Friday 28 February 2014

Each week it is hoped to produce a sermon relating to the Bible Readings for the Sunday next. This week it is

The story of the Transfiguration.

This week’s gospel reading is about one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible. It comes just after Jesus had been asking His Apostles who they thought He was and received Peter’s great confession, and after He had told them He was on the way to the Cross to die and then be raised.

Jesus wanted to be alone on the mountain top and took with Him on the journey three Apostles with whom He appeared to have a special relationship, namely Peter, James and John. these three Apostles were also with Jesus when He raised Jairus’ daughter and in His agony in the garden. The mountain was thought to be Mount Hermon, one so high it could be seen from many miles away. The climb must have been strenuous for Luke tells us they were feeling sleepy and tired.

Jesus was going up the mountain that He might receive God’s confirmation that it was the intention for Him to go to the Cross. Jesus we find always was anxious to consult with God at His every step. Here is a lesson and good advice for us.

Each year I go to Scotland, and up in the Highlands you can go up the Cairngorms on the mountain railway, and whilst there is the obligatory shop and café, there is also a balcony. You can there gaze down on scenery unsurpassed in any other country and see one of God’s most glorious creations. You can feel close to God on a mountain top, away from the ordinary things of life.

Mountains figure conspicuously in the Bible. It was on Mount Sinai that Moses received the Commandments; Mount Horeb that God spoke to Elijah. Jesus we are told was transfigured on His Mountain, meaning His appearance changed. There He met two of Israel’s great names, Moses who brought the law from God and Elijah the supreme prophet through whom God spoke, and they discussed the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. They advised Jesus to go forward being the One foretold of in the Old Testament.

Many people are puzzled as to how God speaks to men and they scoff at such talk. I believe a lot of what is claimed to be from God is self manipulated. I once visited a Theological College where ordinands were completing their training and I was surprised to hear how God had told so many to go to the South of England; I am sure God really does care for the North as well.

God speaks to us in several ways. Sometimes it is through a preacher. I had a lady who came to Church very infrequently and one time she said I always seemed to be getting at her. I told her that as I prepared beforehand and never knew when she was coming, it may be that someone higher than me was getting at her.

Many people were converted by one of the posters containing Scriptural messages placed by the London City Mission in the Tube Stations. Sometime God speaks through our conscience, or when we pray about something and an answer comes into our mind, not always perhaps the answer we want although probably for your ultimate good.

When Peter realised what was happening he offered to build three tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He was struck with awe and wanted to prolong the experience, and offered to build three tabernacles. Jesus rebuked him for he was in error in that he was equating Jesus with Moses and Elijah.

We all like to feel we are on top of the world both figuratively and actually, but most of us live their lives more realistically on the level or down in a valley.

This can happen at worship. When Billy Graham came to England thousands went to hear him and came away on a spiritual mountain. They had heard the world’s greatest and most successful preacher, massed choirs singing glorious hymns; then the following Sunday went to Church and realised they had come down to earth with a shattering bump. Instances were quoted of Vicars mocking Billy and wanting their old staid services, some Bishops even wanted to stop him coming. Even now Church leaders are anxious to change Scripture to meet modern cultural desires.

The lesson of the Transfiguration is that we must always let God speak to us and follow His Word; He has a plan for all our lives. When we turn to Him we too can reach a mountain top, but also we can close our minds to Him and lie in the valley.

As we go into Lent the Cross and the suffering of Jesus is in mind, soon we shall see the glory of the resurrection and the hope we shall share with the |Lord one day. This passage tells of Moses who had died many years before, as did Elijah, yet there they are alive but in glory. This should indicate to us that when our last breath is breathed in this life there is another to come, another world beyond the grave.

There is much mysterious about the future, things we cannot understand, but let us be sure God has all planned and Jesus is taking care of those who have gone to be with Him, as He will with us.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Last year, David Cameron the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative Party, disgraced those distinguished Offices by introducing a law to legalise same sex marriage. This was further marred by the dubious and deceitful way this was carried out.

