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

Monday, April 14, 2008

Unemployed? (an article for Spotlight - the Christ Church Monthly magazine)

Many of you will already know that my job at CSC Computer Sciences was moved to a cheaper location on 17 March 2008. As a result, I am no longer in paid employment, but am living on the proceeds of redundancy pay. It is also common knowledge that I was licensed as a Reader in October 2007. Reader training takes, altogether, four years. It starts with attending the Course in Christian Studies for two years, and then moves on to Reader training for a further two years.
Working at CSC – a very large global company – is to experience constant change. There is always the possibility that a reorganisation, or a change of client will mean that your job becomes more difficult, or easier, or even disappears. It is something that you learn to live with. In 2003 the major projects I was working on had completed, and my team was cut down to 3 as the work was reorganised and re-aligned. I was assigned to a different part of the organisation, and began to get involved in different work. My workload had reduced significantly. My responsibilities were no longer quite so close to the front line. During late 2004 and early 2005 I completed the transition into the role I have been working in since.
When my employment was put “at risk”, I was speaking to someone in the office, and closing down some of the issues I had asked him to look at for me. I happened to have my Bible open on my desk. I was using it to change my password – I use the initial letters of a verse of scripture, and needed a new verse as my passwords had expired. He asked me about the Bible, and told me he was a Christian. We had quite a long chat, and he reminded me of Romans 8:28.
Paul Hinckley use to say that you can often only see what God has done, not what he is doing. As I look back over the years of training I now see that some of the more difficult and demanding parts of my job disappeared, and provided me with a little extra time to get on with the study that I needed to do to complete my course and get to licensing.
Then less than six months after licensing the job comes to a complete end, and I have to start looking for another one. Had that happened during the training, I may not have finished the course. With Warner being unwell, I have had very little time to put my feet up and enjoy my time off. That would probably not be something I would enjoy anyway – I like to be busy, and have plenty of things to do.
What has God got planned for my future? - Well, or course, I don't know. I believe that I have been called to be a Reader, and that so far as I am aware at the moment that is my only calling. What I can testify to is “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I believe I can see that evidence in the things that have happened in the last few years. So I know that God has His plans, and all I can do is to follow them as faithfully as I can, as I continue to search for some new paid employment – whatever form that may take.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Luke 24:13-35 - 6:30pm Communion by Extension

Our reading today describes an incident where a couple of people were walking home to the village of Emmaus. The Crucifixion was a few days ago. We don’t know if it was two men or a man and his son or perhaps a man and wife. We know they were followers of Jesus, but not how closely they were involved – they were not counted in the disciples. We do know one was named Cleopas, a man’s name.

They had left the dispirited and confused band of disciples with the events of Good Friday fresh in their memories. They can only just have heard the news that the body was missing. We can sympathize with their bewilderment. They had left without even waiting to find out what had happened to the body.

The reading tells us they were discussing all that happened, when Jesus joins them. It adds that they were kept from recognizing Jesus.

Why were they kept from recognizing him? Why wouldn't Jesus want them to know who he was? Perhaps we guess that it was to be a teaching experience. He wanted to teach the scriptures and not have them distracted by that amazing fact that he was alive.

Jesus asked, “What are you discussing?” That question surprised them. They stop and look depressed and ask Jesus if he is just passing through and not heard all the news…

What news?

They tell him about Jesus of Nazareth, how he was a great a prophet, and how the authorities had arranged his death. They had thought he was to be the one who would redeemed Israel. Then they shared how the women found an empty tomb and others verified it. They did not have any idea what was going on. They have finished with it all. Jesus was a prophet, we expected great things of him, but now he's dead. Time to go home. Time to put that behind us and move on.

Jesus calls them foolish because they don’t understand or expect the descriptions of the messiah to come true. How slow they are to believe. And then over the next few miles he explains from Moses through all the prophets and how they relate to Jesus the Christ.

Jesus reminds them about the scripture related to the prophecies of the messiah. If Jesus was recognized or had revealed who he was he would have been explaining scriptures with his personal authority. He would have been speaking as the son of God, which would be pretty powerful, but his identity would carry weight in their eyes, and that is not His purpose. So He could not let them know who he was.

