Are you married? Do you love your spouse? Do you have children? Do you love them? You have parents? Do you love them? What about brothers and sisters? How do you prove you love those closest to you? Providing for them is one way. Let me give you a simple but very revealing test of the quality of your love. When was the last time you went to see your GP? I don’t mean because you were sick. When was the last time you saw your GP for a health check? You know, blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, kidney function, glucose, PSA, etc. Its free so, no excuse.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
I wonder if you have taken time to read the booklet you received this week from the government? It explains why the government believes the UK should remain in the European Union. Both those in favour and those wishing us to leave the EU, focus on the same thing – sovereignty. Who is in control of our borders, our economy, our laws, our resources, our security? It has also been another stressful week for our political leaders, both those deemed to have not paid enough tax as well as those who paid late or have even paid too much. I suggested on Facebook that perhaps, having remained in office for well over 60 years and having survived 13 successive Prime Ministers, it might be better if Her Majesty the Queen dissolved Parliament and we went back to an absolute if benevolent monarchy.” Then when I had thought about it some more, I realised she didn’t need to, because we already have one. To mark Her Majesty’s 90th birthday we are distributing to local school children as well as seniors, copies of, The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. It tells in her own words, of her personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our family moved to Virginia Water, nineteen years ago today. At my induction here, Bishop John Gladwin preached from Luke 5. It’s the story of how Jesus delivered the man called Legion. He was possessed by many evil spirits and Jesus cast them out into a herd of pigs who drowned in the Sea of Galilee. Bishop John tried to make a joke about Virginia Water and its association with the Holloway Sanatorium (now Virginia Park). The sanatorium was made famous by Bill Bryson in his book, Notes from a Small Island. He worked at the Sanatorium in the 1970s and met his wife there. Bishop John said “Many of you will think Stephen is mad, but he will be at home here.” Some laughed but others were not so sure. With hindsight you may think he was being rather prophetic. How do you choose a church leader? This Summer Joanna and I will have been serving in full-time Christian ministry for forty years. My ministry has been shaped by the Lord’s mandate:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
When Britain first, at Heaven’s command,
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves
Britons never, never, never, shall be slaves.
The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.
Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves
Britons never, never, never, shall be slaves.
Sung with gusto at the Last Night of the Proms, “Rule Britannia” was composed by James Thomson and set to music by Thomas Arne in 1740 to commemorate the accession of George II. How do you feel when you hear those words sung? Do you join in, or do you keep your lips tightly sealed? Patriotic or jingoistic? It depends on your nationality doesn’t it? We all identify with a nationality, a country or a kingdom.
On a recent flight I read an article in the airline magazine about a rather unique watch called a Tikker. It doesn’t just tell you the time – it tells you how long you have left to live. The author of the article, Ben Hamersley writes, “Do you have any idea how long you have left, well, actually? In total? To live? I do. It’s counting down on my wrist as I type this. I have, according to my watch, 44 years, ten months, five days, six hours, ten minutes to go. Even less by the time you read this, of course, and the information is coming to me every time I glance at my wrist. I’m wearing a Tikker watch, calibrated against my date of birth, nationality and other pertinent things, and displaying a forever depleting time left to my, actuarially predicted, statistically average, time of death. The brainchild of Fredrik Colting – a Swedish former gravedigger…” Fredrik obviously had plenty of time on his hands. We all do, and one of the things I love to do on a flight is watch the map of the world going by and the timer ticking down to the arrival time. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have one for our life journey? Fredrik hits the nail in the coffin by observing,
I wonder if you have ever been to a Death Café? There are or have been nearly 3,000 around the world since the first was held in London in 2011. Visit www.deathcafe.com, enter your postcode and you will be directed to the nearest. There was one at Virginia Water Library last week. “At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. The objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’. A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion about death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session. – With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action – Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!” I welcome this initiative to break the taboo of talking about death. But how much more helpful and above all hopeful to discuss our mortality in the light of the most significant death in all of history.
John Owen, the 17th Century pastor and theologian, who became chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, managed to squeeze ‘death’ into the title of a book about Jesus, three times. “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” dwells on the love of Christ and the deep conviction that Christ’s work on the cross literally saves us from the deadly nature of sin.
This week someone posted this helpful little graphic on my Facebook drawing the simple distinctions between a boss and a leader. The leader had an uncanny resemblance to Richard Branson – blond hair, big smile and beard… It got me thinking and I posted the comment, “Very good as far as it goes. Worth exploring the difference between models of secular leadership and the model of Jesus Christ.” Then, I added the verses from our gospel reading this evening,
“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:12-15)
The Church of England’s Short Guide to the Duties of Church Membership, which we endorse at Christ Church begins with this definition of a Christian. “To follow the example of Christ at home and daily life, and to bear personal witness to him.” How can we do that? What does it mean? To follow Christ must involve every part of us. Following Christ will surely involve my mind, my heart and my will.
After the death of the British prime minister, the world’s leaders gather in London to pay their respects. Without warning, a series of devastating terrorist attacks wipe out five world leaders attending the funeral leaving the city in chaos and ruins. Secret Service agent Mike Banning springs into action to bring the U.S. President to safety. When he falls into the hands of the sinister organization, it’s up to Banning to save his commander in chief from a horrible fate. London has Fallen is the latest disaster movie to hit the cinemas. The film is the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, released just under three years ago about a previous terrorist attack on the White House. “Olympus” being the US secret service code for the White House. Well, the theme of our Gospel reading could be entitled “Jerusalem has Fallen”. Jesus and his disciples have just arrived in Jerusalem. They were fisherman from villages along the shore the Sea of Galilee. They were impressed by the fine stone buildings.
“As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:1-2)
Jesus shocked them with his apocalyptic warning of imminent and total destruction. So…
A few weeks ago I visited Cairo to preach at St Michael’s and All Angels and to give some teaching on the reliability of the Bible. It is a very special church family. Their building hosts several congregations including an Egyptian community, two separate expat church families (one Anglican and one non conformist) and two Sudanese congregations one all age and one in their teens and twenties. To accommodate everyone in their heart language, they hold numerous mid-week and weekend services in English, Arabic and Sudanese. The music ranges from the exuberant and informal African, via Egyptian Arabic music to the more laid back Anglican Hymns Ancient and Modern. And the Anglican priest is called Jos who just happens to be a fluent Arabic speaking Dutchman. Cosmopolitan, international, multi-ethnic.
Not that dissimilar to the picture of the international church of Jesus Christ, the Bride of Christ we find described in Peter’s first epistle. In 1 Peter 2:1-10 we discover how God would have us live in community. We were designed to live in community – to know and be known, to love and be loved, to serve and be served, to celebrate and be celebrated. Peter uses four vivid pictures to describe our relationship to one another in the Church.