the Church of the Epiphany



Some books I am reading:



Other websites of interest:
Experience Days
Diocese of Lichfield
The Church of England

Thursday, 11 July 2024:


The people of Jesus’s home town did not expect to find the Son
of God from amongst their number. And so they didn’t
recognise him - they didn’t think it even possible. Jesus was
an ordinary man! How could he be special?! You can
almost hear them saying “Who on earth does he think he is?”
It’s easy for us to judge people by our expectations of
them. We know what they’re like just because of their family,
because of they live, because of their past, because we
know them too well..... except we don’t, do we. Everyone we
meet is a child of God, and capable of surprising us.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 5:03 pm.

Friday, 5 July 2024:


Jesus does not ignore the outsider in favour of those of high
standing. But neither does he ignore those of high standing
who come to him for help. Everybody has equal worth in his
eyes, and he brings life to all. He doesn’t want to do it with
fanfare, but in the silent touch of a cloak, the privacy of a
bedroom. In all we do, in every encounter with others, those
we think important and those we maybe don’t, we are called to
give that same breath of life.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:29 am.

Saturday, 22 June 2024:


This morning’s readings do not contain easy messages. Endure
hardships. Put up with things. Life might be tough, see
it through. Do stuff you don’t want to. Know that you won’t
always see why things are the way they are. Demand
answers from God if you like, the way Job did, without getting
what you’re after. It doesn’t sound a very good selling
pitch for faith, does it. So, was Job’s faith justified? Is St
Paul’s assurance believable? Do we trust in the person who
stilled the storm? What do you think?
Posted by Janet Taylor at 4:21 pm.

Saturday, 15 June 2024:


“Someone scatters seed on the ground, and it will sprout and
grow, he does not know how.” Do we measure ourselves
just by the numbers who come on a Sunday? Or by the numbers of
people who come to believe? Or by how good a
Christian we think we are? Or..... do we remember that it’s
not our job to do any of those things. We respond to God’s
infinite love for us, and by our lives, our words and actions,
we allow God to speak to others. The seed is scattered
through our ordinary lives, our day to day interactions. God
does the rest. Let’s not try and measure his success.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 1:05 pm.

Saturday, 25 May 2024:


It’s often called the birthday of the Church. After the joyful
Resurrection appearances, the departure of Jesus at the
Ascension, the waiting, surely the worrying, the uncertainty -
now comes the event that sends the disciples out into the
world. The rushing of a violent wind, the fire. The conviction
that they are filled with the love of God to the extent that
they just have to share it with everyone. We might feel that
our lives are nothing as dramatic as this. But God is still
pouring his love into our hearts, overflowing and asking us to
share it. It demands a response.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:01 am.

Friday, 3 May 2024:


“I do not call you servants any longer, but I call you
friends.” The Son of God as a friend? Not content with
down at Christmas to take on our humanity, he now suggests he
wants a relatoinship of equals with us. Now we know
that on some levels that’s impossible - we who keep getting
things wrong, he who was without sin. But nevertheless,
that’s his ideal. Heaven to him is us gathered with him round
a table, enjoying each other’s company. What is friendship
to us? A long chat on the phone? A pint down the pub? Can we
imagine Jesus enjoying that with us?
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:18 pm.

Monday, 8 April 2024:


One reason the Gospels ring true is their honesty. There’s no
glossing over inconvenient details, such as Peter’s
betrayal, or as we hear today, Thomas’s famous doubts. Those
disciples were ordinary people thrown into
extraordinary situations, and they reacted in very human ways.
Yet the Spirit of God led them to see things through
God’s eyes, and become the fledging Church that we read about
in Acts. How does the risen Christ break through into
our ordinary lives?
Posted by Janet Taylor at 4:34 pm.

Saturday, 23 March 2024:


“Sometimes they strew His way, and His sweet praises sing;
resounding all the day Hosannas to their King: Then
“Crucify!” Is all their breath, and for His death they thirst
and cry.” What changed? How could the crowd who waved
palm branches and sang Hosanna as Jesus entered Jerusalem,
shout for his death a few days later? Follow Jesus this
week. Walk with him. Be part of that crowd as events sweep us
along almost without us realising. What on earth is
going on this week, why is it happening, why do we still
retrace these steps, every year?
Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:01 pm.

Saturday, 2 March 2024:


What a scene this must have been. Jesus, furious at the way
people have turned the temple into a way of making money by
exploiting the poor, acts in dramatic fashion. Do his
disciples see this as a sign of Jesus finally making his bid
for power? If they did, they were wrong.... as St Paul says,
God’s wisdom can appear to us like foolishness and weakness.
Standing up for truth and justice led Jesus not to earthly
power but to the cross. Are we tempted to listen to earthly
wisdom, or to God’s apparent foolishness, whatever the
Posted by Josh Taylor at 4:36 pm.

Saturday, 2 March 2024:


Jesus’s words about suffering weren’t popular amongst his
disciples. Let’s be honest, they’re not popular with us
either, are they. Who doesn’t want life to be happy, content,
comfortable, free from cares and worries? It’s not easy to try
and understand why suffering has to be part of life. And yet
it is. Jesus is asking us to open ourselves us, make ourselves
vulnerable, by loving other people the way he does. It might
not lead us down the same path as him, but it will ask us to
put our own needs and desires to one side. Do we think that
it’s worth it?
Posted by Josh Taylor at 4:35 pm.

Friday, 23 February 2024:

Lent 1

A call from Jesus’s Father is immediately followed by
temptation to ignore it. Whether or not we believe in Satan as
a real being, the pattern is surely all too familiar to us.
Just when we think we’re doing really well, along comes
something to distract us, to take us down the wrong path. It
might not even feel like temptation, it might feel like a
natural thing to do, to think, to feel. As we follow in
Jesus’s footsteps this Lent, let’s try to follow his example
of prayer, of self denial, of self giving, asking for his help
at every turn.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:58 am.

Wednesday, 20 December 2023:


John was not himself the light. He considered himself unworthy
compared with the one who was to come after. He was
a voice, crying in the wilderness. He knew what his calling
was - it was to draw attention away from himself to
somebody else. That doesn’t necessarily come easily, does it,
and yet, it is the same calling that w e all have. All of our
talents, all of who we are, are to be used to show Jesus to
the world, just as John did two thousand years ago.
do our lives point others?
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:36 am.

Monday, 26 June 2023:


Life isn’t always easy. All of our readings this morning make
that clear, with the injustices suffered by Hagar, St Paul
talking about leaving our old lives behind, and Jesus warning
his disciples of the troubles that face them when he sends
them out. But along with that message comes the message of
God’s faithfulness to us. If we can but let go of our
worries, the things that bind us to what isn’t actually good
for us, and follow his promptings in trust, then he will not
let us down. That’s what St Paul tells us is real freedom. Can
we trust, follow and be free? God is holding out his hand.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 5:42 pm.

Saturday, 15 April 2023:


Today’s traditional title of “Low Sunday” reflects our
tendency to follow a big event with coming ba ck down to
earth. We can’t sustain that special Easter Sunday feeling,
and nor should we try. After all, Jesus himself made his
disciples come down from the Mount of Transfiguration back to
reality. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not alive, every day
of the week, to the possibility of the risen Jesus breaking
through into our lives, whether we’re expecting him to or
not. The disciples weren't, hidden behind locked doors. He
broke through anyway, and he will today.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:17 pm.

Sunday, 9 April 2023:


Peter stands up and proclaims the joyful news: Christ is
risen! But actually, that didn’t happen straightaway. What
happens in the Gospel stories? They went home. They ran away.
They were afraid. This morning we do celebrate with
joy the Resurrection and what it means for us, for the world.
But it changes everything. Whatever is in our hearts today,
that we bring before God, it might take us time to absorb the
way that the living Christ transforms it all. Whether it is
with certainty, or with faith, or with hope, let us proclaim
today: Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed,

First Reading Acts 10: 34-43

Second Reading Colossians 3: 1-4

Gospel Reading John 20: 1-18
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:08 pm.

Tuesday, 4 April 2023:


The donkey, the lowly beast of burden, dumb animal and butt of
jokes, carries Christ into Jerusalem, just as one of his
kind carried the unborn Christ child to Bethlehem. And his
rider today, in his turn, is about to stand, lowly and dumb,
butt of jokes, before his false accusers. He too will be
carrying a burden on his back, the weight of all that
humankind from God. He does that because nothing, and nobody,
is too lowly or worthless to escape God’s notice. He
is riding towards catastrophe, for the sake of his beloved
world and his beloved children.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:15 am.

Saturday, 25 March 2023:


Today we begin to face the Cross. And we don’t feel the full
force of the Easter story unless we take on board the Cross
in all its devasation, its desolation. Can these dry bones
live? asks Ezekiel today, clearly assuming the answer to be
Why take away the stone from the tomb of Lazarus? asks Martha,
knowing that her brother is beyond help. And on
Good Friday, Jesus himself feels forsaken, abandoned. Yet -
somehow - God can come into all of that despair, and
bring a new future. When life changes, God brings us into a
new way of living.

Today's readings:
Ezekiel 37: 1-14
Romans 8: 6-11
John 11: 1-45
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:01 pm.

Saturday, 18 March 2023:


Does the theme of this Sunday conjur up images of children
presenting their mums with hand made cards and badly
wrapped presents? It does mean this, but it means far more.
Our readings are far from cosy. They are real, they tell of
the complexities of family life, of things that aren’t always
as we want them to be, of love finding a way when faced with
adversity. We care for one another, as God first cared for us,
and continues to care for us. And as St Paul says, nothing
can separate us from that love. Not even the approaching
Cross, not even the times we bear a cross ourselves.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:54 pm.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023:


Much of the Gospel accounts we read must have been passed down
in some way from the disciples themselves. And
they’re not afraid to admit when they got it wrong. They
didn’t understand Jesus’s references to his heavenly food.
didn’t know why on earth he was wasting time on a woman - a
woman!! - but were too afraid to ask. But thanks to this,
we see how surprising Jesus’s life was. God’s work happens in
unexpected ways, and his people are sustained in
unexpected ways as well. Do we expect the unexpected?
Posted by Janet Taylor at 5:46 pm.

Saturday, 18 February 2023:

Sunday next before Lent 2023

There’s a saying, “You’re going all round the Wrekin.”
Locals know that what expression really means. Folk who
aren’t so well versed with our local geography may be a
little confused by the saying. It means you’re going the
long way round; you’re not going the most direct way. You’re
going ‘round the Wrekin.’
Locals will also know that we have two high points round
here. Firstly, and close to home, we have Bushbury Hill.
Walk along the top of the hill, and on a clear day you can
see right across towards Shropshire, with the Wrekin in the
And about 22-23 miles away from here, we find the Wrekin.
It’s 400m high, and dominates the mid Shropshire skyline.
Folklore has it that it was formed when a giant scraped the
mud and dirt off his boots as he walked through the country
towards London. Or it was formed when two giants fell out,
after building a hill to live in – the Wrekin being the
hill. They quarrelled, and one giant struck the other with
his spade. While they were fighting a raven came and pecked
the eye out of the giant yielding the spade. The pain made
him cry; his tears caused a hollow in the rock which even to
this day is always full of water. The other giant won their
battle and built Ercall hill nearby, and imprisoned the
injured giant in it. As he imprisoned the injured giant, he
scraped the earth off his spade, creating the hillock.
Folklore tales – I’m sure there will be tales about Bushbury
Hill too, if we searched for them in local archives.
Mountains, or hills, can capture a sense of awe and majesty,
of excitement and mystery.
Today’s readings give us the story of the Transfiguration,
which we will celebrate on August 6th (which happens to be a
Sunday this year.) I wonder why we have the Transfiguration
Gospel today, the Sunday before Lent, when it is also set
for August 6th.
I think it’s set for today to give us a glimpse of God,
before we go into Lent and the penitential season. The
Transfiguration is always the Gospel reading from the Common
Worship lectionary on the Sunday before Lent (from a
different Gospel each year.) Perhaps it’s to encourage us to
raise our eyes, to look up.
Perhaps, too, it’s to remind us that we cannot hold onto
these mountain top experiences. Life has to go on. We can’t
hold onto all the good bits, the transformational bits even
if we wanted to.
This experience for Peter, James and John - and for Jesus –
had to be on a mountain. Of course it did. Mountains were
where you went to be with God, to encounter a sense of His
being. The mountain is where Moses went to receive the ten
commandments. Moses gets hidden in the cloud – he was
covered in clouds for six days, until Yhwh (God) called to
Moses from out of the cloud. Moses saw the appearance of
God like a fire on top of the mountain.
He was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. He
must have experienced darkness and thick cloud. And then –
then God calls, and he experienced the fire and light.
Transformation. He was given the gift of clarity, the
tablets of the law, for him to bring down to the people.
And Jesus, the new Moses, has mountain top experiences too.
But here it’s God himself who goes up and down the mountain.
We’re not left alone to find God, but God is right here with
us. Whereas Moses goes to encounter God on behalf of
everyone else, where God can be distant and unapproachable.
Moses on the mountain for forty days and nights. Jesus has
his forty days and nights in the desert, not on a holy
mountain but out in the wilderness. Exactly where we are at
times, experiencing all that we experience., the messiness,
the sadness, the anger and hurt, the loneliness.
Is there another parallel here, as we turn towards Lent? Is
the mountain a parallel for the hill, that dark hill outside
Jerusalem? We have ‘a mountain of glory and a hill of
shame’, as John Pritchard writes. Jesus flanked by Moses and
Elijah - and flanked by two thieves. A parallel. Bright
cloud on the one. Darkness on the other.
The three disciples don’t know how to handle this
experience. They must have been terrified! Firstly, they see
Jesus transformed, where his face shone like the sun, and
his clothes became dazzling white. A cloud overshadows them,
and God speaks from the cloud, announcing who Jesus is. ‘My
Son, the beloved, listen to him!’ No wonder they are
overwhelmed. What would we have done? And Peter suggests
they build three shelters. He wants to capture this
spiritual moment. But we can’t keep God on a mountain.
Elijah and Moses disappear, and there’s only Jesus left with
them, helping them to get up.
Mountain top experiences can very often be so brief, but
they’re transformational – that’s the point. We become
changed through the experience. Sometimes we may not realise
their importance till later on. We might not interpret the
experience as a religious experience at all – but I have no
doubt that God works in this way.
Some of you will know of Alex Scott from ‘The One Show’ TV
programme. She’s also a football commentator, a sports
pundit. She recently wrote a book entitled ‘How (not to) Be
Strong.’ Now I confess that I really admire Alex Scott. A
girl from an inner London block of flats, growing up with an
alcoholic and violent Dad, a girl of dual heritage, a girl
who struggled to learn and dropped out of school because
dyslexia wasn’t known or recognised very much when she grew
up. She found a release in playing football and became a
pioneer for women’s football, playing for Arsenal and
England, one of the leading lights for the women’s sport to
become professional. In her sporting career she won so many
medals and trophies and was even awarded an MBE. As she has
reflected upon her career, she has come to realise the
stand-out moments. (From page 193-194 she writes about her
‘wow’ moments.)
(The stand out moments are not the big occasions. It’s the
quiet moments, such as seeing the sunrise after an early
morning run, or standing on top of a hill after a hike and
marvelling that she finds herself there right in that

Wow moments. Mountain top experiences. Those places where
we have to be, to find a better view, to see more clearly.
We’re approaching Lent. A time when we set ourselves a goal
to lead a better life. To open our eyes and our ears. To
grow closer to God, so that we too may share the vision of
Jesus’s glory.
Our own mountain top moments may be many or may be few. We
will have experienced such glimpses of God. They burn long
in the memory, and help us through the times when we find
life difficult.
Think of one moment of glory, of beauty that you remember.
How did it speak to you of God?
Take a few moments to write or draw it on the post- it note.
Take it home with you, and keep it with your Lent book
(you’ll be given Dust and Glory this morning) and pray that
we, too, may have the strength to stand upright in Jesus’s

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:21 pm.

Saturday, 4 February 2023:

Thought for the Third Sunday before Lent

Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light
of the world. That feels like a great responsibility that is
laid on our shoulders. Is it up to us to solve all of the
world’s problems? Do we take all of those burdens on
ourselves? Well surely not, that’s too much for any of us. But
his challenge is for us to be that salt, and that light,
wherever we find ourselves. Think of all of our interactions
with people, every day of our lives. When people look at us,
do they see God shining through our lives?
Posted by Janet Taylor at 4:22 pm.

Saturday, 28 January 2023:

4th Sunday of Epiphany 2023

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.
I think we’re getting the message by now. In this Epiphany
season, which ends this coming Thursday on Candlemass, we’ve
heard of how Christ was revealed to the world. Visited by
magi bearing strange gifts for a child, gifts that
symbolically pointed to who Jesus was; the baptism of Jesus,
where a dove descended upon Him and the spoken words, “This
is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” heard by
those who chose to hear; John the Baptist’s proclamation,
“Here is the Messiah!” pointing the way to Jesus.
And now we hear of the miracle that happened when Jesus
turned water into wine at a wedding.
All pointers as to who this man is. This man who embarks on
a three year preaching and teaching campaign. This man who
was born in extraordinary circumstances. Known as the
carpenter’s son. Who stayed behind at the Temple as a
twelve-year-old boy, keen to hear more and to join in the
teachings of the temple elders. Of whom we know very little
until his adult ministry. In fact, until this moment – the
first miracle. The Gospel writer tells us this was the first
sign, the first clue as to the mystery of this adult Jesus.
(John will go on to label the second miracle too; his Gospel
is like a series of clues, or signs, that he wants us to
follow and work out, a bit like a treasure hunt.) Signs are
important in John’s Gospel. They point the way towards
Jesus, and therefore towards God.
Signs, says Tom Wright, ‘are moments when heaven and earth
intersect with each other. Moments which can’t really happen
in real life, moments which point away from earth to a
heavenly reality.’ The Jews believed that heaven and earth
blended together in the Temple in Jerusalem. This was
stretching the boundaries.
It may feel that Jesus is cautious here. “What’s it to do
with us, if the wine has run out?” But then he adds, ‘My
hour has not yet come.’ What is that hour? In John’s Gospel,
it’s when Jesus dies on the cross; when again heaven and
earth are blended together. That’s the ultimate moment – but
we’re not there yet. Today we’re called to focus on this
sign, this revelation, of who Jesus is.
We know that there would have been huge shame on the family
who hosted the wedding, if the wine ran out. Family honour
and pride was at stake. It could be seen as a sign of bad
luck for the bride and groom. So we see Jesus acting in
compassion – he well knows the customs and intrigues of
local village life. Perhaps he is initially cautious because
his actions could cause problems – perceived as a local
wonder-worker. However, his actions reveal his divinity.
Reminds us of the Incarnation. God in man. Brings us back
to the mystery of the revelation of God in Christ. The
mystery, the miracle, of turning water into wine is a sign
of the effect Christ can have on our own lives.
I wonder if any of you have watched Winter Watch over the
last two weeks? I confess it’s been a must for me. To see
the beauty of the wild life and the glory of nature around
us gives me a lift especially in these dark days of January.
And we know light slowly returns as the seasons change, and
that light makes a difference to what goes on around us in
the local plant life and the creatures who share our planet.
As we look around, we see shoots of new life. Snowdrops in
clusters hiding in the grass. Daffodil shoots emerging from
the damp darkness of the earth. Where we least expect it,
new life begins to emerge. Despite any forecasts of snow, we
can sense spring approaching. Nature begins to wake up. Our
world becomes transformed.

