Sunday, 22 February 2015


22 February 2015 – Lent 1 at Aston Abbotts and Cublington

Reading Genesis 9: 8-17

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you – the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you – every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’

12 And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’

17 So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.’

Reading 1 Peter 3: 18-end

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Gospel Mark 1: 9-15

The baptism and testing of Jesus

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.


Water a mixed blessing bath and shower — clean feeling after shower — warmth after bath. Rain and farmers — floods in Somerset. Leaking taps, walls, pipes.

Genesis story of floods and Ark — animals 2 by 2 — country folk 4x4 — God’s covenant not to destroy earth again — sign of rainbow.

I Peter only 8 people saved in Ark — water symbolises baptism that saves us now, like Noah. For us, we are saved through resurrection of Christ.

Mark 1: 9-15 Baptism and Testing of Jesus.
We already talked about Baptism of our Lord. Lectionary writers include temptation readings at Lent 1.

Testing What is going on? Testing follows immediately after baptism by John. Like stepping clean from shower into filthy, dirty, sweaty, dusty wilderness — unwashed for 40 days. Testing at start of Ministry.

1. Holy Spirit initiates Testing. 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness. εκβαλλείν — “driven out” — same word for casting out unclean spirits. Forceful. Abrupt. Holy Spirit “enters” Jesus at baptism — possesses him — drives him. Holy Spirit initiates encounter with forces of evil. Formidable adversary — personified as Satan. Satan has a kingdom of his own.

2. Confrontational Mark does not say Jesus successfully passes test — no details of testing. Other synoptic gospels emphasise Jesus’ faithfulness after testing. For Mark, it’s about what God can achieve through this spirit-led, spirit-filled Son.

Mark has no cosy birth narratives, flying angels, stars, lowing cattle. After only 13 verses, Jesus encounters forces of darkness — enemy to God, determined to counter and destroy His intentions for the redemption of His fallen world. Enemies are not human failing and weakness — they are the dark forces of evil — we do well to note.

3. Testing not Temptation — God’s own creation poses no threat to Jesus. Wild animals should be a danger, but not to Jesus. God’s own Son — filled with Holy Spirit — cannot be tempted. Word best translated tested.

Empty tomb — Jesus cannot be confined or held ransom by forces of God’s creation in this world. Not even subject to death itself — let alone wild animals.

4. Kingdom — from verse 14, Jesus immediately proclaims good news. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news. Even though John sent to prison, Jesus returns to Galilee and proclaims the Kingdom.

5. Ministry — immediately Jesus calls first disciples. Join the new era — new state of affairs has come about — Jesus announces God’s intention for all humanity.

This new existence comes about through Holy Spirit — a new existence in the Spirit — family, society, politics, economics, health, well-being, purity, acceptability — no aspect of our lives is unchanged — no aspect unaddressed by God.

Meantime, present moment is dangerous. Perhaps we have become too cosy in our assurance of faith? What Jesus begins is total transformation of world — but it turned on him and ended up rejecting and killing him.

First Sunday of Lent — forget the resolutions, so-called denial that means little — forget even taking up the things we should be doing to balance the ones we give up. Lent is not about chocolate and study — but total transformation.

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! Amen

Sunday, 15 February 2015


15 February 2015 – Sunday next before Lent at Soulbury

Reading 2 Kings 2

Elijah taken up to heaven
2 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.’

But Elisha said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel.

3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, ‘Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?’

‘Yes, I know,’ Elisha replied, ‘so be quiet.’

4 Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’

And he replied, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So they went to Jericho.

5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, ‘Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?’

‘Yes, I know,’ he replied, ‘so be quiet.’

6 Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’

And he replied, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them walked on.

7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’

‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied.

10 ‘You have asked a difficult thing,’ Elijah said, ‘yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours – otherwise, it will not.’

11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’ And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

Reading 2 Corinthians 4

Present weakness and resurrection life
4 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Gospel Mark 9

The transfiguration
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

5 Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.


Transfiguration Sunday

Sermons on what it means:

Gospel Transfiguration — Jesus clothes dazzling white — appears with Elijah and Moses. 2 Corinthians: 6 For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
2 Kings: Elijah’s ascension in whirlwind.

Desire of gospel writers to present Jesus in light of OT. Jesus asks disciples “Who do people say I am?”—answer John Baptizer; Elijah; Jeremiah; one of prophets.

Understandable—prophets reveal God to people—John and Jesus do the same—likened to prophets.
Enoch “walked with God”—pub quiz question “Who in Bible did not die?”

Gen 5 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Like Elijah, did not die—went to be with God. Moses died—he and Elijah in gospels represent Law and Prophets but he died before seeing Promised Land. This explains why in Jesus’ time return of Elijah is expected.

