Sunday, 28 December 2008

A Walk from Aldbury

Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright Copyright Robert Wright

The countryside around here is full of walks. You can see birds on the reservoirs, three canals, woods and fields, lovely views, and paths criss crossing the countryside.

This walk starts and finishes in Aldbury.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Mary the Mother of Christ

Cheddington Sunday 21 December 2008

On 4th Sunday Advent, we traditionally remember Mary Mother of Christ. Mary who said “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary who willingly co-operated with God’s plan for her. Mary, who was given a choice but was not coerced. Mary who sang the Magnificat – a song of praise to God and obedience to his will. The same Mary who was at the foot of the cross, when all seemed hopeless and lost, when all the promises seemed to have gone for nought.

Mary the Mother of Christ has been treated very differently by the various traditions of the churches throughout the ages. On the one hand, she is depicted as the Blessed Virgin Mother of God. As Queen of Heaven she is painted with a crown on her head. Some parts of the church believe she was conceived without original sin, and that when her earthly life was over, she was assumed bodily into heaven. She has her own branch of theology, called Mariology. Mary holds a venerated position in Islam. Narratives of her life have been further elaborated: her parents were named as Joachim and Anne, and there has grown up over centuries a vast body of doctrine and veneration which overshadows the few but important times she appears in the gospels. On the other hand, all these traditional but non scriptural accretions have resulted in an opposite reaction and meant that other parts of the church have been reluctant to refer to Mary in any meaningful way at all.

The truth is that little is known from the New Testament about Mary’s personal history or life. What we are told is this: she was a relative of Elizabeth, wife of the priest Zechariah. She lived at Nazareth in Galilee, and was betrothed to Joseph. This was the first stage of Jewish marriage. A legal contract with her parents had presumably been drawn up, and she would have moved from her house to that of her future husband’s family. The marriage would not be consummated until sometime later – possibly as long as a year or more, depending on her age when she was betrothed.

Luke in his account says she was a virgin. He uses the Greek word Parthenos to describe her. Many people have argued this is a mistranslation, because the Hebrew word almah that appears in Isaiah 7.14 can just mean a young woman, just like the English word maiden, rather than a virgin, and it is the Hebrew word almah which is translated parthenos. Isaiah 7.14 in our bible says Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel. That’s the NRSV, and there is only a footnote that says Gk: virgin. The gospels of Mark and John, and the rest of the New Testament do not specifically mention the virgin birth at all.

Mary appears throughout the infancy narratives of course, but apart from that she is only mentioned once when Jesus was an adolescent – that was when Jesus was found debating with the teachers in the Temple at the age of 12. She may have been widowed, because after the infancy of Jesus Joseph is never mentioned again.

Mary then takes a part in the wedding that Jesus attended in Cana. This is where she persuaded her son to perform the first miracle, that of water into wine. Subsequently there are events when Jesus’ brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas are with their mother Mary and their unnamed sisters. Mary is also of course at the crucifixion, and at the beginning of Acts is in the Upper Room with about 120 people after the Ascension.

No one should have any doubts about the special place she occupies, whatever our tradition – and today we have the chance of celebrating her unique position and her example of unquestioning obedience to God, whatever the cost to herself as a person and a mother.

In today’s reading she is hailed by the angel Gabriel as the favoured one of God. Gabriel tells Mary she will bear a son and call him Yeshua – the LORD saves. This name became Ἰησοῦς in Greek, and Jesus in English. Mary is told her son will inherit the throne of David. He will be the Messiah – the anointed one – in Greek Χριστός. Joseph, you will recall, is also of the family of David from the tribe of Judah. When Jesus inherits the Kingdom, Gabriel says, it will be forever. There will be no end to the kingdom from that point on.

Gabriel goes further, and says Jesus will be Son of the Most High. This makes clear his special relationship with God. In calling Jesus Son of the Most High, rather than Son of God as many kings were titled, Luke stresses Jesus’ divinity.

Faced with the same apparition, Zechariah the priest had doubted Gabriel and disbelieved. Mary on the other hand had stated the obvious, but acted with greater faith. Mary is told she will be ‘overshadowed’ by God. So, unlike John the Baptist, Jesus will be special and unique. He will be holy.

So those are the facts from scripture – and anything else people believe about Mary is in addition to what it says in the Bible. It may be passed down through the early church. It may be oral tradition, but it’s not scriptural. What position you take is a matter for you yourself, and I am not going to be the one to tell you what you should or should not believe.

What I do think, however, is that Mary is a supreme example of obedience to the will of God, and never seems to have doubted even when faced with the gory death of her son and the seeming failure of all her hopes, and everyone else’s too. At the very outset, she said:

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. Then far from being overwhelmed by the enormity of what was happening to her, she sings one of the greatest hymns of praise anywhere in our liturgy, which is still repeated daily and has been set to some of the most sublime music ever written. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

It’s this example to us of Mary’s simple acceptance of God’s will that we want to celebrate this morning, as we pause once again in our season of expectant waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. We wait, just as Mary waited. We will rejoice as she rejoiced, and sorrow as she grieved at the impact of the world’s brokenness on her son. We live in the same hope that Mary hoped – the full knowledge of our salvation through his one sacrifice made once for all on the cross, and his resurrection to the new life of the Kingdom of God, both now and at the end of time. So this Christmas, we pause to give thanks for Mary’s quiet obedience and steadfast determination. Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. May we this year and from now on be able to emulate Mary and do likewise. Amen.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Joseph the Just

Cheddington ~ 18 December 2008

Joseph is described as a just man. The word ‘just’ means a man who obeys the law and applies it fairly to all, regardless of the circumstances. At least, that was the prevailing view. But something has happened to turn Joseph from being a just man towards a man of justice.

The strict application of the law was not in doubt. Deut 22:23 says:   23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man's wife. You must purge the evil from among you. So why did Joseph the Just not publicly and openly apply the law as he should have done? Notice it was not as a result of his dream. He had already decided to divorce Mary quietly before the angel appeared to him in a dream. After the revelation by the angel, Joseph considered and determined to marry Mary. Before the dream, as he considered, he had already decided to protect her and hush up the unplanned pregnancy.

There is a big difference between someone who is stern and just, and someone who is prepared to show justice. Justice, in other words, is more than the equal application of the law. It’s tempered with mercy. It takes into account the circumstances. It accepts explanations honestly given if they mitigate the crime.

The Victorian theologian Kirkegaard wrote a book called Fear and Trembling in 1843. In it he gives examples of those who stand in fear and trembling before God, stripped of everything, and with no rules to stand between them and their maker.

