Thursday, 27 September 2012

Coffee and Ritual

The one treat I have indulged in is a coffee machine (thanks M&D). I think it is going through the ritual of making a coffee which is satisfying. Grinding the beans, and smelling the fresh grinds, running the water through the system twice. Brewing the coffee the aroma rising and then steaming the milk. It cannot be rushed or you end up with a luke-warm coffee.

It is anything but instant, and I don't always have time to do it. When I worked as mortgage adviser I would be in back to back meetings and would not always have time for a break, sometimes missing lunch or only having a snatched break but I liked making the customers a cup of tea as I had to go down stairs and boil the kettle and brew the tea or make the coffee which gave me time to think and clear my head from the last appointment.

As a trainee priest we have a lot of ritual in the Church of England but I am beginning to feel the need to emphasise the pauses within a service, that we might stop and prepare ourselves as we go. In fact this was a bit of the conversation I had with someone from church on Monday. In life leaving and entering are important, in our services our children leave the service and come back in for communion and we have a start and a finish, so some of my thinking over the last few days has been on this.

However back to the coffee for a minute sometimes you need tools to assist you and it takes time to do these things well. My lovely wife bought me this espresso cup:

You may have noticed it says Grumpy Mule on it, I think she may be referring to the occasional morning when a coffee seems to be an essential before saying hello.

It will take time before I have worked through some of these things and even with the right tools I still need to slow down and not rush and rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal more of Jesus.

I enjoy coffee and I think it is great hospitality to be able to offer it to visitors, a warm welcome and fresh cup of coffee I think are essential! I hope that our rituals may be life giving because God is the author of life and Jesus came to bring life and life in all its fullness...

Coffee drinks illustrated - Lokesh Dhakar

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Quarreling with God- Jonah

This is one of my sermons from a few weeks back, it is an evensong sermon so shorter than at the morning service. 

Quarreling with God- Jonah 3.10-4.11

Sunday 9th September 2012- Evensong


It is just not fair…(give an example). Jonah felt justified in complaining. I told you so he tells God and so he retreats to a hill and sits there sulking hoping that fire will reign down from heaven and destroy Nineveh.
Jonah is a book with plenty of humour but it rings true doesn’t it?
Jonah’s name means “Faithful Dove” he is neither, faithful or dove like in his desire to see them punished.


“Anger is actually a diagnostic tool, when it erupts in us it means something is wrong. What it fails to do though, is to tell us whether the wrong is outside or inside us. We usually begin by assuming it is outside…” (Pieterson, 1992, 157).
The issue for us is to rightly discern which it is. Jonah is angry with God yet throughout Jonah we hear how God is merciful to him. He could have let him drown, he could have smote him for questioning him and he didn’t have to let the vine grow. Jonah reveals to us a God who is faithful in spite of our unfaithfulness.


Jonah joins a host of others who quarreled with God:
·         Abraham
·         Peter
·         David
·         Moses
·         Job
He is not unique, yet for someone who is appointed as a prophet, he is more reminiscent of a child whining on a long car journey. Kicking the back of the seat, yelling at not having their choice of music or not having the right sticker book…

Surprised by Grace-

In the end Jonah is more than surprised by grace it is scandalous to him. Why should spare these foreigners? They aren’t the people of God, God has no business forgiving them. Is grace limited to Israel?

Incomplete Ending-

Jonah ends without us hearing Jonah’s response, did he repent, did he sulk and starve himself on that hill? Did he carry bitterness with him until his last breath. You are invited into the story, what is your response to God? It just isn’t fair, I have worked hard, I have been good and yet I am still finding life a struggle and my neighbour, you know the one the loud obnoxious one, the one who is always on foreign holidays and gets a new car every couple of years is fit and healthy… people are starving in this world, the rich get richer and we have seen the bankruptcy of our politicians, reporters and bankers. Today is racial justice Sunday and we know that 27 million people are in slavery today…
But Jonah was not crying out for the plight of the Israelites or the poor or the weak but because God didn’t do what he wanted him to do.
God appointed:
·         A fish
·         A vine
·         A worm
·         A prophet?
·         You and me?