When he reminds them of the scriptures He is allowing the scriptures to speak with their own authority. His identity does not influence the hearers; in fact how they see him now may even be a negative influence since he seems to be a person that is out of touch with what has happened.

This reading is an important illustration of the relevance and authority of scripture and how we should weight it’s use in our relationship with God. Scripture contains the information we all need to understand God and his purposes. If we have trouble reading and understanding the bible we need to continue to read and pray that the Holy Spirit will aid our understanding like Jesus did for the travellers that day.

The scripture that Jesus is talking about would have been much better known to travellers than they are to us. Each of the stories that he told them they would recognise, they'd heard them hundreds of times before. Most of them they could re-tell from memory, but here they had a new twist. They all lead to Jesus. They all relate in some way to His mission and ministry.

These would not be just the familiar prophesies,

  • Isaiah 53:3-7 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. By oppression and judgement he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

or the verses that Jesus spoke from the cross

  • Ps 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

  • Ps 22:16-18 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

This would cover the whole story, from Moses onward. Let me read you a short paper which gives some of the flavour of the things that Jesus might have been talking about.

Read: Jesus: The new Moses.

After Jesus has expounded the scriptures for a while they come to the end of their journey.

The travellers have not had enough though, they invite him to stay with them. Have they perhaps started to recognise him through all that he has been saying. Certainly something has gone in, something of what he has been saying has stuck. Their hearts are burning, they have seen some truths that they had missed before. They cannot leave it at this. They must hear more. This is no polite request for an encore, although it is issued politely.

Jesus agrees to stay and eat with them. The food is brought, and Jesus does a remarkable thing. He takes the bread and breaks it. In that action they suddenly realise who it is.

That's because it is time for Jesus to reveal Himself. He has performed at least part of the last supper ceremony that He has passed on to them. Their eyes are opened.

Its the same ceremony that we are here to celebrate today.

Do you remember the first time you took part in the Holy Communion ritual? For me it was at Spring Harvest. I had been coming to church for a while by then, and was already on the list of those due to be confirmed. I had so far refused to say the words “Though we are many we are one body because we all share in one bread”. How can you say those words when you cannot share in the one bread? - I don't know, and I couldn't.

At Spring Harvest they welcomed all to communion who were regular members in good standing with their churches – no mention of needing to be confirmed. I decided that I would receive the elements when it was my turn. So when the bread was offered, I accepted, and likewise with the wine. After the service someone said “That meant a lot to you didn't it Pete”. I could only agree. Through partaking in the ritual I had met Jesus in a way that I had not met him before. There was something new in our relationship. I had a new experience of the presence of God. We were closer, because I had obey this command. I could see Jesus more clearly.

There have been other times when communion has been special – but none have yet been like the first time. Perhaps you have similar recollections of particular services where you found that communion meant something extra special. Perhaps it was your first communion that was special.

Tonight as we approach the table, try to recall, or if there have not been any special times, consider that through this act you will meet with Jesus, perhaps more closely than you do on a daily basis, perhaps more closely than you ever have before. At least be prepared for it to happen.

Through the word, and through the meal we meet with Jesus.

Through the word, and through the meal we meet with the Risen Christ.

Meeting with Jesus is a good thing to do, but it is not enough. When the two travellers realised who it was he immediately disappeared from their sight.

Why did Jesus have to leave at that point?

He left because the lesson that he is trying to teach is the same lesson that was spoken to Thomas.

Jn 20:24-29

Jn 20:24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
Jn 20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
Jn 20:26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Jn 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Jn 20:28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jn 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The disciples have got to learn the lesson that Jesus is not going to be with them physically any more. It's a lesson that He has tried to teach before “Jn 16:7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

Now, of course the lesson is a practical one, rather than simply a spoken one. He has shown them that they do not need him there. At last they believe! At last they have started to understand.

