Strange Sunday…

This Sunday feels a bit strange.


Well, on the one hand Christmas Day will only be 9 days away.  My mind is already switching over to Christmas services, carols, readings etc.  We went to see Amy’s school nativity play today (very good it was, too), which makes the “pull” of Christmas even stronger.  It’s like we’re approaching the top of a rollercoaster, teetering on the edge, about to go hurtling down.  Bring on the manger, donkey, angels, stars, shepherds and Magi!

But this week’s readings from the Lectionary (and I need to state quite clearly here I’m not claiming any Lectionary expertise here) are firmly rooted in Advent.  They want to pull us back away from the manger, from Mary and Joseph and the Christmas stories.  They want us to focus, not on baby Jesus in the manger, but on Jesus the one who’s “winnowing is in His hand”, the picture John the Baptist paints for us of one who’s come not to give us an “aaah” moment, but to challenge and upset things.

This doesn’t sound especially “Christmassy”.  We want to go over the edge and everything around us seems to be pulling us in that direction.  Part of me really wants to preach a “Aaaah, Christmas!” sermon.  But we need to hold on – just one more week – to allow ourselves to hear and see this very different (and, if we’re honest, very difficult) picture of Jesus and allow that, in turn, to complete and shape the picture we’ll draw and the story we’ll tell over Christmas.

Humbugs not allowed…

Posted by Stephen in Preaching, Thoughts and musings, 0 comments

Sermon, 9 December 2012

Here’s my sermon from yesterday, based on Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6.  Not an easy set of passages to preach from, or a particularly easy theme (especially when it’s the church Christmas lunch afterwards!).

Anyway, right-click on the link below and choose “Save target as…” or the equivalent in your browser if you want to have a look at it.  There’s also a PDF of the background/reflection leaflet for last week if you want to have a read of that as well (with the added bonus of the deliberate mistake on the original being corrected!)

By the way, if you do read these then please comment on them using the box below (or e-mail me if you’d prefer) – all (constructive) feedback would be gratefully received!


advent_leaflet2.pdf (approx 1.1mb)

Posted by Stephen in Yesterday's sermon, 0 comments

Sermon for Advent Sunday, 2 December 2012


It’s been a long time since I lasted posted one of my sermons (or even since I lasted posted here and enjoyed a brief moment of post-Baptist Assembly popularity).  But since it’s Advent and, therefore, technically the start of a new church and Lectionary year, I thought this was a good time to get into the habit once more.

So, here’s the sermon from Advent Sunday, which is based on Jeremiah 33:14-16 and Luke 21:25-36.  There’s also a leaflet with some reflections and questions on it about the two passages.

(From memory, you have to right click on the links and then choose the equivalent of “Save target as…” from the menu that appears in order to download them – please let me know if there’s another way.  I’m going to look to find a better of way of linking to documents etc., all suggestions gratefully received!).


Posted by Stephen in Yesterday's sermon, 0 comments

Yesterday’s sermon – 5 February 2012

…just in time!

Yesterday’s sermon was part of our special service for Education Sunday (as mentioned on this blog previously).  The passage was Mark 1: 29-39, which covers Jesus’ healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and His decision to spread His message through the other villages in the area.

We focussed on the latter part of this.  It followed a testimony from a teacher from our local infant school who had come to this service.  She shared what teaching meant to her, what a privilege it was and some of the ups and downs, highs and lows of teaching.

I tried to tie the sermon in with that.  I took the idea of Jesus’ mission being the thing that drove Him on, rather than the popularity He was experiencing in Capernaum; this mission, I suggested, was bringing the good news of the coming of God’s Kingdom.  And it was this I likened to what was shared about the job of teaching: how, like a good teacher builds relationships with pupils and parents, God works in our lives by building relationships with us, rather than just telling us what to do.

We then noted how, when Jesus leaves Capernaum and goes on, He calls His disciples to follow Him: “Let us go”.  I suggested that Jesus, too, was inviting all of us, in our own callings, to go with Him and partner with Him in His ongoing mission to spread the good news of the Kingdom.  This is something that we are learning, but that at the same time we take with us.

Here’s the sermon notes, if you’re interested in reading them, they’re in Word .doc format. Again, I think it works best if you right click on the link and select “Save Link As…” or the equivalent. And if you do read them, please comment below!

(And, for reasons of length, I will post separately about the mysterious story hinted at in the first point!)

Posted by Stephen in Yesterday's sermon, 0 comments

Yesterday’s sermon – Sunday 29 January

Yesterday’s sermon was based on Mark 1:21-28, the story of Jesus driving out an evil spirit from a man in the synagogue in Capernaum.  We thought primarily about what this (and the reactions of the people to Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue before the exorcism) might have to say about Jesus’ authority.