He gives examples. Abraham, who was prepared to sacrifice Isaac, even though he knew child sacrifice was against any law. Mary was obedient to God even though she must have known she risked a horrible death by agreeing. He could have added Joseph, who went beyond the strict application of the law in order to pursue his own form of justice. Was this through love of Mary? Was this because he was not prepared to dismiss her explanation for her pregnancy out of hand? Was it to save his own reputation as well as hers?

Maybe there was a higher motive. The Suffering Servant in Isaiah 42 is a man who is a bruised reed that will not break. A dimly burning wick that cannot be quenched. One who will faithfully bring forth justice. And that justice is not the retribution of the law, but something altogether fairer and kinder. Mary was, to Joseph, that dimly burning wick, and he was not going to be the one to quench it. Mary was the bruised reed, but Joseph would not break it.

Justice in Isaiah shows concern for the downtrodden and outcast. It shows compassion for the weak even at the risk of ignoring the law. This form of justice is rare in the Hebrew scriptures, but is the justice that suffuses the attitude of Jesus towards the poor, the marginalized, the dispossessed, the outcasts of society. And in the end, it was that Christian form of justice that saved the life of a mother and her unborn son.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Sunday, 7 December 2008


There were about 100 people at today’s Christingle service in Cheddington. About half were children. The church was well filled, in spite of the very cold weather.

We are now in the season for carol services, with a school service at St Giles on Friday 19 December at 10.00am, 9 Readings and Carols at Mentmore on Saturday 20 December at 4.00pm, and at St Giles on Sunday 21 December at 5.00pm.

Friday, 28 November 2008

A poem for Advent - by John Betjeman

Christmas by John Betjeman
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.
John Betjeman (1906 - 1984)

Monday, 10 November 2008

Peace and Reconciliation - Mentmore on Remembrance Sunday


Encyclopaedia definition of Peace generally negative

Absence of war

Lack of hostility and conflict

Freedom from civil disorder

Peace not just non-violence

Gandhi: if an oppressive society lacks violence, it is nevertheless not peaceful because of injustice and oppression

Martin Luther King: True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but the presence of justice

Trouble is, peace throughout history has often been achieved by a victor over a vanquished. Roman peace – Pax Romana – gained through ruthless repression and not voluntarily

Even Nobel Peace Prize – given to someone who ‘has done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations’ has often been awarded to those who have previously been at war, but have later been associated with making peace when the conflict has ended

Peace is an ideal state

Are you at peace with yourself and the world?

From the 1300’s onward, Peace was used as a greeting

Translation of the Latin Pax or the Gk Eirene

The Hebrew Shalom is a form of Peace characterised by respect, justice and goodwill

During our Common Worship Eucharist we wish each other Peace

Not absence of conflict, but Peace of the Lord – a wholly deeper meaning

Is it disrespectful to those who have died in war and conflict that we turn our attention to Peace and Reconciliation on Remembrance Sunday?

No – we still commemorate the sacrifice of those who died

We still give thanks for their selfless dedication

They did not seek War, but they fought for Peace

Peace is at the heart of the Gospel

It occurs over and over again throughout scripture

From the covenants of peace and the desire for peace in a warring society in the OT

To the more personal inner peace of the NT

For Jesus, peace is a state of mind, body and spirit

This springs forth as harmony, balance, contentment, freedom and justice

Blessed are the peacemakers, he said

The angels at his birth sang of peace and goodwill

The disciples were sent out on their mission – wished peace on every home that would receive them

In John’s gospel, Jesus says he said things so that in him we might have peace

In James 3: Peacemakers sow in peace and reap a harvest of righteousness

Peace resounds throughout the NT

John 14 My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid

So this morning as we commemorate those who have died – especially those two new names on the War Memorial, let us dedicate ourselves to the furtherance of peace. That is what is at the heart of the Gospel – and that is what those who gave their lives fought for – that we may have peace and have it in abundance.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

9 November 2008

It has been a busy few days. Vicky and I have just arrived back in London, having driven through strong winds that tossed the car to and fro as we navigated the M25 and joined the M40/Westway into Shepherd’s Bush.

On Thursday morning, after the 9.15 Holy Communion, the rest of the morning was spent at Cheddington Combined School, looking around with head teacher Mr Dylan Jones and visiting a number of classes. I was asked by two of the teachers to take their classes for a session, and we have already also planned a Christmas Assembly for early December.

The number of services and events meant some office work on Thursday and Friday. Vicky came up to Cheddington by train on Friday evening, and we enjoyed a huge fish platter at the Grove Lock. They were having an American themed week, with portion sizes to match.

On Saturday morning, there was the Book Browse at the Methodist Hall. Sunday however was the busiest day, starting with a well attended Remembrance Service at Mentmore where special invitations had gone out and the church was quite full. Two new names had been added to the War Memorial from WW2 and we had managed to track down members of one family who travelled from Herefordshire to be at the service.

Just after lunch, I took a Memorial Service at Cheddington for someone with close associations with the village, but who had lived in the US for many years and sadly died recently.

Later the same afternoon, we had a meeting in the Rectory for those attending the Parish Weekend in 2009.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

All Saints

Service at Cheddington, then at Mentmore. Sunday 2 November. Here are the sermon notes:

What is the difference between All Saints, All Souls, All Hallows (Hallowe’en)

Early Church – anniversary of saint’s martyrdom celebrated

So many martyrs under persecution of Diocletian – All Martyrs then All Saints

1 November in West – Sunday after Pentecost in East

Also called Hallowmas or All Hallows – hence Hallowe’en

All Souls commemorates faithful departed – 2 November

At Reformation, All Saints and All Souls fused in Anglican Church

Restored as separate days in 1980 ASB

Why did Reformers object?

Disagreed with special position in RC church that people were beatified or set aside

So why are we combining All Saints and All Souls today?

Let’s look at what Scripture says

Not so easy – depends on the translation

NIV – no mention of Saints

NRSV – occurs 71 times – 6 OT + Apocrypha; rest in NT esp. Acts + Pauline letters


In NT (whatever word) = everyone who possesses Spirit of God in Christ

Gk: Hagios – holy

Note: a person’s saintliness derives from God not from herself or himself

Saintliness = holiness of God apparent in a Christian soul

I Peter 1:16 You shall be holy for I am holy

Eph 2:19 You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints (hagioi) and also members of the household of God

APOSTLES CREED – Communion of Saints

Two fold meaning

All holy people share in the holy things God provides

Everyone is called to holiness – to be a saint. This process is completed when we pass from this life to enjoy the light, happiness and peace in the presence of God

MARTYRS – we are all saints, but not all martyrs

From earliest days, Church singled out certain people to commemorate as examples of Christian faith

Came about through sheer numbers martyred under Diocletian – there was a desire to emulate their faithfulness

This was good, but led to unfortunate consequences when taken to extremes



Visiting sites of burial or remains

Intercessors on our behalf to God – depicted wearing crowns

Even prayed to by those still alive

Saints played major role in life of church in Middle Ages – festivals, chantries


Informal process of naming a Saint became formalized

Pope John XV started process in 993

Orthodox church has no process – all those believed to be saints by grace of God need no recognition


Most protestant churches reject veneration of saints – but Anglican churck, RC and some Lutherans have honoured saints since time immemorial.


