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Acts 4:
32 - 35


11 April

John 20:
1 - 8

Every year, on Easter Day, we read the story of the discovery of the resurrection in one of the gospel accounts.  This year is no different.  We’ve just read how Mary Magdalene saw that the stone which sealed the tomb had been removed and then we have the very personal account of how Peter, and presumably his friend John, raced to the tomb; we saw the fear of one and the audacity of the other; the belief of one at seeing the empty tomb and the wrappings described in detail for us.  We are able to imagine the scene to an extent...  

4 April

Genesis 1:
24 - 31

Today is a momentous day for us in our reading of Genesis 1 during Lent – it’s the day that the animals appear, and more particularly, us!  In parallel to Day 3 when land appeared and then vegetation was made, we have two creative acts – animas and then a new act in which humanity is made.  As always, there is so much to think about in these verses - including a potentially embryonic trinitarian understanding of God in verse 26 - but we have to cut it down a little.  We’re going to concentrate on the image of God in verses 26-27, but before that let me make a quick digression into another topic: that of dominion and subjugation...

28 March

Genesis 1:
20 - 23

Today, in our Lent series on creation, we reach one of my favourite days.  Who doesn’t like a sea monster??  It appeals to my imagination, and brings back memories of stories about monsters of the deep, Krakens, and because I’m Scottish, Nessie!  It’s almost sad for the birds that they get a little overlooked in it all.  Day five of creation relates to day two, where God separated the waters and the sky – today fills them with life.

21 March

Genesis 1:
14 - 19

Light is good, darkness is good. God declares both the night and the day to be good. Darkness is important; it is a time for rest, for cooling in a hot climate, for sleep. Psalm 104: You make the darkness, and it is night when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. The wording makes it clear that the stars and the planets do not have power in themselves, as astrologers would have us sometimes believe. The Psalms are full of praise for the beauty of Gods creation, as I read at the start from Psalm 19...

14 March

Genesis 1:
9 - 13

We are well into Lent, and therefore also well into our Lent series where we are looking at creation and how we relate to it as this affects how we care for God’s creation around us.  As I said last week, if our planet is a purposeful and divinely-imagined creation, intended for our flourishing, then we will see it very differently and treat it very differently from if it is a happenchance by-product of a forgotten age.

7 March

Genesis 1:
6 - 8

The ancient Babylonian creation myth recounts the war between Marduk and Tiamat through which the world was created.  A saga written on 7 stone tablets, it presents our world as the result of an almighty clash between the warring gods, with Marduk the victor, proclaimed supreme amongst the others.  In typically violent and gory fashion, he slays Tiamat with an arrow, clubs her head with a mace, and then splits her open like a shellfish to create the sky.  Thus, the sky which separates the air above from the water beneath was formed from the body of a dead and defeated goddess...

28 February

Genesis 1:
1 - 5

If we look closely at Genesis what we find is that there are two creation stories, so we have two revelations from God, designed to do two different but complementary things. I think this is a good reason to see Genesis as something more than merely a textbook on science. It is wrong to insist that everything in the first chapter of Genesis provide detailed explanation of how God did things. That is not the purpose of the book; that is not the emphasis it wants to make...

21 February

Mark 9:
2 - 9

Today we have the story of Jesus being ‘transfigured’ on a mountain.  This is when, for a moment, his closest friends - Peter, James and John – glimpsed Jesus in all his heavenly glory accompanied by Elijah, representing the prophets, and Moses, representing the law.  And they heard the voice of God, the Father affirming his pleasure at Jesus his Son.  It is an amazing moment, which reduced Peter to a gibbering wreck, but one in which we see all the Old Testament coming together into the person of Jesus, and being affirmed ahead of his trip to Jerusalem to die...

14 February

John 1:

1 - 14

This morning’s reading is one which we read every Christmas.  It gives the cosmic flip-side to the earthy, gritty story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. It is poetic, and rich in its literary structure.  It talks of who Jesus is – the Word of God, or in Greek, the divine ‘logos’; who was there, pre-existent, at the creation of the world and through whom all things have come into being.  There is no life without the Word of God, and he is a light shining in the darkness which can never be snuffed out. Jesus was rejected by his own people who did not recognise him, and yet some believed and became God’s children. 

