Martin Tarr


This is how Professor John Sawkins ended his sermon at our service of Morning Worship on 5 May 2024, when he had been preaching on Matthew 6.14–15 under the title “Forgive us our trespasses”:


The first disciples that Jesus called, Simon Peter and Andrew, were fishermen. So were James and John, who were in a boat with their father, mending their fishing nets, when Jesus called them.

Mending nets – fixing breaks in the cords that joined the knots in the nets to each other.

That’s a good image for what we as disciples of Christ, are called to do.

To re-join connections that had been broken. To re-establish the bonds of association, of friendship and of love, between people. To play our part in doing so through forgiveness. And to support people and organisations whose work it is to do that across our society.

For in Christ we have been forgiven.

In Christ we are forgiven.

And in Christ we are called to forgive.

Thanks be to God. Amen.


The extract doesn’t do his sermon justice … it was inspirational and challenging, and firmly rooted in today’s issues, so you need to read the whole thing at this link.

In case you’re wondering why the illustration … it’s of some of the items that John used is his all-age address, entitled “Being joined up”. We see the ball net made by John when at school in Hull, together with the tools used to make the net – which still works. And this is because the knots are working … an apt illustration for both the address and for the sermon that followed.

Last Sunday our friends at St Margaret’s celebrated Candlemas, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and Rev Sheila Cameron reflected in her sermon on the watching and waiting of Simeon and Anna. Here are some of her thoughts:


The story of Simeon and Anna meeting the infant Jesus is a story about patient waiting finally rewarded, and it’s also a story about vision. … There are times when we all wait for promises to be fulfilled; and as people of faith, we look for signs of God’s presence and purpose in our lives. And we’re encouraged in our waiting when we have a clear vision of what could be and must surely be. Luke shows us through both Simeon and Anna that, if we hold on to our faith even when nothing seems to be happening for us, it will be rewarded in God’s good time, and that the Holy Spirit of God will be revealed in us and through us, his faithful people.

We’re all called to times of waiting for God to answer our prayers, times when our faith is sorely tested. The story of Simeon and Anna tells us that we should never give up hoping for the Lord’s appearing. Sometimes we have to wait a very long time but, if we wait in faith, our faith will eventually be rewarded. … If the things we pray for really are the things God wants for us, then we can be assured that our prayers will be answered in God’s good time. We may not get everything we desire, but we’ll get what in the sight of God is right for us. May the things you hope for be the things God desires for you, and may God sustain you with wonderful visions of things to come in all your times of waiting. Amen.


Do read the whole sermon, which is available at this link.

Our picture of someone watching and waiting is by Ümit Bulut and comes from the Unsplash platform.

On 21 January we welcomed Professor John Sawkins as our preacher. The family are well-known bakers (son Peter became the youngest-ever winner of the Great British Bake Off in 2020), so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that John chose a cake to illustrate his all-age message, and it was also referenced during his sermon.

Cake, address and sermon were all full of good things … after the service we shared and enjoyed the cake, but John’s challenging thoughts deserved a wider audience. We’ve put some extracts below, but please click on the titles, which are links to the full texts – they won’t take long to read, though they bear thinking about at length.

The all-age address “Why Cake?” initiated the theme:

“So, science can tell us all about the cake and it is very, very good at doing that. But there is one thing, one rather important thing about my cake that science can tell us absolutely nothing about … it can’t tell me why the cake was made.”

“… the clues to why the world and we were made are found in the stories that we read in the Bible. Because they tell us about God. About why he made us, and what we are here for.

“And the answer is quite simple. Why did he make it all? He made everything because he is love. And what are we here for? We are here, our purpose in life, is to love him and to love each other (our neighbours) as we love ourselves. And in doing so to enjoy and live life, which is his gift, to the very full.”

In his sermon, “What is the church for?”, which John based on Hebrews 10.24, expanded on the theme:

“Great art, ingenious science can only get us so far. They can tell us how the world came to be made and what it is like now, but they cannot answer that fundamental question, “why is there something, rather than nothing?” (Remember the cake!)

“They cannot explain the bigger story that our lives are part of. They cannot give us hope. Our hope, the hope that we celebrate and reaffirm every week, rests on what Jesus Christ did for us, and what his life and teaching, his death and resurrection revealed to us about what God wills for us.

