blog

thoughts, reflections, ideas, inspiration and creativity…

Most of these posts are by me, but I’m also honoured to welcome guest posts from my ministry team colleagues in our Benefice, and elsewhere.

powered by Jesus

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. The readings for this week are all about abiding in God, being part of and being powered by God through Jesus. And this theme continues throughout May – our theme for sermons is “foundations for the future”. Covid…

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Who we are in what we do: love made visible

What does it mean to love? What does it really look like? St John gives us a clue when he writes (1Jn 3.18), “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” We talk a lot about love when we talk about God and being a Christian. But sometimes it can…

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peace, perfect peace…

Despite the fact that on Thursday I wrote about peace and presence, I find myself unable to let this go as my theme on this week’s gospel reading. Peace is what so many people truly desire – both around them and within them. And in our increasingly busy world, peace is one of the hardest…

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Peace and Presence…

Presence can be a very ambiguous word. Jesus’ presence among the disciples in this Sunday’s gospel reading likely caused more disturbance than peace. Mary Magdalene has told the others she has seen the risen Christ. Peter and John have seen the empty tomb. The couple from Emmaus who have encountered Jesus on their journey have…

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determination, curiosity, asking the key question

Thoughts on Prince Philip and Doubting Thomas, by Lucy Gildersleeves This is not the sermon I was preparing on Thursday; the news of the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, overtook it.  But when I read this Gospel passage again on Friday it seemed very appropriate to the situation. Prince Philip may have been…

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Seeing & Believing – perspective is everything!

Sometimes we don’t see what’s under our noses. We’re too busy focussing elsewhere. Sometimes, we just can’t believe something when somebody tells us, because it makes no sense to us. ‘It’s impossible!’ we say. And sometimes, we judge the people who don’t see what we see, who can’t understand what’s obvious to us. We forget…

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The Last Supper: togetherness in the face of suffering

Yesterday the headteacher at Buckland school sent me the image at the top of this week’s bulletin, wishing me a Happy Easter. I love that photo. It’s cute. But as I looked again, another message began to come through. Too often we end up making difficult and challenging things cute or kitsch, and essentially removing…

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Palm Crosses

Symbols of togetherness and connection… Gospel Reading: Mark 11.1-11 Liturgy of the PalmsBy the way, for those you who heard (or read) last Sunday’s sermon on growing things, in case you were wondering, I did plant those seeds last week. And yesterday afternoon, I spotted the first tiny seedling poke its head up!Palm Sunday is usually…

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Bethany: the place of welcome and friends

‘Welcome, Nicky.  Welcome, welcome, welcome!’ said Azman.  Moving from the hallway to the living room, Elaine came forward with the biggest smile on her face and said, ‘Nicky you are so welcome.’  It’s funny when we reflect on things in life, how it can be a momentary phrase that changes our lives forever.  I’d never…

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Jesus & cushions!

Finding comfort in the storm… Mark 4.35-41 When evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side [of the lake].” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so…

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Kum ba yah, My Lord

Sermon for Mothering Sunday, by Lucy Gildersleeves Today is Mothering Sunday, when we celebrate ‘mother church’, and those who have been as mothers to us – those who have cared, nourished, protected and stood by us – and we celebrate God’s motherly love for us. You might like to have a pencil and a piece…

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Divine Images of Mothering

Images of Divine Love, God as Mother, God as Father We are so used to saying, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” that we automatically limit our thinking and imagery to the male gender. The impact of the words Father and Son are such that we tend to think of Spirit as male also. But for…

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Rules, or “Love Rules”?

Thoughts on the Ten Commandments There are few things so frustrating in life as rules – when they are not in your favour. Equally rules are extremely useful when trying to navigate a strange and unfamiliar situation.  Revd. Jim preached a wonderful sermon for us yesterday on the Ten Commandments, and he has sent me…

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Human Wisdom & Divine Foolishness

Game theory is all about making decisions based on trying to work out what the other is going to do, and what is therefore of greatest benefit to ‘me’. There are various kinds of games, but the bottom line is our choices and those of others are always going to interact with and impact on…

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Letting go & the boomerang effect

(a sermon on Mark 8.31-38) Have you ever overheard the tail of a conversation and wished you’d heard it all? Or been the person speaking, and realised that what you just said to one person is something that everyone needed to hear? So you raise your voice, gather everyone together, and make the point again…

