All posts by Alan

Priest in Charge of Hale with Badshot Lea

Future Services

Many of you will have seen the service for 29th March.  For future services I would like to enable more people to contribute.  So…

If you have only a telephone with no special features …

Alan can record any comments you would like to make over the phone.  Please call the Rectory and arrange a time to do this.  It will involve calling Alan on his mobile – and a number will be provided to do this.

If you have a smartphone/computer with camera and microphone

Worship has developed over the years into the form that it has, but now we are temporarily unable to meet there are other ways to express our faith.

Please let me know whether you would like a live service that lots of people can join and join in.

If you would like to record a video or sound; make something and take a picture of it; write some prose; share something you found on the web – whatever you have found that has fed you spiritually; please send it to Alan to pull it together.  With Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter coming up I am sure we could create a cornucopia of material for others to enjoy.

Large files can be sent to Alan via https://www.filemail.com/

If you don’t know how to use the computer to do this

  1. Click on the magnifying glass at the bottom left of the screen.
  2. Search for Camera
  3. Click on the Camera App option
  4. Click on the Video button on the right hand side of the screen so that it is white.
  5. Click on it again to start videoing
  6. Click the red square to stop videoing.
  7. Open File Explorer and then Camera Roll – you should find the video you have recorded there.
  8. Use FileMail to select a video and send it to Alan.

I look forwards to receiving lots of material.

Sunday Worship

I am not going to stream a service.  Instead I will curate (not as in a curate) one, picking bits and pieces from all over the place!  The links are all to YouTube and they will open in another window.  Close that window to return here.  Some videos have adverts, but there is usually a button at the bottom right that will skip them after about 5 seconds.

Other services do exist!  the Church of England among others.

Sunday 29th March 2020

Before the Service

Opening Hymn

Welcome

Confession

Gloria

Collect

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

OR

Gracious Father,
you gave up your Son
out of love for the world:
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,
that we may know eternal peace
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings

Hymn

Gospel Reading

John 11:1-45  – Alan or Rachel

Sermons

I’m afraid you can have lots of these!

Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is,
seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Intercessions

Peace

Hymn

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

Hymn

Notices

Please send feedback on this service to Alan.  Also, it is possible that we could hold a live service that anyone with a computer with a camera and microphone can join in along with everyone else.   Is this something that you are interested in doing?  Please email Alan.

Blessing

Hymn

I hope you enjoyed this.  If you would like to take part in a future service by contributing a clip, please let Alan know.  I am trying to follow the rota, but of course there isn’t one for St Mark’s, and not everyone on the rota has the ability to record a video.

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Thought for the Day

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  Mark 8:35

 When I preach I usually preach on the Gospel set for the day, but today I feel called to preach on this passage.

This week has seen a remarkable transformation in our country, and in other countries around the world.  At the start of the week most things were happening pretty much as normal.  Then things changed rapidly.

On Monday Lesley and I felt ill, and have self diagnosed with Covid-19 (with current advice no one else is going to do so) and are now self isolating.

On Friday two of the boys came home from uni, so we will be self isolating for 14 days from then (unless the advice changes again).

By Friday most things were shut down.

And yet…

  • We read about young people partying because they have no reason to be scared of it (not strictly true – but perceptions matter) .
  • The Blitz Spirit is invoked, as though standing up to the virus is similar to standing up to bombing.
  • People with second homes away from the cities are going to stay there, where the risk of infection is perhaps lower, but perhaps the risk of overloading the NHS should the virus spread in those areas (the risk being higher now that lots of people from many different places are moving in).

What do all these have in common?  It is people looking at the situation from only one perspective.

My take on today’s reading is that Jesus is telling us that acting on our own selfish wants is not the way to live a fulfilling life.

It will depend on your definition of “the Gospel”, but I believe that the Good News that Jesus is calling us to is “Life in all its fulness“, and that this is achieved by working towards the Kingdom of God, which is working towards making this world the way that God wants it to be.