They remind us that whilst Christ is the one way, truth and life – there are many ways of following him

Lives of saints give insights into how people lived the gospel in their own time – and these insights can apply to every age

All our churches are dedicated to a Saint – anyone know history of S. Giles?

Is it useful to us or beneficial in any way?

We are called to be Saints
1 Cor 1 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord* and ours:

We do not run this race alone, but with all the saints
Hebrews 12.1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,* and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

The Holy Spirit intercedes for the Saints Rom 8:27

As Saints, we are equipped for ministry Eph 4
11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

So this is a rather different picture we are being given of the Christian life

  1. As Saints
  2. Not struggling alone, but in communion with other saints
  3. Sanctified, called to be holy
  4. Using our special gifts for the furtherance of the Kingdom

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


At the All-Age Service on 16 November there will be a quiz.

Here's a chance to earn a bonus point. This question will not be in the quiz, but you will get extra points for having read the diary. It's also extra super hard, as you will have time for researching the answer.

Here's the question:

What is the name of the evil sea or land monster that appears in the Bible, and in which books does it appear?

Clue: it appears 4 times in 3 books. It is NOT Jonah's whale.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Big day on Sunday 26 October. 90 people crammed into St Giles for the baptism of Edward Ingram by his grandfather, the Revd. Richard Willcox. Of the 90 people, 30 were children.

This is the second baptism in a month, and a third is taking place in November at Mentmore.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Pram Service

Here's some publicity for the new format:
Singalong & Prayers for Toddlers and Carers

Singalong & Prayers

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Render unto Caesar - the Credit Crunch

Headlines this week:

Brown sparks £1.9 trillion bailout

PM spent £37 billion buying shares in RBS, HBOS, LloydsTSB

Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italy, Holland follow suit with combined £1.5 trillion

America spends £2 trillion

How much is a trillion?

Short scale countries = 1 million million = 1012 = 12 zeroes

Long scale countries = 1 million million million = 1018 = 18 zeroes

Most of 20C Britain was long scale and US short scale

1974 UK government adopted short scale, but British usage still applies otherwise, but most of mass media adopt short scale which is just as well given the sums involved

For most people the actual sums are irrelevant. They mean nothing we can understand or measure.

Somehow we just know we are all poorer as a result – will pay more tax

Appropriate that gospel reading concerns tax – who should pay?

Question refers to poll tax imposed AD6 when Israel became Roman province

Provoked rebellion of Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37)

Herod’s party favoured paying – collaborators

Pharisees and Zealots + people resented it = unholy alliance

Jesus had arrived in fulfillment of prophecy

Challenged religious and secular leaders in Temple

Different factions ganged up to play politics with him + dispose of threat

Yes, pay = trouble with crowds

No, don’t pay = trouble with Romans

Catch 22

Tax paid in silver coinage

Effigy of emperor

Described as divine and to be worshipped


Jesus: “Why are you testing me?” – same words as he used to Satan during Temptation in Wilderness

Yes or No

Jeremy Paxman

John Humphries

Was the ‘Render Unto Caesar...” answer just a device, or is there a teaching or command in this response for us today?

We have no choice but to pay our taxes, any more than the Jews had with the Romans

But we have more say in how our taxes are used

How to vote

We can also decide

What to buy (Traidcraft, where sourced)

Which shops to use

Where to save (ethical investment – Co-op, Nationwide)

Whilst PM pledged £37 billion in one day

GDP of Ethiopia in 2007 was £43 billion

Whilst Bush promised £2 trillion in support

Total worldwide spending on HIV/AIDS in 2007 was £5.7 billion

Spending in US for each person infected by HIV/AIDS was 35 times that of each patient in Latin America and 1,000 times that in Africa

So when we look at these numbers we have to ask

What has a more devastating impact? HIV/AIDS pandemic or the risk of financial services meltdown? The rise in tuberculosis? Or malaria?

None are desirable, but is it worth spending 190 times as much in Europe alone as the whole world spends on HIV/AIDS? Is this ethically sound thinking, and does it chime with the gospel message of social justice and equity?

Perhaps these questions themselves are too big to answer, but surely we should ask?

An then, there is the question: “How did all this come about?”

Not just the domino effect of a few defaulting mortgages in the US and a lot of risky lending?

Greed? Hope against hope? Head in the sand? Short term quick bucks, and let’s hope I get out before the whole deck of cards comes crashing down?

I am not qualified to answer, but the message of the gospel this morning is clearer:

Give to the legal authorities what belongs to them, and to God what belongs to God

It’s the second part that is the more important

What belongs to God in our lives?

What priority do we give to it, compared to the time we spend on getting the best interest rates, chasing down the best bargains, looking for the best value car insurance, evaluating our next major purchase.

Here’s a passage from Matthew 6. It’s worth re reading it regularly:

Treasures in Heaven

19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Do Not Worry

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life [e]?

28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

The Rectory


Vicky paints the last of the bedrooms, and the final three rooms are finished by Robert.


Front garden







Aerial View of Cheddington

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Persistence in Prayer

Short talk at Cheddington - Thursday 9 October 2008

Teaching on Prayer Luke 11. 5 - 13

Teaches that prayer will be answered. Everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; to those who knock the door will be opened

Yet it does not seem as though this is our own experience

This reading follows The Lord’s Prayer. Disciples ask Jesus how to pray. John had taught his disciples.

  • We are to pray for the coming of the Kingdom
  • our daily food
  • forgiveness of our sins
  • not being brought to the time of trial

In the Lord’s Prayer we can always say our prayer is answered

But our reading is more about Persistence in Prayer than us being given what we believe we want

We are to persist – like the man who needs 3 loaves of bread. We are to have shameless audacity – but the key to the reading is that God will give us as much as we need – not what we think we require.

So God will give good gifts to those who persist in prayer, and not the things that would be harmful to us

What are these good things we can expect? Clue in last verse – God will give his Holy Spirit to those who ask him.

