Category Archives: Sermons

Jesus and the Pharisees: Contrasting Strategies for War and Peace: (Mark 3:1-12)

“Treacherous colleagues, competitive friends, bloody-minded commuters – it’s a war out there. And according to Robert Greene, it’s a conflict we’re ill-equipped to deal with. After analyzing the moves of history’s great military leaders, he’s written a rulebook to achieving victory in life’s daily battles.”[1]

The blurb goes on to say, “Spanning world civilizations, synthesizing dozens of political, philosophical, and religious texts and thousands of years of violent conflict, The 33 Strategies of War is a comprehensive guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the most ingenious and effective military principles in war. Learn the offensive strategies that require you to maintain the initiative and negotiate from a position of strength, or the defensive strategies designed to help you respond to dangerous situations and avoid unwinnable wars.


According to Penguin the publishers, this is “An indispensable book…  The great warriors of battlefields and drawing rooms alike demonstrate prudence, agility, balance, and calm, and a keen understanding that the rational, resourceful, and intuitive always defeat the panicked, the uncreative, and the stupid… The 33 Strategies of War provides all the psychological ammunition you need to overcome patterns of failure and forever gain the upper hand.”[2]

Today we are going to learn about Jesus’ strategy, not for war but for peace. We are going to compare Jesus’ strategy with that of the Pharisees (and by way of application – observe how the same tactics are used by Zionists today). 

Continue reading

Turning our World Upside Down (John 20)

It is confession time. I didn’t mean to do it. I know I should not have done it. Every week I carefully avoid looking but this Friday I did. I don’t know what possessed me. I put it down to mid-life crisis. My eyes just wandered and there it was, the most enticing, the most tantalizing, the most tempting job offer I have ever read in the Church of England Newspaper. 

“It’s True Adelaide is a great place… No doubt you’ve read about Adelaide’s fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine. Its all true! South Australia wants people who see their future in its progressive climate. The archbishop of Adelaide welcomes enquiries from clergy wishing to minister in parishes and schools. Find out more about South Australia at www.southaustralia.com. Send your expressions of interest to…” and then it gave the address.

Continue reading

Jesus Christ is Risen! 

Do you realise the very first person to see the risen Lord Jesus, the first person to respond to him and the first person to tell the good news to others, was not one of the Apostles, but Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene appears in all four Gospel accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

From these we learn that Mary Magdalene became a friend and follower of Jesus after he cast out seven demons from her. She was present during Jesus’ trial (Matthew 27:45). She was there at the Crucifixion (John 19:25).She watched Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus (Luke 23:56).

And on Easter Sunday she and some other women were the first to discover the stone had been rolled away (John 20:1), first to meet the risen Lord Jesus (John 20:15-16) first to tell the disbelieving disciples the good news (John 20:18).

Surprisingly, it was also Mary and some other women who supported Jesus financially from their income. This tells us something about the value Jesus placed on women. Jesus recruited and traveled with both men and women followers. That was unheard of. When we think of the disciples we tend to imagine the 12 male Apostles, but Jesus drew around him both men and women, into one extended family of sisters and brothers. In this Jesus was very radical. It was the custom that women would only travel with their families. In the Easter story, the Apostle John gives us the fullest account of Mary’s role. As we read John 20 together I want to make three observations about Mary: About her heart, about her mind and about her will.

Continue reading

Maundy Thursday: When Time and Eternity Meet

Beat the clock. Around the clock. Against the clock. Clock in. Carry the day. Once in a blue moon. From now on. In the long run Come of age. A day in the sun. The crack of dawn. Year in, year out. A month of Sundays. Hour of need. Full of the joys of spring. Now or never. The moment of truth. Better late than never. Make my day. Here today and gone tomorrow. A blink of the eye. Days are numbered. What do they all have in common? Time. We say, long time no see. Killing time. Wasting time. Behind the times. On time. Just in time. As time goes by. The nick of time. Do time. Serve time. A whale of a time. Save time. Good time. Ahead of time. No time to lose. The big time. High time. Time is money. Times flies. Crunch time. Out of time. Time for a change. Times up. I counted over 100 expressions for time. They all refer to chronological or sequential time.

