Pete's Reviews and Sermons

Some of my more detailed reviews - books, films, theatre trips, software etc. I will also post the text of some of my sermons here.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Sins of Omission

Preached at Christ Church, Billericay on 26 November 2017
Title: Sins of Omission
Reading: Matt 25:31-46

Christ the King

Today we are celebrating the Feast of Christ the King.  As this is the last Sunday of the church year it is fitting that we remember Jesus has taken his seat in heaven and is king of the universe, and king for eternity.  Next week is the first Sunday in Advent, the start of a new year, when we will begin again looking at the promises of that a Messiah would come.
The feast of Christ the King is a relatively new addition to the church calendar.  It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, and has been adopted by many Protestant churches.

King

I imagine that most of us don’t think about Jesus as king very often.  That’s probably because we no longer really understand the power that a king or queen has.  Perhaps our only understanding of that power is from Alice in Wonderland where the queen of hearts shouts ‘off with his head’ a number of times.  This gives the idea of the king and queen a pantomime feel, and takes away the seriousness with which kings and queens used to be treated.
In medieval times, if the king had arrived in your village and needed to stay the night, his entourage would simply have commandeered the best house in the village and chucked the occupants out.  Anyone who protested would end up on the gallows.  So as the king arrived there would have been a lot of justifiable fear, but also a lot of work to make him feel as at home as possible.  Of course, as easily as the king could ruin your life, he could also improve it, by giving you land, or riches, or a position in society – but that didn’t happen very often.

King = Justice

The king was also the final arbiter in any argument - his say was final.  In that respect he defined justice.  His approach to justice shaped everyone in his kingdom’s approach to justice.  If a dispute was heard before the king it was judgement day for the people concerned.

Matthew 24 & 25

In Matthew 24 & 25 Jesus is talking about the final judgement that will happen at the end of the age.  He warns the disciples that they must be ready and watchful and to continue to do Gods business as they wait for His return. 
Each of the stories makes a point about the coming judgement.  The wicked servant at the end of chapter 24 who mistreats the servants in his charge will be cut to pieces and assigned a place with the hypocrites, where there will be  weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
The story of the ten virgins at the start of chapter 25, reminds the disciples to be adequately prepared in case the wait for Jesus’ return is longer than they expect.  The ones who failed to be prepared are not allowed into the wedding feast, which represents the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus says to them “I do not know you”
The parable of the talents, which we heard Margaret talk about last week reminds us to keep our faith, and do the work that God has given us gifts for.  And not to bury Gods truths.
Then there is the illustration of the sheep and the goats, which we heard this morning.  It’s not really a parable, although many of the commentaries treat it as one.  It provides an end to this discourse, and should be seen in that light.

Understanding Judgement

Here Jesus had returned and Judgement is in progress.  The view here is similar to the “Great White Throne” judgement in Revelation 20.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.  If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Here is a picture of Robbie, Karen and I in front of a great white throne.  This is the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC.  The words above the sculpture say “in this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever”.  We are facing the wrong way, of course, if this were the actual great white throne we would be facing it, not a camera man.  I hope it helps give an impression of just how incredible this scene is.  Billions of people in front for God, being separated into two halves – one half being welcomed to their inheritance (stood on the right), and the other half condemned to eternal punishment. 
I suspect that the crowd in the first half, those on God’s right, will be smaller than the crowd on God’s left.

One of many.

This, though is just one of many images of judgement in the Bible, and to understand it fully we cannot look at it in isolation.  We cannot even be sure that this passage and the revelation passage are the same judgement.  Whether or not they are is interesting but not that important.
What is important is what the judgement teaches us, so lets have a look at this passage in a little more detail.

Sheep and Goats

Jesus starts by using a very familiar image of separating sheep and goats.  It is not a straight forward process unless done by a skilled shepherd.  Sheep and goats look fairly similar and were often allowed to graze together during the day.  At night time, however, they had to be separated because the goats need more protection from the cold than the sheep.  The way to tell them apart is to look at their tails – goat’s tails go up, sheep’s tails go down.
Separated
Having separated them, Jesus then begins to speak to the sheep telling them to take their inheritance that was prepared for them from creation.  The word inheritance implies a relationship, so the sheep are getting only what is their due.  The reason they are getting it is because they have behaved just as their father would have them behave. 
The goats on the other hand, have not behaved in the way their creator would have them behave.

