Wedding of Sebastian and Carlein

There are lots of things that make a marriage work. Some of them you will already know, some of them you may learn today, and many of them you will learn in the months and years to come.

But, as I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t see into the future, we will have to make do with what today can teach about long and happy marriages.

Our reading from Paul’s letter to the Colossians suggests some of the qualities you are to wear if your marriage is to be long and most importantly, happy. He says, ‘clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity’.

Love, the unifying factor, which makes everything perfect.

Part of what we are doing today, is praying for Sebastian and Carlein’s love. The love they have for each other, the love they have for God, and the love God has for them. Because we heard at the beginning of the service, that God is love, and those who live in love, lives in God and God lives in them. A simple line, until you start to think about it further.

God is love, and if he didn’t love us, we wouldn’t be able to love others.

God is love, and it’s love like God’s that we try to embody because his is a love that is perfect and eternal and will pass the test of time.

Sebastian and Carlein, we pray for you today, that you will grow in the love that you share, and that your love may be perfect like God’s love for you. And in the times when your love is tested, you will remember the words of St Paul, and you will find that your love is the kind described in our first reading from Captain Correlli’s Mandolin,

“Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and, when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two”.

Wedding Sermon Joe Wyatt & Maggie Little

Psalm 100 & Philippians 4. 4-9

Today is deemed one of the most romantic days of the year. Up and down the country and around the world, symbols of love are being exchanged. Some will do it in small gestures, chocolates, or flowers maybe, some will do it in secret. For others it will be a huge occasion, and I’m not sure if you can get a larger gesture of love then what Joe and Maggie are doing today, to marry, and declare their love for each other in front of their family and friends.
One thing we can be sure of is that neither of you have any excuse for forgetting your anniversary!!!
To be loved, I believe, is the deepest of our human desires, and to give love, is one of the greatest of human joys. The pursuit of love has been well documented down the ages and appears in all of our greatest works of art and literature. And it is good and right that we have a day to celebrate our love.
The legend of St Valentine himself is a story of love conquering. Valentine was a priest who lived during the Roman era. Emperor Claudius II had prohibited marriage, declaring that it was better for men to become soldiers in his army, and that’s what he expected them to do. However Valentine disagreed and continued to marry people in secret. Valentine acted against the authorities to ensure that people love could still be declared and couples could still make vows.
It didn’t take long after his death for Valentine’s story to catch the imaginations of people, and the church declared that St Valentine’s day would become a celebration.
It is good, and right that we should celebrate love, wherever we find it. And I hope that your celebrations Joe and Maggie will not be reserved to just one day. Because we are told in our readings that we are to rejoice; we are to rejoice and make joyful sounds wherever we see something that is true and honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and excellent. And we pray today that your marriage will be full of these things, so that every day you are together will be a celebration and an occasion of deep joy.
This is a day of celebration, of love shared, exchanged and declared in front of God and in front of your family and friends and I’m sure they will all do exactly what the readings ask, they will rejoice with you.

Sermon John 11. 1-45 Bound by fear, released by love.

Here is my draft reflection/ sermon for the morning. I think I’ve rambled too much in the middle, and lost concentration by the end, but I’ll look again at them before I preach it. It’s very short, but it never stays like that when I preach.

John 11.1-45

Fhew! I hope you would excuse me if I took a few breaths after reading all of that! Our gospel today is one of the longest in our lectionary. Sometimes, I don’t understand what they were thinking when long readings appear on a Sunday morning, but this week I’ll forgive them, because the story of Lazarus can’t really be divided.

“Lazarus, come out!”

And the dead live.

I don’t blame the on-lookers for being astonished when Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb, death is usually so…….that for someone to command the dead to walk, and the dead actually responding must have been something beyond belief, and if we’re honest, quite frightening.

But even though his is called to new life, he is still confined, and constrained by all the trappings of death.

“The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.” John 11. 44

Alive, but bound. How many of us would that describe?

There are many things in life that can bind us, that can constrain us, that can keep us [as prisoners] in darkness, and away from the true light of life.

Even when we hear Jesus calling into life, and the joy he offers us, there are many things in life that weigh us down. I wonder what are the heavy things that are trapping you today?