As a country and a world we have been becoming more and more insular: believing that we control our own destiny.  Death is something which is seen as unnatural for people under 70 (or perhaps older) and has become something we don’t talk about (perhaps we should – note the date of the article – factual information may be out of date).  Yet only a century ago the Spanish Flu killed between 17-50 million people; the two world wars killed about 20 million and 75 million respectively.  Before the creation of the NHS 6% of children were expected to die before they were 1.

For most of history we have known that life was precarious, and that we rely on each other.  We have also known that employment could be precarious, until the rise of the unions, and as their influence wanes we are discovering it again.

And yet this myth persists that we are in charge of our own destiny.  This myth leads us away from the Kingdom of God, where we care for each other.

John Donne wrote: No man is an island, and during this pandemic we seem to be rediscovering this, and rediscovering the Kingdom of God (to be clear, I am not saying that God sent the virus so that this would happen, but when things do happen God can find some good in them, however  bad they may be, as well as comforting those who are suffering).  Let us pray that that sense of the Kingdom of God lasts beyond the current pandemic.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Nicodemus

The reading for this Sunday is about Nicodemus– and yet it is also very tempting to preach on the last two verses!  However, I am going to resist and look at Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was an influential religious man, he belonged to the Sanhedrin, which met every day in Jerusalem.  And yet he appeared not to understand metaphor!  Or chose not to.  The word translated “from above” can also be translated “again” – an interesting aside is when Christians ask if you have been born again, do they mean from above?

The imagery of being born again was common at the time in both Jewish and Gentile culture – it was used for Jewish converts (two sources I have disagree about this!) and for various mystery religions.

It perhaps becomes obvious which Jesus meant when he goes on to talk about being born of the spirit (the aside about the wind would have come about because in both Hebrew and Greek the word for wind and spirit is the same), and the similarity of the two is that they are both only visible by the impact that they have.

So, to paraphrase, Nicodemus goes to see Jesus at night (never a good sign in John’s Gospel which frequently compares light and dark, day and night) and says that “we” recognise your signs as coming from God – but when Jesus tells him that he must be born from above, to be born of the spirit, he wavers.

Of course it is also possible that he was fully aware of what Jesus was saying to him, but was unwilling to take the steps required and was replying in kind – a kind of verbal tennis.

The question then becomes “what about us?”.  Are we willing to be born from above – to change our lives?

There are long arguments in Christianity about which beliefs are “orthodox” – leading to excommunication for those who do not conform – but in this passage Jesus appears to more interested in “orthopraxy” – right practice.  At least with this we can try to do the right thing.  I know of no way to force myself to change my mind if I don’t believe something, but I can make myself do things.

So – the last two verses!  I couldn’t resist.

John 3:16 is perhaps the most quoted verse in the Bible – it used to make a regular appearance in the crowd at sporting events, but how was it being used?  To me it felt as though it was being used to mean: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who does not believes in him may not perish but may not have eternal life”.  And yet the following verse suggests to me that this is far from God trying to catch people out, but trying to help us.

Now surely that is a God worth believing in – and a God worth responding to.

 

Some of the Sermon on the Mount!

This Sunday in church we are reading Matthew 5:13-20.  Here are some thoughts which will form the basis of my sermon.

I am particularly interested in vv17-20.  There seems to be some form of contradiction in these verses.  Jesus tells us that he has not come to abolish the law, and seems to make dire threats against those who teach otherwise.  And yet Peter abolishes kosher law (Acts 10:9-23) and Paul argues that following the law is a problem (Galatians 5:4-6).

There are some logical solutions to this!

“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished”… If Jesus incarnation, death and/or resurrection have caused heaven and earth to pass away, or if they have caused all to be accomplished…

What “law” is Jesus talking about?  Traditionally “law or the prophets” refer to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, and the prophets writings.  However, this includes Leviticus which contains the kosher laws.  If we look at the vv that follow this weeks reading then we may see that they are a commentary on the 10 commandments.  Or on the commandments which Jesus is about to give – where he interprets the 10 commandments in a harder, but more loving way.

