Category Archives: Sermons

Frozen: A Story to Melt Your Heart

Disney’s animated film Frozen, is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the Snow Queen. The story set in a northern paradise called Arendelle, an idyllic village on the shores of what looks like a Norwegian fjord.  Princess Elsa has the power to turn everything to ice by a simple touch but cannot control her ability. She has a young sister, Princess Anna, and they are very close. But one night, while they are playing, there is an accident. A wound to the head leaves Anna with a streak of white hair. A wound to the heart however would, we are told, be fatal.  As a result of the accident, their parents decide to separate the sisters.

When Elsa becomes the teenage Queen, at her coronation she loses control and freezes the whole village. In desperation Elsa runs away to a mountain in isolation. Anna is as outgoing and fearless as Elsa is afraid and reserved. She is determined to find her sister and unfreeze her village. But that is just the beginning of the adventure. While Walt Disney may not have intended it to be, the Christian message is more clearly explained in Frozen than in any other Disney fairy-tale. Christian principles and presuppositions are implicit throughout the movie. Let me highlight three:

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Living Stones of the Holy Land: Who is My Neighbour?

Did you realise that once broadcast, TV signals begin an endless journey outward into the cosmos at the speed of light?  That means our earliest TV broadcasts are probably travelling through star systems more than 400 trillion miles from earth. Do you realise that our neighbours living 60 light years away are watching the first episodes of the Lone Ranger in black and white. 50 light years away they are now watching Bonanza. 40 light years away they have moved on to the original Star Trek series. 30 light years away they are able to watch the Dukes of Hazzard. Just 20 light years away it’s the Sopranos. Those only 10 light years away are being blessed by countless episodes of Lost. Scientists tell us that the further away your neighbours live, the more likely they are to hold outdated, inaccurate and stereotypical views of you.

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7 Steps to Claiming Your Share of Abraham’s Inheritance

They say, “where there’s a will, there’s a family” and boy has there been a family dispute over the inheritance of Abraham. Millions and millions of the relatives of Ishmael and Isaac believe they are the rightful heirs. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the longest running dispute in the hands of the United Nations. In fact its over 4,000 years old. It is also the most dangerous military conflict in the world, without any international regulation of the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons held by some of Abraham’s descendants.

And it is undoubtedly the most controversial media story in the world with accusations of holocaust denial, anti-semitism, racism, apartheid and Islamophobia. And, sadly, it is being perpetuated by some misguided Christians. Today in our teaching series, ‘What Abraham discovered’ we are going to discover the rightful heirs of Abraham, how to resolve this age long conflict, and most important of all, how you can claim a share of Abraham’s inheritance.

Seven Steps to Claiming Your Share of Abraham’s Inheritance from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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Mary: How to Follow Jesus

mary

I would like us to spend a little while thinking about the very first member of the church. The very first person to see the risen Lord Jesus, the first person to respond to him, the first person to tell the good news to others, was not one of the Apostles, but a woman, Mary Magdalene. Let’s discover how Mary became a member, the first member of Christ’s New Testament Church. Then let’s think what that means for us too. Mary Magdalene appears in all four Gospel accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. From these we learn that Mary Magdalene became a friend and follower of Jesus after he cast out 7 demons from her.

She was present during Jesus’ trial (Matthew 27:45). She was there at the Crucifixion (John 19:25). She watched Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus (Luke 23:56).  And on Easter Sunday she and some other women were the first to discover the stone had been rolled away (John 20:1), first to meet the risen Lord Jesus (John 20:15-16) first to tell the disbelieving disciples the good news (John 20:18).

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The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

cross-and-crown-of-thornsI wonder if you have ever been to a Death Café? There are or have been nearly 3,000 around the world since the first was held in London in 2011. Visit www.deathcafe.com, enter your postcode and you will be directed to the nearest. There was one at Virginia Water Library last week. “At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. The objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’. A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion about death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session. – With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action – Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!” I welcome this initiative to break the taboo of talking about death. But how much more helpful and above all hopeful to discuss our mortality in the light of the most significant death in all of history.

John Owen, the 17th Century pastor and theologian, who became chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, managed to squeeze ‘death’ into the title of a book about Jesus, three times. “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” dwells on the love of Christ and the deep conviction that Christ’s work on the cross literally saves us from the deadly nature of sin.

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Easter in Three Dimensions

Between Good Friday and tomorrow Easter Monday – that is four days – we the great British public (and some very nice Expats) will have consumed rather a lot of Easter Eggs. Do you know how many? If you put them in one big pile, how much would it weigh?  Is it 260 tons of chocolate, 2,600 tons, or is it 26,000 tons. Yes its 26,000 tons. That is a lot of chocolate to eat in four days.

Do you know what the link is between the egg and Easter? It goes back to the time when chickens laid their eggs in the Spring, like sheep have their lambs. Easter marked the end of Winter and the Lenten fast.  People celebrated Easter by feasting on things like new laid eggs which were traditionally scarce in Winter. It all got a bit confused when farmers realised they could trick chickens into laying eggs all year round by keeping them in light warm buildings,

and it got really confusing when Mr Cadbury in the 1870s realised there was more money to be made in selling hand-painted chocolate Easter eggs than real ones. Everything else is, as they say, history.

The encouraging fact, however, is that in a recent national survey, one in three people in Britain indicated that they believed in the historical and physical resurrection of Jesus.  Whether they understand the purpose is another matter.

