Thursday, 25 June 2009

Thursday 25 June

Gospel Matthew 7

True and False Disciples

21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.


Last week – Lord’s Prayer – Sermon on the Mount – now towards end there are Warnings.

First, declaration about the Two Ways – narrow and wide gates. Enter through narrow gate – broad gate leads to destruction. Narrow is the gate that leads to life – few people find it.

Stern warning – does this mean that few of us will find salvation – and that this depends more on the way we act rather than the teaching of Paul that the grace of God is sufficient in itself, and no one can merit eternal life.

Or, does it mean we should ACT as if only a few will enter Paradise, and not take the grace of God for granted.

Next warning – true and false prophets. We should judge our teachers by their fruits – by the way they act. Not everyone who calls upon the Lord is a true disciple of his, but only those who do God’s will.

By way of illustration, there is yet another comparison. All are opposites. The parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders. It’s about obedience and disobedience. One leads to Salvation. The other destruction.

There are no shades of grey in this passage. No ‘fairly well built.’ Just cowboy builders and skilled craftsmen.

What does the storm stand for? The ups and downs and trials of life? Or judgement day? Probably the final judgement – the complete destruction of the badly built house is too final to be the vicissitudes of life.

So heed the warnings of the Sermon on the Mount. The Christian life is not a cosy existence. Much is given to us, and from us much will be demanded. Hear the words of the Lord, and put them into practice.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Parish retreat

This weekend, we are all off to Pershore for our weekend at Holland House.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Cheddington Bells

Did you know that the oldest bell at St Giles is over 450 years old?

Without your help, they could be irreparably damaged by cracking caused by corrosion of the wrought iron staples from which the bells are hung. We need £11,000 to send the bells away for repair, and to replace the bearings.

Bell 5 was cast probably by John Saunders, who was active from 1539 to 1559. Its inscription [S]ancta Maria ora pro nobis (Holy Mary, pray for us) suggests that he cast it during the reign of Mary Tudor (1554-8) who tried to re-impose Catholicism as the state religion. She married Philip II of Spain, who in 1588 launched the Spanish Armada against England.

Bell 3 was cast by John Dyer in 1593, the year Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew was first performed, and the London theatres closed during the summer because plague was rife.

Bell 4 was cast at Oxford by John Keen in 1634, while Charles I was making himself unpopular by reintroducing the ship-money tax.

Bells 2 and 6 (tenor) date from 1638, the year Charles tried to impose his prayer book on the Scots. This caused the Bishops’ War with Scotland, the precursor of the English Civil Wars (1642-8).

In 1649 Charles I lost his head, and under Cromwell’s government the bells fell silent for ten years. In many churches, the fun-loving puritans removed them and melted them down. They also banned maypole dancing, and in 1647 they even banned Christmas. Thankfully, Cheddington’s five bells survived, and villagers have rung them ever since, except in time of war.

In 1911 the oldest bell was re-cast and a sixth (Bell 1 or treble) was added, giving us the peal we have today.

The bell ringers also welcome new members, young or old. So if you would like to try your hand at ringing them, just as your predecessors have done for centuries, contact Alan Masters on 01296 668024 or

Trinity Sunday

The Revd Brandy Pearson

Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8
John 3:1-17

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable to you Lord my rock and my redeemer. Amen

My dad – electrician – drew electrical diagrams on fag packets – mysterious and difficult to understand – church – often presents Trinity in a similar way – mysterious and difficult diagram - concept

In some ways understandable – important to early church to be clear about their experience of and beliefs about God – blood and mayhem and heresy - took couple of hundred years for church to become clear enough to put together the creeds – but can make it more difficult than necessary to understand – How can the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be one? Medieval images of Trinity – old man on a throne – a dove – another man on a cross - difficult not to think of three separate beings if regard Trinity in this way

This also encourages us to think of God as static – still ––my dad’s diagrams - I came to understand electrical systems are about the flow of electricity – diagram static representation of something dynamic/moving – God is dynamic – perichoresis – not strange ailment but dancing around – description of God – Father Son and HS not three separate beings but as three elements in the dance that is the Godhead

Perhaps sounds fanciful? - let’s start with what we know – human beings – me – I am a dance – so are each one of you. OK, I have a physical form – but human beings are social animals – my life is full of my encounters and relationships with other people – with you today. If you ask me about my nature – I am no more fixed and static than God

Preaching – dressed as priest – vicar – to my parishioners in Acton Green I am a priest who does priestly things – to Rob – I am wife, to your vicar – friend – to my children I am parent – to my cats an opener of doors, somewhere to sit, someone who feeds them.