Authority often seems to be a dirty word these days: we don’t like being bossed around.  Yet Mark here presents a whole town (almost) as being amazed by Jesus’ authority: in his teaching (which Mark says was like nothing they’d heard before) and in his freeing the possessed man.

So what’s going on?

We suggested that Jesus’ authority was something that liberates: rather than seeking to control and exercise power over people (as a “bossy” authority would), Jesus brings an authority that somehow sets people free.  It is an authority that exercised over the things that hold people, that prevent them from coming to God; it doesn’t seem to be exercised over people themselves (in the sense of controlling them, putting them down).

(None of this is to deny the ancient Christian truth that “Jesus is Lord”.  It’s to simply say that this Lordship, which we submit to, is often not the same as the lordship the powerful in our world often exercise.)

We then thought about some of the things that might hold us: fears & worries; sins; things that have hurt us in life.  Finally, we went through a short time of imaginative prayer, picturing ourselves in the synagogue and bringing just some of those things that hold us to Jesus.

The notes (and they are notes – I hope the above helps explain them!) are attached below; please read them and comment on what you think of them!

Amazed By Authority

To download the file, please click with the right mouse button and select “Save Link As…”.

Posted by Stephen in Yesterday's sermon, 0 comments

Sermon 22 January 2012

I thought (to give me a reason to blog regularly) I’d upload my sermon notes from each Sunday on to this blog, so that if anyone wants to read them for whatever reason (if you can’t sleep or something!) then they’re here. Sometimes they’ll be the full text of the sermon, sometimes just a set of notes which I’ll try and make legible for you.  Please feel free to download and read them and then add any comments you want on the blog.

So if you click on the link below, you’ll get a Word document with the sermon I preached yesterday on John 2:1-11, the story of Jesus turning water into wine.  Please especially tell me if the link doesn’t work – this is all a bit new to me!

Water into Wine sermon

Update: The best way to do this (quite probably the only way) is to right click on the link and then select “Save link as…” or the equivalent in your browser.  This will then let you save this wherever you choose and read it to your heart’s content!

Posted by Stephen in Preaching, Sunday services, Yesterday's sermon, 0 comments

A musical dilemna

Due to the time other people need to have the order of service (in order to prepare Powerpoint etc.) I normally choose the songs and hymns for our service on a Thursday.  However, it’s not very often that the sermon is written by this point.

(I should say here that I like the songs and hymns, especially the ones immediately around the sermon) to have some kind of thematic connection to the sermon.  Not that they have to exactly tally with the sermon’s theme, but that there should be some connection there.)

Normally this isn’t a problem as I know roughly the direction the sermon will be heading in.  Sometimes I have to guess, as it’s still not clear by this point what the overall theme of the sermon will be.

This week, I thought by the time it came to song-choosing time that I knew where the sermon was headed, what the main theme was about.  So I chose the song that immediately followed the sermon to fit closely with that theme (“Meekness and Majesty”) and duly e-mailed off the order of service.

The trouble is… the sermon is now about something quite different!  So that song doesn’t fit in particularly well – but it’s too late to change it.  So the options are:

  1. I come up with some extraordinarily convoluted way of linking sermon and song
  2. We just sing it and never mind any mental gymnastics to make it “fit”.

Option 2 sounds the best to me…

Posted by Stephen in Behind the scenes, Sunday services, 1 comment

A busy week…

This is a busy week for me.  Not only am I preparing Sunday’s service (of which more later), but I’m also in the midst of writing an essay on how early theology might relate to what we do at Greenfield.  Sounds thrilling, huh?!

Alright, it might not be that exciting, but it is quite interesting.  I’m looking at the early creeds (the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed) and how they relate to the sorts of things we ask people to profess their belief in before being baptised or being welcomed into church membership.  This is quite hard, because we don’t say the “historical creeds” at all; the traditional Baptist rallying cry has been “no creed but Christ”, or “no creed but the Bible”.  Yet what’s interesting is the number of similarities between the Creeds and the promises we ask people to make.  Not just in terms of what they say butt hey way they were used: the Creeds were originally drawn up, it seems, as a way for people to profess their faith before being baptised – just as the promises we might ask people to make were.  So perhaps we owe more to these documents than we might care to admit.

Our sermon this week continues our ongoing series looking at Ephesians; this week the text is Ephesians 4:17-5:2; if you want a sneak peek, you can find it here (this will open a new window).  I don’t want to give the game away, but this sermon is titled “How to imitate God”.  And what’s interesting is that all the ways Paul tells us we can imitate God are ways of behaving towards each other.  We’re to be good neighbours, to speak the truth to each other, not to steal, not be bitter towards each other and so on.  It seems that one of the best ways we can imitate God is by loving each other – not just by trying to be good on our own.

Posted by Stephen in Studies, Sunday services, 2 comments