Monthly Archives: May 2011

Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A, 29 May 2011)

The risen life: the Spirit of unforgetting

Readings
1 Peter 3.13-22
John 14.15-21

The proud parents bring their new baby boy home from hospital. His older sister, all of four, asks if she may have time alone to speak with her new brother. Mum and dad agree, but they decide to listen in from behind the door. They hear big sister leaning over the cot and saying, ‘Quick, tell me who made you. Tell me where you came from. I’m beginning to forget!’

We are frail, forgetful creatures. Jesus knows that, so he says:

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

The Spirit ‘abides’ with us, stays with us as our Advocate, our Friend in high places. Jesus calls the Spirit ‘the Spirit of truth’; and ‘truth’ is a very interesting word in the Greek language in which John’s Gospel was originally written. The Greek word for ‘truth’ is aletheia.

A-letheia means ‘not forgetting’, ‘not hidden’, ‘unforgetting’, ‘unhiding’. In the Greek language of the New Testament, we find ‘truth’ as we recall things we have forgotten. And the Spirit stays with us partly so that we may not forget.

As far as the people of the ancient world were concerned, it was the dead who forgot.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A, 22 May 2011)

While I was enjoying a weekend off, Rev Dr David Pitman preached the following sermon. Thanks, David!

STONES – AND THE ROCK OF AGES

Readings
 Acts 7: 54-60
John 14: 1-14

You may remember reading in the paper some time ago a story about the world’s first inflatable church! It’s made of poly-vinyl and can be transported anywhere on the back of a truck and inflated on the spot. Inside there are inflatable pews, and a blow-up organ and altar. The church even has false stain-glassed windows.

The inflatable church is the invention of a British entrepreneur who reminds us that God’s people once worshipped in a tent that could be put up, taken down, and moved to another place as required. He has a point! Nonetheless, this variation on the bouncy castle children love to play in, runs the risk of being not much more than a lot of hot air!

You and I know that there are no instant churches. At the heart of every church is a community of people who love and serve Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit…..

who build their lives on the strong foundation of faith in the risen Lord Jesus.

Today, within the context of the sermon, we will remember three individual disciples of Jesus who did just that:

The German Lutheran Pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Stephen, the first Christian martyr

and David Sheppard, once Bishop of Liverpool

This year marks the 66th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who participated in the plot to assassinate Hitler. The plot failed. Bonhoeffer was betrayed, imprisoned in 1943 in the Flossenbuerg Concentration Camp in Bavaria, and eventually hanged on the 9th April 1945, only a few weeks before the end of the war.

Whether, as a Christian, Bonhoeffer should have involved himself in the plot to kill Hitler has been the subject of much debate. Bonhoeffer himself believed that the death of the Nazi Dictator was for the greater good of humanity and could, therefore, be justified. He was, at any rate, prepared to give his life for the cause, and finished up doing just that! The letters and papers he wrote while in prison were later collected and published and have been influential right up to this present time.

His personal faith and courage were a powerful witness to those around him. The testimony of the prison Doctor at Flossenbuerg has often been remembered:

Through the half-open door in one of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was deeply moved by the way this loveable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer.

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21 May

In my younger years, the ‘Rapture’ was an article of faith. I was appalled to meet Christians who’d never heard of it. Now I see it as an appalling idea, quite outside anything the New Testament teaches.

Harold Camping is having another shot at predicting the Rapture. It’s tomorrow at 6pm, no matter where in the world you are. At 6pm, I’ll be at Restaurant II in Brissie having a drink after a wonderful wedding and anticipating a fab reception.

Cheers!!!!

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Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A, 15 May 2011)

The risen life: the Shepherd’s voice

Readings
Psalm 23
John 10.1-10

If you look at the titles of the sermons since Easter Day on the home page, you’ll see there’s a theme. It’s ‘The Risen Life’. We’ve had ‘The Risen Life: forgiving sins’ and ‘The Risen Life: walking in hope’. Today is ‘The Risen Life: The Shepherd’s voice’.

It’s clear that we can draw a ‘Risen Life’ theme from stories about resurrection appearances like Doubting Thomas or The Road to Emmaus.

It’s not so obvious today though: today’s Gospel Reading is taken from John 10. Surely that’s well before the resurrection of Jesus? Why do we read this passage during Eastertide?

I wonder if you’ve noticed something when you read the Gospels? The Jesus of John’s Gospel doesn’t sound much like the Jesus of Matthew, Mark and Luke. His ‘voice’ is quite different. He talks in long discourses rather than in pithy parables.

Let’s say it clearly, let’s hear it clearly: the voice of Jesus in John’s Gospel is very often the voice of the risen Lord Jesus. It’s what people have heard who have listened to the Spirit of Jesus speaking to the Church. The ‘historical Jesus’ didn’t necessarily say the words that John puts into Jesus’ mouth; but we can believe that the Risen Lord did say them, through his Spirit, to those who knew his voice.

So when Jesus says ‘I am the gate’, ‘I am the light of the world’, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’, we are hearing the words of the living risen Lord Jesus, now, to his Church.

And when we hear Jesus say, ‘I am the Good Shepherd’, then he is saying that now to us—his sheep. And his sheep hear his voice now—in the original Greek, that word ‘hear’ is in the present tense.

You know, sheep have a bad press. We see them as silly creatures with very little if any sense. We think so little of sheep, I’ve heard sophisticated Christians say they’re offended to be called ‘sheep’.

We don’t need to be that sophisticated. We can and should accept that we are sheep—though I must say their stupidity has been exaggerated.

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Third Sunday of Easter (Year A, 8 May 2011)

The risen life: walking in hope

Readings
1 Peter 1.17-23
Luke 24.13-35

 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

Cleopas and his friend had hoped…but their hopes died with Jesus.

People can live through any loss, except the loss of hope. Hope is essential to a human life. Without hope, we are diminished.

How do we sustain hope when things go wrong? How do we keep ourselves out of the pit of despair?

To answer those questions, let’s join Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus. (There are those who believe this was no friend with Cleopas, but his wife—and I think they make a good case. So I’m going to call them Mr and Mrs Cleopas.)

As we join them on the road, we notice something straight away. This isn’t an amble, a ramble or a stroll. Neither is it a quick march, and there’s no spring in their step.

These despairing disciples are trudging, they’re plodding, barely able to drag one foot after another.

The stranger can’t help but notice the way they’re walking. It looks a lot like the walk of a condemned man to the scaffold.

Yet even in their deep despair, they allow this third man to join them. They extend hospitality to him.

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