Maybe the expectations of others? The heavy load of work we took on because we couldn’t say ‘no’? Maybe you’re bound by the limitations you set yourself, by continuing to carry a burden from days, months, years ago? By believing the unkind words of others, or dwelling on a hasty judgment from the distant past.

Maybe you are limited by your fear of failing. Or scared of what others will think?

There are many things that can bind an individual.

What things do you think are currently binding the church?

Fear of change as we continue down the path of ministry areas? Fear of sharing the little we have with others and spreading our resources too thinly. Nostalgia for the past? To a time when church going was in the basis nature of society? Maybe it’s our fondness for our buildings, and the buildings being our property which stops us from re-imagining what church can be for those lost generations?

What about the churches fear of upsetting people, and our need to keep unity above all else?

There are so many things that bind us, that trap us, that keep us in a state that is not life. Bound in our grave clothes, unable to move, unable to see what is around us.

[There has been one passage from Isaiah 61 which has been floating around my head for the past few weeks, it’s one you should know quite well by now because it’s been read at every PCC we’ve had in the last few month.

“ to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners”]

Death, or lack of life can come in many forms.

Jesus calls us to life. We are called not just to release ourselves, but also others around us.

“Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”” John 11.35-36

Shaking off those things that bind us can be a difficult possess, but not an impossible one. Jesus brings life, not just to those who are dead, but also to those who are dying due to the things that bind them.

Love can release so many burdens, and release so many binds. It is love that can cast away the fear that holds us so tight. It is love that can “Take off the grave clothes and let [us] go.” John 11.44

On this Passion Sunday, pray that God will once again put a new life within us and that during this passion and Easter season we might be transformed to live by God’s spirit and create the kingdom of God on earth.

Images of Heaven???? Swedish House Mafia and the Mothers Union

I did a talk last week for the Mothers Union, a further post, or posts will follow about that.

I was showing them some secular music which had either a religious or spiritual message, or talked about the artists faith. I showed them this video from Swedish House Mafia ‘Don’t you worry child’ and the first comment I received was ‘That’s what heaven will be like, all of us gathered with the lamb on the throne’.

Then another pitched in ‘but where are the harps???’ Then the giggling broke out.

But I thought this was a point worth dwelling on a little longer. We’re told that heaven will be a place where “all flesh shall come to worship before me” (Isaiah 66:22,23) and that it will be a place of great joy, where there will be no pain or tears (Revelation 21:4).

One of the things that struck those who watched the video was how happy people seemed after the gig. People spoke in love and there is the iconic picture of someone making a heart with their hands at the end.

I thought this was an interesting image of heaven……

Here is my introduction and some reflections that were made.

This song is called ‘Don’t you worry Child’, and it was released towards the end of 2012. It became one of the big dance anthems of 2013.

There isn’t a ‘normal’ video to this song, the video they made was filmed in one of the big festivals in the UK. they also used this song to announce that the group were splitting up and this would be their last song together.


Over riding message that we are all here for a reason.

Going from happiness and security, when we thought we were in control, losing that and coming back.

Possible interpretations
1) Childhood to adulthood
When you’re a child you are care free, secure and unaware. With time come knowledge and responsibility, everything changes. But we find comfort n our fathers words ‘Don’t you worry, heaven has a plan’.

2) Song sung by Adam (of Adam and Eve)
Remembers the beautiful days of paradise in Eden. At the fall everything changed – sin banished them from the garden and the closeness he experienced. But God still loves them and comforts him that there is a bigger plan.

We’re all God’s children – confused, ignorant, scared, but God is giving us a message, not to worry.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6. 25-34 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,* or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?* And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

“I Wanna Be Loved By You”, Marilyn Monroe and Marriage

I used the lines from this song in a wedding sermon last Saturday, ‘I wanna be loved by you, just you, and nobody else but you’. It symbolises the dream of every couple in love, and particularly to couples getting married. The hope that their love will be lasting, forever, that their love and get them though;

‘For better for worse,
For richer for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
As long as we both shall live,’

To be loved is a wonderful gift that many of us often feel unworthy of, but I think to love is the better gift. To love unconditionally an even greater gift.