Alternatively we might see the law as Jesus expounds it in Matthew 22:34-40 as fulfilling the law and yet at the same time as undermining the “law” as taught by the Pharisees which created additional laws, just to be on the safe side!  God’s laws were broad principles.  Jewish laws defined the principles in fine detail.  After all the passage ends: On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Another approach is to look at who Matthew is writing for – which is the Jews.  If you are writing to the Jews, it would be sensible to emphasise the continuity with Judaism with its emphasis on the Law and Prophets – Jesus is not doing anything that does away with the Law and the Prophets – even though later disciples do.

Why this questioning?  Personally I find a conflict between the Two Great Commandments and some of the others (I am not arguing for us to ignore the 10 commandments – perhaps even to extend them to not coveting our neighbours husband!).

A couple of the commentaries I read say that this is the hardest passage if scripture to interpret (trust me to pick it!).

If this passage worries you, what you have to do is figure it out for yourself – although you can also accept that you can’t make sense of it.

It’s Christmas!

Have you exceeded the speed limit?

Have you cycled on the pavement?

Have you ever knocked on someones door and run away?

Have you activated your burglar alarm without nominating a key holder who can turn it off in your absence?

Have you sung happy birthday to a friend in public without a copyright license?

All of the above are against the law.  Congratulations if you have answered no to all of them!  But…

Have you driven a car before 1976 without a bale of hay?

Are you a man born before 1943?  Did you keep up your longbow practice?

That is the problem with the law – there are so many, including the ones you don’t know about that it is impossible to keep them all.

So what has this got to do with Christmas?  What we are celebrating is the coming of God to earth, but more than that, we are celebrating a whole new way of being right with God.

Lots of religions, and I only haven’t said all except Christianity because I don’t know about all of them, believe that you get right with God by doing the right things, by keeping the “law”.  This was certainly the case with 1st Century Jews who not only had the 10 commandments, but the 613 laws of Moses and others that the pharisees had created to ensure that none of the others were broken – except it wasn’t possible to keep all the laws.

Jesus was born to bring Good News to the world – the good news being that it wasn’t keeping the law that made us right with God.  Instead God loves all of us – whatever we have done – being right with God depends on God – not us.  If you look at the Bible – the only people that Jesus has no time for are those who tell everyone that you have to behave – having created laws which people find impossible to keep, and which they cannot keep themselves, despite perhaps appearing to do so.

Now at this point you might well point me towards a lot of those Christians you hear on the radio telling you about the all the “laws” that you have to keep.  All I can say is that I fundamentally disagree with them.  Unfortunately the press like conflict and the extremes of the Church of England get more press time than the centre.  This parish and the three churches in it are members of Inclusive Church, an organisation whose vision is, in part:

We believe in inclusive Church – a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate. We will continue to challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality.

God is not a God who is watching over you, trying to catch you doing something you shouldn’t – adding up the pluses and minuses like some Santa figure trying to figure out if you are “naughty or nice”.  God is a God who wants us all to have life in all its fullness – to live this life in a way that is fulfilling and life giving.  That is the Good News that Jesus was born to bring to us – isn’t that something worth celebrating?

However, this isn’t some excuse for us all to do whatever we want.  If God wants us all to have life in all its fullness then we cannot enjoy our life in such a way that others ability to enjoy theirs is impacted.  If we insist on overheating the planet because we want our creature comforts, then others homes get flooded; if we want to pay less in taxes then those without the ability to earn sufficient to live will suffer; if we refuse to look after refugees, and others less well off than ourselves, then what for their life in all its fullness?  The Jewish scriptures, based on law, defend the rights of the widow the alien and the orphan – how can we basking in God’s love do less?

Of course, if you believe in a God who is trying to catch you out then you will find that a different set of priorities are necessary and you might start telling people how they should behave to be right with God.

No wonder Jesus birth is seen as Good News – now we can all live the lives that he calls us to – lives that allow us and everyone else to enjoy life in all its fullness.  No wonder we are celebrating the incarnation – God with us.  If you aren’t already part of it I invite you to join this journey of faith and to share in the Good News.

