Tag Archives: Stephen Sizer

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?

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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. 

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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?’

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Jesus Mean and Wild: Three Mission Priorities (Mark 1:29-39)

The last time I was in China, I visited the grave of one of my hero’s. Robert Morrison’s mortal remains lie in a small churchyard in Macau, just across the Pearl River from Hong Kong. Robert grew up in an austere Scottish Presbyterian home. When he told his parents he wanted to become a missionary, they were distraught. His mother insisted young Robert promise that he would not go abroad while she was still alive. Robert obeyed and waited till she had died before beginning theological studies at the Gosport Academy. The London Missionary Society accepted Robert in 1805. He then continued his studies in medicine, astronomy, and Chinese. When his father fell seriously ill, his brother and sisters pleaded with him to return. He loved his father, but wrote this letter,

“Honoured father, brother, and sisters… the account of my father’s leg growing worse and worse concerns me; but what can I do? I look to my God and my father’s God… You advise me to return home. I thank you for your good intentions; may the Lord bless you for them. But I have no inclination to do so; having set my hand to the plough, I would not look back. It hath pleased the Lord to prosper me so far, and grant me favour in the eyes of this people”. 

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Palestine Moments of Truth: Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok

A presentation entitled “A Christian Critique of Israeli Apartheid” delivered at the ‘Palestine: Moments of Truth‘ international conference on Palestine arranged by the Muslim Study Center, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, together with the Council for Humanitarian Network of Sheikhul Islam Office of Thailand on 30 January 2024.

A Christian Critique of Israeli Apartheid in Palestine

On 28 August 1963 Martin Luther King, co-led a civil-rights march of 250,000 people in Washington DC against racism and segregation. In what has become probably the most well-known and widely quoted speech in history, 

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their character. When we let freedom ring, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”[1]

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Zionism: Manufacturing a State

Zionism: Manufacturing a State’ explores the intricate ties between religion, ideology, and Israel’s brutal war on Gaza. Featuring Jewish rabbis and scholars, it critiques the impact of Zionism on Judaism.

The film traces historical roots, connecting the ideology to today’s Gaza events, and offering a nuanced look at the complex interplay of religion and ideology in Israel’s history.

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A Reflection on the Life and Teaching of Imam Ali al-Raza from a Christian Perspective

A paper delivered at a conference organised by Astan Razavi in conjunction with the University of Tehran and Sharif University of Technology entitled, “Civilisational Thoughts of Imam Raza (peace be upon him_: Justice for all and injustice for no one.” (download a copy here)

In this short presentation I will be reflecting on the life and teaching of Imam Ali al-Raza as summarised in the Razavi Codes of Ethics,[1] comparing and contrasting them with ethical instructions taught by Jesus Christ found in the four Gospels of the New Testament.  Given that those participating will likely already be familiar with the example and teaching of Imam Raza, I will elaborate more on the teaching of Jesus to illustrate similarities and differences, recognising that Imam Raza, living many centuries after the New Testament was written, may well have been influenced by it, consciously or otherwise. 

This will not however, be an exhaustive or comprehensive analysis of Islamic and Christian ethical codes, but rather a comparison of some of the 13 examples contained in the Razavi Codes of Ethics with similar statements found in the teaching of Jesus. 

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Holy War in Palestine (Mark 1:21-28)

On June 6th, 1944, a huge amphibious and airborne force landed on the coast of Northern France intent on reversing the tide of the Second World War. The meticulously planned operation included waves of beach assaults, naval bombardments, air strikes and parachute drops – all on a scale never seen before. Code-named “D-Day,” the invasion saw the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation of Europe. D-Day has been re-enacted in at least five major films.  I am sure you will have seen at least one of them.

Where Eagles Dare focuses on a group of commandos sent high into the Alps on a daring mission to rescue a captured American officer before he divulges D-Day plans. The Big Red One is a more factual account. The film title refers to the US Army 1st Infantry Division, who wore the insignia of a red ‘one’ as they landed on Omaha Beach on June 6th. Director, Samuel Fuller actually served with the Big Red One in real life, earning the Silver Star on D-Day. Perhaps the definitive film about D-Day, shot in black & white, was appropriately entitled, The Longest Day. The film encompasses the American, British, French as well as the German perspective, as D-Day unfolds. The ten-part Band of Brothers is a more recent visually stunning and accurate portrayal of the 101st Airborne Division’s role in WW2. These US paratroopers were one of the first Allied units to go into battle on D-Day, and the series captures their war with gritty realism. But probably the most iconic portrayal of D-Day takes centre-stage in the gripping war film, Saving Private Ryan.  The film is considered one of the greatest as well as most controversial war films of all time. Its half hour depiction of the bloody fighting on Omaha Beach is both vivid and terrifying. Apparently psychiatrists treating veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Vietnam and Iraq wars, advised them not to watch the film.[1] If you have seen it you will understand why. It’s the kind of film you probably won’t want to watch twice.

However terrifying, the reality of D Day June 6th, 1944 was, by comparison with our subject today, only a minor skirmish in a global war against evil that has raged since before the creation of the world. 

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Seven Biblical Answers Refuting Popular Zionist Assumptions

A simple four page demolition of Christian Zionism based on my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers. Now available in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, Chinese Simplified, Dutch, English, German & Korean. Also available as Seven Bible Studies for personal and group discussion.

In this seminar we will refute seven of the most common assumptions made by Christian Zionists about the relationship between Israel and the Church. We will examine each in the light of what the Bible actually says. These common assumptions are like a balloon of hot air. How many pins do you need to burst a balloon? I will give you seven. Any one is enough to burst the balloon.