In our gospel reading  Jesus teaches us a new one. Kairos time.[i] The word kairos is Greek for “opportunity” or “the right time”, the “fullness of time” or the “supreme moment”. In the Bible Kairos refers to God’s timing. In his first sermon, Jesus said, “The time has come… The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). This was a kairos moment for those who heard Jesus. And for the Christ follower, as for Jesus, chronos time and kairos time intersect every moment or every day because we live in two worlds – in time and in eternity, in heaven and on earth. The evening of Maundy Thursday was one of those kairos moments for Jesus and the disciples. Please turn with me to John 13 and let us discover what Jesus knew, what Jesus did and what Jesus expects.

Continue reading

This is our God, the Servant King (Mark 11)

The Road from Jericho to Jerusalem is just 14 miles.  A half-day’s journey, uphill all the way. Bethany is just on the other side of the Mount of Olives. A natural place to stop and rest before the final ascent and panoramic view of all Jerusalem.  But it is not the road that should capture our attention.   Dusty roads through dramatic scenery were as common then as now, indeed little has changed.  Israeli checkpoints, barbed wire, military settlements and the Separation Barrier have replaced the Roman garrisons but it is still Occupied Territory.  It is ironic that if Jesus were born in Blackpool he would have no problem getting from Jericho to Jerusalem today. But because he was born in Bethlehem he would not be able to make the journey to the Mount of Olives, let alone join the Palm Sunday procession into the Old City.   Like thousands of West Bank Christians he would be unable to visit Jerusalem today. He would be turned back at a military checkpoint – because he was born in Bethlehem.  Pray for your brothers and sisters today in the Holy Land who are denied the most basic of human rights – freedom of movement, freedom to worship, freedom to live in the land of their birth.

Continue reading

What is My Ultimate Purpose in Life?

Gentle natured Gregory, passed into eternity, aged 69, forgotten and alone in a cell of the women’s jail in Dade County, Miami. Married four times with six children he had once been a celebrity and successful paediatrician. But Gregory succumbed to alcoholism and his license to practice medicine was suspended. Haunted by self-doubt and unable to live in the shadow of his father, he had died known as Gloria in a women’s jail, in high heels, a transvestite. When he was just 19, Gregory’s father blamed him for his mother’s death from cancer and did not speak to him for ten years before killing himself in precisely the same way Gregory’s grandfather had done before him.  In 1953, Gregory’s father wrote a short story about a Spanish father who tried to be reconciled to his son who had run away from home to Madrid. Now remorseful, the father took out an advert in a national newspaper “Paco meet me at Hotel Montana noon Tuesday, all is forgiven, Papa.” Paco is a common name in Spain, and when the father goes to the square he finds eight hundred young men names Paco waiting for their fathers. 

Continue reading

Great Expectations: Jesus on High Demand Religion (Mark 8)

When our son Michael was 11, we had a difficult decision to make. Which secondary school would we choose? We didn’t have a lot of choice. There was Magna Carta in Egham or… Magna Carta.  And at the time it didn’t have the excellent reputation it has now. Our daughter Louise was leaving Charters school in Sunningdale that Summer so we could not benefit from the sibling rule. We decided to apply for Magna Carta, Charters and Ranelagh in Bracknell. Not surprisingly we were turned down for Charters and Ranelagh as we lived outside their normal catchment area. Moving house was not an option. So we appealed – we had nothing to loose.

We went to the appeals hearing at Ranelagh and discovered there were about 20-25 other families present also appealing. Having never done it before I didn’t know what to expect. Quite soon after the hearing began, the lady chairman asked the appeals panel, made up of several clergy, to retire to another room. I tried not to look at the other parents. I felt bad that we were competing with other families for a handful of places that might be granted on appeal. All would have good reasons for wanting to send their child to the school. After what seemed an age, the panel returned. The chairman made an announcement. The appeals had been upheld – all of them. The chairman closed the meeting. We were stunned. What had happened?

