“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.

A Simple Trinity Sermon

I posted this up last month, but it seems to have walked…..so posting it again.

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Last week the church celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the ways god revealed himself through the apostles.

This week we celebrate the Trinity. The three ways we have encounter God, the three ways god has revealed himself to the church.

The Father The Son The Holy Spirit Many people find it hard to get their minds around the trinity, even great and clever theologians struggle, that they are one God but just three different ways we experience God. There are many images that are used to try and explain this great mystery, Water, ice, steam The peal, fruit and core of a apple The three wheels on a tricycle The chocolate, cake and orange of a Jaffa cake three things that together make part of a whole.

These images can be helpful, but they don’t fully explain how the father, son and spirit are one. There is a very long and complicated creed in the church called the Athanasian Creed, for those of you who know of it, don’t worry, i’m not going to make us say it, but there are some key lines which try to explain what the trinity is, most importantly it says “So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God.” Three parts of God.

I’m not going to try and explain this anymore, but I would like us to think for a moment about what affect this has in our lives. Trinity Sunday is about celebrating how God had revealed himself to us, and that’s one of the joys for a Christian, seeking how God is revealed in our own lives. So I wonder, how God has made his presence known in your lives this week. And I have some pieces of paper here and some pens and pencils we can use just to make a note of how God has been there in your lives. I’m not going to make you share them or show them to anyone if you don’t want. They are personal to you.

Here are some examples from people I asked on Facebook.
Energy in prayer
a situation sorting itself out,
through good times with a friend
picking flowers in the garden
laughter of their children on the beach

So we give thanks for all the ways God shows himself to the church and to us, and pray that we will always be watchful for Gods action in the world. Amen

(Preached to Dyffryn Church & Boys Brigade)

Love one another, lessons from Palestaine

‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you give love for one another.’

Jesus seems very intent on getting his message across, a message summed up in a single word, LOVE.

That’s the beginning and end of the Christian life…. LOVE.

All you really need to know about the Christian life – and the God who calls us.

LOVE.

And this is one of the key messages that is taught in Hope Secondary School that we in Llanbedr will be supporting throughout giving on the collection plate. So I thought this morning I should tell you a little more about them.

Hope School is one of the most inspiring places I’ve probably ever been to. They are based just outside of Bethlehem in a town called Beit Jala, and they are very close to the Wall and the Israeli border. This means the school and their pupils have seen a lot of action from the Israeli soldiers. The school is constantly under threat and the current acting head told us of how soldiers came last year and knocked some of the school buildings down, without any warning, because they wanted the land they were on.

Some days the staff will arrive to discover there is no electricity, or no water. But yet they continue to teach the children.

Despite all this, the school see themselves as more than just an educational institute, they call themselves a Christian witness in the land of Christ’s birth. And it is plain to see how much they mean this.

As you arrive at the school you can’t miss them, as there is a huge cross on the roof of the main building. And as you walk in there are bible quotes painted on the walls and posters up with Christian messages. They have a chapel and every morning the pupils start with worship.

The school only has around 150 pupils, and half of them are Christian, the other half are Muslim.

As I explained to those of you in the PCC, Hope School is a school for second chances. They offer a second chance for those who have been expelled from other schools. They accept both male and female students, and they have also adapted their building to accept those with disabilities. The majority of the children experience hardship at home due to limited employment and illness, some live in single parent homes usually as a result of death, desertion or divorce and in most cases the mother provides for a large family, seeking work which rarely brings in enough to provide. Some of the students are orphans.

The school has a small residential section which allows 30 children to live in the school.

Education, although compulsory by law, is not something every child in Palestine has access to. Education is something that needs to be paid for, and many children and their families cannot afford the school fees.

Hope School are very proud that they have never turned away a student because their family couldn’t pay. Many fees are paid for by people like us, individuals, churches and other orginisations. From the money people raise they are also able to buy clothes, equipment, and health care.