θεοφάνεια theophaneia—appearance of god—examples:
Burning bush; pillar of cloud and fire; thunder and lightning on Mt Sinai; appearances to prophets; baptism of Jesus; transfiguration.

Elaborate—Elijah chariots of fire, horses of fire, whirlwind—God sends heavenly host to pick up his servant. Swing low, sweet chariot—plea in spiritual for God to relieve suffering and oppression, end life and deliver into comfort of afterlife. A band of angels coming after me, coming for to carry me home.

Elijah departed in presence of disciples—Jesus seen in glory in presence of disciples—does not depart but stays to complete ministry and mission. Jesus dies—clear from burial—empty tomb leads on to Ascension.

Today we try to make sense of all this. What is: symbolic value—meaning—reason for inclusion in gospels—what it communicates about Jesus—what Peter’s comments are all about?

Holy event—cannot be figured out—mystery. Must be appreciated, not interpreted. Need to understand in light of OT, but not taken apart.

There are many manifestations of Jesus’ divinity in scripture. Words and actions, epiphany, temptation, sacrifice. Maybe Transfiguration is different. Language of holiness, shining, light, heavenly appearance, endorsement—not private like baptism. Celebratory. Not subtle. God taking delight in beloved Son.

What we learn
Elijah heard sound of sheer silence; Moses chatted with God but only saw his back; Israelites could not tolerate his holiness, but stayed well clear of Sinai.

In Jesus, all changes. We can approach Godhead in confidence through beloved Son. Adopted children inheriting through grace. We see the light —recurrent image of Jesus coming into the world. Looking ahead—light of paschal candle at Easter—dispelling darkness of guilt and sin.

This light shines ahead through Lent. Darkness of Holy Week gives way to revelation of hope and confidence at Easter. Light speaks a promise that God is with us—Emmanuel. Not known through fear and trembling—interpretation of mysteries and miraculous appearances—but now knowable.

God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all. So as we approach Ash Wednesday and the period of Lent, let us use the experience of our own Theophany to approach the Light—Emmanuel, God with us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Friday, 13 February 2015

Baptism of Christ

11 January 2015 – Great Brickhill

Readings Genesis 1: 1 – 5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.

Reading Acts 9: 1 – 7

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’

5 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.

‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 6 ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’

7 The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.

Gospel Mark 1: 4 - 11

Alleluia, alleluia.

This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.


The baptism and testing of Jesus

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’



Mark only book in Bible that announces itself “good news” — says nothing about birth or youth of Jesus.

Baptism of Christ

Starts with Jesus’ baptism — beginning of ministry — John = Messenger in fulfilment of prophecy of Isaiah.

John explains: John baptizes with water — following repentance and forgiveness. Jesus: will baptize with Holy Spirit. In Mark, Jesus sees Spirit descending on him like dove. cf:

John 1.29-34

The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! ... And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

1. Jesus’ Baptism

Did not need baptism — repentance and forgiveness not required — but with Jesus comes gift of Holy Spirit: Beginning of ministry: start of new life in baptism implies end of old. Jesus moves from formation of youth to full time ministry influenced by Holy Spirit.

2. Our baptism

Same elements — repentance; forgiveness; gift of Holy Spirit. Baptism service — renounce old life — begin new life in grace and forgiveness. You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit...

3. Same baptism — ours and Christ’s

James and John enquire about hierarchy —  “the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized” (Mark 10:39). Until Pentecost — no baptism with Spirit.


God gives gift of Holy Spirit — to carry on new life in Christ — to follow him.

Peter’s sermon at Pentecost — listeners ask how they should respond:

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Same components of baptism.

Baptism follows faith

As we develop in our understanding — we notice throughout NT baptism follows faith.

Faith of candidate for baptism and/or

Faith of families — Lydia in Philippi:

14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message 15 then she and the members of her household were baptised (Acts 16)

Same chapter — jailor and entire household. Chapter 18 — Crispus and whole household.

Infant baptism

Infant baptism follows faith of parents.

In baptism we die — through Jesus we are raised again to new life — this is the promise of God. Our promise — bring up child in the faith — equip with knowledge of faith — make informed decision at majority.

Covenant people

In Baptism — we become member of new covenant people. Paul in 1 Cor. 12 talks about the body and its parts:

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body ... and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 And so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer led to death —  “For some this is the end, but for me it is the beginning.”


We give you thanks

because, by water and the Holy Spirit,

you have made us a holy people

in Jesus Christ our Lord;

Renew in us that mystery in bread and wine

to show forth your glory in all the world.