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the power and gift of words

Poetry (and poets) can often be like marmite – love ‘em or hate ‘em. But poetry (and indeed words) can have a profound effect. And it can lead from one place to another like stepping stones in a stream. Words can be powerful and transformative and, when well crafted, are life-giving. This Saturday is the…

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Jesus & Wilderness: being truthful with our pain

Caring for elderly parents and relatives is a burden that is really hard to speak about, not least because of our sense of love and duty to them. A few days ago I was chatting to an old friend. I asked her to share her thoughts on this – she writes with an honesty of…

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Lent, Gratitude and Not Giving Up

Usually Lent is taken as a time of fasting and penitence, a time to give up something for a short while. Not so that we can feel all virtuous but rather as a symbol and route to seeing the spiritual truth and reality behind all our material goods. It’s also about being in solidarity with…

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Thoughts on St Valentine

This Sunday, 14th February, is St Valentine’s Day, a date on which it has become traditional to send an often anonymous card to one’s sweetheart. St Valentine’s Day has been described as one of the year’s big gifting days, along with Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, when people express love in the giving of flowers,…

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Wisdom, Breath, Word: In the Beginning…

In the beginning was the Word… Thus begins many a sermon at Midnight Mass! In his famous prologue to his gospel, St John describes Christ as the Word of God which existed before all else came into being. And that this Word of God was the means and vehicle through which all that exists came…

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Wisdom as the Foundation of all things

Foundations aren’t always pretty, but without them anything that is built is unlikely to last the test of time and “weather” – that is to say, events and circumstances which will put pressure upon it. And this is true both literally and metaphorically. And the taller a building is, the more important foundations become. Our…

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Candlemas: Light & Transformation

Sermon for 31st January by Revd. Jim Mynors This weekend is celebrated with various names – notably Candlemas (which I’ll return to) and  the ‘Feast of the Presentation which is what our gospel story is about. Surely it establishes at the start of his life, the fact that Jesus was brought up by his parents…

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Seeing through a different lens: thoughts on Epiphany

Epiphany season (approximately the month of January) seems to be a time when one might be forgiven for getting thoroughly confused in the narrative of Jesus life. In the gospel readings each Sunday, we jump back and forth: from baby to adult, to youth, and back to baby again. It might be compared to a…

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faith & confidence; water & wine

(sermon for Sunday 24th January 2021, 3rd Sunday of Epiphany) A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on my blog about the voice of women in Advent, and the unexpected silence of men. I found it profound, and wondered that I had never seen it before, despite years of study. The impact of that…

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overflowing abundance: water and wine

818 litres of water? or 1,090 bottles of wine? One thousand and ninety bottles of wine, anyone? I remember once being (I confess) a little bored during a service when the wedding at Cana was the gospel reading. Six stone water jars, each containing 30 gallons. So, 180 gallons. Move that into litres and you get…

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holding hands with God

“Love, transparency, and communication” There are many images we use for God. And often the image or metaphor we use explains how we feel about God at that moment. We often talk about God being within us, in our hearts. Sometimes we take courage from the poem Footprints, the knowledge that we are not alone…

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the place of seeming solitude and darkness

And so another lockdown begins. How many of us feel like the man in the picture? Alone, in a huge space. All around is dark and black and frankly vast. There is no detail or boundary in the blackness. The image is eye-catching in its starkness. And yet… There is light. The man sits on…

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Liminal Space – the time in between

Sometimes the anticipation of something is better than the actual thing itself! Do you ever find that? When the thing we’ve waited for finally arrives, the pleasure swiftly ebbs. The reality is perhaps not quite what we’ve built it up to be. Or, if it was as wonderful as we had hoped, I might compare…

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It’s Christmas… but not as we know it

This must be one of the strangest, and for many the saddest, Christmas we have experienced. As I write this, on Christmas Eve morning, I listen to Christmas Carols with such a heavy heart. I am sorry that my Christmas Eve message to you is not one of happiness and sparkles. But to write that…

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the light shines in the darkness…

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1.5) Today is the turning of the year, the Winter Solstice, our darkest and shortest day, when the sun seems to stand still. From tomorrow there will be gradually more sunshine, the light growing longer each day as winter ebbs and…

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Voices of Advent: unexpected silence

