Sunday, 27 September 2009

Letting Go

Sunday 27 September 2009

Reading Numbers 11.4-6,10-16,24-29

4The rabble among the people had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.’

10Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the LORD became very angry, and Moses was displeased. 11So Moses said to the LORD, ‘Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favour in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,” to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, “Give us meat to eat!” 14I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. 15If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once – if I have found favour in your sight – and do not let me see my misery.’

16So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.’

24So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

26Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27And a young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, ‘My lord Moses, stop them!’ 29But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!’

Gospel Mark 9.38-50

38John said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ 39But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

42If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’

Sermon

  • Ever had your computer go wrong?
    • Screen all messes up
    • Won’t connect to the Net
    • Won’t do what it did perfectly well before
  • Ever come home and found your TV recorder did not start, or recorded another channel?
  • Ever tried to reset time on microwave or cooker after a Cheddington mini power cut?
  • Not like a washing machine that floods or
    • Burglar alarm that goes off in the night
    • Car that breaks down
    • In this case you call in an expert
  • Some things you are expected to do yourself
    • Read instruction book?
    • Call helpline in Mumbai?
    • Retry, cancel or abort!
  • Many people resort to 14-year old next door
    • You can’t see how they fix it
    • Fingers move too quickly
    • Still powerless next time
  • We all want to be in control
    • Take charge
    • Feel we can cope whatever happens
    • Get upset and angry when things go wrong
    • Want to do everything ourselves
      • Bad for us
      • Bad for those who are learning
  • Some of us think only they can do things properly
    • So they try and do everything themselves
      • High standards
      • Perfectionists
    • Poor leaders who don’t motivate others
  • Moses not a natural leader
    • Called by God
    • Could not speak
    • Needed Aaron
      • Panicked easily
      • Could not let go
      • Thought he had to do everything himself
  • Children of Israel had been wandering round Sinai 40 years complaining
    • About to enter promised land
    • Led by pillar of cloud and fire
    • Fed with Manna and water
    • Now had a strong craving
      • Would trade freedom for meat and fish
      • Hankered after cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic
      • Bit like a Jamie Oliver programme
      • Criticised look of Manna – like gum resin
  • All Moses could hear was weeping and complaining
    13Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, “Give us meat to eat!” 14I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. 15If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once
  • Did he ask God to provide?
    • No, he felt the entire burden fell on him
    • When Moses succumbed to his misery, God stepped in
      • God did two things (note the order)
      • Forced Moses to delegate – nominated 70 elders who could help – called them to a meeting
      • Provided quails for people to eat
  • In today’s gospel from Mark, disciples complain about others who are healing in Jesus' name but not from their own group
    • They tried in vain to stop them
    • Jesus replied:
      ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us.
  • Language used by Jesus shows us how important is this aspect of our faith
    • If we can’t let go
    • If we have to do everything ourselves
    • If we believe there is only one way things have to be done – our way
  • What message does this give to those who are more impressionable, younger or still seeking for the truth?
    • What did Jesus say to those disciples who wanted to put a stop others teaching and healing in his name?
      42If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.
    • Language gets even more dramatic:
      If your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. If your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out.
  • Then Jesus goes on to talk about salt. What does he mean?
    49For everyone will be salted with fire.
      • No one knows for sure
      • What does it say to you?
      • Fire burns – salt seasons
  • Today we have baptism of Alex Humble
    • This is one occasion where I will not be letting go
    • Also First Communion
      • As we pray for Alex + family + visitors
      • And those taking communion for first time
  • Let’s remember dramatic words of Christ
    • Not act as a stumbling block
    • Support and empower those who work with children and young people
    • Let go of our cherished ways of doing things and help those seeking after truth.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Harvest Festival

A big thank you to all who made our Harvest service such a success.

There were over 100 people in St Giles for the 11.30 service.

The music was wonderful – thanks to Julie Stanley and the choir. Who can forget the Harvest Samba?

Julie Gaymer gave a fascinating interview about rape seed, beans and wheat. Now when we see the fields full of beans, we will know they will be send to Egypt to feed those who would previously have had an abundance before Nile flooding was held back by the Aswan High Dam.

Julie Dunster from Watford New Hope trust spoke movingly about their work with the homeless.

The weather was superb, and everyone stayed to enjoy the BBQ sitting on the grass.

Next year on Rogation Sunday we will all process from the church to Mentmore Farm, blessing the fields on the way and enjoying some seasonal refreshments – put May 9th in your diary.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Jesus and the Sinful Woman

Thursday 17 September 2009

Gospel Luke 7.36 – end (TNIV)

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."