This should be our prayer – to persist in asking for what we need – though that may be God’s assessment not our own – and especially to pray for the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church – that good think which God will give to those who ask him

Sunday, 5 October 2008

God the Vinedresser

Interactive Talk at Cheddington 5 October 2008

What is your image of God?

Old man with white flowing beard – as a choirboy that was what I saw on big stained glass window

Stern judge – correcting wrong – frightening figure – Last Judgement

Loving Father – forgiving, nurturing, caring

Someone a bit like your father – or mother?

We all have images of God determined largely by what was our picture of God when we were young – hard to shake off even after a lifetime of study and prayer

God the Vinedresser

Image of vineyard stands for Israel, or Kingdom of Heaven, or whole universe

Matthew 21:33 – Parable of Tenants. God is landowner who creates vineyard. Plants it. Puts wall round it to protect it. Digs a winepress to make it productive. Build a watch tower to look after it and keep out evildoers who might harm it. Does everything a good landlord should do.

God goes away on a journey – how often does it seem as though God is absent from his world? – rents the vineyard to tenants chosen with care

Sends his servants to collect fruit – tenants treat them badly

Finally God sends his Son – tenants see opportunity to take over the vineyard and kill the owner’s son to gain the inheritance

Characters in the drama

Pretty clear who is who – Vineyard is the World created lovingly by God, protected, fruitful

Tenants are us who are put in Vineyard to care for it

Servants are the Prophets – speak to us with the words of God – warnings of our disobedience and its consequences – warnings today of the way we have abused our trust in how we have treated God’s creation

The Son of the owner is Jesus – sent to collect fruit from the vineyard – abused, his words ignored, and eventually killed

Elders of the Jews and Pharisees

Jesus ends the story with a question – presumably addressed to those who were listening – and they included Pharisees and other leaders of the Jews

What will the owner of the vineyard do to the disobedient and wretched tenants? The people (presumably not including the Pharisees) reply that the owner will kill them and rent the vineyard to new tenants.

The Pharisees have heard all the parables and recognise they are the bad tenants – until now they have been enquiring but from this point on they seek to arrest Jesus and put him on trial. The only thing stopping them is fear of how the crowds will react. The people believe Jesus is a prophet and even perhaps Messiah after the Triumphal Entry.


Our reaction might be smugness and complacency – after all are we not the new tenants hired to replace the elect of the Hebrew Scriptures? Maybe – but the way we have since treated the vineyard gives us no reason for comfort – and would we ourselves not have stood by and watched as Jesus was arrested, put on trial and executed in the most barbarous manner possible – short of burning maybe, which we as Christians have inflicted on our own prophets for centuries

So no room for comfort – we must work harder at being vinedressers in God’s domain whilst we still have the chance

God’s tender loving care

Perhaps we should concentrate more on the picture this parable shows us of God. The parable in Matthew is about the tenancy of the vineyard, but in John 15 we get a similar picture of God the vinedresser but this time Jesus as the true vine. Let’s concentrate on the picture of God, which is the same in both passages – the Vinedresser.

1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

The picture is that of the gentle and yet exacting man whose years of work with the vine and branches have proved productive.

A vinedresser, or husbandman, is more than a mere farmer. Grapes are more than an annual crop. The vinedresser's vines remain with him for decades. He comes to know each one in a personal way, much like a shepherd with his sheep. He knows how the vine is faring from year to year and which ones are more productive or vigorous than others. He knows what they respond to and what special care certain one's need.

The vinedresser cares for each vine and nurtures it, pruning it the appropriate amount at the appropriate times, fertilizing it, lifting its branches from the ground and propping them or tying them to the wires, and taking measures to protect them from insects and disease.

Cruel to be kind

Contrasting with this imagery of God as nurturing and protective is the way vines are cut back. Growing grapes is not like planting a row of potatoes. You don’t just plant them, do a bit of hoeing, and dig up your crop at the end of the season then throw away the plants.

2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

The process of vinedressing Jesus speaks of may well be painful for the branch.  However everything the Vinedresser does to the branches is for the purpose of producing fruit. It is the fruit of the believer’s life that glorifies the Vinedresser.

The aim is not to make us feel comfortable, or nurtured, or valued. No, the aim is the glory of God.

5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Authority of Jesus

Sermon at Mentmore - 28 September 2008

Authority of Jesus

Matthew 21: 23 – 32


The passage is about the authority of Jesus – and how it is questioned – mainly by religious leaders because of what he has done

Three symbolic acts happen prior to the reading:

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem

This is in fulfillment of Isaiah and Zechariah:

The Coming of Zion's King

9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
       Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
       See, your king comes to you,
       righteous and having salvation,
       lowly and riding on a donkey,
       on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

In this event, there are 2 firsts:

1. Jesus is making a public claim to messianic kingship

2. This is recognised by the crowds – they know the prophecy and see it being fulfilled

This means Jesus is claiming to be

Son of David

A prophet

The coming one – Messiah – although meek and not military

The crowds respond by

Throwing down their cloaks

Shouting Hosanna to the Son of David and

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

This poses huge challenge to religious and secular leaders – no longer just itinerant rabbi who teaches and heals

Jesus cleanses the Temple

Jesus immediately confronts religious leaders on home ground

Drove out money changers – producing wealth for officials – challenging corruption – challenging injustice to poor
My house will be a house of prayer for all nations Isaiah 56

Also says that prayer can be effective wherever prayers are said – not just in Jerusalem or the Temple or on a holy mountain

Jesus curses the fig tree

Not just a little interlude

Fig tree stands for the state of Israel – it withers when it does not produce fruit – judgement against those in charge of the Temple


This explains why Jesus is questioned when he enters the Temple once again

By what authority are you doing these things?

Who gave you that authority?

Jesus poses threat to both secular and religious government – whole city is in turmoil – everyone wants to know Who is this?

Trick questions

Strange that Jesus relies on debating skills – Jesus asks chief priests about status of John the Baptist: was he prophet with authority from heaven as the people believed; or was he just another religious fanatic?

The question cannot be answered without grave risk from the people, so the elders duck it – which enables Jesus to do the same

Usually he is clear, regardless of the consequences – this time he does not seem ready to put himself in danger – lot of teaching to come, much of it against the Jewish leaders and failure of Israel – not until chapter 27 that we hear about the plot to kill Jesus and the Last Supper

Is this where it ends?

Was it just a reprieve?

Priests and leaders asked question about authority because it mattered to them.

Challenged their own position

Threatened stability of the state – Palestinian fragility – emergence of Messiah would lead to serious consequences with Roman governor

Perhaps genuinely wanted to know if this was Messiah?

We should ask ourselves the same question because it matters to us

What authority does Jesus have?