“The Church is here to tell the story of Jesus. So –

every time we listen to the gospel of Jesus Christ being read in church,

every time we act out a nativity play,

every time we break bread to remember Christ’s death and celebrate his resurrection

– we are fulfilling our purpose as a church.”

How long, O Lord, how long!
“A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has gone by,
or like a watch in the night.”
But we are not like you.
For us a few minutes may feel like hours,
and a week may feel like a lifetime.
Some Palestinians have been refugees in Gaza
and the West Bank since 1948.
For my whole lifetime,
families have lived in refugee camps.

How long, O Lord, how long!
How long can hostages hope for return home?
How long will the bombing go on?

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

Your birth, dear Jesus, was
celebrated by massacre.

Voices are heard in Gaza,
weeping and great mourning,
Sarai weeping for her children,
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

Massacre continues in the land you walked,
dear Jesus, 2000 years later.

How long, O Lord, how long!
Fear and hatred are
the certain outcomes of this war.
When will we follow the way of peace?
How long will fear and hatred
feed fear and hatred?
How long, O Lord, how long!

O Lord, Psalm 137 verses 8 and 9 say:
“O daughter of Babylon,
doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us –
he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.”

O Lord, may we turn from fear and anger
and look to the future where there is
true peace and justice.

You, O Lord, are the true God,
the greatest power, perfect love.

So we dare to pray for what appears impossible:
that the peoples of Israel/Palestine
“shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.”

How long, O Lord, how long before that day?

Written by Jane Peers and shared by her as part of Morning Worship on Advent Sunday, 3 December 2023


Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

Yesterday in our service of Morning Worship Mr David Andrews introduced the Lectionary reading of Deuteronomy 34.1–12 with these words: “In our first reading we see Moses, from what is now Jordan, looking down over all of what is now Israel-Palestine. Would it make a difference to people there to be able to see the whole of the land from one place?”

There was a further deep question in our Gospel reading (Matthew 22.34–46), when one of the Pharisees wanted to try to trick Jesus, to see if he really knew what the Scriptures said, and asked Jesus “What is the most important commandment?”

David went on to say “Once again Jesus outlines the core of the good news in the Jewish scriptures as it is to be in the New Testament – love of God and each other – and in coded language talks of himself as being with God from creation. As the Law of Moses is the heart of the Jewish scriptures, the teaching of Jesus is its New Testament equivalent: both the Mosaic Law and Jesus command us to love our neighbour as ourself.

“But isn’t love an emotion we can’t control? You can’t tell someone what they must feel – you will love each other! No, for Jesus love is a conscious decision to seek the other’s well-being. The commandment is to seek that well-being as we would seek our own.

“Jesus was not the first to summarise the law as love for God and love for neighbour. It had already been used by the teacher Hillel who, when challenged to produce a summary of the law short enough for a convert to hear while standing on one leg, said ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour; this is the whole law. All the rest is a commentary to this law; go and learn it.’”

David then went on to tell The Rabbi’s Gift, a very moving tale by Francis Dorff in which an encounter between two different Abrahamic religions led to renewal, before concluding:

“Loving God and neighbour implies being loved. Are we able to accept love from each other as a sign of the grace of God poured out through others? Does our church major on loving God or on loving each other – those we know well and those we have never met – or are we able to get the balance right, whereby we see God’s love and grace all round us and are able to respond in love to him and to all created people?

“In a place where attitudes to strangers both at home and abroad are becoming increasingly harsh, with increasing antisemitism and islamophobia, Jesus’ words again challenge us to show our love for him by acting and speaking for those who need our support and at the same time remember our first call to love God.

“Lord our God, give us grace both to hear and to act on the great commandments of your kingdom, that we may love you with all our heart, and love our neighbour as ourselves – today, tomorrow and always. Amen.


You can read the whole of David’s sermon, including the tale as he told it at this link.

Our picture is found on a number of websites dating back to 2012: we found it used to illustrate Dorff’s story on the website of First United Methodist Church, Manchester, NH, though it has since disappeared. You can listen to a slightly different version of the story as used by Scott Peck and his team at https://chattanoogaendeavors.org/service/community-building/the-rabbis-gift/.

 

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