Two days ago, a close friend of mine sent me a quote which stopped me dead in my tracks. “I find delight and beauty in the silence of the men in the Advent story. Zechariah can’t speak. Joseph doesn’t speak. While the words and emotions of Mary and Elizabeth are centred. The sound of Advent…

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unexpected renewal…

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me… to bind up the broken-hearted… to comfort all who mourn…. to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.(Isaiah 61.1-4,…

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the wisdom & memory of trees

thoughts on Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11, Third Sunday of Advent When I was about 15, I remember one of my favourite albums was The Memory of Trees by Enya. I loved it – the sound, the depth, the harmony, the peace. I still love her music, and have rediscovered it these past couple of weeks. It’s…

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“Comfort & joy”? Are you kidding?!

This was my sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent 2020… “Comfort O Comfort my people! The voice crying out in the Wilderness, Make straight the Way of the Lord!” (Isaiah 40.1-11) If any year has felt like a wilderness, surely it must be this year! Since January when the news of the strange epidemic…

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Comfort & Joy – the heart of Advent & Christmas

“O Comfort ye my people” says the prophet Isaiah, memorably set to music by Handel in the Messiah, and mispronounced by choirs down the decades as “come for tea, my people”, as many choirmasters will attest. “O tidings of Comfort and Joy!” announces the familiar Christmas carol, sung each year with gusto in carol services…

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Advent Sunday – getting ready & hopeful anticipation

Our Gospel reading today comes from a chapter of the Bible  (Mark 13) which is full of imagery of the world shaken to the core, of destruction, suffering and war.  And perhaps this seems to be a description of today: when we open a newspaper or watch news reports, we could be overwhelmed by the…

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He’s Coming! It’s Advent…

“Look busy, Jesus is coming!” is a popular slogan, often found on mugs or similar gifts, designed to make us laugh. After all, sitting at ease sipping a coffee is not exactly “busyness” – or at least according to business productivity stats. In contrast, I’m reminded of the story about the two woodcutters – one…

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Coming, Ready or not!

This week, it’s a pleasure to welcome another guest post from my colleague Revd. Jim, who preached the sermon below for us on Sunday 22nd November, the festival of Christ the King. I recently met again with a cousin with whom I played ‘hide & seek’ with in the 1960s, and meeting him I was…

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a healing weed!

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches. —Matthew…

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Finding shelter, light in the dark

As the dark draws in, the loneliness of this new lockdown can seem oppressive. Many people are taking comfort from the twinkling fairy lights of Christmas, bringing decoration to their homes early this year. Others cannot afford this joy. Early dusk and dark nights for some will mean curling up by the fire to escape…

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Remembrance: Captain Sir Tom Moore

A homily for Remembrance Sunday by Lucy Gildersleeves, given at the Act of Remembrance at Charney Bassett, Oxfordshire War is a human invention, driven by human greed and human fear. War is a human tragedy – but so much more: war drags in and destroys human lives and livelihoods but also the lives and habitats…

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Praying, Kindness & Keeping Going…

Early yesterday morning, I looked out through the dawn mist. The church next to the Rectory was barely visible through the foggy air. A faint image, easily missed, unless you know it’s there, and what to look for. Sometimes God can seem distant – as can the Church. Obscured by the mist, or darkness. Far…

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Thin Spaces & Places

Many years ago, I walked on a beach with a very close friend of mine, Nicky Cahill, talking about “thin spaces” – the idea that in certain places and at certain times, the “veil” between here and the world of the Spirit is very thin, and easily crossed. That’s what is at the heart of All Saints,…

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Loving ourselves as God loves us

This is the text of my sermon at St Margaret of Antioch in Hinton Waldrist on Sunday 25th October 2020 Love the Lord your God with all of your being, and love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus’ summary of what it takes to live God’s way is deceptively simple. And we’ve spent two millennia arguing…

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The Importance of Play

The fairy lights I’d put up gave her face a glow as she played.   ‘Mummy!  Will you play with me?’ she said in her sing song voice. These new words of hers rolling around in her mouth as she spoke. She patted the floor beside her. ‘Mummy sit.  Mummy, listen.’ I sat. She lifted…

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Angels, St Francis & Coffee

Angels and St Francis have been hovering in my life these past weeks, both making their presence felt. This Sunday 4th October is the feast of St Francis of Assisi, the 12th century Italian saint who is perhaps best known for his simple life and his love of animals and the natural world. Tuesday 29th…

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Whose World Is It?