We were told that a consultation would take place across the country, yet whilst this was in the process of being done the government ministers were telling us WHEN the legislation was made what the effect would be. Even this was totally misleading in that we were assured the Church would not be obliged to perform ceremonies, when it was generally recognised the European Court could force the Church to do so.

The consultation revealed that 70% of the population were opposed, but what did that matter to ‘Call me Dave’. The only consultation we have is that thousands have deserted the Conservative party for United Kingdom Independence Party and ensures David Cameron will have a new job in 2015.

Now read some of the consequences laid out by lawyers,


The Government now realises that same-sex marriage will require a massive re-write of legislation dating back to 1285 AD – including airbrushing out the terms “husband” and “wife” from many of our laws. Crucial safeguards will also have to be introduced to safeguard the Monarchy.
The Government are rushing to introduce all these changes through ministerial orders.
The proposals include changing the law:
• To prevent a man from becoming Queen in the event a King 'marries' another man
• To prevent a man from becoming the Princess of Wales in the event that the heir to the throne enters a same-sex marriage
• To stop the 'husband' of a male Peer being referred to as Duchess, Lady or Countess
• To replace the terms “husband” and “wife” with “partner” or “spouse” in a huge raft of English law
Redefining marriage means rewriting our language as well as our laws. All this just goes to show that marriage should never have been redefined.
C4M said all along that thousands of laws would need to be changed. These, and other far-reaching consequences, flow from redefining marriage.
MPs are expected to agree the draft orders tomorrow with the House of Lords considering them on Thursday. No doubt there will need to be further changes to clear up the legislative mess created by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Matthew 5 v 38-42
This is a well known gospel passage and one often misunderstood in such a way that our Lord never intended. When Jesus quoted the law of Moses, which spoke of an eye for an eye, He was referring to the principle of justice which called for punishment to be proportionate to the crime committed. It was never meant to be literally observed.

When a person committed any crime they would be placed before a civil court and if found guilty were punished according to the severity of the offence, but were not to be excessively penalised. This gave confidence to society that punishment was no more or less than deserved. Jesus abolished the old law of vengeance for a Christian and wanted to advise against any tit for tat reaction.

Jesus went on to give three examples of a Christian spirit in action. When Jesus was giving His teaching much of it was to uneducated Jewish people who too often were led astray by Pharisees, just as today many people not able to think rationally are misled by slick talking politicians. This passage was a continuing part of a message in a sermon calling for tolerance achieved through negotiation and not retaliation.

There is a general attitude in people to retaliate, the idea being don’t get mad get even. An example is given in the story of a lorry driver who was dining in a roadside café when three young motor cyclists walked in. One went to the man and took some of the man’s meal and a second took some more, whilst the third drank his tea. The man just got up and having paid his bill left the café. One of the motor cyclists said to the waitress ‘not much of a man was he’. The waitress said ‘I don’t know what kind of man he was but he is an awful driver, he has just run over three motor cycles.’

When Jesus said do not resist evil, He was not suggesting we accept evil itself, He is trying to avoid unnecessary aggression. There are of course times when aggression is necessary, if we could never resist evil there would never be a need for an army or police force. Indeed, Jesus Himself got angry when He found the money changers in the Temple. Jesus then was calling on people not to stand fixedly on their rights.

We all know people who are for ever talking about rights, forgetting in the process about responsibilities. It is hard not to get upset about people who are so vociferous about minor infringements when we think of the men and women who died in wars to preserve freedom for such people to moan about hurt feelings. Even within the Church we have people who get upset if they feel they have not been properly recognised.

I worked with a Vicar who had a wife who would have been an ideal prison guard to ensure she was properly recognised. Such people have never realised what Christianity really calls for. Nor like other religions do we believe in blowing up people or burning their property because of different beliefs. Our God calls on us to show grace and for us to be transformed into the image of Jesus; and ironically the more hatred and anger we generate, the more we hurt ourselves and our own health.