I base the following meditative ideas from Judith Dimond.
Think how our world transforms as we know it; a caterpillar
into a beautiful butterfly; how the ugliness of baby birds
transforms into glorious plumage and song; how something as
plain as a bulb can transform into the most delightful,
beautiful flower. And here as we arrive in church on the 4th
Sunday of Epiphany in our coats and hats and hoodies and
boots, we sense a transformation – if we are only prepared
to look.
Think how Jesus came, sent by God, to transform the mess we
had made of the world. All through Epiphany we’ve heard and
read stories of how other people recognised Jesus for who He
was. Today, through the story of the miracle of turning
water into wine, Jesus himself reveals who he really is.
It’s as if his power can no longer be repressed.
Judith Dimond reminds us that water was reserved for the
Jewish ritual ablutions. Jesus takes that water and turns it
into wine. Symbolically, he shows how the burden of sin and
the law (remember we are referring to the strict Jewish laws
here) can become transformed by his free gift of life in
I wonder why this story, this ‘first of his miraculous
signs,’ appears in each of our lectionary years. Perhaps
it’s because it is so important. It’s Jesus’s first sign of
his own ministry. His first sign, or revelation, of who He
is. Is it important because it’s the first sign? Or does it,
perhaps, refer to water and wine which becomes so symbolic
for us week by week at Communion.
Or perhaps, by revealing who He is, Jesus offers hope to us
So what do we do now? If we ourselves know the difference
Christ makes in our own lives, what are we going to do?
Can we continue to reveal Christ to the world?
Can we show through our words and actions that we believe
Jesus to be the Son of God? Actually – we may not need
words. Jesus didn’t actually say anything, did he, as the
water became wine. Perhaps we can use symbols. Wear a cross,
or a lapel pin that shows you’re a Christian. A sticker in
your car – perhaps a fish symbol, or the Trinity. Pausing
before we eat to say thank you to God for all we have – even
if we speak silently and then make the sign of the cross.
How can we help transform situations to bring hope and joy
into the ordinariness of daily life?
For that’s what Epiphany means. That’s what the Revelation
of Christ means. It doesn’t just mean we remember three
kings who visited Jesus as a young child bringing with them
incredibly strange gifts. It means we are to play our part
in transforming our world and revealing God’s glory. That we
become signs ourselves. That we should never give up on
situations or people because God doesn’t give up on us, and
we should never underestimate what God can do.
Jesus offers new beginnings each and every day. He spoke of
peace and of love, and through his miracles showed how life
can be transformed.
I don’t mean that to sound trite. None of this is easy
stuff. Following the lectionary, the set readings, week by
week helps us remember the stories and to consider them in a
new way each time we hear them.
So at this Epiphany season, I invite you to spend some time
in reflection.
How is God revealed to you?
How do you share in that revelation?
And following on from Phil’s thoughts last week, what’s your
own calling?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:34 pm.

Saturday, 21 January 2023:

Matt 4 3rd Sunday of Epiphany

One of the enduring memories of my childhood is just how
much my dad used to enjoy fishing. At home it was not
unusual to find a container of maggots and casters in the
garage as he stored bait for the next fishing trip.
Alongside this was his rods, nets and all of the other
equipment he needed to spend a day a pool or canal bank
locally. Often when out, we would call in at the local
fishing shop so that he could stock up on the bait and this
particular shop has long gone. His hobby would in winter
take him out on many a Sunday morning and often come home
grumbling about how many hours that he had spent sitting by
the side of a pool or on a canal bank and caught nothing. A
couple of trips like that might have made many think twice
about the value of what he was doing and to me it did not
sound much like fun. But being a member of the local angling
club there was a competitive edge to his hobby. At one point
it looked like that there was a possibility of a trip to
Denmark but I cannot remember whether that was the prize or
yet another competition. It was not all bad though.
Sometimes he would tell us about when the weather started to
warm up how he got to know some of the local bird life. In
the quiet of the early morning many birds would use his rod
as a place to perch and sometimes there would be a visit
from a local kingfisher. This seemed to off set the bad
times when he used to come home cold and perhaps wet when
the weather turned bad.
Today fishermen feature in our Gospel reading. Not amateurs
that would dabble like my dad but those who made their
living catching the abundant stock of fish that lived in the
sea of Galilee. Fishing is hard work and there as the
Gospels tell there were days when they caught nothing but on
the whole it was a secure living which many at the time of
Jesus did not enjoy. They would have caught enough to live
on and had enough left over to sell. There is a lot that
Matthew does not tell us about the story. We will never know
for sure why Jesus decided to move to Capernaum. Perhaps it
was because of his frosty reception when he spoke in the
synagogue back home in Nazareth that made him realise that
he would not get anywhere with his message for he was too
well known. We also don’t know how much of a connection that
he would have had with Peter and Andrew before the events.
Did Jesus come to Capernaum on a regular basis for work as a
carpenter? And if he did had he got to know them well enough
to reveal something about who he was, so that when the time
was right they would leave a secure living to follow him.
This we don’t know for sure.
The one thing that we do know is that Matthew is keen to
show how Jesus was the longed-for messiah and how he
fulfilled the message of the prophets. Both our Old
Testament reading and the first part of our Gospel recall
the words of Isaiah.
‘the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,
those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them a light
has shined’
Jesus was and still is the light of the world that shines in
this dark world. He is the one who came to give new hope and
direction as he proclaimed the kingdom and ushered in a new
relationship with God. For he came to show that all mattered
to Him, and that God was not the God of the rich and
powerful but also the God who bound up the wounds of the
leper and made the blind see. As a charismatic teacher
Jesus was about to start his ministry – one that would see
the crowds flock to him as no one had proclaimed the kingdom
of God like him before. In the call of the first disciples
this light would be seen by all people.
Jesus as the light of the world had come and was now among
them inviting all to follow him and walk in his light as he
does today. But it was also a ministry that would also
lead to rejection, suffering and the cross for that was
God’s plan that Jesus would be the sacrifice that would
release all of God’s people from the darkness that came from
being trapped by sin. We may think of the cross as being a
dark place where evil triumphed but I would say it is as
much part of the light Jesus bought as the resurrection. For
on it Jesus showed the depth of God’s love for us by taking
our place so that we and all creation can have a new
beginning. That is as much a part of Isaiah’s prophecy as
the earthly ministry of Jesus. As it is through the cross
and resurrection we are clothed in Easter light – a light
that perpetually shines in this world to give us life and
direction and can never be extinguished.
Peter and Andrew, James and John all heard the call of Jesus
to follow him for they must have seen something of the light
which was now shining in the world. Jesus had a plan for
them and that was to become fishers for people. For them
there would be a roller coaster of a ride walking with him
not quite knowing where he was leading them. These four
disciples would be present at the intimate moments in the
ministry of Jesus where he raised a small girl from the dead
and would accompany him on to that lonely mountain top where
they would see Jesus glorified.
They were on a journey that would equip them for to carry on
the work of proclaiming the kingdom of God once Jesus had
completed his work on earth and ascended back to heaven. The
book of Acts tells of how these uneducated fishermen who
could probably do little but write their name became
powerful preachers of the Gospel and were able to take the
message out to the wider world. The words that Jesus spoke
when he called them were fulfilled although as we will see
through the year the disciples often got things wrong and
failed to understand him at the best of times. But Jesus was
patient even though they at times frustrated him for he had
a job for them and knew that it would time to prepare them
for it.
But what about you? Jesus still calls people to serve him
now as he did then. When we talk about calling it is not
just about a calling as part of a call to ministry but the
calling of all of God’s people. For Jesus’s call may be for
a variety of tasks and roles. This could be something that
is linked to our lives outside of church, in the job that we
might be doing or in our family life, it might be something
that is to do with some kind of service. Sometimes his call
his dramatic such as that we heard in our Gospel this
morning where those first disciples left everything and
followed Jesus. For some this still happens today where
there has been a sudden sense of call that has caused them
to give up everything about their former life. For most of
us the call of Jesus is that slow murmur, the still small
voice that won’t go away that is prompting us to walk out in
faith with Jesus in a new direction or to take something new
on. This is where the call that Jesus has on our lives can
get frustrating as it is a slow and steady drip feed of what
he wants us to do and we are only given a small glimpse of
the plan. Sometimes it feels like it is better to give into
Jesus and follow where he is taking us.
Jut to give an example during my call to priesthood this
particular passage is one that would not go away. Having
heard it on a Sunday morning in Norfolk God decided to be a
front seat passenger every time I went out and the still
small voice saying ‘I will make you a fisher of men’ almost
drove me crazy. I found myself arguing God as to what this
meant as my Reader ministry was fulfilling. Was it about my
Reader ministry or was it something else but he would not
tell me and instead told me to trust him. Having done this
am now on a journey that only God will bring to fruition at
the time that is right and have had to put it in his hands
that one day he will make this clear.
This may be the same for each of us here when Jesus calls us
by name to serve him. It is not always obvious what he means
and if this is the case then we need to place it back in his
hands in prayer to ask him to make his will known to us.
Sometimes this may mean talking it over with someone we
trust for often it is the case that others can see the
calling of Jesus on our lives before we can. For God can
speak through each one of us and sometime we can see Him at
work in each other before we know it for ourselves and this
can be affirming. Then it is case of walking with Jesus on
the road that he has prepared for us trusting that he will
make the bigger picture clear over time. It is like when we
put the jigsaw together in the Sunday before Christmas where
little by little as each piece came forward we saw the big
picture. It is the same with our life with Jesus. When he
calls us to follow or serve him it is like the jigsaw being
put together. We may only see the small pieces being put
together over time as we look back over our lives. We may
see the moments where Jesus has already asked to us to
follow him and we walk with him in faith. To maybe serve
others but also to carry his light into the places that we
go. For through each one of us Jesus carries on his work to
be the light of the world so that the words of Isaiah will
continue to be fulfilled until he returns again at the end
of time. We may never see the completed picture like we did
when the jigsaw was completed as we are not the finished
article until we taken to our heavenly home. Until then
Jesus continues to invite us to follow him and to carry on
doing his work. The only thing that we are sure of is that
when he calls us to be or do something that he is with us
every step of the journey and will never ask us to do
something that we cannot cope with.
So have you heard the voice of Jesus in your life asking
you to follow him? If you have, have you responded to his
call? Or perhaps if you have you are worried about the cost
it may have on your life. We are called to let go of the
things that are holding us back from following Jesus. Are
you prepared to do this as the disciples did to become the
people that Jesus intends. If you are prepared to trust him
Jesus will lead you to places that you will never have
thought about going to as he transforms us in the people he
intends us to be, doing what he wishes us to do to in our
vocation to carry the light of Christ in homes and places of

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:56 pm.

Sunday, 15 January 2023:

2nd Sunday of Epiphany 2023

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.
In the secular world, Christmas has moved on. Decorations
fetched down, trees put out to recycle or put away in the
loft. Sales of Christmas stock in the shops. The world moves
on, away from the lights and the story of God’s Incarnation
to earth, born as a helpless baby.
Not in our house, though. Writing this sermon, I admit our
tree is still up, fully decorated. I’m not quite ready to
let go of the lights…although the tree will probably come
down over the weekend as it’ll go for recycling next week.
Our decorations may be down but not away in the attic, for
some are needed for the Brownie sleepover at the beginning
of next month!
Here in church, in this season of Epiphany, we still have
the cribs and Nativity scenes. Reminding us that this season
isn’t just for a day, or a couple of weeks. They will stay
out until Candlemass on 2nd February. Following that, our
attention will turn towards Lent, towards Jerusalem, towards
the Cross.
This week, our readings signpost us to our relationship with
God and with our community. Isaiah announces, ‘here is my
Servant,’ and who responds to God’s call, to God’s
commission. This servant will be ‘a light to the nations.’
Will bring justice and bring peace.
We may wonder, looking at our Old Testament reading, how we
can be lights to the nations, when we are small fish in a
big pond; when we have little say in the organisation of big
companies or countries who exploit smaller ones. When we are
surrounded by indifference, by racial and bigoted hatred.
What can we do?
As He did in Isaiah, God calls individuals and communities
to be the light. We’ll explore that in a minute.
Our Gospel reading is once more about John the Baptist, the
Gospel Evangelist’s account of more revelations of who Jesus
is. ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ exclaims John, as he sees
Jesus come forward for baptism. ‘I did not know him!’ Lambs
held a special place in the Jewish temple, in those days.
They would be used as a sacrifice in the temple. John
recognised that, in coming for baptism, Jesus offered
himself – becomes a sacrifice – for us all. And – cleverly –
by saying, ‘I did not know him!’ he draws even more
attention to Jesus, as the crowds would want to know of whom
he speaks. John, here, recognises Jesus – and reveals him to
the crowds. Signposting more and more people to Jesus, and
in typical human fashion, would want to know more about him.
Who is this man? What does he do? Where does he live? All
the stuff of humanity that intrigues us and keeps us
And Jesus walks on, followed by two of John’s disciples.
Jesus knows they’re there. Of course, he does. They want to
know more about this Lamb of God. After a while, Jesus turns
to them and asks them directly, ‘What are you looking for?’
What are you looking for? What are you searching for, what
are your deepest desires for your life?
Those disciples of John would be not different to any of us.
No different to anyone in our local community. Many of us
will identify with times of restlessness, when we feel empty
but know that somehow there is something new around the
And we’re invited to take the next steps. ‘Come, and see,’
says Jesus.
Come and see.
Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus makes this invitation in
various ways. Not just through what he says, but as a
teacher, as a rabbi – he invites the disciples into
If you want to know about life, come and see Jesus. If you
want to know what love is, come and see Jesus. If you want
to experience the glory of God, come and see Jesus. This is
true life. Come, and see.
Here we see the Epiphany playing out in front of our eyes.
God, acting through people. God, penetrating our hearts and
our minds. Remember, John recognised Jesus as the Lamb of
God. And we hear Andrew name Jesus the Messiah – the
Epiphany continues, the revelation of who Jesus is. And then
when Jesus meets Simon, that unlikely disciple who will
become the Rock of the Church and who will be renamed Peter,
the Epiphany continues.
Our reading from Corinthians, our New Testament reading,
makes it very clear that God has already given the community
the gifts and strengths they need. They have been blessed
with the gifts for the work God calls them to do. But they –
like us – must recognise that these gifts are actually God’s
gifts by His grace, to help transform lives. To provide
hope for others and for ourselves.
‘Come, and see.’ And this is where Isaiah calls us all to be
a light to the nations. For we are all drawn to light. It
offers hope. A bright spark in darkness; a chink of light,
a comforting flame, a glorious sunset or sunrise, however we
perceive Light it is a glorious expression of hope within
us. If we truly believe Jesus is that light, what are we
doing to share that vision with others? How do we share it?
And on those days when we ourselves find it hard to find the
light, what happens then?
One of the many tasks we’ve had to do this week is to
complete the parish returns to the Church of England – the
statistics and numbers who have attended services and
various events, what reflects the life of this church, what
do we do as a faith community to reach others around us. In
many respects we’re doing ok. We’re holding our own- and I
don’t take that lightly; I’m so grateful for all that goes
on in the life and witness of this community. But one of the
statistics asks for how may regular attenders are aged
between 18-35. And I’m aware that in 10, 20 years’ time
there could well be an issue with not enough ‘younger’
adults around to help spread the message of God in this
That’s the reality. That’s what we are to look at.
Everything we see around us, everything we have built up, is
for God’s glory. For God’s work in our local community. And
what happens when some are no longer able to do this?
‘Come, and see.’ I wonder.
Who can you invite along to ‘come, and see?’ Invite to a
coffee morning? To a quiet midweek service? Invite to a
craft/prayer session? Who can you witness to out in your
local community?
For, as God formed Isaiah to be his prophet and to be a
‘light to the nations;’ as God formed Jesus to be the true
Light of the world; we too, though our own baptism, are
called to be that same light – revealing the Christ to all
those we meet.
‘Come, and see.’
In the coming weeks, we will hear how the disciples journey
with Jesus and how they worked out what the Truth is to
In the knowledge of God’s love for us and for everyone, what
is that Truth to us? And how can we invite others to see and
to share in that Truth?
We pray that when we hear the call, we will follow; that we
may make time for God in our daily lives so that then we too
can invite others.
‘Come, and see.’

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:00 pm.

Saturday, 7 January 2023:

The Baptism of Christ 2023

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
In this season of Epiphany, today we see the third sign or
revelation of who Jesus is. Here He is as God among us, God
in human form, God Incarnate.
We’ve seen Jesus ‘s birth and the revelation to the
shepherds (and we remember that the story of the shepherds
is in Luke’s Gospel, emphasizing the lowly, the misfits of
society, the outcasts.)
On Friday we celebrated the Epiphany, the revelation that
Jesus is born for all races, not only for the Jews but for
everyone. The revelation that here is a King for all
And today we see Jesus at the start of his public life. Not
joining in with John’s ranting or cries of ‘repent’, but
perhaps standing quietly on the sidelines until he feels it
is time to move forwards through the crowds, until he stands
before John.
We can imagine the scene. John, in the river Jordan, sees
the last person he expects to meet. And John says, “You
come to me, for baptism? It should be the other way round!”
Jesus’s reply: “It’s proper. It’s what we are to do.”
In other words, although Jesus was without sin and therefore
had nothing to repent, he knew that He was to be baptised to
fulfil the promise of scriptures.
So John the Baptist baptises Jesus there and then, in the
River Jordan. Here Jesus shows He is one with us. One of the
crowd. Doing the same as the others who are baptised that
Only there is a difference. As He is baptized, He is
revealed as God’s Son. There is a voice from heaven: “This
is my Son, and with Him I am well pleased.”
The Spirit of God descends like a dove and alights on Jesus.
Not as we would imagine a cute dove, perhaps more like a
wild goose.
Those with faith in God would understand. They would see
the dove; they would hear the voice.
That’s our call, too. With faith, we hear. We see. And
perhaps here is our first glimpse of the Holy Trinity. Here
at the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry, we are in the
presence of the Trinity, which as Judith Dimond says,
‘gathers in this one particular place to hallow it, and pour
support on Jesus. God the Father reveals him, and God the
Spirit empowers him to begin.’
And we imagine the heaven opening, and people looking up in
amazement, and we wonder, too, how prepared we are ourselves
to see signs of God’s power in our world.