Below is the text of Revd. Talisker’s Harvest address on Sunday 27th September at St Mary’s Buckland. Whose world is this anyway? Reading endless news stories about the various arguments and wars and political clashes, the fights over this or that right or resource, I sometimes just find myself pondering this very simple question. Whose…

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harvest, miracles, & sharing abundance

“It’ll take a miracle for us to get through this!”  “it’ll take a miracle”, usually said in such dismissive tones, often with a clear expectation that no such thing will occur. We dismiss possibilities out of hand. Before the possibility can ever take root! But I wonder? I’ve recently been reading The Hidden Life of…

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fairness?

This Sunday, once more in Matthew’s gospel, we find ourselves in one of Jesus’ parables – or stories – this time, the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Mt. 20.1-6). Jesus used stories for a lot of reasons, but perhaps most of all because they allow for imagination. We can imagine ourselves in the…

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rooted and grounded: the place of church

Yes. I remember Adlestrop— This famous poem written by Edward Thomas were about a tiny station stop in the Cotswolds, but those words could equally have been written by a walker visiting a country church. And willows, willow-herb, and grass,And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,No whit less still and lonely fairThan the high cloudlets in the…

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reckoning and forgiveness

Sermon given by the Revd. Jim Mynors for Sunday 13th September on Genesis 50:15-21. Psalm 103 Matthew 18:21-35 As we continue this year’s consecutive readings in Matthew we come to a parable that may seem as puzzling as it is powerful. It starts with a forgiving ruler and ends with his condemnation. There’s a good…

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the power of words: fear and love

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet! Thus wrote Shakespeare many centuries ago. And in once sense he is right. What name we give it makes no difference to the beauty of the flower – or indeed anything else in its true inner nature. But words have incredible…

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stories, the news, & Tolkien

Do you ever watch or read the news and just feel utterly overwhelmed? “News” nowadays by definition is stories of one disaster or mistake after another, whether it be death, injury, political error or manipulation. So rarely is there anything joyful. So pervasive is this that we even very often feel the need to preface…

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surviving the storm – take up thy cross

This morning, I saw some incredibly beautiful photos taken by the photographer Sarah Sutherland-Rowe who is a friend of mine. The image of the waves crashing on the rocks is so powerful, so mesmerising… The storm can smash us to pieces; or we can withstand it, but it shapes us into something new, with smoothed…

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care for creation – St Bartholomew

Sermon given by Revd. Tim Hewes on St Bartholomew’s Day, 23rd August 2020, at St Mary’s Buckland Bartholomew was a mysterious figure but like the other apostles he was steeped in the culture and legacy of the Torah:  the allegory of the forming of life and the garden of Eden, the early history, the psalms…

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“do as I do…”

Jesus is very good at turning situations upside down. In fact, throughout the gospels, we see this time and again. The one near death is healed. The hated tax collector becomes the one chosen to host Jesus and his disciples for dinner. The poor are given a place of honour at the table instead of…

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prayer: the heartbeat of the Church

This morning at morning prayer, as we waited to begin, there was a hush in the church. And in that hush, the quiet and muted thump thump sound of the clock’s mechanism up in the tower, counting out the seconds. In that peaceful space, it almost sounds like the heartbeat of the church, perhaps helped…

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St Mary, Women, And Church

Have you ever felt like you’re on the outside? Have you ever felt that people simply don’t see who you really are? If you have, you’re not alone. It’s been the experience of millions of people, for all kinds of reasons. Whether it be race, nationality, class, economics, education, or gender, the division between inside…

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movies & multi-tasking

“Small pleasures are important. You know the story of the two trainee priests who like to smoke? … The first goes to his spiritual director and says, “Is it permitted to smoke whilst praying?” “No, No!” he director replies. The second trainee – he is a Jesuit – says to his friend, “Brother, you are…

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Lamentation: Where is God in this?

