What is the most expensive property you can buy? If you want a London address, One Hyde Park was on sale recently for £75 million. Knightsbridge on one side, the world’s biggest back garden on the other, and very little noise from the neighbours. But if you need a little more sunshine in the Summer, consider the Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera. Named after the former King of Belgium it went on sale recently for only £485 million. And if money is no object, the most expensive property in the world? Currently, the Antilia Building in South Mumbai. 27 stories high. Three helipads on the roof, nine elevators in the lobby and space for 168 cars in the garage. A snip at £650 million.
These are the properties you can buy. What about those you can’t? Comfortably the most expensive private residence in the UK, Buckingham Palace is valued at over £1 billion. The Palace houses 775 rooms, including 52 bedrooms, 19 state rooms, 188 staff rooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms. But what is the most expensive property in the world? It is not Buckingham Palace. It is not the White House, the Kremlin or even the Vatican.
When our son Michael was 11, we had a difficult decision to make. Which secondary school would we choose? We didn’t have a lot of choice. There was Magna Carta in Egham or… Magna Carta. And at the time it didn’t have the excellent reputation it has now. Our daughter Louise was leaving Charters school in Sunningdale that Summer so we could not benefit from the sibling rule. We decided to apply for Magna Carta, Charters and Ranelagh in Bracknell. Not surprisingly we were turned down for Charters and Ranelagh as we lived outside their normal catchment area. Moving house was not an option. So we appealed – we had nothing to loose.
We went to the appeals hearing at Ranelagh and discovered there were about 20-25 other families present also appealing. Having never done it before I didn’t know what to expect. Quite soon after the hearing began, the lady chairman asked the appeals panel, made up of several clergy, to retire to another room. I tried not to look at the other parents. I felt bad that we were competing with other families for a handful of places that might be granted on appeal. All would have good reasons for wanting to send their child to the school. After what seemed an age, the panel returned. The chairman made an announcement. The appeals had been upheld – all of them. The chairman closed the meeting. We were stunned. What had happened?
I got a surprise call from the BBC recently. “Did I have a spirit of adventure? Could I think on my feet and cope without home comforts? Did I like a challenge? Was I willing to appear on their programme ‘Bare Necessities’? Two teams compete against each other to see who can survive in a remote location somewhere in the world for a week with only the bare essentials provided. Was I willing to join a team of three vicars competing against three bookmakers? Naturally. With God on our side it would be no contest. Could I participate at short notice? Did I have a passport? Could I go anywhere in the world? For an audience of 2 million, when do we start? Did I have any phobias? Real men don’t have phobias – at least we don’t admit them to strangers. Would I be prepared to eat anything? Yes with my eyes closed. Could I work in a team made up of strangers? Try me. The last question – Did I have one wish? ‘To see heaven on earth’ I heard myself say. The interview lasted half an hour. It felt a cert. I was in. They loved me. The delightful programme co-ordinator assured me she would come back to me in a few days. I put the phone down and began to prepare myself.
The last time I was in China, I visited the grave of one of my hero’s. Robert Morrison’s mortal remains lie in a small churchyard in Macau, just across the Pearl River from Hong Kong. Robert grew up in an austere Scottish Presbyterian home. When he told his parents he wanted to become a missionary, they were distraught. His mother insisted young Robert promise that he would not go abroad while she was still alive. Robert obeyed and waited till she had died before beginning theological studies at the Gosport Academy. The London Missionary Society accepted Robert in 1805. He then continued his studies in medicine, astronomy, and Chinese. When his father fell seriously ill, his brother and sisters pleaded with him to return. He loved his father, but wrote this letter,
“Honoured father, brother, and sisters… the account of my father’s leg growing worse and worse concerns me; but what can I do? I look to my God and my father’s God… You advise me to return home. I thank you for your good intentions; may the Lord bless you for them. But I have no inclination to do so; having set my hand to the plough, I would not look back. It hath pleased the Lord to prosper me so far, and grant me favour in the eyes of this people”.
A Christian Critique of Israeli Apartheid in Palestine
On 28 August 1963 Martin Luther King, co-led a civil-rights march of 250,000 people in Washington DC against racism and segregation. In what has become probably the most well-known and widely quoted speech in history,
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their character. When we let freedom ring, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
A paper delivered at a conference organised by Astan Razavi in conjunction with the University of Tehran and Sharif University of Technology entitled, “Civilisational Thoughts of Imam Raza (peace be upon him_: Justice for all and injustice for no one.” (download a copy here)
In this short presentation I will be reflecting on the life and teaching of Imam Ali al-Raza as summarised in the Razavi Codes of Ethics, comparing and contrasting them with ethical instructions taught by Jesus Christ found in the four Gospels of the New Testament. Given that those participating will likely already be familiar with the example and teaching of Imam Raza, I will elaborate more on the teaching of Jesus to illustrate similarities and differences, recognising that Imam Raza, living many centuries after the New Testament was written, may well have been influenced by it, consciously or otherwise.
