Category Archives: Expository Preaching

Turning our World Upside Down (John 20)

It is confession time. I didn’t mean to do it. I know I should not have done it. Every week I carefully avoid looking but this Friday I did. I don’t know what possessed me. I put it down to mid-life crisis. My eyes just wandered and there it was, the most enticing, the most tantalizing, the most tempting job offer I have ever read in the Church of England Newspaper. 

“It’s True Adelaide is a great place… No doubt you’ve read about Adelaide’s fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine. Its all true! South Australia wants people who see their future in its progressive climate. The archbishop of Adelaide welcomes enquiries from clergy wishing to minister in parishes and schools. Find out more about South Australia at www.southaustralia.com. Send your expressions of interest to…” and then it gave the address.

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Maundy Thursday: When Time and Eternity Meet

Beat the clock. Around the clock. Against the clock. Clock in. Carry the day. Once in a blue moon. From now on. In the long run Come of age. A day in the sun. The crack of dawn. Year in, year out. A month of Sundays. Hour of need. Full of the joys of spring. Now or never. The moment of truth. Better late than never. Make my day. Here today and gone tomorrow. A blink of the eye. Days are numbered. What do they all have in common? Time. We say, long time no see. Killing time. Wasting time. Behind the times. On time. Just in time. As time goes by. The nick of time. Do time. Serve time. A whale of a time. Save time. Good time. Ahead of time. No time to lose. The big time. High time. Time is money. Times flies. Crunch time. Out of time. Time for a change. Times up. I counted over 100 expressions for time. They all refer to chronological or sequential time.

In our gospel reading  Jesus teaches us a new one. Kairos time.[i] The word kairos is Greek for “opportunity” or “the right time”, the “fullness of time” or the “supreme moment”. In the Bible Kairos refers to God’s timing. In his first sermon, Jesus said, “The time has come… The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). This was a kairos moment for those who heard Jesus. And for the Christ follower, as for Jesus, chronos time and kairos time intersect every moment or every day because we live in two worlds – in time and in eternity, in heaven and on earth. The evening of Maundy Thursday was one of those kairos moments for Jesus and the disciples. Please turn with me to John 13 and let us discover what Jesus knew, what Jesus did and what Jesus expects.

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This is our God, the Servant King (Mark 11)

The Road from Jericho to Jerusalem is just 14 miles.  A half-day’s journey, uphill all the way. Bethany is just on the other side of the Mount of Olives. A natural place to stop and rest before the final ascent and panoramic view of all Jerusalem.  But it is not the road that should capture our attention.   Dusty roads through dramatic scenery were as common then as now, indeed little has changed.  Israeli checkpoints, barbed wire, military settlements and the Separation Barrier have replaced the Roman garrisons but it is still Occupied Territory.  It is ironic that if Jesus were born in Blackpool he would have no problem getting from Jericho to Jerusalem today. But because he was born in Bethlehem he would not be able to make the journey to the Mount of Olives, let alone join the Palm Sunday procession into the Old City.   Like thousands of West Bank Christians he would be unable to visit Jerusalem today. He would be turned back at a military checkpoint – because he was born in Bethlehem.  Pray for your brothers and sisters today in the Holy Land who are denied the most basic of human rights – freedom of movement, freedom to worship, freedom to live in the land of their birth.

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What is My Ultimate Purpose in Life?

Gentle natured Gregory, passed into eternity, aged 69, forgotten and alone in a cell of the women’s jail in Dade County, Miami. Married four times with six children he had once been a celebrity and successful paediatrician. But Gregory succumbed to alcoholism and his license to practice medicine was suspended. Haunted by self-doubt and unable to live in the shadow of his father, he had died known as Gloria in a women’s jail, in high heels, a transvestite. When he was just 19, Gregory’s father blamed him for his mother’s death from cancer and did not speak to him for ten years before killing himself in precisely the same way Gregory’s grandfather had done before him.  In 1953, Gregory’s father wrote a short story about a Spanish father who tried to be reconciled to his son who had run away from home to Madrid. Now remorseful, the father took out an advert in a national newspaper “Paco meet me at Hotel Montana noon Tuesday, all is forgiven, Papa.” Paco is a common name in Spain, and when the father goes to the square he finds eight hundred young men names Paco waiting for their fathers. 

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Jesus and the Temple of Destiny (John 2)

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. 

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The Real Jesus I Never Knew

Before I was appointed vicar of Virginia Water, I attended an Alpha taster evening incognito. I sat next to a lady and we got talking. Then she asked me “What do you do for a living?” I replied “Guess”. Without batting an eyelid she said, “Well, you are either an estate agent, a vicar or an undertaker.” I replied, “How did you guess?”, She replied “Because I am married to one”. She was in fact a local vicar’s wife. J. John the evangelist has a better answer.

“I like to be a bit creative in telling people what I do. I sat next to this lady on an airplane at Heathrow airport and I said, ‘Hello’, and she said, ‘Hello’. Then I said to her, ‘Where are you going?’ and she said, ‘I’m going to Singapore’. And she said to me, ‘Where are you going?’ and I said, ‘I’m going to Australia’.  I said, ‘What do you do?’ and she told me; then she said to me, ‘What do you do?’ and I said, ‘Well….’ ‘… I work for a global enterprise.’ She said, ‘Do you?’ I said, ‘Yes I do.’ I said, ‘We’ve got outlets in nearly every country of the world.’ She said, ‘Have you?’ I said, ‘Yes we have.’ I said, ‘We’ve got hospitals and hospices and homeless shelters,’ I said, ‘We do marriage work, we’ve got orphanages, we’ve got feeding programmes, educational programmes.’ I said, ‘We do all sorts of justice and reconciliation things’. I said, ‘Basically, we look after people from birth to death, and we deal in the area of behavioural alteration.’ She went, ‘Wow!’ And it was so loud, loads of people turned round and looked at us. She said, ‘What’s it called?’ I said, ‘It’s called the church … have you not heard of it?’

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Jesus Mean and Wild: Three Mission Priorities (Mark 1:29-39)

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”. 

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Holy War in Palestine (Mark 1:21-28)

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.[1] 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. 

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Discovering my Purpose in Life (John 1)

When you were a child, who or what did you want to be when you grew up? As a child, I dreaded the Christmas visits to aunts and uncles. Every year they would ask me the same question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I hadn’t a clue. In many societies, you are expected to join the family trade or you may become an apprentice to a master craftsman. That’s how my grandfather Lewis learnt his trade. My great-grandmother paid a local carpenter to take Lewis on as a young boy and teach him carpentry skills. I still have his articles of indenture. My grandfather became his pupil, a learner. Then when he too became a master craftsman, he took on my father who became his disciple. I broke the family tradition although I’m pretty good at putting Ikea furniture together.  The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but life without meaning, without purpose. Many people go through life without ever discovering God’s purpose for their lives. We are not an accident. We were created for a purpose. We were made to have meaning. 

In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance…” In our Gospel reading we learn about God’s purposes, not just the first disciples, but for us too.  The context for their meeting with Jesus begins in verse 35.

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Four Kings and a Joker: Jesus, Herod & the Magi (Matthew 2)

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.

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