Same Question

Notice that both the sheep and the goats ask exactly the same question. 
(v38-39) “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
and again in v 44, but in a slightly truncated way.

Address the question to Lord

They both start with Lord.  There can be no denying God here.  There are no atheists now.  There are no agnostics now.  This is the time mentioned in Philippians 2:10-11.
 … at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It is obvious who Jesus is, the creator of the universe, the son of God, the judge of mankind.

Brothers

Notice though that the way the Lord responds is different.  To the sheep He says (v40) “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”, but to the goats he says (45) “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”  Which leaves us with the question who does Jesus say are His Brothers?
Generally, we are called adopted children, and are therefore brothers and sisters of our Lord.  So, when there is a conflict in relieving suffering, or providing for a need,  I believe that fellow Christians should take priority over non-Christians.  Paul says a similar thing in Galatians 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
We, the western church have recently had a great failure in supporting our brothers and sisters, as we have stood by and allowed the Christian refugees in Syria to be overlooked and left with nowhere to go, because many of the refugee camps are not safe for them.

Second Nature

The things that the sheep have been doing are so much second nature that they haven’t even realised that they are doing them.  There actions are just a part of who they are. 

Salvation by works

This passage is sometimes used to suggest that salvation can be bought.  That good works can get you into heaven.  There are two problems with that.  The first is just how many good works?  How much do I have to do to be saved?  There is no clue in this passage, or elsewhere in the Bible.  The second problem is that there are plenty of places where the Bible says the exact opposite.  The most memorable of these are:
James 2:17 “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  and Ephesians 2:8-9 “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Faith is shown by action

The truth is that it is the other way around.  You do not do good works to get into heaven, you do good works because you know you are already accepted in heaven.  If you say you are a follower of Jesus you will do what he did, and have the same attitudes as Him.  If you say you are a Christian you cannot ignore God’s people, or any of God’s creation.  If you think that Jesus came with some wonderful teaching and some good ideas, then be very careful how you try to implement those good ideas.  If they end up ignoring the plight of the worst off, you will end up with the goats.

The goats

That seems to be what has happened with the goats.  Their main sin seems to be one of omission, in their busyness, their greed, or their complacency they have simply overlooked those who are in need, and lived their lives for themselves.  They have used their strength to make their own lives comfortable and have left the needy to fend for themselves.
Some of them have used their strength and resources to exploit those in need and to make their lives even harder than they would otherwise be.  Which ever it is, come judgement they will find themselves in eternal punishment.

Sum Up

Finish with

British statesman and financier Cecil Rhodes, whose fortune was used to endow the world-famous Rhodes Scholarships, was a stickler for correct dress--but apparently not at the expense of someone else's feelings. A young man invited to dine with Rhodes arrived by train and had to go directly to Rhodes's home in his travel-stained clothes. Once there he was appalled to find the other guests already assembled, wearing full evening dress. After what seemed a long time Rhodes appeared, in a shabby old blue suit. Later the young man learned that his host had been dressed in evening clothes, but put on the old suit when he heard of his young guest's dilemma.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Transforming Presence

Preached at 10:30 Morning Prayer at St Mary the Virgin, Little Burstead

Readings: Matthew16v13-20; Romans 12v1-8
 

Transforming Presence

Do you remember Transforming Presence, the initiative by the diocese to change the way we do
things and reverse the decline of the church. It should change the way the church is seen in the
world, to make us more outgoing and more likely to involve others.
The Apostle Paul is talking about a personal Transforming Presence in our reading this morning.
He speaks of the renewing of our minds. Verse 2 says “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of
this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Without this change in each of us
the diocesan initiative is doomed to failure.

World View

We all have our own particular view of how the world works, but we should ask ourselves where
our view comes from. What are the influences that make us think in a certain way? What is the
agenda that is driving those influences?
We are perfectly useless as Christians if all we do is conform to the world around us.”The world is in a mess – that’s easy to see. But the causes are perhaps less clear. Isaiah tells us that
(53:6) “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;” - in other words
the problem is selfishness, we all think that we know the best way to run things.
God, Paul says has been merciful to us. He has revealed that there is a different way, and He has
provided a way for us to follow His way instead of our own. Now, if I finish the Isaiah verse: “We
all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
It tells us that Jesus, the Messiah, has taken our selfishness and provided a way for us to get back to
being in a relationship with God. Paul is saying that we should respond to this by transforming our
thought processes, because
We are perfectly useless as Christians if all we do is conform to the world around us.