And it’s right that on today of all days, at the beginning
of this new year, we remember our own baptism. We’re not to
leave Jesus there in the stable, or in the house as a small
child visited by wise men. We have to allow Him to grow in
As we remember that Jesus was baptised, we think of promises
very often made on our behalf by parents and Godparents.
Today offers us the opportunity to reflect on our own
baptism. We have the opportunity to make our own promise to
God – we have the choice to do this.
What’s our choice today?
(We lead into the baptism renewal promises on the separate

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:44 pm.

Saturday, 7 January 2023:

Epiphany 2023 Matthew 2:1-12

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.

The Feast of the Epiphany always brings two poems to my
mind. The first is ‘BC:AD’ by U.A.Fanthorpe. She was a
Quaker, who used to write a new Christmas poem each year,
which she would send with her Christmas cards to her
friends. The poem reads,
‘This was the moment when Before
turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

‘This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Spread boringly over the earth.

‘This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

‘And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.’

What I love about the poem is the way it changes our
perspective of the story of Jesus’s birth. It tells us ‘a
few farm workers and three members of an obscure Persian
sect walked haphazard by starlight straight into the kingdom
of heaven.’
Haphazard by starlight…it’s a very different picture to the
Nativity images on our Christmas cards or in the Nativity
plays we witness. Shepherds become ‘a few farm workers.’ The
Magi, ‘members of an obscure Persian sect.’ No longer much
loved characters in our cribs, we would perhaps pay no heed
to such characters were we to see them in real life.
Actually, it reminds us again of the lowliness of the
shepherds. And it reminds us that the wise men, magi, kings,
whoever they were, were foreign travellers with various
beliefs probably related to astronomy.

Who were these magi? We’re not actually told there are three
of them, we presume this from the number of gifts offered to
the child. They were astrologers. Scholars of some sort, who
studied the sky. Who studied the stars and the planets. Who,
therefore, studied God’s creation.

There was an amazing programme on TV recently which looked
at our planet from satellites out in space. The images were
so beautiful they made me feel very emotional. Here on our
TV screen were satellite images of deep space millions of
miles away. And – this was the really emotional part for me
– glimpses of stars and planets of other galaxies. I found
it strangely moving, so beautiful, too big for me to
understand, with the awareness of how amazing our God must
be to create all this glory, all this beauty, and the
realisation of just how small we are.

It appears that the Magi were waiting for a sign, and they
were brave enough to recognise the sign as something
extraordinary. Whatever the sign was in the sky, it was
enough to make them travel from the East. Perhaps they came
from different places and met up en route – who knows? The
important thing for us is that they acted upon the sign.
They followed it. Haphazard by starlight…they made their

The bright star, however, couldn’t have led them the whole
way, for they went first to Jerusalem, which is where they
would expect to hear about a new Jewish King. The star
wasn’t a satnav leading them, all the way to Bethlehem! We
know of their encounter with Herod. We sense his fear and
his anger. His mistrust. We can imagine his thoughts – “I’m
the king around here. No one will take my place.” And we
know many innocent baby boys were killed because of his fear
and anger.

The star reappeared, however, and led the Magi to the house
where the child was. Led them, haphazard by starlight. It’s
thought two years passed since the shepherds arrived at the
stable or the inn. The young family is now in a house. And
what gifts are offered – the gold, frankincense and myrrh
all signs of Jesus as the Messiah, the King, the one who is
to save. And their lives would never be the same again. They
were ‘overwhelmed with joy’ when they saw the star had
stopped. In front of the infant King, they knelt down and
paid Him homage.

I often wonder what happened to them when they returned to
their country by another route. I often wonder who they
told, and what they told, of this special child. Whatever
did happen, they were themselves changed by their encounter
with Jesus.

Perhaps we may compare the Magi to Herod. The Magi, these
people from an obscure Persian sect, recognised God in
Jesus. Recognised that, in some way, this was a new
beginning. Yet Herod, the Roman ruler of the Jewish nation,
failed to see what was happening. He was filled with hatred
and anger, tried to trick the Magi into telling him where
the child was. A ruler filled with hatred and anger? A ruler
allowing many innocent people, both adults and children., to
be killed? Perhaps little different to some leaders of

Our final hymn this evening will give us the whole Christmas
story. We will sing Songs of Thankfulness and Praise;
singing of the Holy Birth; of Jesus’s baptism and the
revelation of who He was when He was baptised in the Jordan.
We will sing of His miracles and how they, too, point to
Jesus as the Messiah. We will sing of when Christ will come
again. And together with angels and the whole host of
heaven, we will sing, ‘Grant us grace to see thee, Lord,
mirrored in thy holy word…and may praise thee, ever blest,
God in Man made manifest.”

The revelation of God in the Incarnation of Jesus is more
than a story. It’s what we believe.

The theologian Margaret Silf writes, “Today, the Feast of
the Epiphany, is the beginning of God’s mission to the whole
of creation, far beyond the confines of the people of
Israel. You are part of that mission. Your life is part of
the new kingdom that God is bringing into being out of that
mysterious mingling of our desires, our suffering and God’s
love. Celebrate this ‘birthday’ of God’s kingdom-without-
boundaries today.”

And that’s what we do. Celebrate the revelation that God’s
love is for each and every one of us. That he understands
and gets what we go through, because He’s experienced it.
The revelation of God’s love for us all – not only the God
of the Jews, but the One for all.

Lift up your eyes, said Isaiah, and look around, and you
shall see and be radiant. Look around you, and see where God
is at work. Look around you in the beauty of creation. In
the joy of families and friendships. Look around you, and
notice. Proclaim God’s goodness and love.

At Wednesday’s Mass, I thought about how Jesus told two of
John’s disciples to ‘Come, and see.’
At this season of Epiphany, I wonder, dare we creep towards
the young child together with the magi, to come, and see?
Can we, I wonder, feel a new sense of love, and an urge to
proclaim God to our local community?

And I end with a different poem, T.S.Eliot’s ‘Journey of the
Magi.’ He writes how everything changed for the Magi. Life
would never again be the same for them. “We had evidence and
no doubt,” he writes. And having encountered the Infant
King, life would never be the same again.

Our question tonight, is, can we say the same?


Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:43 pm.

Saturday, 31 December 2022:

Jan 1st 2017 Naming of Jesus (and visit of shepherds) Luke 2:15-21 and Numbers 6:22-27

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
I don’t know about you, but it feels to me as if the
shepherds have been hanging around the stable for the last
week! It’s a whole week since we celebrated Christmas Day.
We are so familiar with the Nativity story which we have
sanitised and made to feel almost a cuddly and a heart-
warming story. However, as ever with all readings from the
Bible, they should come with a health warning.
Cuddly this story isn’t.
Heart-warming? Maybe. But more like…
Scary. Amazing. Thought provoking. Wonderful. And – Love. A
story of love.
We know that in a sense, the Christmas story begins with
Mary’s acceptance of God’s will. An angel had visited her –
a teenage girl.
Today our Gospel reading picks up after the angels have
visited the shepherds.

These angels have been busy! An angel visited Elizabeth,
remember – and then visited Mary. An angel spoke to Joseph.
Now the angels have visited the shepherds, and we know that
an angel will speak again in a dream to Joseph.

But back to the shepherds. Over two thousand years ago, in
an occupied country which was ruled by fear, shepherds were
out on the hillsides of Bethlehem. Shepherds were not the
sort of people to mix with. They would be rough and ready.
Physical. Tough. Their job was menial – looking after
animals. It was a physically demanding, smelly, difficult
job. Sheep had to be kept safe – and night time was
dangerous. And I laugh to myself every time I hear “Do not
be afraid!” either in our readings or as we sing “While
Shepherds Watched.” Don’t be afraid? These tough men, living
rough and difficult lives, visited by angels who sang to
them? I know I’d be terrified! But our story today picks up
after the angels have gone.
I can just picture the scene out there on the hillsides on
the cold night. I wonder what your response would be? Did
that really happen? Did we really hear angels singing to
us? Did they really tell us to go to Bethlehem, to follow
God’s plan?
And yes, they went. These lowly people, who must have been
tired and full of fear, were also filled with something else
that night. They believed.

So the first visitors to the infant king weren’t kings or
rulers. They weren’t adoring members of the family or
friends, as would happen nowadays. They were rough and
ready shepherds. And this is Luke’s Gospel, and the heart of
Luke’s Gospel is that the marginalised are included;
outsiders were brought within the people of God.

I wonder what we would have done.
Would we have listened to the song of the angels? Or would
we have been too scared to hear their message?
Would we have been brave enough to tiptoe towards the manger
and offer all we had?

I wonder what happened to the shepherds afterwards? They
must have told people about their experience and we hear
that all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told
them. Who heard it – who actually listened to the
shepherds? And we hear that Mary treasured all these words
and pondered them in her heart. She treasured the
shepherds’ witness. She didn’t recoil from them but
welcomed them. She knew her baby was special, was a gift
from God. She would have no idea what her son would go
through during his ministry and eventual death and
resurrection, but she was there for him. She pondered in
her heart –puzzled over the words she heard, trying to make
sense of them.
This story is all about love. God’s love for us.
Mary’s love for God, and for her child.
The shepherds’ love for God and the baby, once it was
revealed to them.
Yet this baby was a vulnerable child, born in a stable. With
no pomp and ceremony. What was it that the shepherds
recognised in the face of a tiny baby? You know, I would
have thought that an encounter with angels would have been
enough to get the shepherds talking to everyone they met –
but it wasn’t. It was their encounter with the baby. And
everyone who heard their story was amazed, and probably told
someone else, who told someone else. Nowadays it would
appear on social media, Facebook, Twitter….
It was the meeting with the baby, the baby whom the angels
had told them would be the Messiah, the Lord, that was so
There was something so special about this tiny baby that the
shepherds simply had to spread the word.
And on the eighth day, according to the Jewish custom, Jesus
was given the name Mary had been told to give him. It
means, Emmanuel, God saves, God with us. So Mary too was
changed by her encounter with the baby, for as we’ve said,
she pondered on all that she saw and heard.
What’s in a name? Actually, a lot! I’m very proud of the ‘e’
at the end of my name! We get asked about our names and like
to find out what our name means. Names become part of who we
are. The Abrahamic religions regard names as important;
after all, look at how God names everything He has made in
Genesis. Throughout the Bible, names are changed; Abram
becomes Abraham; Sarai becomes Sarah; Jacob becomes Israel;
Saul becomes Paul; Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which
the Church is built. Names mean more than words. And the
Holy Name of Jesus is the name above all other names. It’s
the name we find in the stable, the name of a tiny Jewish
boy who at an early age becomes a refugee in Egypt. We’re
told his name before He is even conceived in the womb. Jesus
– ‘to save.’
I wonder…
Dare we follow the steps of the shepherds as we travel on
our journey?
No matter how tough that journey may be?
I wonder…
Are we brave enough to bring our lives to Him?
To offer all that we have?
And like Mary, do we allow ourselves space to think and
ponder about all that Jesus means to us?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:50 pm.

Saturday, 24 December 2022:

Midnight Mass 2022

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
How many of you have seen the John Lewis advert? I must
admit that each year, I always look out for it, and this
year I found it so moving that it made me cry. For those who
aren’t sure if you’ve seen it, it shows a couple preparing
for an event. They’re about to welcome a teenage girl as
foster parents – or perhaps as adoptive parents. (Those who
know me well will understand why I’ve been so drawn to this
advert.) For much of the advert, the father learns to
skateboard. He practices and practices, falls over, gets
hurt, and the advert doesn’t make any sense until the
doorbell rings. There stands a social worker (we presume)
with the young girl. Under her arm is a skateboard. And
everything clicks into place. The father to be has been
doing all he can to make the young girl feel welcome in
their home.
Well, here we are, at Midnight Mass, just as Christmas Day
begins. A special time. All of us here will have our own
traditions at home, traditions that sometimes change ever so
slightly year by year. The Church’s tradition is to welcome
the new-born Christ at a service held in the darkness. Held
in the middle of the night. Our Gospel reading tonight
emphasises that darkness. It talks of the Word, the Light, a
Light that shines in the darkness.
The Gospel passage is a piece of beautiful poetry. But it
doesn’t give us the details of Jesus’s birth that we may
expect (and will have in the morning.) What it does is to go
so deep into the story that it’s almost too much to grasp.
For right at the very beginning of time, Jesus was there.
And he was born in extraordinary circumstances, the Word of
God Himself, come to earth as a human child.
A child. A vulnerable, helpless baby, reliant on his parents
to sustain and nurture him.
And this child is the Light in our darkness.
We all know the Christmas story – will see it on many
Christmas cards, hear the story in carols, see it in
countless, moving nativity plays throughout the country.
Let’s just remind ourselves of the unexpected nature of
Jesus’s birth:
His conception is announced to Mary by a visit from an
angel. In effect, Mary says ‘yes’ to God’s plan. And – a
young girl – pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit – she
must have been worried about telling her fiancé. But Joseph,
too, had a vision from an angel, this visit in a dream – and
so he, too, said yes to God, and took Mary as his wife.
They travelled 80 miles to Bethlehem to be counted, to pay
their dues to the Romans who were in power. 80 miles when
she was almost full term. No medics around, no tarmac roads.
We imagine she travelled by donkey. And as all the inns were
full, they were given a place to rest in a stable,
surrounded by animals. They were made welcome and found a
place to stay.
Hardly the most comfortable, hygienic place for a baby to be
born. No family around to help, but a stable filled with
animals in a busy, bustling town.
And we know the story so well, don’t we – angels appear in
the night sky and announce the birth to shepherds, those
people who would not expect to hear any good news at all for
they were considered as lowest of the low. Yet they were the
ones to whom God chose to announce the special birth, and
they were the first visitors to the baby. The shepherds were
lowly men but were loved enough by God to be the first
visitors to the stable. The first visitors to see the infant
The wise men – magi – kings – whoever they were – expected
to find the new king in a palace, not in an ordinary home.
They were led by the light of a star – so they must have
travelled overnight for many miles, travelling in the
deepest depths of night following a star that unexpectedly
appeared in the night sky.
And all of this was the Light of the World, coming into our
The Light of the World coming into the darkness. God’s
eternal plan, born as a helpless baby, into the arms of a
young teenage mother who said her ‘yes’ to God.
And to return to the John Lewis advert, there is a parallel
with the Christmas story. For in our Gospel reading we have
a Father preparing the world for his Son. His Son, entering
the world to bring a new life and meaning to everyone, just
as the teenage girl in the advert enters into a new life
with her foster or adoptive parents.
Over recent nights I have been fascinated by the light in
the sky. We have had some glorious clear evenings. I’ve
watched, almost holding my breath, as the sun has gone down.
The sky gradually changes colour until all of a sudden, it
is dark; after all, we’re at the darkest time of the year.
We long for light. And, just as I’ve watched the sun go
down, I’ve watched the ever-changing sky as the sun rises in
the east. How the horizon lights up, how the early dawn
spreads its light across the skyline until all of a sudden
daylight is here. The night is no more.
And the story we read in the Gospel, and the Nativity story
we’ve just remembered, begin to make sense in a new way.
Many of us will have struggled at times this year. We liken
these times to our ‘dark times’. Times are unbelievably
tough for many people at the moment. Rising costs of living,
the cost to heat our homes, rising food prices, and strikes
by so many workers show how dark our world has become.
Ukraine is still at war; there are countries where women and
children no longer have rights; natural disasters in other
countries. There are many people displaced through war,
disasters, through desperation. How do we make them welcome?
How do we show them a glimpse of God’s love even in the
darkest of times?
This year is hard. There are empty places at many tables. I
totally understand why Christmas lights seem to have been up
earlier than ever. We all need something to hold onto, a
light in our own darkness.
And into this darkness, Jesus comes. We don’t deny that
there have been times of grief or sadness or difficulty. But
we hold onto the hope set before us, that the Light of the
World is here for each one of us. Walking alongside us each
day. And that makes a difference, for it means we are never
on our own.
We’ll sing the carols, we’ll celebrate together with friends
and family each of us in our own way. A time to be together,
a time of light in dark times.
We heard in our reading, “The Word became flesh and lived
among us.” Another translation says “God pitched his tent
and moved into the neighbourhood.” This Light is here for
all of us, not just at Christmas time for all year round,
for all our lives.
Jesus, the infant King, is indeed the Light of the World.
Into the darkness, God is born. From that moment, nothing
remains the same. For He was, and is, and is to come. And
all the trimmings of Christmas – the cards, the gifts, the
deliveries, the visits to see Santa – they’re all good but
they’re not the end message of hope and love. For the Light
will come, in unexpected ways.
Whatever is different this year, God’s love never changes,
nor fails. Nothing can change the eternal truth of that
eternal Light that shines in the darkness.
The well-known carol ‘In the bleak mid- winter’ by Christina
Rossetti offers us the hope we have in God. ‘What can I give
Him, poor as I am…if I were a shepherd, I would bring a
lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what I
can, I give Him; give my heart.’
If we find God in our heart, we offer him ours in love and
service to those around us, we help to right injustice, we
speak out for those who have no voice.
And that’s transformative to our world. It makes a
May we all find God, and peace and joy in unexpected places
this Christmas.
May we allow the Light, the Word, to enter our hearts.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:41 pm.

Monday, 19 December 2022:

Advent IV 2022

A slightly different offering from YG this year.
And a few words, a very few, before we all join in the
Christmas Story.
For that is what we are all about to do.
Our Gospel today is from Matthew. Now, Luke’s Gospel gives
us the story from Mary’s viewpoint, but Matthew’s Gospel
gives us the story of the annunciation of Jesus’s conception
to Joseph. Matthew, therefore, gives us ‘Joseph’s story’, so
to speak. And that matters.
It matters for several reasons. Firstly, as we know, it
matters that people have a voice. It matters that people
are welcomed, that they feel wanted. That they –actually –
matter. The story of Jesus’s birth is a story for everyone,
as I’ve said countless times over the last couple of weeks.
For we all matter. We are all loved and created by God.
And here this church fits into the jigsaw pattern of life in
our community, seeking to help others, to raise awareness of
issues that need to be voiced, to be a light for those who
seek it.
And within this church we all play our part, each part vital
to the calling of us all. Each part fitting together as a
jigsaw piece comes together to reveal the whole picture.
Using our own gifts and skills to make up a bigger picture.
Since lockdown, we’ve found a strength and comfort in
completing jigsaws together. Talking about them. Helping
to fit that one piece that no one else can find.
Completing the picture.
You have been given an envelope as you came into church.
Now is the time to see what is inside.
You’ll find a piece of a jigsaw.
And we’ll work together as a congregation to complete this;
we’ll perhaps think where we allow the Christmas story to
touch our own lives.
For Christmas comes – to us in the UK – after preparation.
In some cases, many weeks of planning, present buying,
wrapping, card writing, parties, visits.
It takes time to complete a jigsaw, too. A strategy used by
many is to find the corner pieces, and then the outside
edges. Chipping away at it a bit at a time. Having patience
to see the end result. Using the help of others who may be
better at this sort of thing than you. Not going it on your
(After the jigsaw is complete)
The story isn’t complete until the final piece is in place.
In this story, the most incredible of all stories, the final
piece is the child in the manger. God Incarnate, born as a
helpless baby, in a poor inn, with stars and signs of who
the Child is for those who seek Him.
This coming Christmas, Jesus is here for us all. We don’t
have to ‘go it alone.
Play your part in God’s jigsaw of creation.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:22 am.