Jesus also calls on us to give when asked. Here again we have to be discriminating. I used to have people call at my Vicarage with the most heart rending tales which never stood up to scrutiny. When I offered food or to get them help through social services, all my offers were refused for what they were really after was money. One man came begging and when I offered him money his face lit up, until I said he would get it if he mowed the lawn, and he looked at me as if I was from another planet.

This is what makes the 19 bishops and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster look so out of touch; they are attacking the government’s welfare reforms from a stance not of this world. The vast majority of people are tired of having to work hard to subsidise people who will not work, and the government is responding. The Labour party are shouting so loudly about food banks, which are increasing proportinately to their speeches.

One chemist in Liverpool wondered how there could be so many families with ipads and smart phones and yet had to rely on food banks. We have to be consider need and at the same time examine that need. We have charities pleading for money when executives of the same are earning more than the Prime Minister.

I was once visiting Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and an old lady was begging outside, and in a prime location of course. Many caring Christians responded to this poor lady dressed in an old battered hat huddled in a shawl. I noticed whilst waiting, that she eventually got up and hobbled around a corner where she quickly shed the shawl and hat and nipped into a waiting Mercedes car.

In the last verses we find Jesus teaching we must love our enemies. I once saw an ornament in a little Welsh village shop with the message inscribed, ‘smile at your enemy, it will make him madder’. This is not of course what Jesus meant. We all liked to loved; we try to be friendly and personable, to get along with others, but there are always some you could never do so. This is the reality of life, but Jesus tells us we must love them.

My first Vicar said to me, ‘Eric, in this job you will have to learn to love everybody, It doesn’t mean you have to like them’. That may sound cynical but it is very practical. A lady once told her Vicar it was all right for him to tell her to love her neighbour when he didn’t have to live next to her..
There are indeed people it is impossible to like. I have to say however that apart from the Vicar’s wife I mentioned, I have never had a lot of difficulty in the (now many) Churches I have served.

Jesus teaching then is for us not to act like unbelievers. The love He spoke about was not the love people think of these days which too often has a sexual connotation; too many people are keen to indulge in that kind of love. Jesus was speaking of care and compassion. Sadly some Christians are too keen to follow the ways of the world and love only those who love you.

The constant call to Christians is to be like Jesus; it is God’s will that we do so. Our call is to be people who manifest the nature of the God we serve.

Monday 17 February 2014

An irrefutable fact is that Church attendance in Britain is going into decline. Jesus said He would build His Church and clearly meant that He would do so through the work of His followers; but such followers would have to act in accordance with His teaching and example. The Church is not living up to such expectation.

The recent action of the Church of England is more comparable to that traditional image of the used car salesman. We have seen manipulation, obfuscation, hypocrisy.

Last year General Synod held a vote on whether the Church should appoint women as bishops, and this was held in accordance with the democratic process of the Church. The vote was not as desired, but instead of continuing in the laid down procedure of delaying any further vote until a new Synod was created, that was by passed. This month a vote was pressured through with indecent haste, ignoring all normal procedures to hurry the matter through.

We are told that society is mocking the Church because it doesn’t appoint women as bishops and ordain homosexual men as priests. Does anyone seriously imagine appointing women will make any noticeable difference? Those people outside the Church making so much comment are not seriously interested in the good of the Church and will not be persuaded to suddenly attend; but in the process we will alienate other Churches in the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches, as well as the small matter (apparently) of ignoring Scripture.

We are letting minorities dictate procedure. We have had women priests for years, yet Church numbers have not risen but gone the other way irrespective. The Church has had senior clergy calling for same sex marriage to be approved, in direct contradiction of Scripture to satisfy a minority, and now the Church is desperately and with breathtaking duplicity trying to give the nod to same sex blessings without formally doing so.

I read of one senior woman cleric who stated being a parish priest was all she desired and didn’t want her name to be put forward for consideration as a bishop, but didn’t want to let people down, and would have to think hard whether to accept if asked. All she need say are three words, ‘count me out’, but what she is in fact saying in double speech is, I desperately want to be appointed.