7 February

John 2:
1 - 11

What does this ‘sign’ of water into wine tell us about who Jesus is and why he came?  What of Jesus’ glory do we see in this story?  How does this story help us, like Jesus’ disciples, to believe in him?

What does turning water into wine at a wedding tell us about God’s character?

How does the lavish generosity of the day of the Lord, prophesied so long ago, which is fulfilled here affect how we think about this story?  What does it mean for us to affirm that God’s Kingdom has come in Jesus, and therefore we live in a time of wine flowing for God’s people as described in the Old Testament prophets?  What do we do with this when it isn’t how we feel about the world?

24 January

Mark 1: 
4 - 11

Today we have the story of Jesus being baptised by John in the Jordan river.  It’s a really short episode in Mark’s gospel, but as is typical to Mark, it is breathlessly quick and meant to feel immediate and engaging.  The language begins, in a way which feels like that of Hebrew from the Old Testament, suggesting its continuity with the story of the Bible up to now; and then gives some basic facts which involve an obscure, small village in Galilee, which is suggestive of Jesus’ lowly upbringing.  There are no details, just the basics in the first verse.  And then suddenly, in verse 10, the grammar changes – we are invited to watch with Mark as Jesus comes up out of the water and three very important and special things take place.  And it is these three we are going to explore together now...

10 January

Matthew 2:
1 - 12

This morning’s story is really familiar.  It’s the Magi travelling across deserts to come and worship the child king, Jesus; and the political intrigue involving King Herod that eventually will lead to infanticide.  God’s hand is at work throughout – guiding, calling, and warning – through a supernatural sign in the sky and a revelatory dream.  We tend to forget, since we often focus on the tradition of metaphor and meaning behind the gifts that the magi brought with them, the scale of the story and the contrasts that are present within it.  So, on Covenant Sunday, as we are with the Methodists in spirit if not physically, and as we contemplate the New Year and recommit ourselves to God afresh, we will be focussing on the wider story with its scale and contrasts...

3 January

John 1:
6-8. 19-28

We’ve got to the third Sunday of Advent season in the run-up to Christmas and we find ourselves in our gospel reading, talking about the enigmatic figure of John the Baptist.  Who is he and what does it mean for us that this strangely dressed man with a really odd diet lived so long ago and took people and washed them in a river?  How does he relate to our normal “Shepherds, angels, and wise men” type of Christmas story?...

13 December

Mark 13:

The chapter of Mark’s gospel we’ve read from today forms a transition in the story between Jesus’ teaching and controversies, and the beginning of the passion narrative – the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  In this chapter, Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem (which happened in about AD70) and then talks about watching for the return of God at the end of time.  Our reading today, is full of imagery and would take hours to properly deal with so I’m going to focus mainly on the verse my grandmother put in the front of my bible.  Words that Jesus spoke when he too was transitioning towards his own death...

29 November

25: 31 - end

Today’s gospel reading is a hard one to hear and an even harder one to preach on. It is full of really difficult concepts and is really controversial for theologians. It is a lot about judgment, as distasteful as that may sound to some of us, and it is a lot about good works, which whilst not distasteful, is probably guilt-inducing to a lot of us. It is a massive challenge for all of us, as most sermons on this will concentrate on good works to those less well off; and this is true...

22 November

25: 14 - 30

This Parable of the Talents is another one that Jesus told at the end of His earthly ministry. He was about to be betrayed and arrested, crucified, and buried. He would arise on the third day, and we know that he then ascended into heaven. Before this happened he gave us an assurance that he would return and welcome us home, but in the meanwhile, we should  prepare ourselves for His return.

15 November

25: 1 - 13

Tucked away, behind the kitchen door of a small country chapel is a plaque, commemorating the life of a young man called William. He was an only child and he died in Italy in 1918 at the age of 21. He had signed up for active service at 17, and never returned home. The plaque is easily missed, and it has never been moved but the Church building was reconfigured with a kitchen built onto the church porch. So, he is there now, forever looking down upon the cups and saucers as they pile up in the kitchen sink. It is only the elderly members of the church who can remember how the building was before they had a kitchen, and there is no one there who remembers William. We are left to just imagine the love and the grief that gathered in his parent’s hearts and led them to commission the plaque on the church wall; they wanted him to be remembered...

8 November

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St John the Divine, Menston Parish Church,
Burley Lane, Ilkley LS29 6EU
Registered Charity Number 11236532