Transformation / Transfiguration

So we need to be changed, transformed into something different. It is worth saying that the Greek
word that is translated ‘transformed’ here is the same word that is used of the transfiguration, where
Peter, James and John saw Jesus changed, so that His face shone like the sun and His clothes

became as white as light. The meaning of the word is ‘changed in form’. That is the nature of the
change that Paul is urging on us.

Not mere rules (Freedom and Boundaries)

If we are going to be transformed, and no longer conform to the world, our behaviours will have to
change. We can no longer continue doing all the things we have been doing, but as Paul says
transformation is a whole lot more than the way we behave.
Christianity is sometimes seen as a religion of prohibitions – don’t do this, don’t do that, and it is
true that those rules exist, but if we look at them with a transformed mind, we will see them simply
as boundaries. Anyone who has had children will appreciate the importance of boundaries, and how
they change with the growth of the child. They will also know that there are some absolutes -
“Never put your hand in the fire” for example. We are God’s children - if we are going to live in
true freedom we have to have boundaries that prevent us from making some horrendous mistakes.
The Bible does not provide us with a list of good behaviours to match the list of bad behaviours.
There isn’t even a list of Do’s to run along side the list of Don’ts. Instead we are provided with a
list of Godly characteristics – the fruits of the spirit. Galatians 5:22,23 “love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
If we build this character, we will naturally operate within the boundaries because:
When we are transformed in Christ we love to do what we ought to do.
(http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-renewed-mind-and-how-to-have-it)

Love to do what we ought to do

And when we love to do what we ought to do there is no problem, because we do not get near the
boundaries. That is true freedom.

Renewal of the Mind – The Problem

We cannot just decide that we will be always loving, joyful, peaceful, patient kind, good, faithful,
gentle, and in complete control of ourselves. Well, we may make the decision, but we are most
certainly incapable of keeping to it. Our minds come out of this world, and we have already seen
that the world is in a mess. One of the symptoms of the mess is that our minds have a natural
ignorance of God. 1 Peter 1:14 “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had
when you lived in ignorance.”
and
Ephesians 4:17-18 “So I tell you this, ... you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of
their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because
of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

Renewal of the Mind – The Holy Spirit

From within our darkened understanding and our selfish ignorance, we cannot hope to see God, but
the Holy Spirit, once it is inside us can illuminate our mind and renew it. Titus 3:5 “He saved us

through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”. The work of the Holy Spirit is to
show us the Glory of God, to lift the darkness, and to show us God as he really is.
We have seen an example of this already, in our gospel reading.

Peter recognises who Jesus is

When Jesus asked his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” He got some of the usual answers –
answers that came from a population largely in the dark about the things of God. When he asked
the disciples “and what about you, what do you say?” Simon says, “You are the Christ, the Son of
the living God.” Simon has some understanding at last, he has some knowledge that can only have
come from God. Jesus recognised it immediately and seems to have taken it as a sign. He rewards
Simon with a new name – Peter means Rock, and gives him the keys to the kingdom – a truly
awesome responsibility. What a reward for a single flash of brilliance, because Peter’s mind has
been renewed, he has seen things that he couldn’t see before. God shone His light into the dark
recesses of Peter’s mind and the change in Peter was amazing. We’ve spoken a little about the
rewards that the Spirit provides already, and there is some more of that to come.

Peter Fails

If you read on from our Gospel reading today, you will see that the next story is one of utter failure
for Peter, even though it comes from his best intentions. This time he has completely failed to see
God’s will. If Peter’s mind is not renewed in one single instant, then it is extremely unlikely that
our minds will be. Having our minds renewed by the Holy Spirit is a life long process – not a brain
transplant.