40 Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
       "Tell me, teacher," he said.

41 "Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

43 Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven."
       "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

48 Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Sermon

Gospel Luke 7.36 – end

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."

40 Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
       "Tell me, teacher," he said.

41 "Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

43 Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven."
       "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

48 Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Sermon

  • All 4 gospels have this story
    • Matt, Mark – anointing head
  • Feet very intimate parts of body
    • Only slaves would touch others feet
  • Why did Simon not provide foot washing?
    • Was it a snub?
    • Did he feel Jesus’ status did not warrant?
    • Was he interested in Jesus message?
    • Or just trying to entrap him?
    • If nothing else - discourteous
  • Woman said to be sinner
    • What does this mean?
    • Easy for a woman without a husband to be forced into a life of sin
  • Dinner a semi-public occasion
    • Woman well-off – can afford alabaster jar of ointment
    • Kisses Jesus feet and washes in her tears
      • Why?
  • Jesus turns Simon’s disapproval into a parable
    • 1 denarius = 1 years wages
    • Debt of 500d not insignificant
    • Debt = sin
  • Woman sees her need for forgiveness
    • Simon sees no need
      • So message of parable is lost on him
    • Woman is not responding this way because her sins have been forgiven
      • She hears about outreaching redemption of God through Jesus
    • Different message from Pharisees
  • Jesus assumes title of ‘friend of tax collectors and sinners
    • So the woman is responding to what she has heard
      • Lack of condemnation
      • Recognition
      • Outreach
      • Love
    • All Jesus does is to assure her of the truth of what she has heard
  • She loves not because of forgiveness
    • But assurance that God loves and accepts her as she is
  • Which of them, Woman or Pharisee is the one with the greatest debt?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

3 Words – a bullet pointed life

Trinity 14 St Giles Cheddington

Reading Isaiah 50: 4 – 9a

4 The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue,
       to know the word that sustains the weary.
       He wakens me morning by morning,
       wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

5 The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears;
       I have not been rebellious,
       I have not turned away.

6 I offered my back to those who beat me,
       my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
       I did not hide my face
       from mocking and spitting.

7 Because the Sovereign LORD helps me,
       I will not be disgraced.
       Therefore have I set my face like flint,
       and I know I will not be put to shame.

8 He who vindicates me is near.
       Who then will bring charges against me?
       Let us face each other!
       Who are my accusers?
       Let them confront me!

9 It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me.
       Who will condemn me?

Gospel Mark 8: 27 – end

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah and Jesus Predicts His Death

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"

28 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."

29 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
       Peter answered, "You are the Messiah."

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? 37 Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? 38 If any of you are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

Sermon

The gospel is a familiar reading to those who attended Advent and Lent courses, or Parish Weekend at Holland House. “Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?”

If asked by one of us, question might be “What are people saying about me?” or “What do people think of me?” They would betray some insecurity on our part. Still a question we might usefully ask ourselves from time to time.

Isaiah is clearly being persecuted and bullied for his faith in God. He can have little doubt about what people are saying. He offers his back to those who beat him. He does not hide his face from mockery and spitting. He sets his face like flint and confronts his accusers. He challenges his enemies to bring their charges against him. ‘Let us face each other’ he says ‘because God who vindicates me is near.’

Few of us would want to be so confrontational. Hardly any would want to show a face as hard as flint. None of us have to endure such severe persecution. But all of us are interested in what other people say about us.

So what do people say about you? What would they write in an obituary? What inscription would appear on your grave stone? Something more flattering than ‘a courageous little lady who did her best’ I hope. What bullet points sum you up?

Would what people say be right? Would it be fair, do you think? Or would it be like the Arctic Monkeys CD, which was called Whatever people say I am, That’s what I’m not.

Serena Williams was not being bashful last week at the US Open Tennis. Her T-shirt proclaimed she was Vicious, Ambitious and Delicious. 3 words was all she needed to sum up her winning attitude.

Here are a few other attempts I have seen:

Mrs Jane Jones
Father, brother, husband
Sensitive, caring, kind
A good friend
Child of God
We connect people (that was a mobile phone company)

So let me turn the question round, and ask you how you would like to be described, or how you would ideally want to sum yourself up in only 3 words.

Feel free to turn to the person in front or behind and see what ideas they have. After taking communion, you might like to write your 3 words on this flip chart and I will display it in the church next week.

Peter took 4 words to answer the question “Who do you say I am?” You are the Messiah. One word really. Son of God would be three words, except Jesus never used that title of himself. Son of Man – those were the 3 words Jesus used.

Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer – these three words describe God to us. In the OT when Moses asked God who he was, God used only 2 words I AM.

What you write might of course not represent reality. I suspect it is idealised. Perhaps you are not like that. Maybe your words are what you aspire to. Idealised, rather than fact. How you would like others to see you – not how you really are.

Self help web sites are full of exercise like the one we have just done. The trouble is, you have to help yourself. That’s what self-help means. No one can do it for you. They can only try and help. You are on your own.

But the Christian faith is not like that. We cannot help ourselves. No self help will work. As Paul says in Galatians 2:

...a person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Or in Romans 4, Paul compares those who earn their wages and receive them as of right with our salvation through the grace of God:

4 Now to anyone who works, their wages are not credited to them as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to anyone who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

So what are my 3 words? What will I write on the flip chart? That’s easy – they come from I Corinthians 13. We read the passage at pastoral services quite often. Faith, Hope, Love. That’s all.

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Amen

Friday, 11 September 2009

Pigeon Broadband

I enjoyed this piece from South Africa:

A pigeon in South Africa has proved that ADSL from the country's biggest web firm Telkom is not faster than a carrier pigeon. An IT firm in Durban decided to race the pigeon against uploading data over ADSL from the company's call centre in Howick to it's office in Durban. Winston, the pigeon carried a 4GB microSD memory card between the sites which are approximately 60 km apart. To ensure the test was fair, rules of the test included "no cats allowed" and "birdseed must not have any performance-enhancing seeds within".

The results of the test showed that Winston completed the transfer in 2hrs 6 minutes and 57 seconds (from uploading data on the card to completion of download from the card) giving a transfer rate of 4.2 Mbps (megabits per second). The ADSL transfer was only 4% complete when the pigeon won the race.

Telkom, the ADSL provider said it wasn't to blame for the slow broadband speeds.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Radical and Challenging Ways of Living

Reading Colossians 3: 12 – 17

Living as Those Made Alive in Christ

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Gospel Luke 6: 27 – 38

Love for Enemies

27 "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Sermon

2 readings about how we ought to live.

Colossians: having brought out implications of dying with Christ (Chapter2) Paul now spells out consequences of living with risen Christ. Our concern should be with things above rather than things below.

To the Galatians, Paul wrote “you have put on Christ” like a sort of garment. Here Paul exhorts us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

By comparison, in Luke’s gospel I read part of Jesus’s Sermon on the Plain . Opposition to his mission looks certain. Yet he preaches to a great crowd of disciples in the presence of a multitude of people.

Before delivering the sermon he spends all night on a mountaintop in prayer to God. The words he spoke are much more radical than the dictates of the law, or any moral or ethical code known up to that point.

The golden rule was common enough – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – but the lasting and unique impact of Jesus’s teaching came not in a high moral tone but in his overriding concern for Love.

The attitude demanded of us is nothing short of a total response to God’s call which had not been expressed that way before.

Love extends not only to friends and family but to our sworn enemies too. The command to turn the other cheek sounds familiar enough to us today, but which of us could do it when our faces are burning, our pride is hurt, and every instinct tells us to retaliate?

If someone steals your mobile phone, would you run after them and offer your credit cards too? If someone asks you for a loan and you know they will never pay you back, will you give them the money anyway?

How hard is it not to judge, when you know someone has done you wrong? How hard is it to give freely to anyone who asks you for something, and not ever expect it back?

Put in these terms, suddenly the Sermon on the Plain sounds horribly modern, challenging and counter cultural in our modern ‘Me me’ age. But that’s what Christ taught, brought up to date.

So before we all dismiss his words as irrelevant and hopelessly impractical, ask yourself how the great multitude who first heard it would have reacted. Would the man who had only one coat readily agree to give it away and freeze that night? No doubt he would think up all sorts of reason not to do so, just as we will.

The fact is the message is the same, 2,000 years ago or today. Radical. Challenging. Hard. But clear. There’s no doubting what Jesus said, and we would do well to meditate upon it.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Vicarage Garden Party

Sunday 6 September 2 – 5pm

The Vicarage Garden Party was a great success. Over 100 people were served free tea, cakes, scones and pastries.

garden_party_09-7

The weather was far better than forecast – a perfect day for sitting in the garden, chatting, playing with the kids, and having a good time.

garden_party_09-10

Thanks to everyone who moved chairs, baked, put up the tent, served on the day, printed invitations, and helped in many other ways.

Robert