So often I try to offer something upbeat. But just occasionally I feel it’s really good to just allow ourselves to be still in the pain and struggle of the moment. After all, we all have those moments. They’re part of life. So let’s not pretend otherwise. Keep it real!!Yesterday was the feast of St…

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Thoughts on Change, Growth, and Resurrection

Our journey through Matthew’s telling of the parables of Jesus; last Sunday was all about the Kingdom of Heaven. Revd. Jim wrote our last post, and preached for us last Sunday. The parables really are such wonderful stories designed to challenge, irritate, and to invite us into dialogue and relationship, both with God and with…

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Matthew 13 – Five Parables

This is a guest post from my colleague Revd. Jim Mynors, who is preaching for us this Sunday 26th July. Some ‘parables’ are what we call stories and may come with an explanation. We’ve had two of those in the last couple of weeks. But rounding off Matthew’s collection we have no less than five:…

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the wheat and the weeds – “a gardener’s tale”

One person’s weed is another person’s beloved plant! I have recently re-discovered a love of house plants, and they seem to be happily proliferating. Our latest new family member is a rather huge leafy fern thing, some four feet tall, which has been christened Flossie (no idea why!) – or as my two year old…

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a way of life and living

This Sunday is the fourth Sunday after Trinity, as we continue through the long summer season. Whilst some kind of normality may seem to be hovering on the horizon, it still remains tantalisingly out of reach. What is life really going to be like as lockdown lifts? What will our towns and churches look like?…

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Vocation – being our true selves

This Sunday is the festival of St Peter and St Paul, those two iconic figures on whom so much of the teaching of the Church, and indeed the writing of the New Testament, rest. Both Peter and Paul were commissioned by Christ himself to go out and spread the good news of God’s love. And…

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letting go, or holding on? I AM, or I have?

The gospel for Sunday 21st June, 2nd Sunday after Trinity, is from St Matthew; it is very dense and has so much going on. It has the reassurance that ‘the hairs of your head are counted’ – ie God knows and cares for you that deeply. But it also says that ‘those who try to…

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Being One Body, Sharing One Bread – Thoughts on Corpus Christi

There are a lot of metaphors about the body in the gospels and in St Paul’s letters. It’s actually a really helpful way to think about things. A body is one cohesive unit (or it’s meant to be!), held together with an outer covering of skin. But within that, there’s bone and muscle and tendon…

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the dance of the Trinity

Exploring the concept of the Trinity is one of the hardest parts of the Christian faith. Some theologians have even joked that if you think you get it, you clearly don’t! But this complete conundrum is also central to our faith. Richard Rohr points out that “Trinitarian revelation says start with the loving – and…

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Pentecost – the fiftieth day

Nobody likes waiting. Not any more. We used to be able to wait with equanimity, but our patience levels seem to reduce each year. Modern technology has brought wonderful and incredible advances and abilities that previous generations only dreamed of. But there are also flip sides – and one of those appears to be an…

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a reflection for Ascension Day

This was the Ascension – themed sermon I gave on the 7th Sunday of Easter season, a couple of days after Ascension Day… On Ascension Day, I wrote a blog piece reflecting on which way is up. And I was talking about the fact that the answer to that depends on your view of the…

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the meaning of life – which way is Up?

Which way is up? Well, the answer to that depends on your view of the world! The ancients had a cosmology (universe / world view) that had a flat earth in the middle and heaven (the residence of the gods) as Up, somewhere beyond the stars. And the early Christians pretty much took on that…

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“Seek first the Kingdom of God” – Prayer and Possibility

So much has happened this week. We are in the now-and-not-yet all over again. Lockdown is easing – but is it? Is it safe to do so? How do we feel about it? I attended a church leadership webinar recently in which we talked about the short, medium and long term plans and approaches for…

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recognising and resting in God

Last week I wrote about seeing God in the small things and the small blessings in our daily lives – those little things that are making the present challenge bearable. It seems there is a strange paradox going on at present. This morning, I saw a headline in the daily CofE media digest that took…

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little things with great love

This Easter must be one of the strangest any of us have experienced. Even for those of us who have no Christian faith, Easter is a time for gathering with our family, for resting, and for taking a break to celebrate Spring and all its beauties. For those of us who are Christian, this is…

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the journey begins…

And so the journey of Holy Week begins. It is the ultimate rollercoaster, spiritually and emotionally. This year, it will have an even deeper meaning for so many people, given that our church buildings are shut and we cannot gather together in prayer or worship, except in virtual online communities.  Today is Palm Sunday, and…

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