How to help the renewal process

So, what can we do to help this process? It’s a question of motivation. We should ask ourselves
some questions:

  • Do I long to break loose from conformity to the world?
  • Do I long to be transformed and made new from the inside out?
  • Do I long to be free from mere duty-driven Christianity and do what you love to do because what you love to do is what you ought to do?
  • Do I long to offer up your body as a living sacrifice so that your whole life becomes a spiritual act of worship and displays the worth of Christ above the worth of the world?
If your answer was yes to any of these questions then there are some things you can do to give the
Holy Spirit some additional material to work with:

  • Read the Bible – as often as you can. If it helps, get a reading plan, if it doesn’t, don’t.
  • Attend worship regularly
  • Listen to Godly men and women or read their works
  • Pray regularly or frequently or both.
In other words soak yourself in the things of God.

Rewards of Transformation

If we do these things we will soon begin to have our minds transformed, and Paul says that we will
be able to “test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We will also soon be in a position to look at ourselves and not automatically think we are better than
we really are.

Living as the Body

Finally Paul reminds us that we live together as a body, and in that body each of us has our special
gifts. The list here is not exhaustive, his aim is to remind his readers that God has chosen each of
them and put them in a particular place to fill a particular role. God is still doing that today with us.
My MinistryPart of God’s will is knowing what His will is me. This is why Paul is talking about ‘sober judgement’ when assess myself and my gifts. When looking for a role I must have a sense of what God wants of me and the measure (the cut of, if you like) my faith. The role also needs to be there waiting for me. So by this we avoid people claiming a ministry that they are entirely unsuited to, or that could be better done by someone else. If you hear people talk of ‘my ministry’, ask yourself, or ask them, whether it is really God’s ministry.

Transforming the Church and the World

Even with all this the church will never be perfect, that is summed up nicely by this saying:
To dwell above with the saints we love, O that will be glory. But to dwell below with the
saints we know, well, that’s a different story!

Nevertheless, if we are determined to allow the Holy Spirit in to do his work, we will see the fruits
– love, joy etc., and the story may become less different. Then we can get on with the job of
transforming the world.
No wait! That will never work, if we wait for that, we will never have enough time to transform the
world.

Transforming the World

Already the statistics from various surveys seem to tell us we’re failing. Most of our social action
initiatives only reach people who already have a connection to the church, we’re not reaching the
unchurched population even when offering our help, well before to get to offering the good news of
Jesus.
The divorce rate among Christians in America is exactly the same as the divorce rate among nonbelievers. That’s probably the same here too.

The church, we are told in some recent articles has abandoned the poor.
Well, all those things may be true, but we can only work in the fields that God leads us into, and we
are only responsible to Him for what we are doing – not to the PCC, or the bishop, although they
have a role to play.
Look at the response to the Grenfell tower disaster, it was mainly the church that responded in the
immediate aftermath, providing shelter and food for the survivors.
In many towns across the country, Street Pastors are proven to have reduced the crime rate and
lowered the sense of tension on the streets in the late evenings. These people will meet and talk to
many who have never considered getting anywhere near a church.

Public Debate

What we hear on the news is only part of the story. The supposed big issues of the day – LGBTQ
rights or Gender Identity issues are used to publicly bash the church, but it will only dissuade a few.
I’d love the church to be leading these debates, not struggling to keep up, but how we transform the
world today has changed.
Many more people will be affected positively by the love they experience from faithful Christians
making one to one friendships, and supporting those in need without asking for anything in return.
Remember
We are perfectly useless as Christians if all we do is conform to the world around us.butWhen we are transformed in Christ we love to do what we ought to do.


Let’s Pray
Father,
Change me from the inside out.
Renew and reconstruct my soul.
Obliterate my old habits.
I repent and receive your forgiveness.
I believe that your Word is working in me today.
I ingest your Word, chew on it, swallow it and receive it in faith.
Thank you for the power of your Word to bring change to this old, brittle soul.
I praise you for the joy you’ve set before me: a life lived as you intended me to live!
Amen

(From: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/prayerplainandsimple/2015/04/prayer-for-a-renewed-mind.html)