When I spoke to some of the members of staff about the pupils and the situation it was clear to see how saddened they were, that children were placed in these situations. And the dedication to the children is clear. You can clearly see the love the staff has for their children and their work and their dedication. I spoke last week about calling and vocation, and their calling is clear and this shines through the children who all have hopes and dreams for their future. I spoke to one lad, who told me of his dream to go to university and study computers. He takes his exams this June and he hopes to find a sponsor to help him.

To see a child has a year’s education costs only £250. For a child to live in the school and have their fees covered costs only £580.

‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you give love for one another.’

Let us take a lesson from Hope School this morning, to love, even when loving is hard. To love, when all around us seems to work for the opposite. To love, even those who seem loveless. To love, all regardless of race, creed, gender or anything else you can think of. To love, with a love that never gives up, because it is through love God works, and through love, great change can happen. Amen

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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!!!!

The gist of my Bible Sunday 2012 sermon

Stories are essential for our living, they fashion and fill our existence. From the earliest times we have used stories to share information and I bet that the vast majority of you as you came into church this morning shared a story from your life, from your week.

It is through stories that we learn, our children learn their first lessons and life skills through the stories they are told from their parents, or from school.

How quiet our lives would be without stories, it is our stories that bind us together.

And this morning we are celebrating ‘Bible Sunday’ the one Sunday of the year we set aside to remember the importance of the Bible and to learn anew the joy of being able to read this library of stories about God and his people.

History, parable, romance, law, heros and villains, biography, clumsy repetition and the occasional contradiction. Written by the imperfect hands of humans, but all the same inspired by God.

All of us who read and study the bible put ourselves in great risk! When we read the bible we hear the story of God and his people, we are faced with our ancestors at both their best and their worst. We run the risk of periods of disillusionment and doubt. We also run the risk of deepening our understanding, and our faith, and of receiving transforming riches with the help of Gods intellect and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We all read the bible slightly differently. The bible speaks to each one of us. And our reading changes as we do depending on our experiences and where we are in our lives at the time. Passages we read when we were younger, will have new meanings as we grow. And that is one of the wonderful things about the Bible, it is a living book. Gods living Word which aids our relationship not only with God but also with each other.

Reading the Bible is not like reading any other book. We come to the Bible to be changed, not just to gain information.

The Bible deals with the nitty gritty, it is not about the perfect people of God. It is about the imperfect, the real, worldly, the good, the bad and the ugly as well!

(Noah was a drunk; Abraham was old and a liar; Sarah laughed at God’s promises; Jacob was a deceiver; Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused; Moses had a stuttering problem and a short fuse; Miriam was a gossip; Gideon was afraid; Samson had long hair and was a womanizer; Jeremiah and Timothy were too young. Naomi was a widow; Job went bankrupt; David wasn’t even considered leadership material – his dad didn’t even consider him. Then he committed adultery; Solomon was too rich. Elijah was burned-out and suicidal; Jeremiah was depressed; Jonah ran from God; Hosea’s wife was a prostitute. John the Baptist ate bugs; Martha worried about everything; the Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once; Peter denied Christ; Thomas doubted; Zaccheus was short; John Mark was rejected by Paul; Paul himself was too religious, plus, he was a murderer, as were Moses and David. And of course, Lazarus was dead.)

Whether we like it or not, it is our history. It is our story. And in its people we can see ourselves also.

The Bible tells us the stories that we need. Not just what we want to hear, but also the stories we do not want to hear. The stories that help us to live, help us to die, help us believe that we will live again.

It teaches us of our calling, our call the be in relationship with God and in relationship with each other.

The words of the Bible change us, and as Psalm 119 says ‘Thy word is a lantern unto my feet: and a light unto my paths’.

The Word feeds and nourishes us. We are strengthened and transformed by the Word, and helps the seeds that it plants to germinate, grow and bear fruit.

We are unbelievably lucky to have such free access to the Bible and to a worshiping community. And we should learn not to take this for granted. We should take every opportunity to open the Word of God and to allow it to change us into the true people of God.

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Wedding Sermon, Gareth and Libby.

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

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.

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