Magazine letter April 2024

‘Then they went out and ran from the tomb, for terror and bewilderment had seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’ Mark 16.1-8. So ends the Gospel of Mark, to many a short and unsatisfying end to the Gospel – the Greek even ends on a preposition (very bad Greek!). Several other later endings were added by other hands but Mark’s true account ends here with the women too afraid to speak of what they saw.

Morning Service for the Second Sunday of Easter 2024

We are soon to celebrate the gift of the Spirit.  The birthday of the church.  The church  follows the order of things as given by the writer of the Acts of the Apostles and places the coming of the Holy Spirit 49 days after the Resurrection. 

Morning Service for Easter Day 2024

Easter is about conversion – one thing becoming another – or if you prefer, transformation.  A tomb with a body becomes empty; women coming in sadness leave in awe and wonder, the language is just that of the transfiguration, when the true nature of Jesus was revealed; women not allowed to speak in public become the vital messengers of new life; a frightened, defeated community of disciples become the body of Christ sharing their resurrection faith with the while world; and, of course, the most central of all transformations, Jesus dead now Jesus risen.  

Morning Service for Palm Sunday 2024

We heard this morning Mark’s account of what has become known as the Ttriumphal Entry into Jerusalem. In it we hear that Jesus rode into Jerusalem after giving his disciples detailed instructions on where to find a colt for him to use. This arrival into Jerusalem is to be no casual affair, Jesus has been walking to Jerusalem ever since his transfiguration on the mountain to the north of Israel.

Morning Service for Lent 5 2023 

It is General Election time!! Exaggerations and half truths abound. Political parties promise a better world, as well as criticising their opponents.

Magazine letter March 2024

We are a good way into Lent by now, our 40 days of fasting, or what passes for fasting these days, usually the giving up of some self-destructive habit, like sugar in your tea or chocolate biscuits. All very useful but hardly a wilderness experience! I suppose we’ve lost our sense of urgency in the conduct of our spiritual lives, we don’t generally tend to think in terms of ‘doing battle with our lower natures.’ Such language belongs to an age of hand to hand combat.

Magazine letter February 2024

In our increasingly secular world any kind of ‘organised religion’ is regarded as something strange and peculiar. People instead claim to be ‘spiritual’. Which rather sounds to me like claiming to be able to swim without getting wet! Religion is the embodiment of spirituality, it is what gives it shape and purpose, and allows the experience of generations to be shared and learned from.

MORNING Service for Mothering Sunday 2024

Today is Mothering Sunday, please note, it is not Mother’s Day, that is a day for people to celebrate their mother, it began in America after a one woman campaign by a lady called Anna Jarvis. It was declared a holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, it is always the 2nd Sunday of May. Anna Wilson was so disgusted at the commercialisation of her idea that she regretted starting the whole thing.

Morning Service for Lent 3 2024

The Ten Commandments are a sobering read – they become the terms of God’s third covenant with Israel. The first to Noah, the second to Abraham and now this third to the freed Hebrew slaves in the wilderness. According to the writer of the book of Exodus these Ten Commandments were given by the voice of God himself from the holy mountain of Sinai, in fear and trembling the people heard them. 

Morning Service for Lent 2 2024

Today’s first two readings are about having faith and, indeed, justification by faith – being put right with God by faith– is a key Protestant belief and was crucial for Martin Luther. This was contrasted with doing good as a sort of scoring system; I will be put right with God by doing more and more good deeds or in Luther’s time giving more and more money to the Roman Church for the re-building of St Peter’s, Rome. 

Morning Service for the first Sunday in Lent 2024

The name Satan comes from the Greek, Satanas, which is in turn a transliteration of the Aramaic, satana. The character first appears in Jewish literature in the book of Job, where he is simply hassatan, the accuser, one of the servants of God.  In later literature he developed into an evil power, the opponent of God, seeking to destroy the relationship between God and man.  It is difficult not to ascribe this development to the influence of the dualistic religions of Israel’s near neighbours, such as the Zoroastrians in Persia.

Lent Study Group

Don’t forget the Lent Discussion Group meeting in the Church Room of St Matthew’s, Otterbourne on Thursdays in Lent at 10am. 

A Morning Service for the Sunday next before Lent 2024

Today as we draw close to the season of Lent and our journey in imagination to Jesus’ cross and resurrection, so the lectionary bids us to remember the moment when Jesus’ actual journey to the cross begins in earnest, that moment when at the northern borders of ancient Israel he turns to begin his return south to Jerusalem in time for Passover and the celebration of the liberation of his people from slavery.

Morning Service for Epiphany 3 2024

We use symbols to show things that we may not say; do the Christmas presents we have received and given recently say something – as a child I used to receive knitted woollen light grey socks each Christmas from my aunt who was well off – but did the socks say I like you, my only nephew, so much that I will spend hours knitting for you? For some people, who could not see beyond the physical, they would only be socks.

Morning Service for Epiphany 2 2024

Today is about introductions, it’s also about change and revolution. Samuel is introduced to God, or I suppose I should use the name that is written in the Hebrew, YHWH (generally given as Yahweh), because that was what the writer used – not some generic term ‘god’, but Yahweh, the sacred, special, and very personal name given to Moses when he asked the voice at the burning bush who he should say had spoken to him. In fact the incidents aren’t all that different so far as Samuel didn’t recognise the voice that called him any more than Moses did.

Morning Service for Epiphany 2024

That remarkable piece from Isaiah is worth pausing to notice. It is easily overlooked on a day so full of obvious sermons about Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, Wise Men, Stars and the like. They are stirring words of hope to a people reluctant to hope – a people whose hope has been squeezed from them by poverty, by homelessness – by being strangers on a foreign land.

Morning Service for Christmas 1 2023

There will be some men and women here who like me are labelled colour blind. (It really is a misnomer -more like atypical colour vision) Many, many years ago, I said to a colleague, who asked where someone was, he is over there by the green curtains which covered the whole length and height of the large hall – only they were not green but red – making for some confusion.

Morning Service for Christmas 2023

Religion is the communication of an experience; call it a feeling, call it an expression of something that can’t be defined or explained. Because we are human beings we try hard to shape the experience, the feeling, with our minds. We can say what it isn’t, we can guess at what it might be, but like many really important things, in the end, you just have to stay with the feeling. Today is about that feeling.

January Magazine Letter

This poem by Al Zolynas seems appropriate when there is so much to cause us concern this new year, from the ever present threat of global warming to the dreadful wars in both Israel and Ukraine, not to mention the endless conflict in Iraq and Yemen.

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