Advent 3 – John the Baptist

Matthew 11:2-11

What is the source of John’s question?

  • Was it asked on his own behalf, or on behalf  of others?
  • Was it a question of impatience – when was Jesus going to start judging, or was it one of misunderstanding the role of Messiah.
  • Did John know Jesus was the Messiah before he was imprisoned?  Or is it dawning on him?  This requires that we assume that the author of this pericope did not know Matthew 3:14ff.

The answers Jesus give are oblique.  One approach is to look at the political situation – If Jesus had said “yes” then Herod would have heard this on the rumour mill, and it would have been a direct challenge.  By quoting scripture Jesus can claim Messiahship without upsetting Herod.  

However, in the answers all the evidence of what Jesus is doing involves compassion and healing rather than judgement and condemnation.  John preached divine holiness with divine judgement and destruction – see last weeks winnowing fork and axe – Jesus preaches divine holiness and love.  Perhaps this is why John is asking – Jesus doesn’t match with his expectation.

Jesus questions about John are in fact a questioning of Herod – again however, without providing Herod with enough evidence to hang him.

a reed shaken by the wind can mean two things

  • a proverb for the commonest sights
  • a weak waverer

Herod’s coins had a symbol of a reed on them, and Herod himself was seen as a waverer.  John was neither of these.  People do not go out into the desert to see either.

soft/luxurious robes were the sign of a courtier – a flatterer of Kings – which was far from John.

Prophets have a message from God and the courage to deliver it.  John was certainly this.

Elijah was expected to return before the Messiah and Jesus gives him this role.

Why was John less that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven?  One interpretation is that “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven means Jesus.  But if all are considered members of the Kingdom of Heaven then John had not seen the crucifixion, the demonstration of the love of God.  As above John has been preaching destruction – hardly Good News – but Jesus preached and then lived out God’s love and all in the Kingdom of Heaven know this.

Advent 2

Matthew 3:1-12

This Sunday we remember the Prophets, and the thing about John the Baptist is that there hasn’t been a prophet in Israel for 400 years.  The passage is full of symbolism, a lot of which we won’t naturally understand

John dresses in the same way as Elijah (2 Kings 1:8)  – and the old prophets (Malachi 4:5) say that Elijah will come before the Messiah.

He (mis)quotes Isaiah: A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

In pre Roman times most roads were not made up – the only roads that were made up were for the King to use – so the passage is equating the Lord with the King – the Messiah.

At the heart of the passage is a call to repentance, and a call to trusting in God’s grace.  Jewish faith believed in repentance as the way (back) to God.  There were nine norms of repentance:

  1. Wash
  2. Make yourself clean
  3. remove evil doings from God’s sight
  4. Cease to do evil
  5. Do good
  6. Seek justice
  7. Rescue the oppressed
  8. Defend the orphan
  9. Plead for the widow

The latter three of these being a constant refrain – to care for the alien, the orphan and the widow – perhaps something to contemplate in the forthcoming election!

The condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees comes because they believe that keeping the law is what is required, and that being children of Abraham guarantees that they will be right with God – not repentance.  In Aramaic the words for children and stones are similar, and so John is using word play to attack them.

Finally we come to the axe at the foot of the tree and the winnowing fork.  Those of us who lean towards a loving God struggle with these images – but they only apply to those who do not repent, and repentance can happen at any time.  However, I would want to argue that the sooner we repent the better – life is better lived in the light of repentance than it is otherwise and life lived without repentance is already a form of hell!

Where are you on the journey of repentance?

 

Part Time Job

We are looking to recruit a part time administrator, with some flexibility over hours.  Attached below is a Role Description.

If you would like to know more about this, please contact Alan Crawley, 01252 820537 revd.alan@badshotleaandhale.org.

If you wish to apply, please send a CV to Alan with a covering letter explaining how you think you meet the requirements by Wednesday 15th May 2019.

Role Description for Paid Administrator