This will not however, be an exhaustive or comprehensive analysis of Islamic and Christian ethical codes, but rather a comparison of some of the 13 examples contained in the Razavi Codes of Ethics with similar statements found in the teaching of Jesus.
On June 6th, 1944, a huge amphibious and airborne force landed on the coast of Northern France intent on reversing the tide of the Second World War. The meticulously planned operation included waves of beach assaults, naval bombardments, air strikes and parachute drops – all on a scale never seen before. Code-named “D-Day,” the invasion saw the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation of Europe. D-Day has been re-enacted in at least five major films. I am sure you will have seen at least one of them.
Where Eagles Dare focuses on a group of commandos sent high into the Alps on a daring mission to rescue a captured American officer before he divulges D-Day plans. The Big Red One is a more factual account. The film title refers to the US Army 1st Infantry Division, who wore the insignia of a red ‘one’ as they landed on Omaha Beach on June 6th. Director, Samuel Fuller actually served with the Big Red One in real life, earning the Silver Star on D-Day. Perhaps the definitive film about D-Day, shot in black & white, was appropriately entitled, The Longest Day. The film encompasses the American, British, French as well as the German perspective, as D-Day unfolds. The ten-part Band of Brothers is a more recent visually stunning and accurate portrayal of the 101st Airborne Division’s role in WW2. These US paratroopers were one of the first Allied units to go into battle on D-Day, and the series captures their war with gritty realism. But probably the most iconic portrayal of D-Day takes centre-stage in the gripping war film, Saving Private Ryan. The film is considered one of the greatest as well as most controversial war films of all time. Its half hour depiction of the bloody fighting on Omaha Beach is both vivid and terrifying. Apparently psychiatrists treating veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Vietnam and Iraq wars, advised them not to watch the film. If you have seen it you will understand why. It’s the kind of film you probably won’t want to watch twice.
However terrifying, the reality of D Day June 6th, 1944 was, by comparison with our subject today, only a minor skirmish in a global war against evil that has raged since before the creation of the world.
In this seminar we will refute seven of the most common assumptions made by Christian Zionists about the relationship between Israel and the Church. We will examine each in the light of what the Bible actually says. These common assumptions are like a balloon of hot air. How many pins do you need to burst a balloon? I will give you seven. Any one is enough to burst the balloon.
Imagine. Imagine a church that is a welcoming and safe place where everyone feels loved, accepted and cared for. Imagine a church where doubters, seekers and believers feel welcome. Imagine a church of every age, race and colour, becoming one in Christ. Imagine a church of fully devoted, spiritual, Christ followers, passionate for an ever-deeper relationship with God. Imagine a church where the praise, worship and teaching are truly pleasing to God. Imagine uplifting services where the Bible teaching builds up the church family and equips members to live for Christ. Imagine a church impacting the lives of children, youth and students from all areas of the local community to become fully devoted followers of Christ. Imagine a church where everyone is fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, exercising their God-given gifts in joyful and fulfilling service. Imagine a church family informed, inspired and eager to meet the needs of local, national and international mission. Imagine a church in which members are regularly being called into ministry, locally, nationally and internationally. Imagine being part of such a church. Imagine helping to build, to create such a church. Imagine.
In my former parish of Virginia Water, our Vision was built on three words that summed up our purpose – Win – Build – Send. Evangelism, Discipleship and Mission. In our Bible reading from Mark 1, at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus said, “Come, follow me … and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mark 1:17). Here the order is Build – Send – Win. That is because this is a cyclical mission strategy and so it doesn’t matter where we begin. And similarly where you are on your spiritual journey, there is a message here for you. Today we will discover the origins of the Christian ministry strategy. Evaluate your church or mission agency against that of Jesus.
Despite criticism of their alleged involvement, virtually everyone on both sides of the Atlantic, including the US President, Joe Biden and the British Monarch King Charles, have been celebrating the visit of an Iranian delegation to Palestine. In the Epiphany story, we remember how a group of Iranians visited Palestine carrying funding for an opposition figure the authorities wanted dead. Then the Iranians evaded the authorities, ignoring the correct exit procedures and fled the country. Of course, King Charles, the Prime Minister and US President have not been celebrating contemporary Iranian involvement, but the historic visit of a past Iranian delegation – the Magi (the ‘Wise Men’ or ‘Kings’) who came to Bethlehem bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Jesus. It is ironic that without Iran and Iranian involvement, we would not have exchanged gifts on Christmas Day!
The passage before us today is a study in contrasts. The contrast between religious hypocrisy and spiritual integrity. Between the religious hypocrisy of Herod and the Priests, and the spiritual integrity of the Magi. How can we distinguish one from the other? By their response to God’s revelation in nature, but above all His self revelation in the Scriptures. For the scriptures demand a response, not passive acquiescence nor mere lip service, but submission. In this passage we are going to consider the Kings Hypocrisy, the Scripture’s Testimony, and the Magi’s Integrity.