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.