or spirit. If we conceive of any existence at all beyond death, it is very often as some sort of real ‘me’ that is defined as soul or perhaps spirit. 

This soul/spirit will escape from this nasty world and flesh and blood and will go to live with God in a spiritual realm for all eternity.

We might also add to this the triple decker universe that despite all our science still prevails in the common consciousness.

God and heaven are up there, we are here on earth below and hell is somewhere down below the earth.

Gooder argues powerfully for a better understanding and appreciation of our bodies as they now are and explores what Paul says they will be like as resurrected bodies. 

Paul’s famous treatise on this is 1 Corinthians 15 – in verses 42 for example we read…

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;   

In our Creed we say, ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body’ 

Our bodies are important – and an important part of our identity. What we do with them is important and how we treat other people’s bodies is also important.

This brings in Tom Wright who has written a great deal about an earthed focused reality. 

Post-modernist argue against all meta-narratives, all big stories, everything is relevant. That gives rise to that wonderful quote ‘all truths are relevant except that statement that all truths are relevant.’

Wright argues that the Scriptures offer a very important meta-narrative, a big story of how God created this good earth and is bringing it back into good order. 

One day it will be redeemed, renewed and reformed and we might say, re-populated with resurrected people.  

He argues powerful that whilst the ‘enlightenment’ brought great benefits it has also given us at its outset the guillotine as a clean efficient way of killing your political opponents during the French Revolution. And then those clever Nazi’s scientist who designed and developed an even more efficient way of killing thousands. 

Also the great Western democracy that during the recent banking crisis of 2008 managed to find $700 billion dollars to bail out the banks and keep the system afloat. All at the same time as continuing to demand crippling loans debts from poor countries in struggling sub-Saharan Africa. 

Wright argues that the Scriptures offer a powerful critique on all power structures and rulers and governments.

The scientific enlightenment and rational thinking pushed God up into the attic like some harmless old man. A few folk may like to go and visit him occasionally, but eventually this will all die away.

Much to the annoyance of many atheists, the rumour of God has not died or gone away. Therefore, they are lashing out and declaring people who believe in God have a deficient gene. For them, there must be a logical and scientific reason people continue to hold onto a belief in God.

The Scriptures give us an overall picture, that this earth is God’s good creation.

That one day it will be redeemed, restored and renewed. We are not going to float away as disembodied spirits to live in some ethereal heaven God knows where.

The Scriptures help us to understand the story of God’s outworking in this enterprise.

And in Jesus we see that matter matters to God.

And although the canon of Scripture is closed its outworking continues for each and every generation and for each and every situation. We are invited into the story as well – we are invited to read our Scriptures not so much as way of developing a personal piety but that we may speak truth into power, that we may offer a prophetic voice to the world as it ‘groans in its birth pangs’  Romans 8.22.

We are not offering an escape plan from earth to heaven aboard the good ship 'The Church’ with Jesus at the helm.

Jesus taught us to pray – Your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it in heaven.’ In your life, in your home, in your family......

Let’s not just pray it – let’s do it…

All of this and I have yet to mention Luke 16 and the parable of the ‘Shrewd Steward’ to which I now want to turn briefly.

This is a problematic parable and there are numerous interpretations and ways of considering it.

However having said all that I have said so far, it is important to allow the idea of God ‘so loving the world’ to inform any reading and reflection on this passage, or indeed any passage of Scripture we may be reading.

Although we may struggle to understand some of the things Jesus says here, one point is very clear.

Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

Standing in the great tradition of the prophets, he announced that God was visiting His people in fulfillment of all the promises they had hoped for, longed for and prayed for over thousands of years.

This was the year of God’s favour; this was the year of Jubilee.

However, He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1.11

In the story Jesus tells of the shrewd steward, the steward can see which way the wind is blowing, he can tell what’s coming up, and he acts, decisively and quickly to ensure he is safe and saved.

The people of God, the Children of Light could learn a lesson here. Jesus is offering them an opportunity – which they are either not seeing or if they do, they are rejecting it.

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Luke 13.34

There is much more that we could tease out of this passage and I do commend it to you for further study.  As always, when you are looking at a passage of Scripture do remember to explore it in its context.

Remember that Chapters and verses were only added in the Bible during the 12th & 13th century and whilst helpful for referencing they can isolate passages.

For example, this passage follows on from the stories about ‘lost things’ – a coin, a sheep and finally the Prodigal son. Following on we have the story of a Rich Man and Lazarus, which helpfully reflects back on the story of the shrewd steward.  

The rich man had failed to heed the messages of Moses and the prophets and had neglected to care for the poor and weak and vulnerable – he was now paying the price!

Let me offer one more observation of how this passage might speak prophetically today.

The story tells us that shrewd steward got some his master’s debtors together and ‘adjusted’ what they owed.  This could have been ‘usury’ – charging interest on money loans, something forbidden and against the Law.

One way around this was to take interest in kind – like oil and grain for example.

Therefore, it may just be that the steward is taking off or reducing the amount of interest.

The Master cannot of course say anything without condemning himself.

It could also be that the ‘extra’ was the steward’s commission on top of the loan.

Think of the loans to poorer countries I mentioned earlier.

Or, think of Pay Day Loans and Archbishops Justine Welby’s ‘War on Wonga.’  Not only did he speak out and draw attention to their malpractices he encouraged an alternative in Credit Unions and set up the Mustard Seed Appeal. The first six months of 2016 saw a total of 313,679 people contact StepChange for debt advice. 

We are called as the people of God to be informed by our Scripture.

We are called as the people of God to work towards a realized Lord’s Prayer.

We are called as God’s people to model a different way of ordering affairs. 