In each wedding I take, I try to convey that among the love shared by the couple, and the love given and received between the individuals in the congregation is a greater love, the love that Christ has for us.

The story of each couples marriage will be the story of their love, the love that they are able to show each other, and I pray for each couple that the love they have for one another will be close to Christ’s love for us.

Identity and Calling

Identity is a huge issue for those in the 21st century world and has become much more of an issue than it ever has before. We all like to fit in somewhere, it’s part of our human nature. From the beginning of our existence we have divided ourselves into family groups and tribes, identifiable to those around us by the land we claim and the customs we adopt. In modern society there is a great pressure to identify ourselves in a particular way and most people tread a tight rope between the mainstream culture and individuality. I’ve recently seen Will Young’s song, ‘Losing myself’ which identifies with falling totally to the mainstream.

Studies have been carried out and it’s thought that the average person can be confronted with up to 3000 advertisements per day, each begging for their attention, each trying to persuade that their product will change their life, make them cooler and sexier and completing all their quests in life.

There is a great concern especially for our young people who are pulled in every direction during those essential years when they are finding out who they are and what they are about. ‘Am I cool enough?’ ‘Funny enough?’ ‘Pretty enough?’ ‘Fashionable enough?’ ‘Likeable enough’

‘Am I enough?’

We seem to be in the generations of people pleasers, all concerned about what other people think about us. We will change our hair, clothes, likes, interests if we think it will make us more popular. Even those who seem to reject society and popular status are still trying to live up to an image. I remember well my ‘emo’ days (we didn’t call ourselves that then, but that’s the label that would be applied to us now), even when we were trying to reject the ‘mainstream’ likes and fashions we were still living up to a certain image by the style of clothes we wore, the bands on our t-shirts and hoodies and the music coming from our MP3’s.

We all want to fit in somewhere, we all need to fit in somewhere, whether it’s in the mainstream of society or somewhere out on the fringes.

Our identity crisis has much more of an impact then just on the individual. We live in a global society but instead of us being more accepting, many have just found new ways to divide ourselves. Last Sunday I preached on 1 Kings 17:17-24 of Elijah and the widow’s son, and Luke 7:11-17 of Jesus and the widow’s son.

I focused on Luke, although the stories are very similar. I explained the situation the widow found herself in when she learnt her only son was dead, because women at this time had to be represented by a man, or they became non-people. Without a male kin she would have no power and no social standing, and although the scriptures were very clear about the care of widows, that they were to be looked after, cared for and not exploited, this was no guarantee of protection in a man’s world.

The act of resurrection moves beyond the physical resurrection of the son, Jesus also resurrects the woman from her non state, broken by society and given a full life once again. She was brought from death to life.

Jesus did not only change people’s lives, he changed social orders. This is the work of God, caring for those that society wants to leave behind. The world is getting smaller with each technological advance, but instead of embracing others, and their traditions and cultures, we use them to divide ourselves further.

Sexuality, religion, ethnicity, language, nation, age, wealth, gender, music, TV the list goes on.

But this is not what God wants for us. God’s action is to restore the social order, to bring those we push out, back into our society. I see Jesus’ example of caring for the widow, and the deaf and blind and the lepers is a calling for us. We are called to be healers in our world, to restore all people with God, and to one another in Christ. We are to take Jesus’ example and be the change we want to see in the world.

If we truly are followers of Christ, then we will refuse to draw boundaries in our own lives, and refuse to exclude those who are different to us. We will work within our lives to right the wrongs and transform unjust social structures. We will welcome all into our churches and communities, and work together so that all people are fed, clothed, housed and cared for.

If we are truly followers of Christ we will work together for our common goal of loving one another as Christ loves us (John 13:34).

Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10)

Photo from: via Pinterest

Midnight Mass 2012

What words can I say on this most holy of nights?

What words could I possibly use to express how glorious and yet how lowly this night is.

In the church we have had four Sundays of watching and waiting, four Sundays of preparation for this night.

And there is something in the air. I always get a shiver when I think of the thousands upon thousands of people who will gather on this cold and damp night, who will come together to celebrate. You know something special has happened when people gather into church this late at night.