Continue reading

How to Become a Contagious Christian (1 Peter 3)

I got a surprise call from the BBC recently. “Did I have a spirit of adventure? Could I think on my feet and cope without home comforts? Did I like a challenge? Was I willing to appear on their programme ‘Bare Necessities’? Two teams compete against each other to see who can survive in a remote location somewhere in the world for a week with only the bare essentials provided. Was I willing to join a team of three vicars competing against three bookmakers? Naturally. With God on our side it would be no contest. Could I participate at short notice? Did I have a passport? Could I go anywhere in the world? For an audience of 2 million, when do we start? Did I have any phobias? Real men don’t have phobias – at least we don’t admit them to strangers. Would I be prepared to eat anything? Yes with my eyes closed. Could I work in a team made up of strangers? Try me. The last question – Did I have one wish? ‘To see heaven on earth’ I heard myself say. The interview lasted half an hour. It felt a cert. I was in. They loved me. The delightful programme co-ordinator assured me she would come back to me in a few days. I put the phone down and began to prepare myself. 

Continue reading

The Real Jesus I Never Knew

Before I was appointed vicar of Virginia Water, I attended an Alpha taster evening incognito. I sat next to a lady and we got talking. Then she asked me “What do you do for a living?” I replied “Guess”. Without batting an eyelid she said, “Well, you are either an estate agent, a vicar or an undertaker.” I replied, “How did you guess?”, She replied “Because I am married to one”. She was in fact a local vicar’s wife. J. John the evangelist has a better answer.

“I like to be a bit creative in telling people what I do. I sat next to this lady on an airplane at Heathrow airport and I said, ‘Hello’, and she said, ‘Hello’. Then I said to her, ‘Where are you going?’ and she said, ‘I’m going to Singapore’. And she said to me, ‘Where are you going?’ and I said, ‘I’m going to Australia’.  I said, ‘What do you do?’ and she told me; then she said to me, ‘What do you do?’ and I said, ‘Well….’ ‘… I work for a global enterprise.’ She said, ‘Do you?’ I said, ‘Yes I do.’ I said, ‘We’ve got outlets in nearly every country of the world.’ She said, ‘Have you?’ I said, ‘Yes we have.’ I said, ‘We’ve got hospitals and hospices and homeless shelters,’ I said, ‘We do marriage work, we’ve got orphanages, we’ve got feeding programmes, educational programmes.’ I said, ‘We do all sorts of justice and reconciliation things’. I said, ‘Basically, we look after people from birth to death, and we deal in the area of behavioural alteration.’ She went, ‘Wow!’ And it was so loud, loads of people turned round and looked at us. She said, ‘What’s it called?’ I said, ‘It’s called the church … have you not heard of it?’

Continue reading

The Radical Call of Jesus (Mark 1:16-20)

Imagine. Imagine a church that is a welcoming and safe place where everyone feels loved, accepted and cared for. Imagine a church where doubters, seekers and believers feel welcome. Imagine a church of every age, race and colour, becoming one in Christ. Imagine a church of fully devoted, spiritual, Christ followers, passionate for an ever-deeper relationship with God. Imagine a church where the praise, worship and teaching are truly pleasing to God. Imagine uplifting services where the Bible teaching builds up the church family and equips members to live for Christ. Imagine a church impacting the lives of children, youth and students from all areas of the local community to become fully devoted followers of Christ. Imagine a church where everyone is fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, exercising their God-given gifts in joyful and fulfilling service. Imagine a church family informed, inspired and eager to meet the needs of local, national and international mission. Imagine a church in which members are regularly being called into ministry, locally, nationally and internationally. Imagine being part of such a church. Imagine helping to build, to create such a church. Imagine. 

In my former parish of Virginia Water, our Vision was built on three words that summed up our purpose – Win – Build – Send. Evangelism, Discipleship and Mission. In our Bible reading from Mark 1, at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus said, “Come, follow me … and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mark 1:17). Here the order is Build – Send – Win. That is because this is a cyclical mission strategy and so it doesn’t matter where we begin. And similarly where you are on your spiritual journey, there is a message here for you. Today we will discover the origins of the Christian ministry strategy. Evaluate your church or mission agency against that of Jesus.

Continue reading