Sunday, 11 December 2022:

Phil's sermon Isaiah 35

I have only ever been into a desert twice in my life. The
first time was when on holiday in Egypt I went on an
excursion to the Valley of the Kings. This trip meant an
early start and we crossing the Nile before it got light.
There is a reason as to why this is the case. The Valley of
the Kings is in a barren valley that catches the sunlight
that is reflected from the mountains that surround it and at
midday it is like walking into an oven such is the
temperatures that are reached. It just gets too hot for
tourism. Having crossed the river it was surprising how
quickly we left the fertile Nile valley with its lush fields
and palm trees to something that was totally barren and
devoid of life. It makes you think about how important
water is for life as the baked ground seems to be empty and
the desert silent. But there is life specially adapted for
such a harsh climate where it hardly ever rains as the likes
of David Attenborough has shown us. Rain in Egypt is so
rare that the country that a light shower may come through
once every 30 years or so.
My other desert experience was in North America which again
was hot and dry but unlike in Egypt was full of life. As far
as the eye could see there were cacti growing tall and
supporting a living community. Think cowboy films and you
get the picture. In fact it was so diverse was it that there
were signs at every pull in warning us not to go wandering
far from the road because of the rattle snakes which are
pretty common in that part of the country.
Isaiah this morning gives a picture of a desert being
transformed by God in a different place from what I have
described. His audience would have been familiar with
deserts as being hot, dry and inhospitable places where no
one would go out of choice. But what Isaiah is trying to
address is the desert of their current situation. These were
people who had been taken into exile in Babylon and although
Babylon was a fantastic place with many opportunities to the
exiles it felt like they were living in a desert. They had
been uprooted by force from everything that they had known
and had lost possibly everything that they had all because
of the politics of the day. Before the exile many had turned
their back on God and now believed that God was punishing
them for this. God, it appeared had deserted them and
perhaps was not as strong as the gods that the Babylonians
worshiped. It was into this deep feeling of gloom that God
spoke to them bearing a message of hope. God had not
forgotten them and was going to restore his people back to
Jerusalem. To do this he gives the prophet a vision of hope
of a desert being transformed into something special when
God restores his people.
God promised that the dry places – the desert shall rejoice
and be glad. That it will turn from something that is
inhospitable is turned into something that is special when
God is at work. He will make the desert bloom and we can get
a picture of this from the work of naturalists on the tv. I
remember seeing a programme which showed what happened when
the North American deserts get rain. All of the seeds that
had laid dormant for many months or years suddenly burst
into life and what was a parched land full of cacti became a
sea of flowers. This is what the prophet was informing his
listeners that God is going to do something that will turn
their situation around. God is going to redeem them from
their captivity and restore what had been lost. He was going
to turn their situation around and when he does, they were
not to fear him. For God is someone who does not reject his
people but instead cares for them and has not forgotten the
promises that he made to Abraham the He would be their God
and they would be his people. God is faithful to his
promises and always keeps his word.
God is now going to demonstrate that he is lord over all of
this world and not just confined to Jerusalem and the
temple. This was a new thinking as it was believed that God
actually lived in the temple in Jerusalem and could only be
encountered there. Isaiah challenges this in as far as the
voice of God can be heard anywhere because God is all around
us. As a sign that God is among us there will be healing.
The eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the
deaf unstopped. This is a sign of his restoration in
progress for God will make his people whole again as he
removes every type of disability that holds them back from
living life to the full with him again.
Isaiah also gives an illustration of a highway as a means of
how God will restore his people. We are all familiar with
main roads and motorways. The M6 is one that we often use
and we know that it is clogged with traffic. There are
perhaps many similarities between the M6 and the highway as
promised by Isaiah. For like the M6 this highway will be
packed with people on a journey and these will not be people
in cars but God’s people. These people are on a journey to
the city of God which at the time was Jerusalem to return
back to what they knew and what they had left behind. It is
a road that is not just for the people of God then but the
people of God now as it is a journey that God invites each
of us to travel on when we turn to him in faith and are
willing to trust him. Unlike those in exile the road that we
travel on in this life leads to the heavenly city where is
not only found but surrounded by the saints in glory. This
is the destination of our journey of faith and it is what
Jesus has promised to each of us.
Unlike the M6 which can be dangerous and where accidents are
only too common the road that God marks out is totally safe.
We are promised no one will be lost and the temptation to
wander away will be removed. Any form of danger will be
removed as God gathers all of his people together and sets
them on their journey to the place that he has chosen to
meet them. And God can do this for he has through Jesus
broken the powers of any danger that could trip us up as we
join the people that Isaiah was speaking to. For unlike them
we have the assurance of the victory of the cross, and can
take our place as the redeemed Easter people knowing that
death is not the end but a transition to our final home.
Our Gospel this morning points to this vision of Isaiah
coming to fruition. When John the Baptist sends a message to
Jesus enquiring if he was the expected messiah or should
they look for someone else. Jesus points to the work that he
had done to establish the kingdom of heaven upon earth. For
Jesus had restored sight to the blind and made the lame leap
for joy, he was the one who restored health to the lepers
and the dead to life. The message of hope regarding the
kingdom of God was being preached and the poor were hearing
that they mattered to God. For Jesus was the longed-for
messiah that would not only bring the prophet’s message to
fulfilment in a way that was not expected. Jesus came to end
the last big exile of all Gods people - including us and
that is our separation from him caused by sin. Jesus came to
be the ransom for all of God’s people as he broke the power
that this has over us so that we can be redeemed and take
our place on the highway. The miracles that Jesus was
performing was an indication that this was about to happen
and the kingdom would be here for ever.
What about us here in Oxley? There may be times in our life
when we may feel at rock bottom. It may feel that we are
walking in the desert and God seems to be far away. Life is
not easy and we as followers of Christ are not immune from
the knocks upon the way. But God has shown that he can enter
into any situation and both redeem and restore. If he can do
it for the people of Judah living in exile he can do it for
us too. Jesus has shown that God never leaves us in a
situation where we are struggling or where events are
getting on top of us. He will enter into our situation and
will restore us back to the people that he wants us to be.
God is gentle and it may mean that we need to be led out of
the layby that we may have parked ourselves in or the back
lane where we have become stranded. He will always lead us
back to the highway that he has prepared as promised by the
prophet. The road that leads to life and back into the place
where we can flourish. But we have to trust God when he
reaches out his hand to lead us and sometimes that can be a
big challenge for this may mean leaving the place where we
are comfortable.
Some people are happy being a hermit in the desert and don’t
want to go back onto the road as they would rather stew in
the life of hard knocks. Is that you? Jesus has shown us
what restoration is and means when he rose again from the
dead and gave a new sense of joy to his disciples. He will
do that again for us too. He has also given to us signs that
the kingdom of God is all around us and it is up to us with
his help to respond to his healing ministry when we need it.
In fact, the kingdom is here in this place and it is shown
by the way that we care for each other on a regular basis.
So will you be open to him offering his healing and
restoration when he speaks through one of us? For Jesus uses
many ways to bring about restoration and sometimes it is not
always the way that we are expecting it. So this advent when
we remember Jesus coming to earth as a human being, and look
for his coming at the end of time are you open to him making
the desert of your life blossom and blind to his presence
having your eyes opened, as he continues to restore all
humanity back to the place we were before when we dwelt in
his garden at the beginning of time.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 1:05 am.

Sunday, 4 December 2022:

Advent 2 2022

Lord, as we prepare for Your Coming this Advent, may our
hearts be ready to hear and receive Your Word, in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
There’s so much going on, isn’t there. Christmas trees and
decorations appear each new day, conversations of shopping,
wrapping, writing cards, arranging visits, and have you
ordered your turkey yet… if you keep your ears open you’ll
hear such snippets of conversation. Throw a World Cup into
the mix and you may wonder what on earth is going on.
In church we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus,
God’s Son born on earth to bring in God’s Kingdom. The
Kingdom includes values such as love, peace, mercy. Peace is
the theme throughout today’s readings. Our reading from the
prophet Isaiah promises the realm of peace and emphasises
the need for governments to create systems that are just and
fair for everyone. Our reading from Romans speaks of how
both Jewish and Gentile people (that is, people who are not
Jewish) live together in mutual support as a community. The
Gospel reading set for today, from Matthew’s Gospel, reminds
us the story of John the Baptist and of how the need for
repentance is the way of becoming part of God’s community.
I will focus on our reading from Isaiah to begin with. It
comes from chapter 11, and to put it into context, in the
previous chapter, God promises to restore some of Israel,
that they will be returned to the promised Land following
destruction by the Assyrians in 722 BC. So chapter 11 gives
us the vision of what it will be like when a new ruler, from
the line of David, is established. A ruler who will change
lives and challenge people’s ideas and preconceptions.
Look at the gifts mentioned; wisdom, understanding, counsel,
might, knowledge, right judgement, fear of the Lord (which
means reverence and awe, and wonder, at God’s presence.)
These gifts are given to each one of us at our baptism – the
gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are God’s gifts to each one
of us. Using these gifts, what we can we do, I wonder, to
challenge and help those very real issues in today’s
society. Issues such as homelessness, poverty, hunger. Not
forgetting our responsibility regarding climate change, our
response to war. For peace does not come with more weapons,
but with governments sitting down to talk, to try to ensure
there is peace and justice and mercy for all people. This
distant voice from Isaiah speaks to us today. He gives voice
to our longings and needs.
There are signs all around us of God’s goodness and love for
us, if we only open our eyes to see. You know, those sudden
glimpses we have that touch our hearts. The sky at night on
a clear night, with a stunning moon. A sunset, rainbow,
piece of music that reaches our souls. A child’s smile. We
will all have our preferences as to what reaches us, what
speaks to us or touches us – and God knows – and we do
nothing to deserve these gifts, these sudden glimpses of
God. We may feel so bowed down with worry about finances, or
how to heat our homes, or have concerns about health or may
be full of grief. Advent gives us some space to acknowledge
all this, and to sit in the moment with God.
I read of a phrase, “rest your eyes on God.”
Rest your eyes on God. Advent allows us to rest our weary
eyes on God, the God of hope, of peace, of love. God cares
for each and every one of us. So we wait for a glimpse of
God’s love during this season of Advent.
This season of Advent, are we more concerned with buying and
wrapping presents and writing cards, than we are about
reaching out to strangers, or helping other people?
As we think about John the Baptist, I wonder how many of us
would have gone to hear him. His appearance sounds so
unattractive, doesn’t it; camel –hair clothes, his unusual
diet. In ancient Mediterranean times, if you travelled at
all it would usually be in a group, for reasons of safety.
In that culture there had to be a good reason to travel. A
pilgrimage would be a good reason, as would be to hear the
voice of a prophet. His followers would probably have
understood what we often fail to grasp; his appearance
linked him, symbolically, to Samson, to Samuel and Elijah.
These all represented the Old Testament tradition of
offering resistance to injustice and each gave suggestions
as to how society could be renewed.
In his turn, John the Baptist calls for reform. For
penitence and for a return of common values where everyone
is valued. Remember that the Jewish people were waiting for
a Messiah, for someone to come and save them from oppression
and the tyranny of the Roman Empire. Some looked to John
thinking he was the one. John himself would probably have
expected some kind of superstar Messiah – but once he saw
Jesus, he knew. He absolutely knew. “I am not worthy to
carry his sandals,” John said, of Jesus.
Perhaps we are slow to understand, and impatient – wanting a
quick fix. But the Christmas story of a baby born in a
stable is where God meets us – waiting for us, as a baby
waits to be born, and waits as he grows and develops.
It seems to me that the people didn’t believe all of John
the Baptist’s message, but went to listen to him anyway. The
boasts of Abraham as their ancestor were meant to throw John
the Baptist, but he saw through them – they were people who
were privileged, who had little regard for what was really
going on in their society. John was, I think, understandably
angry that they had little idea of how to make changes and
decisions to help people. They were hiding behind their
faith or beliefs but not living them.
We too are challenged. We are challenged to wait, to wait
patiently. Christmas will come, the child will be born
again, we will remember the amazing, wonderful, incredible
story of God’s Incarnation. And still we wait for Jesus’s
second coming. We are called to make changes. Changes for a
better society, challenged to spread the Word of God today.
John called for a change of direction, a turning from one
life to another.
Advent is short, it’s only four weeks. If it were longer,
would we be any better prepared? There is a real urgency in
our readings and we are to act now, in whatever way God
calls us. We are to live out our own faith.
Dear Lord, help us to prepare for Your coming. Help us to
make space for You, to make time to be still, and to
honestly examine ourselves. Help us to embrace new ways,
direct our paths, and put a right spirit within us, to bear
fruit for you.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:33 am.

Saturday, 19 November 2022:

Christ the King Sunday 2022 Luke 23:33-43

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Today is the Sunday we know as the Feast of Christ the King.
We’re at the end of our liturgical year. Common Worship
says, ‘The year that begins with the hope of the coming
Messiah ends with the proclamation of his universal
sovereignty. The ascension of Christ has revealed him to be
Lord of earth and heaven, and final judgement is one of his
proper kingly purposes. The Feast of Christ the King returns
us to the Advent theme of judgement, with which the cycle
once more begins.’
At first glance, our readings may seem confusing. If, today,
we concentrate on Christ as King, why does our Gospel
reading take us back to the crucifixion? Why does the
reading from Jeremiah refer to a king as ‘shepherd’? And
what is the reading from Colossians about?
Luke’s Gospel account of the crucifixion gives us three
mocking voices as Jesus dies on the cross. “Save yourself,
if you are a king!” is the gist of the mockery. Jesus’s
Kingship is not about saving himself. It’s not about power.
Jesus’s kingship is about mercy, and justice, and love. His
death will fulfil Scriptures – it brings salvation. He is a
king, but redefines what we mean by sovereignty. He is a
king like no other. He doesn’t save himself; what he does,
is save others through his death and resurrection. Luke’s
Gospel – as I hope we’ve grasped by now – shows Jesus as the
king of the poor, the lonely, the underprivileged, the
marginalised. His ministry is about God’s reign here on
earth. Here he is, redefining what we mean by a king. He is
tried as a criminal, put to death, dies in agony on a cross
– and yet we dare to call him King.
Today’s Gospel focuses on the story of Jesus’ crucifixion
and is woven into God’s story. Without the crucifixion we
would have no resurrection. No resurrection would mean no
ascension into heaven.
And without any of that, we would be left with no hope.
Next week we begin the Church’s new year on Advent Sunday.
We will have four Sundays to prepare ourselves for the
coming of the Christ Child into our lives; as we prepare to
listen again to the mystery of the Incarnation when God came
to earth as a tiny, helpless child. And this child is our
A King like no other. Crucified alongside two criminals. We
know nothing of their crimes, we know nothing of the
circumstances of their lives and what brought them to the
cross. One mocks Jesus. The other, though, sees something in
Jesus. Something inexplicable; somehow, he recognises Jesus
as the Messiah. I wonder what he saw that made him see the
true kingship of Jesus.
One reflection I read in preparation for today reminded me
that we bow to sovereigns. Here, though, we have a crucified
king, with bloodied and dirty feet. A king with no robe or
jewels or gold, but with a mocking crown of thorns. Yet,
somehow, his eyes see into our very souls. This king
suffered and was plunged into deep pain, the deepest depths.
And this means he travels with us through our own sufferings
and despair.
A king like no other. A king who shows that real power is in
Our reading from Colossians is considered by many
theologians to be a baptismal hymn. This hymn to Christ is
set in the context of a prayer for the church. It describes
Christ as the one for whom, and in whom, all things in
heaven and earth were created. I love that we share ‘in the
inheritance with the saints in light.’ Did you notice that
this reading is written in the present tense? We are to take
action now, if we believe we are citizens of Christ! If we
believe his reign is about justice and mercy and peace, what
are we doing to help others to experience God’s love for
themselves? What mercy and compassion do we show in the way
we live our own lives?
Jesus turns the notion of ‘kingdoms’ upside down. There are
no boundaries to his kingdom and all are welcome. During the
three years of his teaching, he has mixed with the wrong
people, spoken up for those who had no voice, offered love,
hope and peace to all, and spoken of God’s judgement which
comes to us all.
‘The King of the Jews,’ read the inscription on the cross.
Not a regal looking king, bloodied and bruised and battered.
But a king with dignity, who still looked to forgive from
the cross. How do we live out our lives with Christ as our
Our King has been chosen for us by God, but we have the
choice whether to follow him. To do this we are to pray, to
be his representatives here on earth, to learn more about
God and his ways, and – in some strange way – to share in
his kingship. We are called to further God’s Kingdom here on
Do we look to honour Christ through living the values of his
kingdom? I wonder, do we look to honour Him through serving,
through loving, through giving?
As we look upwards to the cross above our altar, we see oh
so clearly a vision of Christ as King. Christ in all glory,
in majesty. Christ yesterday, today, tomorrow. Together with
the penitent thief upon the cross, we are promised our
inheritance with the saints in light. May we keep our eyes
fixed on the King of Kings as once more we begin to prepare
ourselves for the story of his birth and renewal in our own

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:49 pm.

Sunday, 13 November 2022:

Remembrance Sunday 2022

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
These notes are a rough transcript of the interactive sermon
on Remembrance Sunday and some are based from Messy Church
in 2018.
Today is all about Remembrance. Remembering and
acknowledging the hurt and atrocities of war, and
remembering all those who give their lives for peace.
Perhaps this year it’s more poignant; after all, we have
television images of the horror in Ukraine brought to our
homes. We see at first hand the realities of war. The
devastation. The sheer futility of it all. We weep with
those who have lost their loved ones; we weep with those who
are injured, those who are displaced. We cry out for peace.
And we remember. We wear poppies as a symbol of remembrance.
Red poppies, as a symbol of remembrance after WW1, a symbol
chosen to honour both the dead and the living. Different
countries have different symbols for this national day of
remembrance. France, for example, uses the blue cornflower
and India & Pakistan use the marigold.
And our Christian faith uses symbols, too, and uses many
symbols to help us remember our story. And to help us
remember that God remembers us.
God remembers us.
I’m going to need some help, some volunteers to fetch
something out of my bag…

• Rainbow picture.
The story of Noah and the ark is in Genesis 8 and it’s here
that we read the wonderful words ‘God remembered Noah’ (v.
1, NIV). Noah was in a bad place, with the world washed away
and just his family and the animals on the boat. Perhaps he
thought God had forgotten him. But God remembered Noah and
God remembers each one of us by name and knows exactly our
situation even if we think we are forgotten. The rainbow is
a reminder that God will never forget us. God always
remembers us.