References 

https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-brian-mavis-stories-discipleship-64?ref=TextIllustrationDetails
http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-renewed-mind-and-how-to-have-it
http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/prayerplainandsimple/2015/04/prayer-for-a-renewed-mind.html
http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/your-daily-prayer/a-prayer-to-renew-your-mind-your-daily-prayer-april-28-2017.html
https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=134
https://bible.org/seriespage/24-peter-s-confession-and-christ-s-church-matthew-1613-20 
https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/who-do-you-say-that-i-am-christopher-holdsworth-sermon-on-jesus-178520?ref=SermonSerps 
https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=127
https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/renewing-your-mind-christian-cheong-sermon-on-bible-study-88758?ref=SermonSerps
http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-renewed-mind-and-how-to-have-it
https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/romans-121-8-part-1-zak-saenz-sermon-on-bible-influence-100674
The Expositors Bible Commentary Volume 8 ISBN 0-310-36500-7 (V. 8)
The Expositors Bible Commentary Volume 10 ISBN 0-310-36520-1 (V. 10)
Matthew for Everyone Part 2 - Tom Wright  ISBN 78-0-281-05487-9
Paul for Everyone Part 2 - Tom Wright  ISBN 78-0-281-05737-0
Pradis v5.1

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Radical Inclusion

Preached at 08:00 Holy Communion 20 August 2017

Reading: Isaiah 56:1,6-8

Do the right thing.

“Maintain justice and do what is right.” Do the right thing. But what is the right thing? If I give you a complicated situation and ask you what should be done, I will probably get as many different answers as there are people here this morning. Fortunately, it is not our opinions about how things should be done that counts here. It is the Lord’s opinion that counts, and when the people of the day heard what that was they may have been quite surprised.

Lectionary

The lectionary misses out the next 4 verses, but they are key to understanding this passage, so if you have your Bibles open lets read them now:
2 Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” 3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant — 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.

Sabbath

The reward for maintaining justice and doing what is right and sticking to those things, is the Lord’s blessing, that is hardly surprising. Adding the condition of keeping the Sabbath is perhaps a little surprising. Why the emphasis on the Sabbath?
Looking through the Old Testament, the Sabbath is mentioned a lot in the Torah as you would expect. If we look for other mentions, particularly mentions that relate to keeping the Sabbath holy, they only occur in Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. These prophets see the keeping of the Sabbath as the thing that marks someone out as either committed to the Lord, or not committed to the Lord.

Outcasts: Eunuchs and Foreigners

This differentiation of the people is then extended to foreigners and eunuchs, people well known as outcasts, treated as second class citizens, or worse.
In Deuteronomy 23:1 eunuchs are excluded from the assembly, and in verse 3 foreigners from certain tribes are excluded from the assembly until more than 10 generations of them have passed. In Isaiah's time it means they are not allowed to enter the temple. Yet here, in verse 3, the prophet is saying that no foreigner (who has bound himself to the Lord) should expect to be excluded from the people, so they would all be allowed in the temple, as far as all the other Israelites – to the court of Israel.
The temple allowed graded access to the Lord, on the far outside was the court of the gentiles, not really in the temple at all, then inside was the court of Women, then the court of Israel, then court of priests and finally the holy of holies – where only the High Priest was allowed.

Bound to the Lord

It is worth considering what ‘bound to the Lord’ means. In a modern context, think of a tandem parachute jump. I know some of our congregation have experienced this, so lets see what it means. You are strapped to an experienced skydiver. What ever he does, you do. Where ever he goes you go. Once you leave the plane your immediate future is entirely out of your control and in the control of the skydiver. Any attempt on your part to fight his guidance will only end badly for both of you.
To be bound to the Lord means total commitment to the Lord, and living with his people for life, and for the lives of your children and their children, as far into the future as you can see. What ever happens to Israel, happens to you and your family – good or bad. No going back.

Salvation Close

This apparent change from exclusion to inclusion is because the Lord’s salvation is close. The book of Isaiah records a time when the Assyrians were a serious threat to Israel, although Jerusalem was never conquered by the Assyrians. The book looks forward to a time when Jerusalem would be overrun by the Babylonians and the people taken into exile. God saves his people and they are allowed to return and rebuild their city. The book also looks forward to other events, including the coming of the Messiah. (Remember the Servant Songs we read at Christmas?) It is unclear here which salvation is being foretold, it may well be both the return from exile and the coming messiah.

