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|When Jesus said “I am the good shepherd”, as he does in the Gospel reading set for today, the image would have been no surprise to his hearers. It spoke to their ancestral roots: Abraham was a nomadic herdsman, and the sight of shepherds leading their sheep was familiar. The comparison was made by the prophets: the false shepherds, who exploited the people for their own ends, was contrasted with the good shepherds God looked for.||03-05-2020 0:01||Download|
Today’s Gospel reading is the “Road to Emmaus” story. Two disciples are walking home, they are joined by a stranger who explains the scriptures to them, they invite him in and when he takes the bread and breaks it they recognise that it is the risen Lord Jesus. They rush back to Jerusalem only to find that the other disciples have seen him too.
This Sunday is traditionally known as “Low Sunday”. After the great festival of Easter the following week seems routine by contrast. We all know that low feeling when something you have been building up to is over and you are left thinking “now what?” This year, of course, there wasn’t so much of a build-up: our minds were elsewhere, but I think Low Sunday will coincide with a realisation that what we are going through is not an aberration from which we will bounce back but something which will change our country for a decade or more. “Low” may well describe how we feel.
I can remember lots Of Easter Sundays. There was the one when a drunk driver smashed into my father’s car the night before. There was one when I forgot the clocks went forward and missed the early service I was supposed to be taking. I have celebrated communion in the park, I have climbed hills in the hope of seeing the sunrise and, the day after our wedding, I have joined with a small band from the Salvation Army next to our hotel. I don’t think I have ever not gone to church on Easter Sunday: maybe when I was a small child, but never that I can remember.
|In the Gospel reading set for today Jesus is confronted by Martha outside the tomb of her brother Lazarus. She is angry: why didn’t he come sooner and stop this happening? Jesus tells her that her brother will rise again but Martha is not interested in some future promise. “I am the resurrection and the life” says Jesus “…do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord I believe.” She says.||29-03-2020 1:01||Download|
|I think we are all a little fearful at the moment: fearful for our own health or that of loved ones and fearful for the fate of businesses large and small in our local economy. We wonder what sort of world we will emerge into when this is eventually over. We are used to being insured and assured and this unprecedented crisis offers no insulation. We can’t even turn to each other for comfort in the normal way: this is something we are being asked to face in “isolation”.||22-03-2020 12:14||Download|
|There is no doubt that when the Oxford English Dictionary decides its new words for the year “Coronavirus” will be one of them. A word we had never used a couple of months ago has become the number one topic of conversation. I was struck by a verse from the letter to the Romans set for this Sunday “We know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”||15-03-2020 21:22||Download|
|In the Gospel reading Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. The transformation required to enable him to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is so fundamental that no amount of doing good is going to get him there: he doesn’t need to reform, he needs to be reborn. Nicodemus is astonished and asks how it can be. Jesus talks enigmatically about being born of the Spirit.||08-03-2020 1:01||Download|
|“Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” George Mallory was asked in an interview with the New York Times in 1923. “Because it’s there” he famously replied. More privately in a letter to his wife, he wrote “One comes to bless the absolute bareness, feeling that here is a pure beauty of form, a kind of ultimate harmony” and much later a biography quoted him as saying “Why do we travel to remote locations? ... We do it to be alone amongst friends and to find ourselves in a land without man.”||23-02-2020 7:00||Download|
|The passages set for this Sunday offer rich fair: the story of creation from Genesis, Paul’s amazing vision of creation renewed in Romans 8 and Jesus’ injunction to consider the birds of the air in Matthew 6. The verse that jumped out at me as I sat down to write this is from Romans “Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see we wait for it with patience”||16-02-2020 18:09||Download|
|I haven’t tried this, but imagine if you go round asking people if they are religious most people will say no. It’s not a word we like to apply to ourselves because it does not have especially positive connotations. On the other hand people will tell you they do their best to live a decent life: to be good parents, to lend a helping hand, to be a force for good in the world.||09-02-2020 18:08||Download|
|There is something that links all the people who first recognised Jesus as the Messiah: the shepherds, the wise men and, in today’s reading, Simeon and Anna; they were all watchers. The shepherds were watching over their flock, the wise men were watching the stars and Simeon and Anna were watching for what Luke calls “the consolation of Israel”.||02-02-2020 18:06||Download|
|“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near” is the central message of Jesus as he begins his ministry in the Gospel reading set for today. “Repent” is a harsh word to our ears. It seems to be a condemnation: “Change who you are: you’re bad!” Is that what is at the heart of Jesus’ message?||26-01-2020 18:05||Download|
|I wonder what it was about Jesus that made John the Baptist declare “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” They were cousins: presumably they had met before and from the Bible accounts Jesus had lived a pretty unremarkable life to that point. But John was a prophet: he had that gift of sight and something stirred in his spirit then just as it had when he was still in the womb and Mary visited his mother Elizabeth.||19-01-2020 18:03||Download|
|I would like to take this opportunity, as this is the first Grapevine of 2020, to wish you all a very Happy New Year.||12-01-2020 18:00||Download|
|Choices: we all have to make them and most of the time we want to be able to. Fiona and I are trying to decide where we want to go on holiday this year and although part of me wants to say “I don’t know: you decide!” most of me wants to be involved, even if I end up sharing the blame for a bad decision.||01-01-2020 1:01||Download|
|On this last Sunday of Advent our attention turns to Mary the mother of Jesus. Luke’s Gospel tells the story through her eyes, but Matthew focuses on Joseph. The outstanding quality in both is their openness to God’s will: if this was the way it was then they would accept it, no matter what the consequences would be. So Joseph took Mary as his wife, mysterious pregnancy and all.||22-12-2019 17:57||Download|
|There are all sorts of stories about satnavs: how they can tell you to drive into a river or along a non-existent road or get lorries stuck in places they can’t reverse out of. One of the best things about them, though, is that at the end of a tiring day you can get in your car and press “home” and it will calculate your fastest route. Somewhere in its little electronic heart it has a record of where home is and it always knows the way from here to there.||15-12-2019 17:55||Download|
|Across the team various choirs will be gearing up for Christmas. One of the key features of a choir is the opportunity to sing in harmony. Belting out the tune is one thing, but adding an alto, a tenor and a bass line, or maybe the descant when we get to “Sing choirs of angels” transforms the whole song. It is hard to do, because you have to stick to your part and not revert to what everyone else is doing, but boy is it worth it.||08-12-2019 17:51||Download|
|I have a snooze button on my alarm clock, you probably have as well. When that annoying buzz wakes me from my beauty sleep I can reach out a hand and earn myself just ten minutes more. Ten minutes later I can do the same, and again and again. What I really need is a small dog that comes and pounces on me and licks my face… oh, wait a minute, I’ve got one of those.||01-12-2019 17:49||Download|
|“Take me to your leader” is the classic thing that aliens are supposed to say when they land on our planet. I suppose at the moment we would have to explain to the little green men that we are in the process of an election and it would be helpful if they could come back after December 12th, but at any time, of course, the world doesn’t have any one leader: just a bunch of people who think they ought to be.||24-11-2019 17:46||Download|