• A small bottle.
I wonder what might go in here. (Take ideas.) What about
tears? In Psalm 56, David writes, ‘You have stored my tears
in your bottle and counted each of them’ (v. 8, CEV). In
other words, God knows and remembers everything that’s
happened to us, particularly when we were in times of
trouble and despair. Elsewhere, you can read that God
remembered Rachel (see Genesis 30:22–23) and Hannah (see 1
Samuel 1:19) when they couldn’t have any children, and God
answered their prayers. In the same book, God remembered
Abraham, who was distressed that his nephew had been
captured in a war, and God came to help (see Genesis 14).
God remembers us in our troubles. He knows exactly what’s
happening to us and so we can trust that God will rescue us
and come close to us when we are facing trouble.
• A journal.
There is another special book according to the Bible: a Book
of Life where God records all that happens, so he can
remember us. At the end of the Old Testament, there is a
lovely promise in the book of Malachi where it says, ‘All
those who truly respected the Lord and honoured his name
started discussing these things, and when God saw what was
happening, he had their names written as a reminder in his
book’ (Malachi 3:16, CEV). God knows and remembers all our
prayers, our hopes and our longings – all the work we have
tried to do faithfully for him, even though it often goes
wrong. God will keep his promise and will not rub us out of
this Book of Life. So God remembers us by name; God
remembers us in trouble; and God remembers all that we have
done and so we can trust him – his mercy, his faithfulness
and his promises. But what does God forget?
• Blank paper with ink spots all over it.
God doesn’t really ever forget. God can’t forget because he
knows everything that ever was, is and will be. When the
word ‘forget’ is used in the Bible regarding God, it means
God chooses not to remember. The big thing that he chooses
not to remember is the mess we make of our lives. He says so
both in the Old and New Testaments and it’s in Jeremiah 31,
where God says, ‘I will… forget the evil things they have
done’ (v. 34, CEV). In other words, God will forget our
sins, our failures, our mistakes and the mess up we make of
things. But how can God do this?
• A cross.
It’s because of this – because of the cross. It’s a mystery,
but because of what Jesus did on the cross by dying
innocently, this can put right all the injustice of the
world and in our lives and it can give us a fresh start.
• Pitta bread.
To experience this fresh start (because God forgets our
sins), we need to remember; to remember what Jesus has done.
He gave a very simple way of doing that as we break bread
and as a way of remembering that Jesus was broken and wants
to be inside each one of us. Jesus says: ‘Do this in
remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19, NIV). So God remembers our
name; remembers our troubles; remembers our hard work and
faithfulness; and because of the cross, God chooses not to
remember all the mess we make of our lives. But there’s one
more mystery about remembrance.
• Jigsaw pieces.
The word ‘re-member’ actually means to put back together
again. A member is the part of something, like a member of a
club, and to re- member is to put back together – to
reassemble something. So remembering is putting back
together something from long ago so we can see it now in our
heads as a memory. God promises to re-member us; to put us
back together again. We all of us have messy lives… On the
cross, Jesus was asked by the thief at his side to ‘remember
me’. In other words, to put him back together again and make
him into the person
Remembrance is a big word when we remember the cost of war
so that we will not forget and therefore be determined never
to do the same again; in a year when we remember people from
long ago who died to give us freedom and peace; in this
year, we can also think of an even bigger remembrance –
God’s remembrance of us. A God who remembers our name,
remembers our troubles, remembers the hard work that we have
done in his name, but who also chooses not to remember our
sins because of the cross, so that he can re-member us – put
us back together again.

Then prayer for peace.
Lead me… from death to life (hands crossed over body and
then hands raised above the head) …
from falsehood to truth (one hand close to the mouth,
suggesting a malicious whisper, and then both hands with
thumbs up next to the mouth suggesting the truth)
… from despair to hope (one hand on the forehead in despair
and then the same hand shading the eyes, looking out to the
future in hope) …
from fear to trust (two hands by the mouth expressing
terror and then both hands open in front of the body
expressing trust) …
from hate to love (one hand raised as a fist and then two
hands over the heart) …
from war to peace. (one hand shaped like a gun and then two
hands linked by the thumbs, palms inward, creating a dove of
Let peace fill… our heart (the hands still as the dove of
peace near to the heart)
… our world (hands as the dove of peace making a small
circle away from the heart)
… our universe. (hands as a dove of peace making a much
larger circle away from the body)

Posted by Janet Taylor at 1:01 am.

Saturday, 5 November 2022:

3rd Sunday before Advent Job 19:23-27, Luke 20:27-38

May I speak in the name of our God who is the Creator,
Redeemer and Sustainer of all, Amen.
“I know that my Redeemer lives.”
Today’s Lectionary readings all invite us to think about
resurrection hope. They offer us the opportunity to think
through what resurrection is, indeed, to consider what is
our hope?
Job is one of those Old Testament books probably not written
by Job but by someone else, bringing the story together from
a variety of sources. It’s in the section of books in the
Old Testament that we call ‘Wisdom Literature.’ The setting
of Job’s story is around 2000-1500 years before Christ.
Job’s story is that of a patriarch who was rich in
livestock. He had a big family and lived to a great age. Job
is described as a ‘righteous man.’ Like most of us, he has
his ups and downs. We’re told in the book of Job that he
lived in ‘the land of Uz’ which helps us to contextualize
this story – he was not an Israelite.
I have a sneaking admiration for Job. He deals with all that
life throws at him, questioning, ranting, lamenting. He
wants to know why suffering exists. His friends are
convinced he must have sinned, done wrong things, because of
some of life’s events thrown at him. There’s a lot of
conversation in his Book about why some people have really
hard and difficult lives and why others seem to float
through life unscathed by events around them – and in line
with thinking of the time, his friends argue that God allows
bad things to happen to those who have caused injury or
mishap to others. But in the end, Job is swept away by the
reality of God’s presence in his life. And that’s
transformative. It throws away all his questions about
Our reading today comes after arguments have been back and
forth about why God allows things to happen, and that God
destroys guilty and not innocent people. Job has a
breakthrough. These lines are so famous, I bet you sang part
of Handel’s famous aria in your head as we heard them:
“I know that my Redeemer lives,” he says, “and that at the
last he will stand upon the earth…I shall see God.”
It’s like rays of sunshine bursting through the clouds. Job
expresses his hope in God.
He is – I think – proclaiming it in despair, in lament.
Despite everything, he is saying, “God, I know You are
there, that You live – and that makes a difference to the
way I live my life.”
Now the author of Job isn’t talking about belief in the
resurrection as that wasn’t a belief in Ancient Israel.
What Job is saying is that even in the real mess of life, we
can cling to hope because God loves us, is with us, in all
aspects of our lives. At this point in his story, his family
and friends seem to have abandoned him and so does God. Yet
he is still able to cry out, “I know that my Redeemer
lives!” God is his only source of hope, his only comfort.
“In my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold…my heart faints within me!”
I love the way – metaphorically – Job shakes his fist at
God, lamenting and shouting and wailing, but doesn’t give
up; he stays in relationship with God all through.
The story of Job is a story of new life after suffering –
and it’s hope of resurrection of the dead. The end of the
Book of Job reads, “And Job died, old and full of days. And
it is written that he will rise again with those whom the
Lord raises up.”
“I know my Redeemer lives.” Do we have that same sense of
trust and faith in God? Job, of course, was talking about
God, not Jesus.
Now, we proclaim our Redeemer to be Jesus. Our Gospel
reading shows how the Sadducees attempt to trick Jesus by
their questions. They’ve arrived to embarrasses him, to show
him up. The Sadducees did not believe in life after death,
in a resurrection hope. Their questions attempt to lead
Jesus to say that there is no heaven. Jesus replies that
when someone dies, “they become like angels and are children
of God, being children of the resurrection.”
Now, the Sadducees only believed what was written by the
Torah, the first five books of what we now call the Old
Testament. The Pharisees, on the other hand, believed in the
oral Torah and their traditions and had some hope in a
resurrection existence. The Sadducees’ question about this
hypothetical woman who had seven husbands is rooted in the
law of Moses; we know that if a man died without heir, or if
his wife was widowed without a son, there would be awful
consequences. It meant there was no provision for the widow.
She would be cast aside.
So the Sadducees are saying to Jesus, would you cast the
woman aside, (ie do you believe in the written Torah) or do
you side with the Pharisees and accept their belief in a
resurrection based on the oral traditions and therefore put
the laws of Moses to potential ridicule?
Jesus’s reply, that those who die are like angels, was an
insult to the Sadducees who did not believe in angels – and
the term ‘children of God’ was a favourite Old Testament
term for ‘angel’ so was a double insult.
But what does this mean for us? Job believed in God as
Redeemer who would always be there even when Job himself
couldn’t find him. He had total faith in God. And Jesus
talks of resurrection.
The difficulty talking about resurrection is that we are
limited by our own experiences and imagination. The
Sadducees were trying to imagine a future life, a
resurrected life, to be exactly the same as it is here on
earth. And I bet most of us do that – I know I like to think
of heaven being curled up by the sea with coffee and books
(and a tortoise ambling around) – but those are my
experiences, my imagination, and a resurrection life is way
beyond anything we can dream of. For however high we lift
our spirits, we can only imagine what we know. We can’t
imagine what we don’t know. So we imagine heaven, God’s
Kingdom, as a better version of the life we currently live –
with people and things around us that mean something to us.
The Sadducees only managed to show that it’s the limitations
of the human mind that prevents us from considering eternity
with God.
Death seems so abrupt, so final, that it can make it
difficult for us to believe in resurrection. We may wonder,
how can dust, or ashes, be brought back to life?
I think we have to accept that the Truth (capital T) is way
beyond our understanding. And so we pray a prayer written
by Nick Fawcett:
we find it hard to believe in resurrection sometimes,
for death seems so stark,
so final.
How can dust or ashes be brought back to life?
We struggle to take it in.
Remind us that some truths are beyond us;
that if we limit you to what we can fully understand
we will never believe,
for your ways are not our ways,
or our thoughts yours.
Open our hearts to things unseen,
and may our daily experience of your living presence
testify to the truth of what our minds cannot fathom:
the victory of your love.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:02 pm.

Saturday, 29 October 2022:

All Saints Sunday 2022 Luke 6:20-31

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Today’s a tricky Sunday to navigate. We sing about saints
and hear a list of saintly attributes. Each of us will
probably have our own definition of a saint, and there’s a
very real danger that we may think we can never aspire to be
like any of the saints. After all, they were ‘saintly’
people, weren’t they? How can we possibly live up to their

Luke, with his hard-hitting Gospel, pulls no punches. He
really doesn’t hold back. This Gospel passage comes after
Jesus has chosen his disciples; he has begun his ministry;
and last week we heard that he read from the prophet Isaiah
that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has
anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” Jesus means
Luke offers us a very real contrast between the values of
God’s Kingdom, and the material realities of life. He lived
in tough times. We can only imagine what it was like to live
in first century Palestine and the hardships endured by so
many people. Is that any different, I wonder, to the
hardships endured by so many people today? We see the
unbelievable poverty of some people living in other
countries, poverty brought to our eyes through the media –
TV, radio, social media and so on. And there is very real
poverty on our own doorsteps, that’s why there is such a
need for foodbanks and there will be a need for Warm Spaces
this winter.
Jesus looks at the reality of poverty. He talks about those
who are poor, who are hungry, who are filled with such deep
sadness, and those who simply don’t fit in. And he promises
them something so much better.
And to those who have so much, he offers a list of ‘woes’.
‘Woe to the rich, to those who eat their fill, to those who
are laughing, to those who are popular.’
So what does Jesus mean, and what does all this have to do
with saints?
Jesus is talking of the values of God’s Kingdom. He is
saying if you don’t live by God’s values and standards, then
you will not enter heaven. But those who struggle on in this
life will be rewarded – perhaps not in this life, but later.
Luke’s Gospel is a Gospel for those who are materially poor,
for those outcasts and outsiders – and so the language he
uses is deliberately evocative. Luke’s Jesus is born into
poverty; is homeless; is treated as ‘the other’ by so many
people – and that’s exactly what the first century
Palestinian Jews would understand. They would ‘get’ that
Jesus was a Prophet (of course, at this point they do not
understand that he is the Son of God) because the prophets
all came from a long line of being poor, or
homeless/itinerant and certainly live lives as ‘others’ and
not like so many people around them.
Jesus is talking about the Kingdom he has come to establish.
He is talking of a kingdom where everyone is valued and
nurtured. Where everyone matters. A Kingdom where there is
mutual awareness and flourishing, not everyone watching out
for their own interests but everyone looking out for the
needs of others.
Our reading from the Old Testament is prophetic. We hear of
Daniel’s nightmare as he becomes aware that the nation will
be overcome by other powers. The life they know will be
destroyed. But his dream goes on to offer the chance of
peace, of reconciliation and joy – the realm of God, for
those who put their trust in Him. Paul’s writing to the
Ephesians speaks of our promised inheritance with the
saints; those who are called to follow Christ are called to
life a life of faith and love.
Love is faith in action. And Jesus calls not only his
disciples and the crowd around him, but the disciples
throughout the ages – that includes us. He offers us a way
of life to benefit everyone, living together in community.
This isn’t a Gospel to panic us and to make us feel
unworthy. It is a Gospel to encourage us – to remind us that
there will be joys in the next life. To remind us that each
and every one of us is called and precious to God.
The saints lived their own lives. They had their own
calling. And we’re called to do the same. To live by loving
That’s not easy, is it! It’s easy to ‘love’ the other when
they look like you, or sound like you, or live by your
values and standards. It’s not easy to love the other when
their life experiences and expectations are so vastly
different to our own experience. Yet we are called to try
and to do this – and to spread God’s message so that others
may learn of his love. We are called to respond to Jesus’s
teachings – and then more will hear of the values of peace,
of justice, and the fullness of life offered only through
Writing in the Church times, Cally Hammond says “We can’t
make ourselves love people, even when they are nice, or
kind, or generous….making ourselves love our enemies is
impossible unless we act on other instructions.” Jesus
gives us clear instructions how to live a Christian life. A
life lived practically helping, or doing for others even
when we don’t get on – a life of example, which then frees
us to live how Jesus teaches.
And that’s saintly stuff! I bet none of us would presume to
call ourselves saints or to think of ourselves as saint-
like. Nick Fawcett, the Christian writer, gives us a glimpse
of how it might be to live such a life:-
This is called, ‘Meditation of a Christian in the early
Love your enemies?
Turn the other cheek?
Give without counting the cost?
How many can do that, I ask you?
I couldn’t!
Yet many I’ve seen have done as much and more,
renouncing this world and its comforts,
reaching out to those who persecute them,
day after day meeting hatred with love and evil with good.
James –
they’ve gone the same way,
and countless others like them,
giving their service,
their lives,
their all
for the sake of Christ.
Alright, so perhaps their stories have been embellished,
none of them quite the unblemished saints we paint them,
yet for all that their lives put me to shame,
displaying faith I can only dream of,
commitment that exposes my feeble counterpart as empty
a playing at discipleship.
How did they do it?
Through iron will,
or some innate goodness inherited from birth?
Neither of those.
It’s down to one thing, pure and simple:
Knowing and loving Jesus deep in their hearts.
That’s the secret of their strength:
not some steely resolve or genetic trait,
but the One whose example they followed,
who gave himself for them,
showing what loving, giving and caring is all about.
We revere them as martyrs,
Saints of God,
but they’d shake their heads, puzzled,
For to them they’re only giving back to him who offered
They sacrificed much,
but if I fail to understand why,
or to know the One they did it for,
then it’s not them that’s the loser…
it’s me.’

God speaks through those who have run the race before us,
through those who have kept their faith to their journey’s
end. May that inspire us to follow more faithfully, to
persevere and to run our own race.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:33 pm.

Saturday, 8 October 2022:

Harvest 2022

May I speak in the name of our God who is the Creator,
Redeemer and Sustainer of all, Amen.

It’s Creationtide. Harvest. Time to give thanks for all we
have, and to reflect on what harvest might mean, and why we
continue to celebrate it. Later on today we will have Messy
Harvest. On Friday this coming week I will lead two
assemblies at Rakegate Primary School, when we will think
about how we can share what we have. I suspect many primary
school halls throughout the country will resound to the song
‘Cauliflowers fluffy, cabbages green’ at this time.

But why? Why is it important to celebrate harvest,
especially in a local community in the city suburbs?

In today’s climate, it’s more and more important to remember
our Creation and to give thanks for all we have at Harvest
time. We see the effects of more extreme weather – look at
our long, dry summer for example – and watch Frozen Planet 2
on a Sunday evening if you’re still skeptical. So many
groups are now active, focusing on issues related to climate
change and plastic pollution. A time when others bury their
heads in the sand and deny that our actions today will
affect our planet not only in the future, but NOW.

So it’s important to stand back and think about Harvest.
About our Creation.
God’s creation.
And to think about how we can share with others.

Creation and Harvest. Caring for our world, created by God,
and giving thanks.

I rather suspect that on Friday, when I ask the little ones
in school assembly what harvest is and why we celebrate it,
the younger children will tell me it is about farmers
cutting the wheat, harvesting their crops, making bread.
Think of the story of the Little Red Hen; how no animals
will help the little red hen sow the seeds, water the crops,
cut the wheat, mill the wheat, make bread with the flour,
yet all the animals are keen to help eat the loaf!

So, in line with that thinking, here’s some bread.
But it’s not just any bread.

Bread is different all over the world. The bread I have here
is a bloomer. Quite a usual loaf for our area of the
country. Comforting. Perfect dipped in soup, or spread with
jam, or toasted. Bread comes in all shapes and sizes

And with our multicultural community, we’ve learnt that
bread is more than ‘a white loaf’. We can have wholemeal,
50/50, all sorts.

In France, this bread would be our norm. – a baguette.

And we have pitta, and naan, and chapatti, and more. Take a
look at the bread aisle in the local supermarket and be
amazed at the variety there is. All over the world there is
bread, made in different cultures using different
It’s a staple food.

In Jesus’ time, bread was a staple part of any meal. Used as
a tool to mop up stew (or whatever) from a communal pot.

Bread meant survival.

Our Gospel story comes just after the account in John’s
Gospel of the Feeding of the 5000. People fed by sharing
bread. In John’s Gospel, this is equivalent to the Last

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.” This is the first of
the famous, ‘I am’ sayings in John’s Gospel. What He means
is, bread will help to fill you, but I am the true bread.
Spiritual bread – the bread that satisfies the deep hunger
inside us for ‘something more’ than this world. Jesus is the
bread for our hearts, for our souls. By accepting Jesus in
our lives, we too are fed, strengthened, nourished.

In a moment, the children will give you a small picture of a
piece of bread. Take it home with you and use it during the
week to help you pray. Think how fortunate you are. And pray
that God will feed you – He knows what you need, those
moments of inspiration and glimpses of God that feed you and
give you that lift.

Harvest time. We thank God for the harvest, for the way
communities come together to share what they have. We thank
God for a global harvest and pray for a more equitable
sharing of the earth’s resources.