Where does his authority come from?

Might seem obvious, but let’s delve a bit further

Authority to set standards for the way we live our lives

Matthew 5 “You have heard it said... but I say...”

Whole series of absolute moral standards

Do not come to the altar – unless you are first reconciled to your brother and sister who has something against you

Do not be angry with another person or call them a fool

Settle quickly with your adversary, or someone to whom you owe money

Do not look upon something or someone else to desire it – for to do so is to have committed a sin already

Do not resist and evil person – give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you

Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you

Highest moral standards – we would do well to remember how difficult they are to observe

Authority to forgive sins

Matthew 9 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."

Authority over nature and authority to confront evil

For example, stilling of the storm and casting out those possessed

Great Commission

But for us today, most important of all are Jesus’ post-resurrection claims to authority, and what actions they require of us:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in [a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28

All authority has been given to me

So Jesus claims ‘all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.’ There is no greater authority he could have claimed. And if we accept that as true, what we are to do about it follows on from his claim:

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

So this is what we are entrusted with – going out and telling the story – not keeping our faith to ourselves or confining it within these walls. Not necessarily proclaiming it on street corners, boring our fellow employees and friends rigid, or shouting from the housetops – but living the life as an example to others – the highest moral standards that are in Matthew 5.

Why? It tells us in Matthew 5 itself:

Salt and Light

13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


Monday, 22 September 2008

A view from the Vicarage

Sticky thoughts in the October newsletter:

I returned from holiday towards the end of September to find one of those annoying cards from Royal Mail that announce you have missed a delivery and can pick up your parcel at some remote location between certain hours when you are usually unavailable. Normally I join a queue of people searching for lost mail only to be given unsolicited junk at the counter or a big envelope containing business documents for Vicky. This time it was different: I opened one of those clever cardboard envelopes from Amazon to find a paperback book I had forgotten ordering a long time ago.

This book took my fancy when I learned about it from a blog called Presentation Zen. It’s called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. In it the Heath brothers are interested in what makes some ideas effective and memorable and others not so. Some ideas stick and others fade away. The sticky ideas are not necessarily correct but they are memorable. For example, we were taught the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from the Moon. Not true. Or sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyes. Not true either.

Advertisers and politicians make use of sticky ideas, and it seemed to me that I could too. Sticky ideas are story based; they are simple; they are surprising; and they tug at our emotions. I thought perhaps this little book might make my sticky sermon ideas even more memorable, but reading it I am struck by how much it seems to apply to the teaching methods used by Jesus.

Jesus was a master of the sticky story. I am sure you can repeat many of his parables by heart. There was never any need to write them down in a largely illiterate society because they were memorable. Imagine the disciples’ surprise when told of a servant lent 20 years wages by his master. Or the man who sold everything including the clothes he stood up in to buy the Pearl of Great Price. Or the Labourers in the Vineyard who were paid as much for one hour’s evening work as those who had toiled for 12 hours in the heat of the day. You get the picture.

The point is that people are hooked not by complex arguments but by simple messages. John F Kennedy did not use detailed aspirations in his manifesto, but announced his aim was to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade and return him safely to earth. Bill Clinton was persuaded to drop his thorough analysis in favour of one slogan: It’s the economy – stupid.

The Christian faith is as simple as you want to make it. Jesus summed up the law in only 7 words: love God and your neighbour as yourself. Vast tracts he reduced to one golden rule: do to others as you would have them do to you. He turned everything upside down. The first will be last and the last first. If you want to be great you must become the slave of all.

So as the equinox is past and the days get ever shorter, why not join me this Autumn in thinking more deeply about what we really believe – but instead of widening the trench and taking in more and more ground, just digging straight down to the simple heart of our faith, excavating what is at its core, and that, I suggest, will be simple for us both to understand as well as explain to others from our own experience.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Back from Holiday

Vicky and I returned from a week in Le Marche last Saturday. Italy was hot, dry and quiet. Lovely food, walks and views. We stayed in a converted farm house apartment overlooking the hill town of Sarnarno.

After flying back from Ancona into Stanstead, the stayed overnight in London and then drove to the CIPD Conference in Harrogate.

I returned on Wednesday afternoon by train from Harrogate to York, where I visited the National Railway Museum for the first time, before boarding a National Express train to London King's Cross.Copyright Robert Wright

The Rectory lawns had 3 weeks growth, and mowing the grass took a long time. The grass box had to be emptied after every strip, not only because of the length of the grass but also as it was damp. It looks more tamed now, but Autumn is with us.

Monday, 1 September 2008


We seem to be fortunate in our direction of travel between Cheddington and London. Up to Cheddington on Wednesday night, and the traffic along the M40, M25 and A41 has been kind so far, but with the occasional jam in the opposite direction. The same is the case for the journey on Sunday night. Last night, for example, going north on the M25 (clockwise) the traffic was moving at a snail's pace from the junction of the M40 right up and beyond the turn off to Aylesbury. Where had all the traffic come from, and why was it all going in a northerly direction?

The same on the M40 and Western Avenue. Solid in places, yet where there is always slow traffic from Paddington up to the roadworks past St Kats, nothing. It would have been a long journey indeed and very slow and frustrating if we travelled in the reverse direction - but we don't.

Maybe it was the end of the holidays; schools return later this week; and even the Met Office has declared today meteorologically the first day of Autumn. But the sun is out and shining through the office doors here on the first floor, and the chairs on the patio outside are pearly white - battered by all the rain - no need for any cleaning this summer.