The Methodist Church conducted a survey recently amongst its members and one of the questions asked was should the Methodist Church change its declared policy that marriage is between one man and woman, in order to meet the change in society’s thinking. Could you visualise how John Wesley would have responded? He and Charles Wesley always saw the Church leading society’s thinking, not the other way around.

Now we have the leader of the Roman Catholic Church displaying his strong political leanings and speaking against welfare reform when the country is so overwhelmingly supporting Ian Duncan Smith’s efforts, a devout Christian man. These reforms will counter those who wish to live an idle life at the expense of others, something Paul condemned in his Letter to the Thessalonian Church.

Not very strong foundations for building ; more like sand than rock.

Friday 14 February 2014

Matthew 11 v 28

I wonder if there is anyone in who can stand up and say, ‘I have no worries in my life?’ If there is, would you like to stand up so we can all admire you?

There must be very few Christians or non- Christians who have not experienced some worry, some anxiety. We need hardly ask whether worry harms, it causes us to lose sleep takes the joy out of living, causes our hair to fall out or turn grey, even leads to an early grave.
There are so many fears in modern life. Young people facing life away from home for the first time. The man in his 40s fearing redundancy. Young managers worried at having to achieve ridiculously high targets. The business man working such hours he hardly has little time to see his family.

There is the fear of marriage breakdown, or serious illness; fear of losing someone dear. These are all perils faced by people every single day. As Christians we need to ask, ‘what is life all about’? So many people, especially the young, have no meaningful purpose. They have a hard outlook of, ‘live life to excess, get what you can out of it by any means whatever’.

What is the answer for the growing number of older people frightened to venture out of their homes? The one parent abandoned by their husband /wife. Wherever you look you find sadness and heartache and despair. The Bible says the answer is that life has no meaning apart from God. But for many God is unreal.

You can’t however come to God except through Jesus Christ. Not by Mohammed, Buddha, or anyone else. Christ came to seek and to save the lost, the fearful and the lonely, the worried and the broken hearted. God is willing to pour His grace upon you so that you no longer need to fear if you repent of any sin and turn to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

The Bible says that God is separated from us by sin. Sin is not just immorality; it is an attitude of rebellion and independence, saying ‘I go my own way’. The Prodigal Son went his own way to be free and independent, but failed to find any true purpose in life, and found he was cut off from the only person who really loved him.

Jesus came, sent from God with the sole purpose of bringing us into a living relationship with Himself and to all who are worried, afraid or anxious, Jesus says, ‘Come to me and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light’

So who can come? All those who are weary and heavy laden with care. This is a selective invitation. You have to recognise a need and be prepared to admit it. All who are weighed down by sin or guilt.

The Bible says, ‘there is no distinction since all have fallen short of the glory of God’. It doesn’t matter what the past has been, if you repent and turn to Christ, God is ready to blot out your sins and give you a clean sheet. We have all broken God’s laws but if we are prepared to admit this, then Christ’s invitation is for us.

What happens if you come? Jesus said, ‘I will give you rest’. These are words spoken by someone who fulfils His promises. So many people make promises they either cannot, or have no intention, of fulfilling. Jesus is ready to be faithful to His Word. He says, ‘I can set you free for I am the Way, the truth, and the life. Come just as you are. We rely on what He has done for us, and at His invitation in a spirit of simple trust.

Jesus said, ‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me’. A yoke was a wooden frame placed on a persons shoulder in order to make a load easier to carry. So Jesus is saying ‘let me help you carry your burden. Instead of going your own way turn around and come with me’.

You see it is not just being religious or even coming to Church that brings peace and rest, or indeed makes you a full Christian. A person can be baptised, confirmed and be regular at Church and not be a true Christian. Many Church people are really unpleasant, arrogant and very un-Christian. Coming to Church should be a delight like sons and daughters coming to meet their (heavenly)Father in complete harmony, as children go their earthly parents home In far too many Churches there are dominant personalities who, instead of looking for the good, want to put their own interpretation on matters, such interpretation not always being favourable. In such cases it is because their own personal life is unhappy, disturbed or there is something lacking.