Are you right to be angry?-

Let’s not misunderstand this passage, Jonah is not being rebuked for questioning God. Throughout scripture we see people wrestling with God, complaining to him or about peoples situations or circumstances. No, instead he asks Jonah if he is right to be angry. Are we right to be angry? 

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Who is this man?

A couple of people at church have asked me to provide notes from my sermons. This is an embellished version as my preaching notes wouldn't make sense without it...

I hope it helps.

Mark 4.35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’


As I begin this sermon I realise that maybe Jonathan would be able to give us a very eloquent sermon based upon his personal experience of his crossing the channel yesterday!

In Mark’s gospel, we have a whistle stop tour of Jesus’ ministry, beginning not with all the details of Jesus’ birth but starting from John the Baptist and Jesus’ temptation. Jesus called Andrew, Simon, James and John four local fishermen among others. As the disciples followed his call they were confronted by the question, who is this man?

The crowds flocked to hear Jesus, which meant  he preached just a bit from the shore in a boat and probably at the end of another busy day he said let’s go to the other side. He fell asleep…

  Familiarity leads to faith in ourselves (It’s all about me)

It’s alright though, he had chosen fishermen for such a task, they knew this sea like the back of their hands, they could do this easily, they didn’t need Jesus to help them. It was there job, they knew all there was to know. In their hands they will easily make it to the other side.

You can just imagine as they pushed out the sun was beginning to set it was still…

And then the wind began to pick up, the waves began to swell and the boat began to lurch and water broke across the bow of the boat…

Ferry journey

When I lived in Bangor I occasionally went across to Dublin on the ferry. One particularly stormy day we crossed the Irish Sea and the wind began to pick up and the waves swelled, up and down (keep repeating) sorry if you are feeling sea sick, and as everyone around me clung to something to anchor them, I tucked in to my MacDonalds…

The perfect storm

Picture how small the boat is against the sea

They couldn’t do it in their own strength and skill they were going to meet with disaster.

I know that I am tempted each day to live it without a second thought for needing Jesus. Tempted to do the daily tasks of life without stopping and asking for help. 
  • What about you? 
  • When you work out what you are going to spend?
  • When you go to work or out and about? 
  • When you decide what you are going to give or how you are going to shop?

Milton Jones:

“Hearing God’s voice is often like trying to hear a satnav that you have locked in the boot of your car because you thought you wouldn’t need it”

I don’t know about you but I am tempted to do plenty of everyday things without a thought for his guidance and often I become aware of how out of my depth I am.

I need help making good decisions with my finances, with my children, with my conversations, with what I buy and what I spend my time on.

I faintly hear the satnav.

What about you?

What do you do every day without thinking about needing help from God?

IN the midst of the storm they cry out…Mark seems to capture the urgency and fear of the situation.

The wind and the waves have already heard this voice

When Jesus speaks it is the same voice that creation heard at the beginning…

…in the beginning was the word…

Jesus had calmed the storm, which could be translated “muzzled”…the wind and waves held on a short leash and muzzled and is still before Jesus. ..

I        When the physical storm is calmed another storm rages within

The disciples had left the crowds but they couldn’t escape the storm and as he stilled the fierce storm raging around about them a new storm rages…

   Who is this man?

They would get there but he wasn’t relying on their strength or ability…

What did they face on the other side?

Demons bowed, the sick were healed and death had to submit…

The people were afraid…

Yet Jesus continued to reveal himself to be the one who not only said nice things but also had a power about him which was scary. Following Jesus is not always easy, we need to pray before we start work that he helps us…

The same question the disciples asked among themselves is allowed to be asked here and with your friends and on your own…

  • Who is this man that the wind and waves obey him?

 Maybe it is time to remove the Satnav from the boot.
  • Why try and live this life without him?

 26.08.12- Bawtry