God’s Kingdom

What is clear is that God’s Kingdom is an inclusive one, not a place where people are excluded for reasons of the location or nature of their birth, or for some ‘accident’ of upbringing that has befallen them. While looking for something on the modern day equivalent of eunuchs I followed a thread on the status of eunuchs I came across this quote in an article by David Gregg:
“In the Ethiopian eunuch, I see every person that typically would be relegated to the non-contributing "others" of society: the irritants, the wastes-of-time, the hangers-on. I see friends with Aspergers and autism spectrum disorders and severe depression and body odour. I see psychopaths and addicts and narcissists. I see people with unusual humour and inconsiderate conversational habits. Communities formed on utilitarian goals or on the fulfilment of mutual self-need, would leave all these people behind, but the community of Christ continually redefines itself in order to accommodate them.”
(http://www.thegoodquestion.com/2011/09/of-eunuchs-and-social-non-contributors.html)
This is helpful because it provides the beginnings of an answer to one of the questions the passage raises for us. Unlike the Israelites, we don’t have a list of excluded people, perhaps because of that there are now many more people who are excluded for many more reasons.
This passage in Isaiah reminds us that as the body of Christ we must be making the effort to include those that the rest of society excludes.

Grenfell – poor excluded

One of the observations I made in the aftermath of the Grenfell tower disaster was the extent to which the poor are excluded from the normal political process, their voices, and therefore their lives, do not matter to the politically powerful, but I see that the local churches were there showing how it should be done, and making a difference to people’s lives. How far that goes towards inviting them in to the Kingdom remains to be seen.

Refugees

The other large category of excluded people that we hear about regularly are the refugees, those who are escaping war and are in need of our help. Our government seems reluctant, but as Christians we should be ready and able to assist. Father Joe Delfgou, when he was at Christ church said ‘Let them all in’. As I read this passage this morning I have to ask how we could choose who to invite into the Kingdom and who to exclude.

We are the Foreigners

We must constantly remind ourselves that we are the foreigners that have bound ourselves to the Lord, and that this is only possible because of the messiah who came to die for our sins and make us acceptable to the Lord. This, of course, makes us foreigners in the land in which we live, as 1 Pe 2:11 reminds us.

Other questions

Lastly, let’s remind ourselves what verse 6 and 7 says about us being bound to the Lord:
“to serve him,
to love the name of the LORD,
and to worship him”
… and here is His promise to us:
All who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

To serve Him

To serve Him is to maintain justice and to do what is right. It is to love the people He loves, it is especially to love the excluded.

To love the name of the Lord

To love his name is to use it, not to try to hide it or disguise it. Saying Jesus’ name is not blasphemous, although it can be used that way, it should never be by us. Our use of his name should be reserved for his praise and our prayer.

To worship him

To worship him, is not exclusively a Sabbath activity, but is one of the things that the Sabbath is to be used for. Worship is not just something God demands, it is good for us too, but that’s another sermon.

Acceptable

If we do these things, and stick with them, they become our sacrifices and they are acceptable in the Lord’s sight and the church will be a house of prayer and a place of joy for all nations.
… and we will receive eternal life – which can never be an after thought.
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References

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2112
https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1049
https://www.sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/isaiah-561-6-8-commentary
https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/7-reasons-to-go-to-church-dr-stanley-vasu-sermon-on-church-purpose-of-37971?ref=SermonSerps
https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/a-house-for-all-nations-karl-eckhoff-sermon-on-evangelism-how-to-49537?ref=SermonSerps
https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/fasting-and-prayer-for-revival-elmer-towns-sermon-on-disciplines-fasting-57202?ref=SermonSerps
http://www.yourdictionary.com/do-the-right-thing
http://dictionary.reverso.net/english-definition/do%20the%20right%20thing
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serfdom
http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/exclusion-and-inclusion-of-eunuchs.html
http://www.thegoodquestion.com/2011/09/of-eunuchs-and-social-non-contributors.html#more
The Expositors Bible Commentary Volume 6ISBN 0-310-36480-9 (V. 6)

Friday, August 11, 2017

'Dunkirk' at the Rio, Burnham-on-Crouch

Where can you go in Essex to get two seats to see a current film, buy a large bar of fruit and nut and still have change from a tenner? Answer: The Rio in Burnham-on-Crouch. We didn't go there because it was cheep, we went because we had walked past it so often and wondered what it was like inside.  There are a choice of sofas and regular cinema seats and plenty of room between the rows.  We chose regular cinema seats.  It's a 1930's building and still has the feel of that era, I hope it doesn't change.  It's certainly worth a return visit.  No booking though - for the whole 1930's experience you have to queue!

