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.