Sunday, 31 August 2008


Matthew 16: 21 - end

  • Jesus foretells his death and resurrection – the Cross and the denial of self that led to it.
    • Darker side of faith.
    • The price we have to be prepared to pay in order to be a follower of Jesus Christ
  • Immediately before this passage
    • Jesus is rejected as Messiah by Israel – God’s elect, the chosen people
    • So Jesus needs to establish a new community of faith
      • One that will acknowledge him as Messiah
      • One that will acknowledge his identity as Son of the Father
  • This process of establishing a new community starts with Peter’s Declaration
    • Some say you are John the Baptist, some Elijah, some Jeremiah, or one of the prophets
    • But who do you say I am? “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
  • After this declaration, revealed to Peter by God
    • Peter will found the church – the new community
  • This is the context for our reading today
    • Takes us to v21 which starts “From that time on…”
      • Jesus tells his disciples what must happen as a result of his rejection by the Jews and the need for them to form and found a new community
        • Jesus will suffer at the hands of the religious and secular authorities who have rejected him
        • This will lead to his death
        • But on the third day he will rise again
  • Before Jesus can warn his followers the same thing might happen to them
    • Peter steps in
      • Peter moves from his greatest moment, when he declares “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” to
        • A moment that occasions Jesus’ most terrible condemnation
        • Jesus says to Peter “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me…”
    • What has caused this? Peter’s actual words mean something like
      • “May God in his mercy spare you this fate.”
      • Said out of compassion for the best of motives
    • So why the stern rebuke?
      • Jesus was not rebuking Peter, but Peter’s words and his motivation
        • He was thinking in a human way
        • Trying to prevent such a terrible fate happening to his master
        • But he represented a temptation to Jesus that might have diverted him from the way that led to salvation for the world
        • Hence he merited the stern rebuke, made to the force of evil which led him to say what he did rather than to Peter himself.
  • So what does it mean to us to be disciples? What does “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me” actually involve?
    • As it says in Romans 12
      • Let love be genuine. Love what is good. Hate what is evil.
      • Love one another. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.
      • Be patient in suffering. Bless those who persecute you. Associate with the lowly. Do not be haughty
      • Care for the poor. Be hospitable. Live in peace.
      • Do not repay evil for evil but overcome evil with good. Do not take vengeance. Live in harmony with others.
      • Be ardent in prayer
      • Do not be conformed to the things of this world but be transformed to the will of God.
        • Present your bodies to God as a living sacrifice.
        • This is not just a modification of what we are but
          • A complete renewal of our minds so we can discern the will of God
        • Not just conforming to a set of ideals but
          • A re-creation of our human minds
  • We cannot of course do these things through our own endeavours on our own but
    • As possessors of the Holy Spirit
    • Who will equip us to live lives ‘holy and acceptable to God’ – truly righteous.
    • This is truly the new life in Christ

Costly Grace
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer The Cost of Discipleship

Methodist Chapel

Looking out of the window early this morning, the trees were shrouded in mist. It looked like the sun would burn off the moisture and we would be in for a fine day. Yesterday afternoon I had assembled a picnic bench bought at Tring Auction Rooms earlier in the day, and the sun was fierce as I hammered carriage bolts and put together the heavy pine. The weather did not oblige, and we set out for the ecumenical service at the Methodist Chapel in light rain.

Copyright Robert WrightThe service was led by Derek Witchell, and I preached on the subject of Discipleship. The churches join with the Methodist congregation on the fifth Sunday of every month, and there is a lot of other shared activity throughout the week which is very welcome in these days when even the Church of England has difficulty meeting together, let alone across different denominations.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Playing trains

The service this morning was at Cheddington. Numbers were lower than the previous weeks owing to the number of people away for Bank Holiday, but most seemed to have enjoyed the experience of moving to different places throughout the month of August, meeting others and sharing fellowship with them.

Time out in the late afternoon for Vicky and me: we joined about 25 others to operate a giant train set. It filled an entire garden, complete with stations, communications, different types of freight and passenger trains and goods handling equipment.

Our hour's timetable seemed to stretch to 85 minutes as one passenger train failed somewhere down the line and was massively delayed. What's new? The whole enterprise is awesome, as the Americans would say - a real labour of love - and hopefully will have raised lots of money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

An image of St Giles Church interior

Copyright Robert Wright

Photo: Robert Wright 22 August 2008

A tiny Asus Eeee computer

Mobile computing has never been really mobile. Laptops heat up and weigh down the lap, and are hard on the shoulders to carry around. Mobile phones are impossible to use sensibly, even the few with QWERTY keyboards. There has not been much in between, since the days of the Psions which were fun but impractical.
This little computer costs only £150-ish and looks and feels like a tiny laptop weighing very little and with a decent screen. It is a US model, hence the low price. The software is Linux but it is just like Windows without the virus risk. The only drawback is the " and the @ keys are interchanged (the keys work as a UK keyboard but the marking is like a US one) and similarly the hash and the £ keys are swapped.
It has wifi and so connects to hotspots everywhere. This used to be academic for non-business users as the price was prohibitive, but BT Broadband and FON (the Spanish company) have teamed up so BT Broadband customers can use other people's routers worldwide, and also BT Openzone.They have 350 minutes a month which is plenty. So mobile computing has come of age and that is what I am using to update the blog this morning.
Outside the temperature was 9.5C first thing, so the Rectory started a little cold when Vicky and I enjoyed our bacon sarnies (traditional Saturday breakfast for us) but that is only the result of a clear blue sky and the sun will warm the air quickly now.
Today I have to think of taking some photographs of the church with the sun coming in through the windows. Probably I will use bracketed exposures and combine them into an HDR image to balance the interior with the stained glass windows.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Heavenly Banquet

Sermon at Thursday morning Holy Communion 9.15am

Matthew 22: 1 – 14 (NRSV)

1Once more Jesus spoke to the chief priests and Pharisees in parables, saying: 2‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 14For many are called, but few are chosen.’


  • Parable about Kingdom of Heaven
    • Series of actions and reactions
  • Characters
    • King = God
    • Son = Jesus
    • First Servants = God’s messengers,
    • Second Servants = murder of prophets
    • Troops = Roman soldiers, destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD
    • Third Servants = Church, all invited
  • All stand side by side at the end of time
    • Good and Evil
      • Man without wedding robe = whole class at last judgment
      • Lacks glorious resurrected body and good works = heavenly garment
  • Justification is by Faith, but not alone
    • Elect are the Jews who have rejected God’s message of salvation
      • But those of us who are chosen cannot expect to be received into the Kingdom of God on that strength alone.
      • We can be present but still lack a heavenly garment
    • So Christian readers cannot hear this parable with any sense of self-satisfaction
    • Are we among the ‘many’ or the ‘few’ who are chosen
    • We might be in the church but still be improperly clothed at the last judgement

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Sunday 17 August 2008

Vicky and I cycled up to Mentmore as the Round the Hornes trial was taking place. Elite riders were setting off as we passed the Start beside the Stag public house, but I was taking the service at St Mary's and Derek Witchell was preaching.

After the service we enjoyed the stalls set up on the Green. There were preserves and cakes for sale, vintage cars on display in aid of the church tower fund, free espresso coffee, cycle spares, soft toys, panama hats for sale, and horticulture.

The weather was hot, but after lunch deteriorated. The afternoon was cloudy and cool. By the time Vicky and I drove back to London it was raining all the way.

Next week is the Notting Hill Carnival when local residents try and escape to the country to avoid the noise and the mess. We have always stayed at home, parked the car and not moved it until after Bank Holiday.  This year we will be able to remain at the Rectory.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Going public

So far, the blog is just between me and the computer. It receives no mention anywhere, even though the blog address is part of the signature I use for emails when I am in Cheddington.