And even in these relationships there is no stillness – it’s about what I do - preaching, celebrating, visiting, informing, teaching, enabling

married a long while – friend, mother of babies, children, adult kids

to your vicar – studied together, been in group projects, seen each other ordained – visited one another’s churches

each activity in my life is part of the dance of who I am - and each one of us is the same. We only stop dancing on this earth when we die – and then we believe that the dance continues elsewhere

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

God loves us – God relates to us – each one as individuals – the dance that is me is actually a part of the dance that is God - In a way it’s surprising that we only acknowledge the three persons, aspects of God – God as fount of all being – parent of all that is – who did not merely make the world – but made the world make itself (Charles Kingsley) so that it could be whole and complete – but did not make it and walk away – made it with such love that cares for each atom and sub-molecular particle – GK Chesterton – God creates each daisy individually - “God so loved the world...” - cares for each one of us so much that God comes to us – gives visions – speaks – supremely comes among us as Jesus Christ – “that he gave his only Son” – we are a part of the dance that is God - not in some general way – but loves us each as individuals –– relates to us individually – gets God’s hands dirty – incarnation - God shows us the Way – God is the Way... and in the Holy Spirit gives us the life not only to live and grow and prosper – to take part in the life eternal of God

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

How do we witness to that belief? – “by being born of water and the Spirit” – in baptism with water we take on a relationship to the church – which is each person of the church - and God breathes on us – fills us with the Holy Spirit – life – not only in the here and now of this material world – but in the eternity of our relationship with the eternal God

And even here there is no rest – no static end – God comes to us – and we are sent out to others – all part of the eternal dance of love – Isaiah

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” and I said, “Here I am, send me.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Constructing Rules for Christian Living

Thursday 4 June 2009 Cheddington

Reading 1 Peter 2 TNIV

The Living Stone and a Chosen People

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by human beings but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
       "See, I lay a stone in Zion,
       a chosen and precious cornerstone,
       and the one who trusts in him
       will never be put to shame."

7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
       "The stone the builders rejected
       has become the cornerstone,"

8 and,
       "A stone that causes people to stumble
       and a rock that makes them fall."
       They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Gospel Mark 12 TNIV

The Greatest Commandment

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.


1st letter of Peter probably not written by a Galilean fisherman. Uses sophisticated Greek language, and is familiar with rhetoric and Greek thought. Still very important authentic writing. Unlikely to be by Paul as it does not use any of the familiar Pauline theology or phrases. Probably penned quite late in the 1st century.

This reading from 1 Peter 2 is headed “God’s Chosen People.” It uses the analogy of building. The word stone occurs again and again.

Christ, it says, is the living stone. He was rejected by human beings in general – that is the builders – but God selected Jesus as the cornerstone. That is of course the most important and vital stone in the entire building, without which the whole edifice will come crashing down.

What, then, is this building? It’s like the Temple, but not the Jerusalem temple. That had probably been destroyed before this letter was written. No, the temple is the spiritual house rather than any physical one. We ourselves are living stones in that building – the construction in which Christ is the cornerstone. The building may be the church, or the body of Christians.

Christians in the early church were being persecuted and reviled, yet in this building they are chosen and honoured by God. They are precious, it says, just as the cornerstone that was rejected by the builders is chosen and honoured by God.

Here the metaphor gets a bit mixed: as God’s chosen people we are called out of darkness into his wonderful light, and so must behave accordingly. The early Christians lived in a pagan society, but God’s glory shone out through their good deeds. Arguably we also increasingly live in a purely secular society, where the rule is not honour and truth, but rules and how much they can be bent, or how much people can get away with.

The letter then goes on to expand on this message – the principles of good conduct in human society – submitting to one another, and submitting to God. And I suppose there is the link to today’s Gospel, The Greatest Commandment – the golden rule of loving God and one another, from which all Christian conduct stems. Sounds easy, doesn’t it – but simple straightforward commands are so much harder to follow than complex rules. Maybe our MPs might think on that?