We are called as God’s people to offer a prophetic voice and a critique to the whole of life, especially and in particular politics and our politicians and leaders.

We need to gain confidence (not arrogance) and proclaim that Jesus is Lord of the Universe and is in the business of redeeming the cosmos and everyone is invited to join in the Divine Dance of Redemption.

Now that is an image to play with as we begin to watch ‘Strictly Come Dancing.’ 

Consider the discipline and hard work undertaken.

Reflect on the history of a particular dance and about its current interpretation. 

Think about the teamwork of all those involved with a whole range of skills and talents.

Above all – without bodies none of this could happen!

‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’

Time to dance… 

 Let us pray;

Give to your people at this time:
A new vision of your glory;
A new experience of your power
A new faithfulness to your Word
And, a new consecration to your service,
That Your Holy Name may be glorified
 and Your Kingdom advanced
Where You live and reign,
   forever One God, unto the ages of ages.


Who'd have thought it! Transcript of sermon St Mary's Rolleston (Evensong) 18th September 2016

Ezra 1 & John 7.14-36

‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’ 

So closes 2 Chronicles with a theme picked up in the opening chapters of Ezra.

Ezra and Nehemiah are supplements to 1 & 2 Chronicles albeit there is some confusion and conflation between Ezra and Nehemiah.

All good stuff for Biblical studies; however, this is not where I would like to draw your attention.

Linking in this reading from Ezra with our reading from John’s Gospel I would like us to consider the phrase ‘Who’d have thought it.’

(Which by the way is the name of a very nice pub in St Dominic’s in South East Cornwall)

Cyrus the Great who had defeated the Babylonians gives an opportunity for the exiled Jews to return to Judah and rebuild the temple.

Again, a study of the Scriptures and other source documents will tell you it didn’t happen just like that, but that is not the point I am trying to get across.

Isaiah writes about Cyrus,

who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
    and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
    and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”   

Isaiah 44.28 - and again in Isaiah 45.1-3

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
    whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
    and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
    that gates may not be closed “I will go before you
    and level the exalted places

I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
    and cut through the bars of iron,
 I will give you the treasures of darkness
    and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
    the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

To the Lord’s anointed, to Cyrus the Persian, ‘who’d have thought it?’
God is sovereign and will work through whom he will work...

…“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not accompany us.” “Do not stop him, Jesus replied, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Luke 9.50

Who are your allies, your friends? Who are those who might help forward the purposes of God and who might not yet be signed up as fully active Christians?

You might find yourself saying, ‘who’d have thought she or he would have helped.’

This may have a very particular point with regard to the rebuilding of the Temple, the house of God.

Now we know about the Temple and how it was destroyed in AD70.

We also know that we, our very bodies, are now the Temple of God,

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 1 Cor 6.19.

Yet we have an inheritance of buildings as places of worship and of prayer. 

Buildings that can stand as icon of God’s presence.

It may be that you need to seek out those, who like Cyrus, would be willing to help with the maintenance and upkeep. Not wanting to push this too far but do hold in mind Cyrus didn’t lay down how exactly how the temple was to be rebuilt. 

Therefore, as long as the people of God remain in control and keep in mind the missionary purposes of God then we can welcome help from Cyrus.

The Second Temple built by the returning exiles was the one Jesus would have known and where we find him as we pick up this story from John’s Gospel.

 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.  The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught.

This was the Feast of the Tabernacles – the time when the Israelite's would build small huts on their roofs to remind them of their dessert wanderings after escaping from Egypt.

And as the people listen to Jesus they are puzzled, very puzzled.

And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” John 7.12

‘How is that this man has such learning when he has never been to rabbinical school?’

He teaches with such authority.

But we know this man, we know his mum and dad, we know where he comes from.

This is a rich passage and you can hear people trying to fathom out just who this Jesus was. Even for those whom came to believe and acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, must have been saying to themselves ‘who’d have thought it?’

Perhaps none more so than James, the brother of Jesus who came late to an understanding and belief and yet was to become the leader of the early Christian community in Jerusalem.

As one Jewish friend of mine said, the problem I have with Jesus is that it is difficult for one Jew to believe another Jew could be divine!

And as you read this passage do you not wonder how Jesus came to this kind of realization, to be able to make such claims. To be able to speak with such authority and confidence picked up by Luke in his story of Jesus at the Temple as a young boy.

It was customary and keeping with rabbinical tradition that Jews in their teachings would refer to the teaching of another rabbi or holy book…

You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Do not murder,’ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment Matthew 5.21

C S Lewis, the novelist and academic after converting from atheism to Christianity, said this of Jesus:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman, or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God.

Finally let me remind you of Jesus’ forbear – David and the story of his being chosen and anointed.
 But the Lord told Samuel, “Don’t look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart.”

And then from 1 Corinthians 1.25-27

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, and sisters, consider the time of your calling: Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.…

Who’d have thought God would have called you and me to this place at this time to help with the further and fuller realization of the Lord’s Prayer working towards the redemption of the whole cosmos.

For as ‘Michael Quoist in his book ‘The Christian Response’ says…

‘You are a unique and irreplaceable actor in the drama of human history, and Jesus Christ has need of you to make known his salvific work in this particular place and at this particular moment in history.’

Let us pray…

O Saviour Christ, in whose way of love lays the secret of all life, and the hope of all people, we pray for quiet courage to match this hour. We did not choose to be born or to live in such an age; but let its problems challenge us, its discoveries exhilarate us, its injustices anger us, it possibilities inspire us, and its vigour renew us. Pour out upon us a fresh indwelling of the Holy Spirit; make us bold and courageous in sharing faith in both word and deed for your Kingdom’s sake we ask.