C. S. Lewis once said, “Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge. Its message is either the supreme fact in history or else a gigantic hoax...”

This morning I’d like us to think about how the resurrection of Jesus is three dimensional.


 

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Jesus and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

tfa_poster_wide_header-1536x864-959818851016You would really have to be from a galaxy far, far away to not know that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already set new box office records in the USA and the UK.  Indeed the latest sci-fi drama is predicted to become the highest grossing film of all-time, perhaps succeeded only by the two anticipated sequels. Given its epic story and massive popularity, it is worth exploring why, for example in the 2011 UK Census 176,632 people described themselves as Jedi knights. The criteria are really quite appealing. 1) Fight evil. 2) Do good. 3) respect all life even if it is ugly and slithers. 4) rescue princess. 5) save planet. Clearly the mystical Force that binds all things together in Star Wars does not equate with the personal infinite Creator God revealed in Scripture. Nevertheless, those of us who firmly believe in the supernatural shouldn’t dismiss or discourage the conviction that all life is somehow divinely charged. Obi-Wan’s teaching that the Force “surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together” strikingly mirrors the imagery of the Bible which reveals, “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:6). In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he expands on this:

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

There is much more to Star Wars than a cool new world with aliens, spaceships, hi-tech gadgets, a princess, and a darkly evil bad guy. We are drawn to a story of “an underdog who takes on an evil Empire of unsurpassed power, overwhelming technology, and unchecked authority” with impossible odds (Caleb Grimes). Josh Hayes observes, “This is how art works, it reflects and interprets life. We love stories because at some level we as human beings realize that we are part of one.” Because we bear God’s image, we have a sense of purpose, we believe history is going somewhere, that life matters.

Star Wars helps to awaken this sense that we participate in something greater than ourselves… “Most great stories, regardless of their creators’ intentions, mimic the Creator’s story and will on some level fit the template of creation, fall, redemption and new creation.  Drama, of course, predicates on conflict and resolution, and God was the first to think up such a concept. Good versus evil. The hero against the villain. The underdog winning against the seemingly invincible. The light overcoming the darkness. There’s a reason these dynamics are repeated and yet never get old or go out of style. They are strangely familiar because they belong to the original story—God’s story, our story.” (Josh Hayes).

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, points us, however imperfectly to three profound truths written large in our Bible reading from John’s gospel tonight about God’s story – our story:

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Christmas according to Paddington Bear

Trains were humming, loudspeakers blaring, porters rushing about shouting at one another, and altogether there was so much noise that Mr Brown, who saw him first, had to tell his wife several times before she understood. ‘A bear? On Paddington station?’

Mrs Brown looked at her husband in amazement. ‘Don’t be silly, Henry. There can’t be!” “Seeing that something was expected of it the bear stood up and politely raised its hat, revealing two black ears. ‘Good afternoon,’ it said, in a small clear voice … The bear puffed out its chest. ‘I’m a very rare sort of bear,’ he replied importantly. ‘There aren’t many of us left where I come from.’ ‘And where is that?’ asked Mrs Brown. The bear looked round carefully before replying. ‘Darkest Peru. I’m not really supposed to be here at all. I’m a stowaway.'”[1] Michael Bond’s marmalade sandwich-loving Peruvian bear first sauntered onto the page in 1958’s A Bear Called Paddington.

Named after the London station at which he was found, Paddington has been delighting generations of children the world over, ever since. Now for the first time he is appearing in the cinema too. Paddington, is a charming and funny little adventure about a very polite and friendly bear who yearns for a new home in London. Harry Potter producer David Heyman says: “Paddington Bear is a universally loved character, treasured for his optimism, his sense of fair play and his perfect manners, and of course for his unintentional talent for comic chaos.”

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Advent: Preparing the Way (Luke 3:1-6)

Our Advent reading from Luke 3 introduces us to the three most important themes of the Bible.  They can be summed up in three questions.   The primary theme in the gospels concerns the identity of Jesus. “Who is Jesus?” The second theme has to do with the mission of Jesus. “Why did Jesus come?” The third theme has to do with the call of Jesus. “What does Jesus demand of us?”  When you read the gospels thoughtfully – you discover that every event, every story, every quote, every conversation is about one of these three themes.  It is asking or answering one of these three fundamental questions. About Jesus’ identity; his mission; and his call.  Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? And what does Jesus demand of me? Let us try and answer these three questions this morning. Then we can celebrate Advent and look forward to the return of Jesus. Continue reading

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Advent: Jesus is Coming in Glory


If you were like me, when you were very young, there were only two really important events in your life. You felt like they could not come soon enough. What were they? The first was… your birthday. The second was… Jesus’ birthday. Both involved presents. Lots of presents. Then when you were old enough to know that Father Christmas was not in the Nativity Play and you were allowed to stay up late, there was a third special day. New Year’s Eve. There were no presents but you still looked forward to the party and seeing in the New Year. For me, Summer holidays were special but never as special as my birthday and Christmas Day. We love to celebrate beginnings. We celebrate new life. Our birthday. Family birthdays. Jesus’ birthday. The birth of a new year. So what is it with the Church? When does the Church year begin? Not Christmas and the birth of our Saviour. Not Easter and the gift of new life. Not even Pentecost and the birth of the Church. The Church year begins with Advent.
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