Once more we come to Trinity Sunday. With the various debates about this on social media over the last few years, I dare to hope that the preaching on this Sunday is now better than it used to be—but I worry that I am mistaken here. It is worth reminding ourselves of some key things … Continue Reading
Is Christian faith about an affective encounter with God, or about becoming convinced about the case for Christianity? You will immediately be crying ‘False dichotomy!’—but it is worth reflecting on the balance between these two ideas in contemporary expressions of faith. There was a time when the tradition of rational enquiry was most influential, but the impact of the Charismatic Movement has decisively shifted the balance. You might think that on the Alpha Course from HTB in London it would be the explanation of Why Jesus Died that would lead to personal commitment—but since the influence of the Toronto Blessing in the 1990s, it has been the ‘Holy Spirit’ day that has been seen as the turning point.
And yet there are people who have either come to faith or come to appreciate faith on the basis of thinking and analysis. Tom Holland is a historian, largely of the ancient world, and he explains in an article in the New Statesman how he came to realise through his studies that everything he really valued originated with Christian faith and not with the values of the classical period:
Familiarity with the biblical narrative of the crucifixion has dulled our sense of just how completely novel a deity Christ was. Most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. [Christianity] is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value..In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.
As we come to Pentecost, our main text (in the lectionary and for preaching) is Acts 2. At one level the text is straightforward: the Twelve are completed by the addition of Matthias; they wait with other disciples as Jesus had commanded; the Spirit comes; Peter preaches; and the ‘church’ is born. But it is … Continue Reading
One of the lectionary readings set for this Sunday is expressed thus: ‘Revelation 22.12-14, 16, 17, 20, 21’. It is a very odd set of references—but the moment you look at the passage you can see what is going on. I have put in bold the verses that are omitted. “Look, I am coming soon! … Continue Reading
What would you identify as the climax and completion of Jesus’ life and ministry? Surprisingly, this is not a trivial question. One of the key differences between John and the synoptic gospels is that, where the synoptics portray the crucifixion as a necessary but incomplete act on the way to the resurrection, John portrays it … Continue Reading
Once again the Sunday lectionary points us towards the reading from Acts as an important point of focus in the post-Easter narrative. The reading ‘which must be used as either the first or the second reading’ is Acts 11.1–18, the final episode in the ‘Petrine narrative’ which began with Peter healing Aeneas and raising Tabitha … Continue Reading
What would you say is the single most important thing in preaching—either as the person preaching or as someone who listens? I guess many people would suggest clarity of delivery, or humour, or connecting with the congregation, or being based in Scripture. All of these are of great importance, though of course all are open … Continue Reading
The lectionary readings for this week include three substantial readings: Acts 9.36-43, Revelation 7.9-17 and John 10.22-30. There is a note which says: ‘The reading from Acts must be used as either the first or second reading’, which suggests that this reading is thought to be particularly important. The reading from Acts 9 comes at an interesting transition … Continue Reading
How much should I share of my personal experience in the context of preaching? This is a perennial question facing anyone in ministry in the local church—and relevant to speaking on other occasions too. My first encounter with the issue arose when I was a teenager. I remember one of the lay preachers in the … Continue Reading
There has been quite a lot of discussion online about the significance (or otherwise) of the 153 fish mentioned in John 21.11, which comes in the lectionary gospel reading for this Sunday coming. There seem to be no end of possible meanings for the term; here is a sample: 1. The catch of fish tells … Continue Reading
This Sunday’s gospel lectionary reading is from John 21, relating the miraculous catch of fish and Jesus’ threefold restoration of Peter. But another one of the readings is Revelation 5.11-14, a truncated part of John’s account of the worship of the lamb. Some might be preferring to preach from that, so here is the comment I … Continue Reading