So to the film.  Dinkirk (IMDB entry) is an unusual film.
There is no star to follow through the film, instead there are three stories, from three different points of view, and also through different time periods (1 hour, 1 week).  They are cut together in a rather odd way which seems to make them fit.  I have seen comments on the realism that the film portrays and undoubtedly it is made in such a way as to convey the danger and fear that must have been felt by those involved.  However, it lacks the horror of a film like 'Saving Private Ryan'.  The deaths that are shown (and there are very many) are all slightly sanitised - no body parts, just whole dead bodies.

At the beginning of the film and for more than the first half the main mood is hopelessness.  Everything that is tried to get the soldiers off the beach simply ends in more death and the loss of another destroyer.

The story of Dunkirk is one that I grew up with.  Both my parents were in WWII, and living in Southend-on-sea, the story was of cockleshell heroes.  The film is true to this at least (although the main 'little boat' does not come from Southend), the only real hero is the captain of that boat.  Many of the things he says sound to me like they come from genuine survivors.  I have read some critisism that there is a lack of empathy.  Maybe that is true, but I doubt it - the film certainly portrays the emotions that I have heard about - the enormous pride in being Britsh, the unerring sense of duty and, if necessary sacrifice, the determination above all else to be kind to those who have suffered - not by everyone, of course.  They are all there and are of their time.

I don't know how historically accurate it is, I haven't researched that yet, but there were a few things that made me wonder.  The haircuts were one.  All the pictures I have seen from WWII have 'short back and sides', only seen on a few here.  The lack of helmets, when there are plenty to spare, and none of the commanding officers even passing comment seemed very out of place - where had the discipline gone.

All these things said, it works as a film.  It engaged me and kept me engaged throughout.  The characterisations worked at that level, which is all that can be asked.  It certainly portrayed the story and gave the basic historical facts.

As war films go, it is among the best, and well worth the long drive to Burnham to see it.  It is not easy viewing though and I'm not sure if survival at the end is victory or relief.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Field of Blue 2017

On Easter Saturday (15th April), late in the afternoon we visited Norsey Wood, in Billericay, to see the Blubells.  We do this most years, but rarely this early - normally we wait for the first May bank holiday.  This year though, it has been warm and very dry, so the blubells are already up and flowering.  The wood anenomies are also good this year, making a carpet of white that can look like snow on the ground from a distance.  The fields of blue are the most impressive, here are some pictures, taken on my phone this year.








Most of them are taken from the easy access path, so most people should be able to visit.  I included the notice beacuse it is easy to see the damage that has been caused in a few places by people walking across them.

The bluebells have been spectacular in Mill Meadows this year too, although there are nowhere near as many of them.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Four Days in Suffolk - Day 3

On or second full day we had a pleasant duty to perform. Getting the Christmas presents for our friends. I have no worries about detailing it here because after years of getting the same presents none of them will be greatly surprised. We headed to the Shawcross vineyard. As we arrived a rather distracted woman also arrived, in order to avoid an accident I let her go in first, so while she was being served, we were ushered off to look at the vines.

I have no idea whether 2016 is a good year or not, but I was impressed with the yield on most of the vines.

They grow quite a few varieties, and it was a pleasant walk around the edge of the vineyard, although not at all challenging. On returning to the shop we sat outside while the tasting was prepared.  All the wines were good, but as is always the case, the final selection was a compromise.  Jo and I have very different tastes.  We had tried six different wines and then placed our order.  Having loaded the boxes into the car we were offered coffee, which was a welcome refreshment, and it being a pleasant morning we sat in the yard for a while longer.

We then drove to Framlingham to see the castle.   I thought that I had visited all the English castles, but cannot remember ever seeing this one before.  It is an impressive place, so we picked up the free audio guide and climbed the stairs for a walk around the wall. 