This gives time to build up a history of posts, and to decide whether a Blog is a useful means of communication with the parishes. Blogs are useful: they are immediate, easier to administer and update than a web site, and quickly keep people informed of what their parish priest is doing. One wonders what they get up to! If the Bishop can have a blog, so I suppose should I.

What of today? The rain has eased for the time being. We had 11 at the Pram Service this morning, which was good as some of the regulars are still away and poor Nicola had an infection that prevented her joining us.

Still lots of work on service planning and sermon writing, even though August should by rights be a quiet time for clergy. Not so here, but it's good I can start the first month when the pressure is reduced and the telephone is not ringing quite as often as it might.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Strange weather

A cold morning for mid August.

The temperature at breakfast time was 12C. By the time of the Holy Communion service at 9.15am the sun was out, but after a fine morning the afternoon was a mixture of thunderstorms, very heavy bursts of rain, hail, bright sunshine and rainbows. The road through Cheddington resembled runoff from a rain forest at one point. It is turning into a wet summer.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Morning Prayer

It was raining heavily in London as I set out for Morning Prayer at St Luke's Church Uxbridge Road. Bob Mayo from Shepherd's Bush and Ben Humphries from White City are regulars, but we met Fr Robin the new priest at St Luke's for the first time.

A fine bacon sandwich for breakfast afterwards at the Adelaide Cafe.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Sunday 10 August 2008

Rotation around the parishes continued last week. We held the sung Holy Communion service at Wingrave. There were a lot of people there, probably more than the previous week at Wing.

The previous night, Mrs Bouquet (aka Bucket) held her Mediterranean Supper in the church at Wingrave, and a good time was had by all. The food was excellent. It was hard to work out how such a feast was produced from such a compact kitchen. The starter was melon wrapped in Parma ham (or maybe Serrano). I then selected chicken with Mediterranean vegetables. Then there was a choice of desserts, from which I managed to try at least three. Baklava is one of my favourites. Finally a good cheese board (including Manchego I think - that diagonal striped rind gives it away) and coffee with sweets.

How come some people win nothing in a raffle, where others with a strip of 5 end up being drawn three times, and graciously putting their tickets back to be drawn again? Are some people naturally lucky, I wonder?

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Righteousness and Faith - 10 August Wingrave

Matthew 14:22-33 Romans 10:5-15

What does this passage from Romans mean?

Paul’s statements pile one on another – difficult to entangle

To do with righteousness of non-Jews (Gentiles) compared to unbelief of Jews (God’s elect – so why did they disbelieve – this was a problem for Paul)

Is salvation for all?


GENTILES – came to faith effortlessly by believing the proclamation by Paul about Jesus Christ – and thereby will be saved

JEWS – worked diligently to observe Law and so be justified and reckoned by God as righteous – yet have rejected faith in Christ the Messiah as the only means of becoming truly righteous as they cannot be saved through their own efforts alone.

Argument is about

Faith in Christ

Works of the Law

Modern parallel

Those who attend church but do not allow Faith to really change the way they live their lives

Those who may or may not attend church or observe religious practices outwardly, but develop a close and personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit in their inner being, as a result of which one can see their whole lives are changed

You cannot know God by

Attending church

Listening to words

Participating in liturgy

Religious observance

That is WORKS

It is a form of righteousness that in the end cannot be effective

It is incomplete

It misses the point

That’s what Paul meant when he said WORKS of the Law is like

Bringing Christ down, or

Raising him from the dead

Only God can do that

We cannot through our own efforts

As Paul says, all we need to do is

Listen to the Word that is near us

On our lips

In our hearts

And believe

This was the simple child-like faith shown by Peter in the miracle story of Walking on Water

His open and trusting acceptance that he could do the seemingly impossible enabled him to do so

When he thought about it – rationalized it – he failed and started to sink

When he sank, he called out “Jesus save me”

Jesus reached out his hand

He did not tell Peter he was doing it all wrong – like a surfer putting his weight in the wrong place and toppling over

He chided Peter for his lack of Faith – not his lack of technique

It was his faith that was missing, and Peter started to fail

It was Faith that got him started when no one else in the boat was prepared to take a step into the unknown

It was Faith that enabled Peter to continue against all the odds

It was a failure of Faith that caused him to doubt

Those in the boat watched and learned

They developed their own faith

It was their reaction “Truly you are the Son of God” that ends the story

Simple child-like trusting faith that believes and not spend too long on the rituals, the right and wrong ways of doing things, the minutiae of theology – the WORKS of the Law in other words.

May we all listen and learn – strive to develop this kind of faith – learnfrom what we have ourselves seen and heard.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Marriage in Wales

I had the privilege of witnessing the swearing of an Affidavit for a local resident who will be getting married in Wales, in pursuant of the issue of an Archbishop's Special Licence.

Our prayers go with the couple as they prepare for their marriage together. There will be plenty of time for marriage exploration to enable them to look more closely at their relationship in the weeks to come.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Today we commemorate the hymn writer J M Neale. I spoke a little about him at the Holy Communion service:

  • J M Neale Hymn Writer 1866
  • Today we commemorate John Mason Neale – died today age 48 in 1866
  • Familiar to Anglicans from small print in hymn books
    • All glory laud and honour

    • O come O come Emmanuel

    • Christ is made the sure foundation

  • Prolific – one-tenth of English Hymnal are his

  • Born 1818 – educated Sherborne and Trinity Cambridge – ordained 1841

  • Dogged by ill health all life – appointed incumbent of Crawley Sussex but health broke down before the institution service

    • Recuperated 3 years Madeira

    • Never able to take up parish ministry

    • Became Warden of Almshouse for rest of life

  • Interested in orthodox church liturgy – was anglo-catholic when it was fashionable to imitate the RC church – founded largest Anglican religious community for women dedicated to education of girls and nursing the sick

    • More hymn translator than writer

    • Almost all translations from old Latin or Greek texts

    • Hardly any original works

    • Hard to know what his own faith was, unlike Wesleys

    • One of his only original hymns is 418

    • Confession of faith rather like Peter’s in today’s gospel reading

O happy band of pilgrims,
if onward ye will tread
with Jesus as your fellow,
to Jesus as your head!

O happy if ye labour
as Jesus did for men;
O happy if ye hunger
as Jesus hungered then!

The cross that Jesus carried
he carried as your due;
the crown that Jesus weareth,
he weareth it for you.

The faith by which ye see him,
the hope in which ye learn,
the love that through all troubles
to him alone will turn.

What are they but forerunners
to lead you to his sight?
What are they save the effluence
of uncreated light?