For some of you this will be extremely late, and you will have made a special effort to remain awake to be here. For others this might not be late at all, but you have still ventured out, at a time when most will be resting.

But we are all here, to share, to celebrate, to rejoice in the climax of this season.

I do not need to tell the story again, we have heard it so many times, in so many ways this year, we know about the angels, we know about the shepherds, we know about the wise man.

We are here, to share, to celebrate and to rejoice that a baby has been born. A baby has been born in a strange land, in a stable surrounded by animals, and hay. A baby has been born, screaming and crying, testing out his new lungs.

A baby has been born tonight, who is the saviour of the world.

A baby whom time predicted, whom prophets spoke of, whom we have been waiting for, God has come to earth.

The word has become flesh and dwells among us.

What can I say on this most holy of nights?

I can declare that Jesus, the Christ is born.

I can shout out that God is among us.

And we can celebrate, because everything that has taken place this night, has been done out of love.

With the glitter, and the sparkle of Christmas, with the fairs and the fetes, the trees and the cards and the decorations, and the buying of presents, the wrapping and unwrapping, the food and parties, they plays and performances by our kids, the concerts, the get together with old friends, and distant family members.

It is easy to get distracted. Distracted from the message of love which is sent to earth this night.

I said earlier that there is something in the air on this night. It’s a freedom from these expectations, and the business of the season which we all know so well. It’s the hope of a better future filled with love.

There is one carol which I have come to adore during this advent. I didn’t know about it until this year. And don’t worry I’m not going to sing it. But I would like to read you the words. It is a popular Arabic carol which talks about the meaning of Christmas.

“On the Eve of Christmas Hatred will vanish

On the Eve of Christmas The earth will flourish

On the Eve of Christmas War will be gone

On the Eve of Christmas Love will be born

When we offer a glass of water to a thirsty person

it is Christmas

When we clothe a naked person with a gown of love

it is Christmas

When we wipe the tears from weeping eyes

it is Christmas

When the spirit of revenge dies in me

it is Christmas

When in my heart I no longer want to stay apart

it is Christmas

When I am buried in the being of God

it is Christmas

The hope of Christmas, is the hope of love.

God gave us a gift in Jesus, he sent his son to show us the way. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, it is love.

What can I say on this most holy of nights?

The love of God has been born to us, let us love one another.

I printed copies of this carol, and you might want to re look at it tomorrow, after the presents and food and celebration with family and ask yourself what you could do to bring the hope and love the author of this carol speaks about further into your lives and this world.

But for now, What can we say on this most holy of nights?

Jesus is born, Alleluia!!!!

Wedding Sermon, Gareth and Libby.

Readings from the wedding.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a

In our reading from St Pauls letter to the Corinthians, we find Paul talking about love. He is not talking in general, but is saying that this is the type of love that we should have for each other.
It’s a reading which is popular for weddings, because it reminds us of some of the things needed to have a long and happy marriage and those things that will harm a relationship.

You must be patient and tolerant. Kind, truthful, and trusting. Free of jealousy and envy of each other. You cannot be selfish and only think of yourself. You cannot be touchy or resentful. You must be able to forgive and forget, and not keep score of each others mistakes.

You must work together, and keep all evil away from you. You must be honest with each other.
You need to protect each other, trust each other. And when these things are done, your love will never fail.

And we have come together today, because we believe this is what Gareth and Libby have together. We believe that they have this true love which Paul speaks of, and we are here to celebrate with them as they declare their love and trust and faithfulness will last for all time.
We pray together, that over their years together, they may be reminded of these qualities, so that their love will NEVER fail.

We all know the marriage vows quite well, most of us will know them because we have made them ourselves, or we know them from TV. And so we know that part of them say ‘To have and to hold, from this day forward’ and they end ‘for as long as we both shall live’ and they have some of these qualities of love in the middle of them.

This promise is for life, it’s a promise to be with, and to walk with that person, for the rest of your lives.

And its quite fitting that Libby chose one of her favourite poems to be read out today, Footprints.
It talks about our walk with God, and two sets of footprints in the sand.

After today, there will be three sets of footprints in the sand. And at times, when you look back, you may only see two. Because you are called to walk with each other during the good times, and to carry each other through the bad.