In one famous promise Jesus said ‘behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with Him’. As He stands outside the door of your life, He longs to come in to make His presence and friendship real. But the door handle is on the inside. All you need do is turn it in faith.

Jesus was brought up in the East, and there the greatest act of friendship is to dine with someone. Jesus is offering to dine with anyone who invites Him.

At the end of every one of his Crusades, Billy Graham asks people to make a commitment to Christ and to demonstrate that commitment to go forward to the front of the stadium. At the same time, the choirs sing the hymn, ‘Just as I am…I come to Thee’

Believe His promise, take Jesus at His word, come just as you are.

Monday 3 February 2014

Luke 2 v 21-40
Sunday was observed in some Churches as for ‘the Presentation of Christ in the Temple’, otherwise known as Candlemass. In this passage we see Jesus undergoing three ancient ceremonies.

First, like every Jewish boy Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after birth. This was the only ceremony that could be carried out on the Sabbath it was deemed to be so sacred. The boy also got his name on that day. Today when most of the world seems to be anti-Jewish, Christians should bear well in mind that Jesus was a Jew, born of a Jewish woman, we worship the God of Israel, and we revere a Bible written by Jewish men. If Jesus had not gone through this ceremony He could not have been accepted in the line of David.

The name of Jesus was given by special command of God meaning Saviour, so we know Him as one to deliver us from sin and evil. He had submitted to this ancient ceremony although it was no strictly necessary as the Son of God, which should encourage us to make sacrifices and perform tasks readily in the service of God

The second act related to Jesus being the first born son, which made Him sacred to God. According to Jewish custom the parents could buy back their son for the price of five shekels which had to be paid to the priests within 31 days after birth.

This ritual was to remind the Jews that one night when the Israelites were in Egypt and all the little boys were slain, the Jewish children were spared. Mary and Joseph publicly consecrated their child.

There was also the ceremony of purification of Mary. When a woman bore a son she had to wait 40 days before she could rejoining worship, and 80 days if her child was a girl. When she returned a woman was obliged to take to the Temple a lamb and young pigeon as an offering, but if she was poor and could not afford such just two pigeons. The fact that Mary took the poorer offering indicates the home in which Jesus was brought up in was not a luxurious one.

For a period of 450 years in Jewish history God did not speak to his people. God had promised his prophet Malachi that he would come personally into the world by a Messiah who would bring about salvation and judgement, preceded by a messenger who would prepare the way for him. For all that time the people of God had been waiting for this promised Messiah who would bring judgement and salvation into the world, who would destroy God's enemies and who saw their rightful place in the world as supreme and would one day be realised by another king like David who would attain world supremacy

We meet two older people, a man named Simeon and a woman Anna. Simeon believed things had to be left in God’s hands and God had through the Holy Spirit given him assurance that before he died he would see God’s own appointed one. There was therefore excitement in Simeon's soul when he heard that promise that he would actually witness this great coming. After all those years of silence, at last the promise was going to come true.
When he saw Jesus, he knew that time had come, and he was ready to depart in peace. So we heard him recite the words which have been sung in Anglican Churches through the centuries at Evening services, in which he praised God and foresaw Jesus to be the light of the world.

But, Simeon finishes with some disturbing words. This marvellous salvation through Jesus had a dark side. There will be many who will not accept and follow Jesus; there will be a falling as well as a rising of many in Israel. Jesus will be a sign of division and will be spoken against. He will cause division an conflict; decisions will have to be made for him or against him.

Anna too had been waiting. She was a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. When she saw the holy family, at that very moment she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke shows us there is a place for everyone in God’s Kingdom. Older people able to wait on the Lord; a young woman having a baby to dedicate to God; a husband going to Church with his wife (Not a very common sight now); every person having a role to play.

So in this story we have read that Jesus was born into this world as a baby, offered to God as a child, grew into manhood and faced all the emotions of human life and able to empathise with us in every aspect of life. And tells us He was the true Messiah who would one day give His life in a cruel death that we may be made righteous in Gods sight.