And we pray for our own harvest; that we may use wisely the
gifts God has given us, and share our skills, talents and
knowledge to help and enable others.

As we turn our attention towards the Eucharistic Prayer, as
you stretch out your hands, ask yourself what does the
Bread, the Body of Christ, mean to you?

“I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never be

Jesus as the Bread of Life feeds our deepest needs.
As we offer our Harvest offerings, let’s also offer the
harvest of ourselves – with a fresh awareness and
willingness to use our God-given talents and skills for
God’s glory and for the benefit of others.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:01 pm.

Saturday, 8 October 2022:

Trinity XV Proper 21 15.9.22 Luke 16:19-31

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Our Gospel reading today continues a long sequence of
readings we’ve had over recent weeks. Readings that point
us to how to live our lives God’s way. How to respond to
wealth, to riches, how to share what we have. How to pray.
There are two lessons from this reading. Jesus gives no
judgement, but states that the rich man died – and went to
hell. No everlasting life here. Jesus doesn’t expound on it,
he just lets his comment sit with his hearers and offers
them chance to think through what he is saying. The second
lesson from the reading shows that the rich man cared deeply
for his family and probably provided for them – so he has
some feelings, doesn’t he, he cares about their well- being.
But in his human response, he wishes to warn his brothers to
do something so that they do not end up as he has. Jesus,
though, explains that he has left it too late.
What is the rich man guilty of?
He hasn’t loved his neighbour.
To be blunt, he didn’t look out around him.
In the culture at the time of Jesus, there would often be a
bench outside homes where families had plenty of riches or
resources. Or, if not plenty, they had enough. The poor
would sit outside on the bench and would be attended to and
helped, at some point. It was what was expected at that
time, in those places, in that context. So a beggar would
sit on a bench outside someone’s house, and could expect
some sort of attention, especially from a feasting host and
his guests.
And we note that this rich man feasted every day! So we note
that Lazarus, the poor man, was denied help on many
occasions. Not just once. He was ignored, and left alone.
He’s not asking for much; he would have been content with
crumbs from the rich man’s table. And in a paradox we note
that the poor man is given a name. Not so the rich man who
ignores him.
So – what is Jesus asking us to do?
I offer these thoughts which are taken from the Sacred Space
Firstly, Jesus asks his listeners to be aware of who and
what is around them. Notice who is around you. And listen
out for God’s prompts – we are all called to love our
neighbour. As we pray through this story we are challenged.
How do we help those who are less fortunate than ourselves?
How can we help improve their lives?
So firstly I think we are called to pray. Nobody should be
covered in sores or comforted only by dogs. Yet in our world
we have people queuing for foodbanks, for help because they
are homeless. We can’t help everyone. We can’t ‘put things
right’ for of course we all come from different perspectives
and experiences. But we can notice others. We can pray. And
we can pray for God to direct us as to how we can help. We
can make a difference by contributing to the foodbank. Or to
another charity. Whatever it is, we are asked by God – told
by God – to look out for others. Saint Ignatius wrote, ‘Who
will I help today?’
Secondly, I think we note that no one is invisible to God.
Lazarus is named; the rich man is not. The name Lazarus
means, El-azar, ‘God has helped.’ So every person we meet is
known by God. Every person we meet is loved by God. Those
using the foodbank, the homeless shelters, those on the
streets, the Big Issue sellers, everyone – all known and
loved by God.
How can we show them that God loves them?
I wonder, too, which person you identify with in this story.
It may change dependent on your situation when you read it,
but are your sympathies with Lazarus? With the rich man?
What is Jesus pointing us to? What are the riches we are
called to share?
Thirdly, we are aware of the inequalities of our world. We
see it day by day on our streets, on tv, we hear of it on
the radio. I think praying through this story helps us to
think through our own riches. Do we take education for
granted? For example, being able to read for granted. It’s
one of life’s riches. So perhaps we may be called to explore
more about the Read Easy initiative taken up by our Churches
Together, the launch of which is next week in Wolverhampton,
here at our church hall.
So to put it simply we are called by Jesus to note those
around us. To be present to them – give them attention. Be
aware of the needs of others. We can be wrapped up in our
own world. Try to look outwards.
Pray about your response to others. Jesus doesn’t only mean
give money, although that’s useful and sometimes necessary.
He means your time. Your response. How you interact with
others – listen, walk alongside them. How you may be able to
help them practically.
In short it’s Christian living. Pray, walk alongside others,
help wherever you can. Look outwards. Be aware. And perhaps
use the words of St Ignatius each day’ ‘Who will I help

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:00 pm.

Sunday, 18 September 2022:

Trinity XIV (Proper 20) 18.9.22 Luke 16:1-13, 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Only a few words from me today, and a chance for those of us
here in church to spend a few minutes in reflection and to
light candles should you so wish.
Whoever wrote the letter of Timothy had it exactly right. We
are called to pray, first and foremost. And with that in
mind, to pray for those in authority. For they are the folk
who make decisions on many levels. We are called to pray for
them, that they may be moved to make decisions for the good
of all. It’s a tall order. A lot of responsibility.
There will always be people who appear to ‘have it all;’
wealth, money, possessions. It’s what is done for others,
that counts. So we are called to pray for those people who
are in positions of authority – politicians, city
executives, and yes the Royal Family – pray that the power
they are given will be used for the well-being of all.
The whole church has the task of being a ‘priestly people.’
The whole Church, every member, called to pray to Our Father
for the whole world. Not just for things we want or wish for
– but for things that matter. Justice for everyone. Human
rights. A fair distribution of the earth’s resources. The
list goes on.
But, chiefly, we are called to pray. Especially we are
called to pray for those whose actions affect millions of
people. Pray for our friends and family – yes of course. But
don’t forget to pray for kings, queens, princes, all those
people in authority.
Today’s Psalm, 113, had we had it, reads, ‘From the rising
of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be
praised.’ We are to praise God. We are to pray. So today, in
this period of national mourning, we offer our prayers for
our late Queen Elizabeth. We pray for King Charles and for
the Royal family, as we remember all who mourn.
So as we listen to some music, we have to chance to reflect
and pray, and to light a candle, should you wish to do so.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:28 am.

Sunday, 11 September 2022:

Trinity XIII 11.9.22 Luke 15:1-10 Death of Queen Elizabeth II

Death of Queen Elizabeth II
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Just as we think we know what we’re doing, everything
This last week has been one of those kind of weeks.
For it’s no exaggeration to say that the life of this nation
will never be the same again.
Many of us have grown up knowing only Queen Elizabeth as our
reigning monarch. Over the years we’ve celebrated her
jubilee anniversaries, and with what joy the nation
celebrated her Platinum jubilee in June this year. Times
when we could come together and spend time together. There
have been times too of sadness and difficulties within the
Royal family, like any other family – but made all too
prominent to the general public by the relentless media.
And of course the inevitable this week, when the news came
through on Thursday teatime that Her Majesty had died,
peacefully, at her beloved Balmoral.
As a family we know only too well how devastating that news
can be, no matter how much we may expect it.
The Royal Family not only have to grieve with the eyes of
the public upon them, they have to carry on with duties. For
we have a new King.
The eyes of the world seem to be centred upon our country,
upon our Capital, and will be for the next 10 days or so.
Yet there is still a war being fought in Ukraine. There are
still horrendous floods in Pakistan.
Climate change is a real thing and how slow we have been to
see this.
And there are so many people worried about where their next
meal will come from. How to cope with rising bills
especially projected fuel bills.
So much to concern us. So much to think through and

Where is God in all this?
Our readings today are all about forgiveness. They tell us
of how God forgives; they tell of his mercy and how his love
is for everyone. Yes, even those who do wrong – God’s love
extends to them too, if they repent. When we say sorry to
God for things that we have done wrong, we are forgiven.
Redeemed. Given another chance, a chance to put things
It’s easy to judge, as the Pharisees did. Easy to put
ourselves in their shoes and grumble how Jesus not only
associated with sinners – those people who did not follow
the Jewish law – he even ate with them. As I said last week,
the culture of the time would expect you to be with your own
level of society. Jesus throws out all the social norms,
and as he could hear the grumbling, he told these parables –
the parable of the lost sheep; the parable of the lost coin;
and, had we read further, the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Forgiveness isn’t easy, is it. When someone wrongs us it’s
easy to harbour a grudge. But that’s not what we’re called
to do.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been re-reading a
series of books set in a monastery in the 1300s. They are
Benedictine monks, who live by a Rule of Life. They live
austerely, in community together, with all the grumbles and
concerns of the time. They live a life of prayer. Of course,
these books are novels but they are based on as much
historical fact as they can be. They’re called the Hawk and
the Dove series, by Penelope Wilcock, who also writes some
thoughtful and deep-thinking meditations. One of the Rules
that the monks live by is that they are not allowed to let
the sun go down on any anger or irritation with each other.
By the end of the day – if they have spoken sharply to
another, for example, or omitted to do their work task for
the day, or missed saying a service in the chapel – whatever
it is, they have to ask for forgiveness. In the books, they
kneel before each other, and beg forgiveness from God and
from whoever they have wronged.
I know they are novels but it’s moving to read about the
internal struggle some of the characters have before they
are ready to say they are sorry.
It’s also very moving to see the struggle that some
characters experience when they accept such an apology. How
hard it can be to accept the apology when they might still
feel angry and wronged.
But God has no such thought. Jesus gives us these examples,
of a shepherd loving his sheep so much that he will always,
always go after the missing sheep.
The example of a woman giving thanks because she finds her
lost coin, which meant so much because she has so little.
(And how many of us have uttered quick prayers to St Anthony
when we struggle to find something precious to us that we’ve
When we wander far away and are lost ourselves, we can
always, always, call on God. For each and every one of us is
worth searching for, and God will find us.
Remember when Jesus was on the cross, one of the thieves
crucified alongside him spoke with Jesus. Even then as he
was dying, Jesus came alongside sinners. What did Jesus say
to him? “Today, you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus
said. He recognised someone who was sorry. He recognised
someone in need of God.
And the joy of the woman on finding her lost coin is the joy
that God has when our relationship with him is rekindled and
Today’s readings are about the unfailing love of God for us
Her Majesty the Queen had a deep faith in God. “History
teaches us that we need saving from ourselves, from our
recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world… neither
a philosopher or a general…but a Saviour with the power to
forgive,” she said.
There are so many things Her Majesty said over the years
that pointed explicitly to her deep faith in God, even when
there must have been times that she despaired of events
around her. “For me, the personal teachings of Christ and my
personal accountability before God provide a framework in
which I try to lead my life,” she said in her Christmas
message in 2000. “I, like so many of you, have drawn great
comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.
I believe that the Christian message, in the words of a
familiar blessing, remains profoundly important to us all;
Go forth into the world in peace, be of good courage,
Hold fast that which is good,
Render to no man evil for evil,
Strengthen the faint hearted, support the weak,
Help the afflicted, honour all men.”
Be peaceful, forgive each other, live the Gospel message.
That’s what Her Majesty the Queen was saying, and that’s
exactly the message Jesus was giving to the crowds and to
his disciples.
She also made it clear that Jesus had no easy life. “I hope
that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus
of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity,
managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial
None of us have what we may term ‘an easy life.’ There will
always be those who grumble because they don’t see the whole
picture. There will always be those who look on from the
sidelines, who need inviting in to God’s love.
I asked at the beginning, “Where is God in all this?”
God’s there in the middle of every single response to an
emergency. He is there in the response to the awful floods;
in the middle of a war zone; in every single response and
donation to a food bank; in opening people’s hearts to the
dangers of climate change and to the beauty of His Creation.
We will always fall short, we will often avoid the right
action, we will always neglect others through our own short
sightedness and carelessness. Which sounds awful. But
repentance includes saying sorry we got that wrong, help me
to try again. Repentance includes feeling compassion for
others. Repentance includes trying to be aware of others and
trying hard not to judge.
For, as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth said, “Forgiveness lies
at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken
families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile
divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the
power of God’s love.”
Where is God in all this? In each and every one of us. In
all those around us.
I’d like to be fanciful and imagine God welcoming Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth to heaven with a marmalade sandwich.
With sandwich or not, I’m sure God would say, “Well done,
thou good and faithful servant,”. May Her Majesty rest in
peace and rise in glory.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 3:41 pm.

Saturday, 3 September 2022:

Trinity XII (Proper 18) 4.9.22 Luke 14:25-33

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
How many of you, I wonder, have recurring dreams about not
being ready for something important?
I regularly awake with vague panic-induced feelings that I’m
not prepared. For example, arriving on holiday with no
luggage, having not packed anything. Inviting friends round
for a meal and not having the ingredients needed for a
certain recipe – or not preparing anything at all and
sitting around an empty table! Arriving in the wrong place
at the wrong time for a meeting. Trying to sew badges onto
my camp blanket when I have neither needle or thread (yes,
in ‘real’ life I have plenty of both.) Preaching a sermon
I’ve not prepared.
That sort of thing.
I check, double and triple check the altar before most
services – have I got everything needed (that’s more about
wanting things to be right I guess!)
Yes, that’s being a bit flippant, but today’s readings are
all about being prepared.
Jesus is trying to prepare his followers for life’s choices
Prepares them – prepares us – and tries to make us see that
discipleship can be costly.
What’s important to us? Possessions? People? Money? What
comes first, what do we prioritise in our lives?
Jesus’s words sound harsh. ‘If you hate father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even life
itself, you cannot be my disciple.’
Harsh words indeed. In Jesus’s context and culture, family
was everything. The Middle East motto could be put as,
‘family first.’ You were expected to mix with your own class
of people, to attend ritual meals. If anyone stopped
attending such meals, they risked bringing disgrace upon
themselves and upon their family. Is this what Jesus means
when he said you must renounce your family? And if a family
member put Jesus first and stopped joining in the family
rituals, I wonder if this is what we may term ‘bear his
cross’ because he would lose his family and in all
probability his livelihood. Would have to rely on other
people’s generosity and hospitality – would, effectively,
give up all possessions.
The word ‘hate’ in this context is a Jewish hyperbole – in
other words, an exaggeration. It doesn’t mean hate in the
context we hold today. People can’t be our possessions. It
means put God first – love God – and choose what is most
important in our lives.
Luke’s Gospel can be dramatic and passionate. But his Jesus
points us first and foremost, always, to God. When life
seems too much, do we turn to God for protection and for
healing? Or do we blunder on under our own steam, neglecting
to call on the God who loves us?
What does bear your cross mean to you? Thankfully, it’s
unlikely that any of us will literally bear our cross in the
way that Christ carried his cross to Calgary. Many of us,
however, carry our own cross inside ourselves – our burdens,
our temptations, our health. Carrying our cross means that
we learn to live with these issues and temptations, and
following on from Fr Michael’s words last week, to live in

Last Wednesday was the feast of Aiden, Bishop of Lindisfarne
who died in the year 651. He was sent as a missionary to
Northumbria, and consecrated Bishop of Lindisfarne in 635.
He lived a monastic lifestyle and was a popular preacher in
Northumberland and beyond, with a very real concern for the
poor. Aiden was held in high regard because he lived out his
faith. He lived the values and concerns that he taught.
He followed the example of Jesus.
I wonder, do we do the same?
For if we surrender our lives to Jesus, we do receive back
from him what is needed. Not so that everything goes our own
way – that’s unrealistic and selfish. And if by saying
‘surrender our own lives to Jesus’ sounds a bit too extreme
for you, substitute the name Jesus for God. For Jesus is God
Incarnate, God made man.
It means relying on God and not on ourselves. Putting God
first, living out our lives through prayer and action, with
God at the very centre of our being. We come into this world
on our own, and we go out the same way. But we believe God
is with us and in us and when we pray, it is a direct
relationship that opens up between God and ourselves. Even
if we have no words, the act of praying offers up our own
selves to God just as we are, with all our faults and gifts
and talents.
And when Jesus says we are to give up our possessions, I
think he is saying, open up your heart. Be aware of others
around you. Look out for them. See what needs doing in my
Name, and go and do it. Care for others in the name of Love.
So Jesus is saying, to follow me is costly. For you are to
be humble. Renounce material possessions – love God more.
Love others. Choose the right way to live.
Yes, it’s demanding. There are times when I’d rather stay in
bed on a Sunday morning and have a lie in, especially if
it’s been one of those nights where sleep eludes me. We are
called to be together, to worship and praise God together,
to support each other, to live our lives as Christ would
have us do.
I wonder, do we pray enough about our choices? Tough choices
especially when we are called to live as ethically as we
possibly can.
Yes, Jesus demands much from us.
Our Old Testament reading from Deuteronomy tells us the same
– love the Lord your God, walk in His ways. Choose right, or
choose wrong; choose life, or choose death. It’s demanding.
Tough readings this week, but they offer us chance to
reflect on what following Jesus really means to us. Love
God, love each other, be aware of others, help them in the
name of Love.
And don’t forget to pray.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:18 pm.

Saturday, 20 August 2022:

Trinity X (Proper 16) Luke 13:10-17

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Today’s readings prompt us to ask questions. Why are we here
as a Church – both Church universal, and as part of the
Church of England, and why here? What are we about? What
binds us together and what threatens us?
To try to answer those questions, I think we are here to
live out our communal faith. To walk alongside others who
may worship in different ways but who believe that Jesus is
the Son of God and who believe in the Holy Trinity, Father,
Son and Holy Spirit. We are here – we are called – to serve
the world. One way of doing that may be through serving our
local community. To make sure that we see ourselves as part
of the local community; not separate or superior, but
connected with all God’s people and with His Creation.
So to look briefly at that in the context of our Gospel
reading, there are a few things I’d like to bring out.
Firstly, the woman was at the synagogue – the temple. I
wonder if she was a regular worshipper there. If that’s
where she found some peace in her troubled life. I imagine
her physically bent over because of the nature of her
illness; how debilitated she must feel, potentially shunned
by others because she looks different, because she is
ridiculed. I imagine her trying to find a sense of calm and
of purpose. Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel to record this
story – remember, Luke is known as the Great Physician – and
this healing has an important place in our own story. We are
told she ‘lived in dar
It struck me that the woman does not approach Jesus. But
Jesus sees her. He knows she is there; he knows she has
suffered for eighteen years. He knows all about her!
And He sees us. All seeing, all knowing, the Incarnate God
sees us. Sees us in our own disfigurements, our own
ailments, physical or spiritual. He knows how worry or
frustration or anger can be as debilitating as a physical
illness. How they can weigh us down and cripple us. Jesus
sees it all. “You are set free from your ailment,” Jesus
said to the woman. And if we trust, he says the same to us.
Sets us free of what binds us so that we can praise God and
serve Him and His Creation. Sets us free, by His grace.
Secondly, we are reminded how the temple leader, the
Pharisee, was threatened both by Jesus’s presence and by His
healing on the Sabbath. Someone who was bound not by a
physical illness but by rules and traditions which bound him
instead of nurturing a faith that liberates and feeds.
What restricts us? What threatens us? What stops us from
living and loving? I wonder, what does Jesus see in each one
of us? What does Jesus see in us as a congregation?
I don’t judge the Pharisee. He felt his beliefs were
compromised. His need of healing was as great as the
woman’s. The entire crowd rejoiced at the wonderful things
Jesus was doing. How do we rejoice? How do we give thanks?
Today’s Psalm is Psalm 103 verses 1-8. The Psalms are the
longest book of the Bible. Would be known to the Pharisee,
to the crowds and to Jesus as they are to us today. They’re
used for worship, praise and lament. Used to praise our
Creator God. Today’s verses show how God is committed to
justice and rescue. We play our part – in helping others, in
collecting for the foodbank, in serving others. And in
praising God. So for a few minutes we reflect on God’s love
and on His Creation; remembering His compassion and mercy.
He meets us all where we are, all-seeing, all-knowing. We
all stand before God in need, as did the woman in today’s
Gospel story and as did the Pharisee. God loves us all.
And that’s enough! As we think about God’s love for us, for
healing, and why we are called to be here, called as
Christians, we say ‘Bless the Lord my soul, and bless His
holy name; bless the Lord my soul, who leads us into life’.
And we use a Taize chant to help still us as we pray. Amen.
Listen to ‘Bless the Lord my Soul’ Taize

Psalm 103:1-8
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, ♦︎
and all that is within me bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, ♦︎
and forget not all his benefits;
3 Who forgives all your sins ♦︎
and heals all your infirmities;
4 Who redeems your life from the Pit ♦︎
and crowns you with faithful love and compassion;
5 Who satisfies you with good things, ♦︎
so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
6 The Lord executes righteousness ♦︎
and judgement for all who are oppressed.
7 He made his ways known to Moses ♦︎
and his works to the children of Israel.
8 The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, ♦︎
slow to anger and of great kindness.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:04 pm.