When I spoke about meeting with Jesus earlier, I was not expecting him to be there in the flesh, saying “The peace of the Lord be with you”, but I knew nonetheless that I had met with him.

Theses two followers who were so caught up in his words as he walked along have finally got it.

Their reaction is to return to Jerusalem, to tell the disciples what they have seen, what they have experienced. The journey back is a lot quicker than the journey out had been, but I bet it seemed longer. When they arrive back, they find that their exciting story is old news. Jesus has appeared to Peter.

In reality, of course, the appearance to the two travellers is a very important event. There are two of them, and as such this is a valid testimony in Jewish eyes. There must be two witnesses for the testimony to be up-held – and here they are. They are telling their story to the disciples, who will later pass it on to others and eventually to us.

Their story, their witness, because that's what they have become – witnesses, will help to convince many that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead. The report of their journey will be written down, and will become part of the scriptures for us. Part of the amazing story of the God's plan to redeem the whole world, not just the city of Jerusalem, the home of the Jews.

For us this is now an important part of scripture as we seek to obey the Lords final command

Mt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mt 28:20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Luke 24:13-35 - 10am Service of the Word

Alleluia Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed Alleluia.

We are still looking at the events of Easter Day. This one of the last of Luke's stories about Jesus and his disciples.. He uses it to summaries many of the messages in his book, but most importantly as a 'proof' of the resurrection. This morning we are going to take a closer look at how we understand the story. What the story means for us. How each of us thinks about it. Lets take a quick tour of the story, because we must have the story clearly in our minds for the next part.

Two 'volunteers' mime the story, to my direction.

As I was preparing for today's talk I came across a series of pictures inspired by the story. They are interpretations from the great artists in our past. Some of them depict scenes that are nothing like what I imagined – and of course what I imagined may not be anything like the reality that existed when these two friends travelled on their 7 mile journey. We've already seen one interpretation in the re-enactment, and, I have no doubt, that some of you will have seen things in the story differently because of that. I'm now going to run the sequence of pictures, they should continue to cycle through as I move on with the sermon.

Run Picture sequence through once

The question I was left with was “How do I see the events of the journey?” and “What impact does that have on my relationship with Jesus?”

Now we are going to look at the story again, and try to imagine it in your own way. I will take us through the events, and make some suggestions and ask us some questions on route.

At the end we will be back here together.

Imagine it - The following is read slowly, with sufficient gaps for people to think.

You're in a busy city

Something happens – a disaster of some sort – your friend is arrested and put to death.

  • What had you been expecting?

  • What had he promised?

Your group of friends is in disarray. No-one can agree on anything.

You just want to go home. Two of you decide to leave together.

  • It takes some careful planning to get out of the city unnoticed, and avoid being arrested yourself.

  • Maybe the route is not direct, perhaps you have to walk through some narrow back streets.

  • Are people watching, or are you left alone?

  • Is there any sign of the temple police, do you have to avoid them.

It's a long walk home, but there is no other way – there is nothing to go back for. Everything you had there has come to an end.

You're depressed, and despairing.

What are you talking about?

  • The strange things that have happened

  • The expectations you had –

    • What were you expecting as you entered the city – not the welcome you got?

    • Were you expecting a revolution?

    • What were you expecting when you were in the olive groves? When your leader just wanted to pray.

  • Are you talking about the way you reacted?

    • How did you react when he was arrested?

    • Did you get involved in the fight? - Are you proud of that?

    • Did you follow the temple police into the city?

    • Did you see where your leader was put, how he was treated?

    • Would you have preferred not to come into the city at all, would it have been safer to stay outside?

    • After all that's happened what could you have done differently?

Two of you leave the city at last, and onto the road to your village.

  • Take a look back at the city

  • Think again of all that has happened in the last few days

What is the road like?

  • Maybe its dusty and deserted, is it hot, can you see the heat haze in the distance

  • What can you see to either side?

  • Are there other travellers in the distance?

  • Is it a difficult walk, up-hill, or down hill?

  • Is the road in a good condition?

Now in about two hours you'll be home – it may take longer today – there's not much enthusiasm for anything, not even getting where you want to be.

