A young boy asked his father a question, “Why must we surrender our Jewish faith and attend Lutheran services here in Germany?” The father replied, “Son, we must abandon our faith so that people will accept us and support our business adventures!” The boy never got over his disappointment or bitterness. His faith in his father was crushed. He gave up on religion. He left Germany and came to England to study. He spent many months in the Reading Room of the British Museum developing his convictions. These he published in 1848 in “The Communist Manifesto”. His name was Karl Marx. Marx argued that capitalism would inevitably self-destruct, and be replaced by communism. And religion, he insisted,
“…is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.
Did you realise that once broadcast, TV signals begin an endless journey outward into the cosmos at the speed of light? That means our earliest TV broadcasts are probably travelling through star systems more than 400 trillion miles from earth. Do you realise that our neighbours living 60 light years away are watching the first episodes of the Lone Ranger in black and white. 50 light years away they are now watching Bonanza. 40 light years away they have moved on to the original Star Trek series. 30 light years away they are able to watch the Dukes of Hazzard. Just 20 light years away it’s the Sopranos. Those only 10 light years away are being blessed by countless episodes of Lost. Scientists tell us that the further away your neighbours live, the more likely they are to hold outdated, inaccurate and stereotypical views of you.
As a young man I once visited an American friend serving with the US military on Lakenheath Airbase. As I left the base, on the perimeter wall, hidden from the main road and the gaze of British civilians, I saw a large sign, about 40 feet long with lettering two feet high. Intended for US military personnel only, it read “Danger – you are now entering a war zone.” It was probably intended to improve their survival rates driving on the wrong side of British roads,
I’ve thought a lot about that message. “Danger – you are now entering a war zone.” I would be tempted to hand a similar sign over the entrance to a Church. I just can’t decide whether to put it on the inside for those leaving or the outside for those…
“Follow me, Vicar, into the red zone… Life is too short, and my time left too precious…This is why I shall not be going to church any more. I’ve never been a fan of the baby Jesus, but now, as the summer of middle age begins to fade, I can no longer tolerate the interminable hymns and the dreary psalms and the saccharine lectures on peace and imperialism and recycling from beardy in the pulpit. In the past I could sit on my hands and bite my tongue and count the seconds, knowing that soon I’d be released into the fresh air. But today I just don’t have the time to waste and I’m filled with a sometimes uncontrollable urge to throttle the vicar, goose the organist and make a break for freedom through the vestry….Me? Well, since I believe you should live life and not spend half of it in church, preparing for death, I’d take the Mazda, warts, beeps and all, every time.”
That’s how Jeremy Clarkson introduced the new Mazda CX-7 in the Sunday Times
recently. Although I’m already a fan of Mazdas, Jesus was right, when he said “you cannot serve both God and money” or in the case of Jeremy, “You cannot serve both God and cars.” I would love to have a one-to-one with Jeremy and find out whether, like many other people, he has been turned off Jesus by the caricature of Christianity he may have encountered.
I want to bring out three ways Jesus brought blessing to a couple on their special day, three ways in which I believe he longs to bless each of us today also.
The Blessing Of Jesus’ Presence : (John 2:1-2)
Jesus and his disciples had been invited to a wedding. In Israel they do things properly. The wedding reception lasts a week. Everything stops in the community and everyone joins in. When you think of Jesus what do you imagine His schedule looked like? Can you imagine Jesus relaxed, laughing and enjoying himself at a wedding reception surrounded by people in festive mood, for a whole week? No watch, no mobile phone, no emails, no post, no distractions, just a week of eating and drinking good food and wine celebrating the shared joy of a new marriage in the community. Can you? Continue reading
Our reading today is from 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love” chapter. This is probably the most widely read passage at weddings. True, it’s the most beautiful description there is in Scripture about love – yet the context of the passage is not about marriage. It is about serving one another and when you think about it, that is what marriage is really all about.
I’d like us to examine this passage under three headings:
The motive is Love (12:31-13:3)
The quality is Divine (13:4-8)
The purpose is maturity (13:9-13). Continue reading
A while back, I woke from a brief Sunday afternoon powernap to find a black spot on my arm. I thought it was a piece of mud, but it would not come off. When I looked closely I realised it had legs and was moving. Alone in the house and unable to remove the tick sucking my blood, I did what any man would do, I drove to St Peter’s A&E. As I was driving I kept watching the tick closely to see if it was burrowing its way into my arm. I imagined it disappearing into my bloodstream, like something from the film Alien.
Sitting for two hours in casualty did not improve my peace of mind. The nurse who saw me admitted having removed several from herself in the past, but only managed to pull the body off leaving the head inside my arm. She called a doctor who, with the aid of a magnifying glass and scalpel, performed microsurgery, removed the head, cleaned the wound, insisted in showing me there was nothing left in my arm and prescribed a heavy dose of antibiotics. Continue reading
In preparing a recent sermon on Ephesians 4, I have been reflecting on the instruction, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
Invariably ‘anger’ is seen as an unhealthy and destructive behaviour. I agree that anger can indeed be very destructive, especially if fuelled by alcohol or bitterness or malice. However, the implicit assumption of this verse is that followers of Jesus will get angry and that this is not necessarily wrong. John Stott, in his commentary on Ephesians, argues that we should actually get angry more often than we do. Continue reading
You either love it or hate it but The Office is one of the most successful TV comedy series of the 21stCentury. Called a ‘mockumentary’, it was filmed as a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary and set in the offices of Wernham Hogg, a paper merchant in Slough. Written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, The Office catapulted Gervais to stardom in 2001, winning two Golden Globes, one for his acting and one for the show itself. “The humour is very simple. It comes from observations about mundane office life, humour basically at the expense of all the different types of people working in the office.” (Jago Wynne). The characters are clearly stereotypes but if you have ever watched the programme I am sure you will have seen similarities with colleagues in real life. In fiction, it has all the ingredients necessary for an entertaining comedy series. In real life, it has all the ingredients for a perfect storm in your office, in your home, or indeed your church too.
In 1943, Li Airui found himself imprisoned by the Japanese in the Weihsien internment camp in Shandong, Northern China. Li quickly emerged as a leader among the 1800 internees.
Life in the camp was hard, under a brutal regime. Some oil company executives, managed to bribe the guards into receiving extra rations and luxuries. Li shamed them into sharing these with the other prisoners. Without the benefit of equipment or supplies, Li taught science to the children in a makeshift school. He led Bible studies, taught Sunday school and cared for the sick and elderly. Li organized games to promote fitness and boost morale. That is perhaps not surprising because Li was the first Chinese person ever to win a gold medal in the Olympics.