Saturday, 13 August 2022:

Trinity IX (Proper15) Luke 12:49-56

Sermon Trinity IX Proper 15 Year C Luke 12:49-56 (Oxley)

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart,
be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our
redeemer. Amen.
Wherever I’ve turned this week, there’s been one main topic
of conversation on everyone’s lips. Well, one of the main
topics – the other being the Wolves Captain Conor Coady
moving to Everton! – I refer, of course, to the weather.
We’re experiencing warmer and warmer weather. Longer, more
sustained periods of heat and sun, warnings of drought,
promises of rain in the forecast for next week. We hardly
need to watch the weather forecast on TV, or to hear it on
the radio – we know from the stifling heat that it’s hot,
that we need to take care, stay out of the sun if possible,
and stay hydrated. We know all of that.
We also know that the climate is changing. We may have had a
long hot summer in 1976 but the temperatures didn’t peak as
they have done this year. We may recall long sunny summers
from years ago, but the heat was never as intense as it is
The weather affects us all. I usually prefer to see the
weather map with symbols of the sun – but right now I’d be
happy to see the raincloud symbols – and then would begin to
worry about flooding because the ground is so very hard.
The weather definitely affects us all. Predicting the
weather is difficult. When the forecasters get it wrong we
hear complaints that “they’ve got it wrong again!” When they
warn us about the extreme heat, we hear complaints that
“they’re telling us what to do in the sun.” It seems to me
that the forecasters can’t win.
I wonder, if Jesus had lived here would he have used
examples of clouds bringing rain and wind bringing heat?
Even in this country, we have sayings about the weather.
“Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight, red sky in the
morning, shepherd’s warning” we say. We think we can read
the signs; we can read the skies. The recent, twilight skies
have been stunning.
So what is this to do with our Gospel reading? I’ll take the
second part of our Gospel first, where Jesus addresses the
crowds. “You hypocrites!” he tells them. “You can interpret
the sky, but you cannot interpret the present time.”
We have to remember the context into which Jesus was
speaking. A country under Roman occupation. It was harsh. It
was difficult to speak out against injustice – you could
simply ‘disappear.’ Jesus sees that he is in a world turned
upside down, where power, wealth and injustice reign instead
of the concepts of democracy, caring and sharing.
And this may provoke alarm bells in us. Look at the poverty
around us – we see on our TV screens the extreme situations
people live in in certain areas of our world. The effects of
war, of famine, of drought, of poverty.
Look at what happens in our own country, with modern day
slavery a very real issue in today’s society. We’ve lived
through the pandemic; we’ve watched in horror as Russia
invades Ukraine; we live in a time of concern and worry with
inflation so high and now the media is constantly telling us
to worry about our utility bills.
There is always worry and unrest.
How different is it to what has happened throughout history,
the Holocaust, forced labour camps, the list could go on.
Do we ever learn? How is this growing God’s kingdom, how is
this spreading the word of God, spreading the Gospel of
In the first part of today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to his
disciples. It sounds quite frightening doesn’t it. Jesus
says he comes to bring division, that households will be
divided, families divided. Why? How can the Son of God, the
Prince of Peace, say such things?
Well, I think Jesus is warning us about the chaos caused
when we simply stop loving. When we love our own ideals
rather than other people. When we love and protect “our own”
and forget about caring for others.
Now, of course I’m not saying we should stop caring for our
families. Far from it! But we mustn’t make it an excuse to
ignore the Kingdom, to ignore those prompts and niggles we
can feel when we close our minds and sometimes our hearts to
the plight of others. The phrase “Charity begins at home”
is, I think, often translated as “charity stays at home.” Is
that what God asks of us?
Remember the words of Simeon in the temple when he held the
infant Jesus: ‘God has chosen this child to cause the fall
and rise of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God
that many people will not accept.” Jesus speaks of a new
family. For in his context and culture there was a strict
hierarchy. No one overstepped the boundaries. Jesus came
to challenge this. So his disciples and followers became his
‘new’ family – those who listened and heard God’s Word and
who acted upon it. Some of his followers would lose all they
had in associating with Jesus and the ‘wrong’ kind of
We’re challenged the same today. To do what we can to
support those around us. To be prayerful when we read our
newspapers, or our online papers and not take the newspapers
take on a particular story as “gospel truth.”
Perhaps we are called to be pro-active for a particular
cause. Here at Oxley we do well in caring for others,
collecting for Bushbury Buddies or the Well food bank, or
for the women in prison in Stoke. Supporting each other,
Fair Trade, walking alongside others.
Yes, we do all those things. But we mustn’t get complacent.
There is more to do to grow God’s Kingdom.
Two of the big issues in recent years are concerns for
climate change and how we as humans are affecting that, and
the impact of single use plastics on our planet. How can we
care for God’s creation when we are such a disposable
society? And what can we do about it that may make a change?
If we were in any doubt about climate change before this
year, I wonder if the hot weather has changed your mind.
It’s real. We should be asking what we can do to help. Use
our resources wisely. Think how we use single use plastics.
Ask yourself how can you as an individual make a difference
in our world?
The trouble is, as individuals, we can feel overpowered,
apathetic, and useless. But together we can make a
difference. Is this what Jesus is saying? That we must look
at what the chaos and issues are of today, and address them
as Christians?
I can think of a local example of how an individual can make
a big difference.
Three years ago, an 8-year-old Brownie, keen to make a
difference, wanting to learn to help and to gain her
Charities badge at the same time. What did she do? She
baked, and hosted a coffee morning in aid of toilet
twinning. Toilet twinning, if you don’t know, is where an
individual or community raise funds to ‘sponsor’ a toilet in
Africa or Asia, so that a village may have access to a
flushing toilet, fresh water, and learn about hygiene. That
very keen Brownie has raised enough for one of the toilets
in our church hall to be toilet twinned.
That’s making a difference; both to the community abroad,
and to the girl who has worked out that she can make a
difference in her own way.

I wonder, what can we do? One of the things I try to do is
get rid of many of the plastic bottles we have at home.
Another thing we’ve started this week is to wash up once a
day (there’s only the two of us at home now) so we save
water that way, and then pour the washing up water over the
So as you go about your lives this week, as you pray, think
about the signs of our times. What hinders our service to
the God of the lowly and powerless?
As the letter to the Hebrews tells us, hold onto our faith.
Our faith connects us to the list of Biblical figures listed
in today’s reading, each of whom showed their true faith in
God despite living in challenging times and having their
faith tested. Maybe living in the UK we become complacent.
What are the real challenges to our faith today? True
discipleship entails new challenges.
Do we allow ourselves to be open, to think outside the box,
to be challenged in unexpected ways?
We have a responsibility to do something. And whatever we do
demonstrates God’s love. The difference we make, no matter
how small, is God’s work. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:39 pm.

Saturday, 6 August 2022:

Trinity VIII (Proper 14) Luke 12:32-48

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
In our lectionary readings over the last two or three weeks
we’ve thought about treasures and sharing; how to store up
our treasures; how to be a real community. Today Jesus
continues with this teaching.
Make treasures that will last, he says.
We hold on to physical treasures, don’t we? Some have
monetary value but for many of us, it’s the emotional
treasures that we hold on to. The things that hold a special
place in our hearts because of what they represent – a
treasured time from years ago; special memories of those we
But Jesus is talking of treasures that will last. He means,
our hearts. And be ready.
Luke’s Gospel was written 50- 55 years after Jesus’s death
and resurrection. He and his readers expected Jesus to
return – to return imminently. As the years went on, some
folk would become frustrated, others would now not care.
Luke therefore tells these stories to remind us to be
faithful. Be vigilant. His first story, reminds us to hold
on to our faith. His second, to be vigilant and to let go.
Our reading from Hebrews reminds us of our shared story, our
shared history with all those across the centuries; the Old
Testament figures of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remind us of
God’s promises and of their faith; how they became the
examples for the people of God. Each generation has examples
of those who follow God, trusting and following even when
they don’t know where they will be led. And our Gospel
focuses on the parable of the waiting servants. Guard
against greed, for God wants everyone to flourish. Prepare
for the unexpected. And remember heaven is here and now, as
well as our promise for when we die.
Faith. Trust. What values do we live by? What are our daily
priorities, where does our energy go? Where do you watch for
God? Where do you find Him?
Waiting is not passive. We are to be watchful. Look for
opportunities to just be. Opportunities to help or serve
others. Opportunities to love.
We come to our faith over 2000 years after Christ’s death
and resurrection. Early Christians expected Him to return
imminently, as I’ve said. Have we lost that sense of Jesus’
promised return? Have we become complacent – after all, week
by week we say the Nicene Creed: ‘He will come again in
glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will
have no end.’
Waiting for Christ’s return means that we should play our
part working for the Kingdom of God. – try to combat
poverty, try to encourage peace when families are divided,
when nations are divided in hate. To think how we use our
votes to try to build social structures that respect the
dignity of every individual person.
‘Do not be afraid, little flock,’ says Jesus. Have faith.
Live from day to day if you can; don’t let greed turn our
hearts away from our priorities. Be active for the right
reasons so that others benefit.
What’s of real value? Money, possessions or those things
that satisfy the soul. Receive through giving; show a
generous heart through time and our love for others.
Treasures on earth can become all-consuming (even as we
consume them!)
‘The most important gifts you can give are your love, time
and attention. Slow down, take time to smile and enjoy loved
ones…life goes by way too fast.’
Make treasures that last. Have faith. Put our trust in our
heavenly Father. For He gives us freedom; and faith gives us
a freedom from attachment. Our faith may waver from time to
time but God never wavers. He is always with us, journeys
with us.
I end this brief homily with a quote I used on social media
when praying through today’s readings:
‘The most important gifts you can give are your love, time
and attention. Slow down, take time to smile and enjoy loved
ones…life goes by way too fast.’
I think that says it all. Remember and be encouraged by our
shared story. Love God. Love others. Serve God in serving
others, and hold to your faith.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:36 pm.

Saturday, 30 July 2022:

Trinity VII ((Proper 13) Luke 12:13-21 The Parable of the Rich Fool

Trinity VII ((Proper 13) Luke 12:13-21 The Parable of the
Rich Fool
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit, Amen.
It’s been quite a week! The Lionesses are in the European
Final against Germany this afternoon; there’s so much sport
to watch from our local area now the Commonwealth Games have
begun; rail strikes have caused problems for many people;
and our church building was broken into during the week.
As I say, quite a week.
We put a post about the break in on social media and have
had a wonderful response of support from our local community
and beyond. Churches throughout our diocese and beyond hold
us in prayer, and the Arch Deacon and Rural Dean have also
sent personal notes of encouragement to us. I’m not going to
lie; it was horrible entering church on Wednesday morning
ready to take our 10am Eucharist and to realise that all was
not well. It was time consuming for the Wardens and for
others as we awaited police forensics and then for the
window to be boarded up (it’s since been repaired.) But
within all of that, within all the frustration and
annoyance, there is a huge sense of teamwork, of being
involved in something ‘bigger’ than we are ourselves.
Actually, a huge sense of God’s love.
And I say that because the Eucharist we held in the church
hall, using the Reserved Sacrament, was particularly moving
and poignant.
From social media, more folk now know where we are – that’s
good, isn’t it?
We’ve had offers of donations to help towards the insurance
excess – how generous some people are in these times of
And whoever broke in will know that we’re definitely not
storing up our riches to keep for another day… I don’t think
we’re making the mistake of the rich fool we read about in
today’s Gospel.
Our first reading, from Ecclesiastes, asks if our priorities
need to be checked from time to time. It’s about pride,
vanity, and reminds us of a sense of social responsibility
we should hold one for the other. Quests for money and
wealth are meaningless at the end of our life. We can’t take
it with us! We’re called to centre ourselves on God so that
our eyes are opened to see the need in others.
Is it possible to have much and to give much? How do we
recognise a person’s wealth? The size of their house or car,
or by the holidays they choose to take? And what qualities
matter to God?
Our Old Testament reading describes in detail the
misfortunate that befalls the rich man in our Gospel
reading. Our possessions in this life are fleeting. The
inheritance offered to us by God is eternal life.
We can think of many stories in the Bible where brothers
disagree and fall out – Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his
eleven brothers for a start. Under the Roman law a division
of inheritance was required only if both parties wanted it.
The Judaic law allowed the petition of a single son, but it
was considered shameful. Effectively it wished that the
father was already dead. Jesus is asked to be a mediator, an
honourable but difficult role in this context and culture. A
mediator’s role often was to head off blood feuds…
There are two ways I’d like to think through this. The
obvious way is to reflect on the son’s greed, for that is
what it is. We know that he could have shared the grain –
stored it of course, but shared it around. What a hard heart
he must have had! Possessions give pleasure and
gratification for a short time then they slip away and are
gone. “What am I to do?” he asks. We know the answers – feed
the hungry, open your barns, share the grain. Share the good
things given to him by God.
Secondly, if we look carefully at the Gospel again, we note
that it is the land that is the subject – ‘The land of the
rich man produced wealth.’ This reflects the Jewish insight
that whatever we offer to the farming process it is the land
itself, the earth, that is the source of food – so an
abundant crop is a gift from God. The landowner has lost
touch with his relationship with God. He thinks to himself,
‘I have no place to store my crops.’ He’d forgotten that all
we have comes from God – that the crops and land were divine
gifts and had lost the sense of stewardship of the land
provided by the Jewish law and wisdom. Jewish wisdom was
that earthly goods are for the needs and the good of
everyone, not only for whoever owned the land. The rich man
– foolish man – made no thought to the larger community. It
was all an internal monologue, all about himself. At the end
of the story, the Creator speaks.
Everyone’s ‘self’ is a gift.
Our lives are God’s to give, and God’s to take away. We
never know what the next 24 hours may bring. We don’t
control our lives, do we. We’re not actually in charge of
our own destiny.
What riches do we have to share?
What talents do we use for the good others?
Do we use our talents and gifts for the greater good?
Is our charitable giving equal to Jesus’s expectations?
We’re reminded today of the needs of others. How can we
live so that wealth can be more evenly distributed? How can
we enable others to flourish?

‘All my hope on God is founded,’ we sang at the beginning of
our service. ‘He alone calls my heart to be His own…. Christ
doth call one and all, ye who follow shall not fall.’ In our
last hymn, we will sing, ‘Now thank we all our God, with
hearts, and hands and voices! Who wondrous things hath done,
in whom his world rejoices! Who from our mother’s arms hath
blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and
still is ours today.’ Take your hymn words home with you
this morning, and use them as prayers throughout the week.
For despite the upsets and anger and annoyance throughout
the past week, we’ve come to realise God is love. That our
team works closely together and we have so much support from
our local community. And to use the last verse of our
Offertory hymn,
‘High King of Heaven, thou heaven’s bright Sun, O grant me
its joys after vict’ry is won; Great Heart of my own heart,
whatever befall, Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.’

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:24 pm.

Saturday, 23 July 2022:

Trinity VI (Proper 12) Luke 11:1-13

Trinity VI (Proper 12) Luke 11:1-13
May I speak in the name of the God who created and sustains
us, the Son who calls us and the Holy Spirit who equips us.
Calls or bangs in the middle of the night startle and
concern us. We’re not fully awake; banging on the door at
such a time sets the heart racing and creates a sense of
urgency and panic. At 1:43 on Thursday morning, my mobile
rang. Before I could – sleepily – attend to it, the house
phone began to ring. All sorts of thoughts crowded into my
head – something’s wrong, who is it, and – uncharitably –
why does the landline choose to ring now, when most of the
time it kicks straight into answer phone and doesn’t even
ring! – John got to the phone first. It was no cold caller,
no one needing our help. It was our son, Neil, ringing
because he assumed one of us would still be up and I’d not
updated him on how his Grandad is doing in hospital.