  • Does the scenery change as you walk?

  • Will you have to pass through any villages on the way?

While you're walking, someone comes along and walks in the same direction. Perhaps they join from another path, or catch you up.

  • Somehow you strike up a conversation.

  • The stranger seems unaware of your disaster

  • The stranger doesn't even seem to know what's been happening

  • but they have a listening ear.

Tell them about all that has happened to you, to your friends, describe your situation.

  • From the highs of the entry in Jerusalem to the lows of the arrest and crucifixion

  • Does it sound different now you're telling someone else?

Then the stranger starts to respond – they seem to know your whole life story. They know more about your past than even you do!

But when they speak about the scriptures, they speak with wisdom, authority and with real insight.

  • Ps 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

  • Ps 22:16-18 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

  • Isaiah 53:3-6 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

You're caught up in what they are saying – YES – you do know all of this

This is really how it should be -but is this really how it IS?

You come to your village. Are we really here already, it seems like we only started out a few minutes ago.

The stranger says good bye, but you ask them to stay and eat with you.

Why do you ask him to stay?

  • For his well being? - It's dangerous out there at night

  • Out of politeness?

  • Because there is something about what he is saying, and you really want the conversation to go on forever.

Who is in your house when you get there?

Who will serve you food?

What sort of greeting do you get?

You sit to eat, perhaps at a table, perhaps somewhere else

It's a simple meal – perhaps bread and soup,

The food is brought, and placed on the table

Your guest takes on the role of host and begins to share out the food.

What is it that you see that you haven't seen before?

  • Is it his actions, the way he does things

  • The way he holds the bread, the particular way he breaks it

  • Is it his hands and his arms – do you see his wounds?

  • Is it just in the fact that he has taken over, taken charge, as you have relied on him to do for the last few years

It's Jesus, Its Jesus, Its Jesus

  • What happens now?

    • Are you literally dancing with joy?

    • Are there tears of joy?

  • What are the thoughts in your head? Which ones come through above the emotion?

    • The women were right?

    • The resurrection is true?

    • Salvation?

Where's Jesus?

  • Where did he go?

  • How could he have left us so soon

  • It was really Him – wasn't it?

  • Yes, of course, of course, who else could speak like that, who else could make us hang on His every word?

  • Who else would break bread like that?

We MUST tell the others

We must go back to Jerusalem.

Its colder outside now, it may even be dark.

Retrace your footsteps urgently

Soon you will see lights in the distance – Jerusalem is minutes away

You burst into the room that you had left a little over four hours ago. The disciples and some others are still there.

They have their own exciting news. - It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.

Tell your story to the disciples

How do they react?

What is the mood of the meeting now?


Cleopas and his friend were not in Jesus inner circle. They are not listed in the 12 (now the 11). Nevertheless Jesus chose these two to make one of his final appearances to. This is the final lesson that Jesus has to teach. There are two important things that his followers have to learn:

He taught them how to find him in the Old Testament – the Jewish Scriptures. Starting with Moses – the person the Jews look back to as the founder in many ways of their beliefs, and the person God used to rescue Israel for the first time. Then using ALL the prophets He taught them about the prophecies, not that he hadn't before, but in that hour or two that he was with then he put it all together in a way they had not heard before.

He emphasised the new ceremony that he had created, he showed them by His actions that he was to be found in the breaking of the break. A reminder to them of the last supper, the meal they had shared together just a few days ago.

Both of those are lessons that we too should learn, but there is another lesson for us too, and its from the reaction of the two followers when they saw the risen Jesus for the first time. The realization that Jesus has risen from the dead – that it is really true – not just a story, but a real event, something that happened in history, as certain as the fact that you were born, that realization is a powerful thing – it changes peoples lives forever. You may not understand all the implications, I certainly didn't, but it is life changing. It is exciting, and exciting news leaks out – you MUST tell someone – maybe you just must tell anyone. As a last piece of imagination – remember back to the first time that you recognised Jesus as a living (living NOW) person.

How did you react?

What did you do next?