The trials that beset you,
the sorrows ye endure,
the manifold temptations
that death alone can cure.

What are they but his jewels
of right celestial worth?
What are they but the ladder
set up to heaven on earth?

O happy band of pilgrims,
look upward to the skies,
where such a light affliction
shall win you such a prize!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


Yesterday afternoon there was a funeral at St Giles Church in Cheddington. It was taken by the Revd Roger Hale.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those family and friends who mourn.

Listening to others

I am listening to Nielsen's 5th symphony on Radio 3 as I type this. One of my fellow Prommers, who worked for the US Embassy in London and who has since been posted back to the States, said he would travel almost any distance to hear Nielsen's music. I've never quite shared his enthusiasm, but I'm always willing to give it another go.

Talking of listening to others, or in this case not, I am glad to see that the Lambeth Conference is off the front pages for the first time in many days. I won't say anything about the positions taken by the opposite wings of the Anglican church except to rejoice that the arguments seem to mean very little to the ordinary folk in the pews and even less to the people I meet as I walk around the village. Talk of division and schism has had its strong impact though. People might not understand, but the picture of the Church that has been painted is damaging, especially as talk of schism is hardly important where we not only don't argue about such things as the authority of Scripture, but we are constantly crossing denominational lines in our worship and meeting.

The attempts by Archbishop Rowan to concentrate on what we all agree on rather than what we disagree about is laudable, and always a good tactic when a body of people is prepared to set out battle lines. Sadly his closing remarks that we should listen more to the African churches seems unlikely to be carried into practice if the representatives of those churches are not prepared to come to the conference and be heard direct, rather than  through the media.

On the front pages today, instead of the church we have pictures of a tearful Michael Vaughan who resigned as England cricket captain. The headline is "What makes men weep?" Perhaps it is a good thing that the traditional male stiff upper lip seems increasingly weak around the tear ducts. One might want to weep for the Church sometimes.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Feeding of 5,000 - Wing 3 August

Wing Sunday 3 August 2008 – Matthew 14: 13 – 21

What are we to make of the miracles of Jesus?

Miracles can be interpreted


What really happened?

Can it be explained in some other way?

Theology in 1960’s


What is the meaning in the miracles?

What do we learn from what is related?

How does this strengthen our faith?

Should not choose between one and the other.

Miracles really happened – too many witnesses

So many clues given by Jesus to his intended teaching that we cannot just regard them as a series of events without any special meaning

Two feeding miracles

Feeding of 5,000 (Matt; Mk; Lk)

Feeding of 4,000 (Matt; Mk)

Too close to be duplicates

Mark draws distinction between them

Some people say the numbers and even colours are significant

No time to go into this today

Meaning for today is the same in both

Meaning for today


Compassion for the people

Like sheep without a shepherd

No food in a deserted place

Late at night

No compassion for Jesus

Wanted to be alone

John the Baptizer had been beheaded


Allegory of Church’s celebration of the Eucharist

Feeding/banquets/feasts all mean Kingdom of God

Last Supper

Prodigal Son

Wedding in Cana

Parable of Great Banquet

This is no exception

Bread = Word of God (people do not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God) = Jesus (bread of life)


Model of Creation

God provides super abundance

There is plenty for all, and much is left over

But we must take only what we need and share the food fairly

Gives us insight into nature of Jesus – who he is

Jesus is the new Moses

Matthew’s gospel mainly addressed to Jews

They would see the parallel between Moses and the Manna in the Sinai, and Jesus providing food in a deserted place

More importantly, and for us Jesus is God

He provides in creation

He walks on water immediately afterwards

He is master of the elements – stills the storm

He does what only God can do

He has compassion – does not send people away

He makes us whole again

Disciples did not often realise this

It was blasphemy

But later in same chapter after Jesus walks on water they recognise him as Son of God:

“Peter said ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. He said ‘Come.’ When they got back into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Friday 1 August

11 at the Pram Service this morning, which was a good number considering that a few regulars are away. More will be leaving for holidays before next week, but we will continue through August as long as there are any mums and kids who want to come.

Afterwards tea and a biscuit at the Methodist Chapel with the older folks before they started playing triominoes.

A late arrival for Vicky, who was held up in London on a conference call with some institutional shareholders and a chief executive on a cell phone in the US, who kept losing coverage.

Good thing I managed to mow the lawns and do some scarifying. The heavens opened and it rained for most of the rest of the day. The water should do the brown grass some good.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Thursday 31 July

Last day of July already. The day started early with a van parked outside before breakfast. They had come to replace an old sliding patio door that would not slide properly any more and could not be securely and reliably locked.

Whilst they were working I went to take the 9.15am Holy Communion where the gospel reading and the talk were on the strange ending to Matthew 13 on Parables.

Afterwards there was a meeting with Derek and Siv at the Rectory until midday, when we discussed issues relating to all the churches and the planning of services during August and into the autumn.

Godly Play this afternoon in the Methodist Chapel, where Davida taught the children about the Great Family using a sandbox and characters such as Abram, Sarai and Isaac.

Sunday, 27 July 2008


27 July 2008 Mentmore


My love of meaning in the miracles, parables, metaphorical stories and allegories

Matthew 13 – mustard seed; yeast; treasure hidden in field; pearl of great price; good and bad fish

Mustard seed – relevance to baptism? No, all refer to Kingdom of Heaven.


20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Genesis 15

Jacob was buying a wife

Swindled brother out of inheritance (birthright)

Impersonated brother to deceive father and receive Isaac’s blessing

Escapes brother’s fury

Has dream at Bethel – ladder to heaven – wrestles with God – conversion experience

Meets cousin Rachel by a well. Love at first sight. Kisses her.

Uncle Laban gives Rachel to Jacob as wife – 7 years service. Swindles – gives him elder sister Leah instead. Serves another 7 years.

Serves 14 years for Rachel – difficulty in becoming pregnant – Leah and servants produce many sons before Rachel conceives. Such love

God is Love

We cannot fully understand – but can get glimpses of what God’s love means

Romans 8 – All things work together for good for those who love God

Sometimes hard to accept – natural disasters; premature death of babies; pain and suffering

Romans 8 in context of Suffering – “God’s Spirit helps us in our weakness and suffering and intercedes for us with God”

We also see God’s love mirrored in human love

Jacob’s love for Rachel

One human being’s love for another

Parent’s love for a child

From human love we can learn more about God’s love for us

Wanting to be with the loved one – test of desire to marry

Desire to talk to each other

Sacrifices we are prepared to make for each other

God’s love shown to us in that God did not withhold his only Son

Rom 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”