 When we arrived we had parked in the shade in the overflow car park with the coaches.  The castle was full of school children, most of whom were enyoing the good weather and playing on the steep banks.  I assume the trips were 'educational', but in reality just being in the castle is educational, and hopefully will spark a lot of questions.  The castle building has a fairly unusual history, as can be seen from the houses built inside the walls.  They now house the exhibition.

There is no cafe in the castle, but you can come and go as you please, so we wandered down into the town to get some sandwiches to take back to the castle to eat.  We passed plenty of places where we could have stopped, but there seemed to be no take-away until we got to the Co-op.
A short walk around the town, then back to the castle to eat our sandwiches.



After lunch we took a longer walk around the town, and came across some Alms houses, we also walked through the meadow under the castle, which it is believed was once flooded, and provided fish as well as defense.
 
Later we drove to Southwold and strolled along the sea front, and through the town.  We ate fish and chips from the Sole Bay Fish Company - by far the poshest take-away fish and chips I have ever had.  It came in a custome made bag, which was lined to keep the food warm and included a slice of lemon.  They also offered us some of their home made tartar sauce.  Sadly though, no protection from the gulls that constantly swooped overhead in the hope of a chip.  A lovely evening on the top of Southwold cliffs.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Four Days in Suffolk - Day 2

Following a surprisingly good night's sleep and after a good English Breakfast, we are off to Minsmere. I remember it is a rather long and strange drive out to the reserve, along narrow roads through the woods, never quite being sure where the reserve starts.  Still we get into the car park and it really isn't that busy. At the entrance we are given the map and a brief explanation of the site. We have decided to buy another pair of binoculars, for me this time, so we head for the shop first.  After a little while browsing we get offered help.  Do they watch you to decide if you're serious before offering help?  Anyway, we weren't far off what we eventually bought, and the staff kindly offered to repair Jo's pair, which they did in a few minutes, and for free.  Great service from the RSPB!
We took the longest route first, out to the mere and spent a while in various hides, only one of which had a lot of birds.  We identified a very few, and puzzled over even more, we are only beginners, but I thought we could do better.  Later I would find out why we didn't, when we got to the last hide before the walk back.  In that hide were a couple of RSPB guides, and they showed us different birds and explained how their plumage was changing for winter.  That explains the difficulty, so birds are in transition - very confusing.

On the way back to the reception area and cafe, we stopped off to visit the dig at Leiston Abbey.  Very interesting it was too.

 The Abbey had been repeatedly flooded and eventually the monks were given some land further from the sea and moved the whole Abbey 'stone by stone'.  This must have cost a fortune, but their money making schemes were quite profitable and even at the time decidedly illegal!  They seem to have diverted ships from the real port and unloaded them, and charged the appropriate taxes etc. None of that money left the Abbey, it seems.  There were various law suits against them, but that doesn't seemd to have made a difference.

We spoke to a number of the diggers and heard what they had to say.  Most were older people, so there's hope for me yet maybe.  Many had paid for the privilege, because the dig was being run by DigVentures. From discussions about how to determine what is worth getting out of the trench, to the very obvious changes in the colour of the soil, and the constant references to the ground radar that is so helpful in showing where to dig, I was fascinated. 

We eventually returned for Lunch.  Simple food was available, soup, jacket potatoes, sandwiches and the like.  The jacket potatoe was OK, but not that hot, and the order wasn't correct, although that was quickly fixed.  We sat just outside the cafe, but still under cover, not to keep warm, but to stay in the shade!

After lunch we walked round the other two circuits (together, shorter than the first) and saw almost nothing in the bird line at all, which was very disappointing.  We did see some rather impressive Red Admirals on the blackberry bushes, and I managed to get a reasonable picture.


On our way home we vistied the 'new' Leiston Abbey.  Still a ruin, but MUCH more to see.



According to the information plaques: "The abbey was of the Premonstratensian order, a very strict order who favoured remote locations (like Minsmere) well away from towns. The order was started in 1119 by Saint Norbet or Premontre in northern France.  The inmates wore black and white robes and were ordained priests unlike the monks of mother religious orders."

Norbet / Norbert just set me thinking - shouldn't have really!

After a walk on Thorpeness beach we headed for the Parrot and Punchbowl in Aldrinngham (where, we later found out, two of our friends were married).  We had a lovely meal, and a very long chat with some sitting at the next table, who clearly wanted someone to talk to.