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Showing posts from August, 2014

Deserve the truth

"What is truth?", as Pontius Pilate asked Our Lord. I can only assume from his question that he didn't wash his hair in TréSemmé shampoo, because they've got the answer written on the back of their bottles, as I keep seeing every morning in the shower. TréSemmé's "philosophy," they write, is based on a "simple truth:" "every woman deserves to look fabulous, like she's just stepped out of the salon." Well, that's that one sorted, then, Pontius. Look no further. What is truth? Every woman deserves to look fabulous.

Except: hang on a minute. Really? Every woman deserves to look fabulous? What - Myra Hindley? Does she "deserve to look fabulous?" Rose West?

No? Then, we'll have to modify that "simple truth" a bit, won't we. Maybe, "some women deserve to look fabulous," then. But I don't think that will quite do, either, actually. It's the word "deserve" I'm having trouble…

Take up your cross

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. "

I've known parishioners elsewhere to get understandably cross at their clergy urging them to "take up their cross" and do more every year, especially as it seems to be the ones who do most who keep responding to the call to do even more. But there is surely something every one of us can do to follow Christ more closely.

"Self-denial" is, it must be said, a pretty unpopular notion these days. Humility is hardly the virtue of our age. And there's good reason for this: modern psychoanalysis and, frankly, a good dose of common sense shows that generations of repressed egos and the old English stiff upper lip lead to depression, self-hatred and often, sadly, to abusive and violent behaviour later in life. I don't think the young and (increasingly) not-so-young things throwing up on the streets and starting fights on Friday nights truly love themse…

Who holds the keys?

Arriving at All Saints on Tuesday morning to celebrate mass, I found something of a furore: who has got the church keys? By the time you read this, I suspect we will know the answer. The only reason I mention it is that it ties in rather nicely with this Sunday's passage from Matthew, where Jesus bequeathes Peter the "keys of the Kingdom."

Without the keys to All Saints, we would not be able to open the safe to get to the various eucharistic vessels, so the keeper of those keys has quite a responsibility: he or she can provide or prevent access to the Sacrament. This is why the keys are usually in the possession of the Rector, and at the moment are most likely waiting with a Church Warden for the next incumbent, on whose appointment they will be ceremonially handed over to him or her. Even symbolically, they represent a certain authority.

According to Matthew, Jesus gives such an authority especially to Peter. By extension, it is given to all the Apostles, entrenched as …

Sermon for Trinity 7: The Feeding of the Five Thousand

So, the feeding of the five thousand. Let me start by saying: Jesus is not just showing off. This miracle is not at its heart just about Jesus proving Himself with divine powers. It's not part of a checklist of "a hundred impossible things to believe before breakfast." There is more to it than that. For a start, there is the numbers: five thousand people; five loaves, plus two fish - makes seven; twelve baskets left over at the end. What would Matthew's listeners and readers make of these? Well, not much if they were gentiles, probably, but if they were Jews - and because the numbers would make sense to Jews, it makes sense for us to assume that the target audience was indeed Jews - the numbers would be quite familiar. Five is the number of books in the Torah, the Law of Moses, the "Pentateuch" or first five books of what we call the Old Testament. So, the five thousand and the five loaves carry an association with Moses, the Jewish people and the Law…

The Great War and the Twentieth Century: Taking the Kingdom of Heaven by Storm

It didn't take a war to tell the world at the threshold of the twentieth century that a new age was on its way. Half the map was coloured pink, won by British Imperial might, driven forward by rapid innovations in military and industrial technology. Evolution was in, God was dead, and philosophers like Nietzsche and Schopenhauer prophesied with glee the selective breeding of a new superman to replace Him, unfettered by the stale dogma and bourgeois moralism of the past. On the British Left, the Fabians, including one Winston Churchill at the time, championed the new science of Eugenics, and sought to engineer a new world order from which the weak and deficient elements of the gene pool would be eradicated: "The multiplication of the feeble-minded," wrote our future Prime Minister in 1910 to his predecessor in that role, "is a very terrible danger to the race." The artistic and musical world clamoured for revolution and wanted it won by arms: in 1914, the compo…
As the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War is heralded in the media, I find myself pondering the bravery and near foolhardiness of the men who went to the Front, and the rhetoric of those who sent them there. Radio 3 has broadcast some fascinating stories about the use and abuse of the arts in the War, and indeed the almost bloodthirsty nationalism of some of their artists. Schoenberg and Ravel, for instance, glorified the War until they actually encountered it, which rather altered their perspectives. Even Stravinsky lost his appetite for the strident avant-garde of his youth, and after the War returned for some time to a more steady, even nostalgic, classicism.
The same was true of religion. The distinction between those clergy who stayed at home whilst preaching the virtues of just war, encouraging young lads off to their graves, and those who went out with them to minister to them, is particularly on my mind, since I have recently been commissioned as Chaplain to the…