The incessant ringing made me think about today’s Gospel. I
imagined a clear nighty with the sky bright with stars.
Narrow village streets. Hear the loud, incessant banging on
your door. That initial panic – what is it, is there a fire,
what’s going on? Waking up everyone in the locality! But
there’s no immediate danger to anyone. It’s just your
friend, your mate, begging for bread so that he can feed his
guests. And his persistence pays off. You know you’ll get
some sleep if you go downstairs, give him some bread, and
let him get on with his unexpected guests.
And imagine, too, the boldness of the friend who makes the
request. Desperate for honour to be satisfied. And see the
look of relief on his face as you open the door and hand
over the bread.
In that culture, it was taken for granted that hospitality
was offered to any visiting traveller. Bread was an
essential part of any meal. It would be more like what we
know as pitta. It was a staple part of the diet. A piece of
bread would be torn off and used to dip into a communal pot
or dish, used as a utensil. And as baking happened outdoors,
several families would share an oven. This meant that
everyone knew who was baking on any particular day. Offering
hospitality was not only a matter of honour to the hosts –
the reputation of the village was at stake here. A sense of
communal honour.
The man knew to whom he could turn. He trusted in his
In our reading from Genesis, Abraham was persistent, asking
God to be fair to those who were ‘righteous.’ He kept asking
God for fairness for Sodom and Gomarrah; God listened.
The disciples knew how to pray. They would have been exposed
to the long tradition of Jewish prayer. They would have
watched Jesus pray. I suspect they knew that John had taught
his disciples to pray and I also suspect they would know
what prayers John had taught.
Are they asking Jesus for a prayer that would be special,
that would be unique to Jesus’s followers?
Jesus’s reply is quite simple and straightforward. It’s not
the long, beautiful sort of prayers that perhaps they
expected to hear. Perhaps Jesus is saying, simple prayers
from the heart are what we need. And pray, and pray and
pray. Keep praying. But what is the Lord’s Prayer saying?
I’ve taken this from a commentary by Wilma Bailey:
‘Every line of the prayer is distinct. First, the prayer
recognises God in familial terms, while affirming God’s
holiness. Second, there is a wish that God’s rule be
actualised. Third, Jesus raises a petition that our daily
needs be met. The fourth element is a request for
forgiveness, with the statement that those who pray will
also forgive. Forgiveness, not vengeance, must accompany any
act for forgiveness. The last element is another petition,
‘do not bring us to the time of trial.’
The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a litany of praise to God, or a
pious wish that God’s will be done. It asks God to provide
our daily bread.
We need words at times, don’t we. We need our rituals and
words and gestures. Sometimes we ourselves can’t find the
words we want when we pray. We find there are times when we
need to pray – both sad and happy times – and when we can’t
find the words, there are always these words that Jesus
taught us.
We don’t always get what we ask for – how many of us have
taught our children that kind of sentiment? But we are to
pray, and pray, and to continue to pray. Be persistent,
like the man knocking at the door.
Why do we need to pray? We pray, because we love. We pray
because it’s a way of keeping communication open between
ourselves and God. Jesus doesn’t promise we’ll get whatever
we ask for. If we ask, we will receive – but Jesus doesn’t
say what we will receive.
We are to trust God enough to tell him what we want. To keep
asking – that’s our job! God’s part is to give us what we
This story follows on from last week, when Mary was sitting
at Jesus’s feet. Perhaps now Jesus is teaching us what we
should be saying as we sit at his feet. He is saying there
are times to withdraw to a quiet place and pray. And there
are times when your prayer will be your action, and how you
respond to those around you. What you do to help them –
that’s prayer too, isn’t it?
When we are stuck for words, we have the Lord’s Prayer. It’s
our attitude, our humble hearts, that are important when we
pray. Our willingness to accept God’s will, to work for his
kingdom here on earth. Our ability to love and trust in God,
to accept God’s forgiveness and to forgive others in our
Prayer doesn’t come easily. I guess there are times when it
comes more easily than others. But we always, always, have
this wonderful prayer to offer God, with a sincere heart.
So we ask God that instead of searching for secrets of
prayer or special words or formulas, we look to God – we
look to Him.
We ask for time to reflect on his word, to seek his
presence, and to express honestly and naturally those things
that are on our hearts.
And we ask that we hear what God wants us to do next for
And, like our son ringing in the early hours to check on his
Grandad, and like the man in Jesus’s story banging on the
door of his friend for bread, be persistent.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:36 pm.

Saturday, 16 July 2022:

Trinity V (Proper 11) Luke 10:38-412

Trinity V (Proper 11) Luke 10:38-412
May I speak in the name of the God who created and sustains
us, the Son who calls us and the Holy Spirit who equips us.
I suspect we all know today’s Gospel story rather well. We
know that Jesus was friendly with Mary and Martha and their
brother Lazarus. We know that Martha invited Jesus to their
home. We’re aware that Mary sat at Jesus’s feet, listening
to him as he spoke; we understand Martha’s irritation as she
cooks the meal, prepares the table – in short, as she does –
what seems like – all the work.
There are so many things to say about today’s Gospel
message! When I read it in preparation for today, I kept
thinking of Mary’s ability to be still. To be present in
that moment, and to be attentive to Jesus. Naturally, I
contrasted that with Martha’s distraction – her busyness. I
could imagine her bustling around in the kitchen, making
sure the fire was ready for cooking, preparing utensils,
preparing a meal for her guests. I could picture her,
wanting to do her best for Jesus and to ensure he rests.
Yes, I could even hear her humming away to herself at first,
chopping away, boiling, stirring – and as I pictured the
scene I could start to sense her growing irritation. How
time seemed to be marching on and there was still much to be
done, to be perfect for her guests. I can visualize her
sense of annoyance as a pot boils over, perhaps as something
catches and starts to burn. Can’t Mary smell or hear this?
Surely Mary can start to prepare bowls and ensure the table
is clear?
I became focused upon her distraction. Then I remembered I
hadn’t planned the shopping list for the last Brownie
meeting of the term. You won’t be surprised to hear that I
broke away from Gospel reflection, and wrote down a list.
Which prompted a message to the other leaders on the group
chat. Which promoted further distraction as I began to
gather together the resources we needed for our Brownie
meeting. As I did that I realised there were things I need
to prepare for the Year 6 Leavers’ Assembly I will lead at
And all the while I kidded myself that I was being
reflective and attentive to the Gospel.
Who was I kidding! Oh, the irony!
You get the point. And it does seem cruel that Martha bears
the brunt of Jesus’s rebuke, given that she’s doing all the
work. So let’s take a step back and look at what was going
on. What point is Jesus making here?
Let’s look at where Martha and Mary end up. Martha in the
kitchen. She knows the place of a woman in that culture, in
that society. Like Sarah in our reading from Genesis, women
were expected to bear children and to prepare and cook meals
and to keep home – to clean and do everything needed to
ensure home life runs smoothly. Mary at Jesus’s feet.
Definitely not where you may expect to see a woman.
Definitely a male domain. Women were not to be educated.
Women should not be sat close to the teacher. So the first
shock is that Mary was allowed to sit close to Jesus as she
listened to him. And it would be a shock, a real shift in
the culture. Mary was in a male place – a place reserved for
Is Jesus saying, Mary does not need to go along with the
stereotype of a woman’s role?
I wonder if he’s saying, we can take time to move
Is Jesus saying, Mary has learnt to pay attention to what
I’m saying, to give me time and space?
We can see that, sadly, this stereotype has not changed in
some cultures around our world. We also know there are
contexts and cultures in this country where women are
deprived of education or are enslaved to the home.
Discrimination in wages, salaries, job opportunities – it
happens. Part of our role as a Christian is to try to break
down barriers and allow equal opportunities for everyone.
Somehow, we hold that in tension with the different cultures
that exist around us. Perhaps, though, today’s Gospel might
make us a little more aware of the different roles and
expectations placed on both men and women around the world.
Mary, it would appear, sits and listens to Jesus as he
teaches. She has ‘chosen the better part.’ I wonder, though
– her listening is passive. As far as we are aware, she
doesn’t dash out and begin to tell others of Jesus and of
his Good News. Yet others in Luke’s Gospel go and spread the
word, go and talk about Jesus. What is this saying, then, in
our context?
And, given that we know Jesus cared about feeding people,
and that this reading comes just after the parable of the
Good Samaritan, part of me wants to defend Martha and to say
that surely she’s a bit like the Good Samaritan, wanting to
help? Jesus’s response is different, however. By telling
Martha to stop, it seems as if he could be contradicting
This is Luke’s Gospel, remember. The disciples have been
warned not to hang around in towns where they’re not
welcome. There is a sense of urgency.
Perhaps Jesus is warning Martha not to miss opportunities.
Not to miss the present moment.
And we can all be guilty of that.
What distracts us from ‘the better way?’ What distracts us
away from Jesus and spending time with him?
The other thing that sprang to my mind is that it’s Martha
who invites Jesus to rest with them. It’s Martha who does
the food preparation and cooking and so on. But by focusing
her attention on all the doing and the bustling around, she
loses her focus on Jesus. Her focus becomes the work
itself. She failed to keep Jesus at the heart of her
hospitality. And when we are with people who are
distracted, who aren’t paying full attention when we speak
with them, we can become uncomfortable. Maybe Jesus
experienced that…
But like Sarah with her bread and her milk, we can go about
our daily tasks in the presence of God.
So on my good days, my Martha mind is not too distracted.
But those days are few and far between!
There is a tension, isn’t there, between the quiet moments
of prayer, of contemplation, whatever you want to call it,
and of action. I suggest though that one feeds the other.
It becomes a spiral. The danger is that we take our eye off
the horizon, off the focus. If God becomes our focus, the
rest slots into place. If God is squeezed in as an
afterthought or as a safety net, we miss the point.
So perhaps today’s Gospel allows us to think about the
Martha and the Mary in each one of us. How we need both,
actually, but how we need to focus on God – on Jesus – to
feed our busyness and our action. After all, our stories
this week are about hospitality to God! As Martha scurried
about it seems she forgot about Jesus.
That’s the point here. Instead of making him welcome, she
was putting together a meal.
We are to find God in all things and any help we give others
in whatever way, be it through work or at home, we are to do
so by paying attention to them – as individuals – because
God is in each and every one of them. And by doing so, we
pay our own hospitality to God.
So – allow ourselves to serve others, but try not to lose
focus away from them.
Allow time and space to sit at the feet of Jesus in quiet,
in prayer, in learning.
Pay attention to the Martha and Mary in yourself.
I wonder, what distracts you most from ‘the better way?’

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:21 am.

Saturday, 2 July 2022:

Trinity 3 Proper 9 Luke 20:1-11, 16-20

May I speak in the name of the God who sustains us, the Son
who calls us and the Holy Spirit who equips us. Amen.
It was quite strange last Sunday evening wandering around an
unfamiliar city, trying to find landmarks such the Cathedral
– which, at Durham, is on top of a hill and is so big I
missed it at first! It was strange, too, graduating in such
a wonderful place so steeped in history and yet a place I’ve
never visited, save for a fleeting stop on the way home from
Lindisfarne a few years ago.
So there we were, John and I, trying to find our way around,
in a strange place amidst the business and hustle and bustle
of a university city preparing for two weeks of graduation
And I wondered how the seventy, or seventy -two in some
manuscripts, felt, as they were sent by Jesus to unknown
places. Sent in pairs. Wandering around towns they’d never
known before. Unlike John and myself up in Durham, as
unknown people they would stick out like a sore thumb. They
wouldn’t have had the luxury of anonymity that we had as we
strolled around the city. All eyes would be on them and they
would be unsure of their welcome.
Jesus doesn’t expect us to go out alone. He commissioned
the disciples to go out in pairs. He gives us each other as
support. It’s not down to us alone, as individuals. We are
to share the task of spreading God’s message, showing God’s
love throughout our lives and witnessing to him through how
we act, how we speak, through what we do.
For we each of us have our own strengths and weaknesses, and
we’re called to go out in Jesus’s name.
We’re not on our own.
As we think how each of us is never on own our, we celebrate
today the Golden Wedding anniversary of Fr Michael and Val.
We give thanks to God for their faithful calling and for
their example of married life.
Inevitably, this weekend is a weekend of shared memories.
Time to look back and chat together of places you’ve been
to, things you’ve shared along the way. We’re so grateful
that you chose to make your home here after Fr Michael
retired, and to make this church your spiritual home. We’re
glad we’ve been able to share these last few years with you.
Over fifty years you’ve shared in each other’s ups and
downs, through the good times and the difficult, through sad
times, and happy times. You’ve been blessed with your
daughters and your grandson. This weekend is a time to
celebrate. A time to be grateful.
We see the beauty and the joy of a committed love, and
through your marriage we see the witness to the Kingdom of
God as you’ve followed your calling in your own ways,
wherever God has sent you.
And we’re aware that as committed to Christ you’ve not been
on your own.
As God called you to each other in marriage, He has been a
faithful part of your lives.
We’re all called to be there for each other. To use the
gifts God gives us, to be faithful to Him and to serve Him.
That’s what Fr Michael and Val have shown throughout their
marriage. And we are called to do the same, each of us in
our own context.
To witness to the love of Jesus.
To come together at times of celebration.
To support each other through the good times and the bad.
To be there for each other.
To pray each for the other.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:54 am.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022:

26 June 2022 St Peter Matthew 16:13-19

May I speak in the name of the God who sustains us, the Son
who calls us and the Holy Spirit who equips us. Amen.
There’s something very comforting about St Peter. Simon
Peter, the Rock on which the universal Church was founded.
The staunch friend of Jesus, the man who was fishing with
his brother Andrew, when Jesus walked by. “Come with me,”
said Jesus, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Peter,
Simon as he was known then, must have sensed something about
this man walking along the sea shore, for he and Andrew did
exactly that – they followed Jesus and became part of the
group of disciples.
I wonder what made them follow Jesus? Did Simon Peter have a
sense of who Jesus was? Did Jesus know then that he would
call Peter to build up the Church?
There’s something very comforting because Peter was a flawed
human being. No different to any of us.
I love Peter’s enthusiasm. I love how he speaks out, how he
speaks his mind often before engaging his brain! I love how
he puts his foot in it.
I love how he loves Jesus.
I love most of all that Jesus knows exactly what’s going on
for Peter, if only Peter would recognise it.
And that goes for us, too. Jesus knows exactly what’s going
on in our lives before we come to him in prayer, in a rant,
in anguish, in praise, whatever is going on – he knows.
We deny
We forget.
We question.

Jesus saw such potential in Peter that he made him the ‘rock
of his church.’
Our Gospel story today is in each of the Synoptic Gospels –
that is, Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospels. The encounter
between Jesus and his disciples is a significant moment,
because after this Jesus turns towards his Passion and his
death and resurrection and begins to teach his disciples
about his suffering and death. In Matthew’s story, this is
the only occasion when Jesus asks his followers who they
think he is.
I wonder how you would respond if you were asked, “Who is
Jesus to you? How important is He?”
Peter’s response is not as immediate as we may think. He’s
not only just met Jesus; he’s not had an instant miracle
healing or come to faith that way. No, Peter has walked
alongside Jesus for a few years, learning from him,
listening to him, watching him. He is a true disciple.
Jesus’s reply shows that faith is a gift from God. And,
pointedly, Jesus says, “On this rock I will build my
Church.” I will build my Church. I being Jesus. The Church
does not exist by our own efforts.
That’s something to think about. If we think about our
church here, are our efforts focused on Jesus, on God? What
does it mean to proclaim Jesus as our Messiah? And if faith
is a gift of God, and Jesus builds the Church, what is our
part in growing the Kingdom of God?
What is a church? Not only a building, but a collection of
people. A community of faith, who come together to worship,
who enjoy fellowship together, and who go out and witness in
their everyday lives. Community does need leadership. Peter
is entrusted with this leadership.
As a church, we have a voice here. We can help those who
need our help, collect and volunteer for foodbanks and
various volunteering projects. We can speak out against
abuse of any kind. We can highlight national issues such as
human trafficking (and yes it’s happened in Wolverhampton)
and racial or religious hate crimes.
Why do we do all this, as a national Church? Why do we as a
parish church get involved with our local community?
We do it because we profess Jesus Christ to be our Saviour,
and we take up his ministry during our time in this world.
We know that people were expecting a Messiah who would be
powerful and overcome the Roman oppression. Until the
passion and resurrection, it’s impossible for the disciples
to understand what it means to be the Christ. We, however,
know the story – we come to this passage backwards, as it
were, knowing the power of the passion, death and
resurrection – which in our turn makes it easier to proclaim
who the Risen Christ is.
When Peter proclaims, “You are the Son of the Living God,”
he wasn’t referring to the second person of the Trinity –
that theology hadn’t been worked out. The phrase, “Son of
God,” was a Biblical phrase. It showed that the King,
whoever that was, held a special relationship with God, was
God’s representative here on earth.
Following the Resurrection, the same phrase, “Son of God,”
held a whole new meaning.
Peter acknowledges Jesus as the true king. He is saying,
Israel waits for you. He’s saying that Jesus is the One
spoken of by prophets and psalmists.
Peter – the Rock. As God gave Abram the name Abraham, the
father of many nations, so Jesus gives Simon his new name;
Peter, the Rock. It’s Jesus’s declaration of faith in this
very special, very honest, very human disciple.
“Who do you say I am?” Jesus knows our hearts long before we
speak. Are we invited to chat with Peter and see his
weaknesses as a strength? Remember, after the Resurrection,
Peter says repeatedly, “Lord, you know I love you.”

Peter. The martyr, who died thirty years after Christ,
martyred, crucified upside down. The main altar in St
Peter’s Basilica in Rome is believed to be above his tomb.
Peter. The man who kept the church united as it grew so
rapidly in those early years.
Peter. The impetuous one. The one who loved.
God used Peter to spread the Gospel.
That’s exactly how He uses us. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:43 pm.

Sunday, 19 June 2022:

Trinity I (Proper 7)

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday’s church summer fair was – somewhat typically
after a few days of bright sunshine and almost unbearable
heat – held indoors. We had heavy downpours of rain and the
temperature was at least ten degrees cooler than on Friday.
Typical! Would it affect our outreach? Would anyone come?
Well, people did come. Not only that, they stayed and
chatted over coffee and samosas and cake. They had goes on
stalls, and spent time browsing the books in the marquee.
The rain didn’t stop people coming out. We’re delighted by
the total raised, but I have to be honest and say that I was
even more pleased with the happy atmosphere in the hall. I
didn’t know everyone who came – but I tried to speak with
most of them. And I know others of you did the same.
Welcoming. Hospitable. Friendly.

We don’t know the life stories of the folk who came to join
us yesterday. We don’t know how difficult their recent days
may have been, or what inspired them to come out in the
rain. Some of them may have felt the need to see other
people, to chat. Some to see what bargains could be found.
Others, to help. Even in the light of the current recession,
folk were willing to come out of their way, to offer their
time, their skills, their money. And for that I’m profoundly
grateful, and humbled.
Our readings this week focus us on how God continues to
reconcile the world to himself, in the light of all the
oppression and alienation in our world. We hear of fear, of
faith; we hear of oppression and proclamation. Within all
this, we discover God’s call.
And we’re challenged to think how we regard those who may be
mentally unwell. It’s close to home for some of us. It’s a
difficult topic.
Our Gospel story today is found in all four Gospel
narratives. It must be making a point if it’s in every
Gospel – but the account in Luke gives us a different
insight. In Luke we’re told that Jesus goes to the country
of the Geresanes. The significance of this is that it’s
Gentile territory – some Jews would live there but in the
main the people who lived in that area were not Jews.
Another clue that this is Gentile territory is the pigs –
for of course, Jews would not keep (or eat) pigs.
We’re told first of the unfortunate man, possessed by
demons, who lives in the tombs – the caves. Two verses
later, we’re told how this man is treated, how he has lost
his humanity.
This man sees Jesus, and recognises him. Amazing. He pleads
with Jesus – “do not torment me,” he says.
What would your instincts be, I wonder, if you were
confronted by such a man?
For Jesus, we’re told, commands the unclean spirits to come
out of him.
The man tells Jesus his name is Legion. Legion, because he
feels that so many demons possess him. Historically, a
Legion was a Roman army of about six thousand soldiers. So
this poor man is saying his life is so overwhelming and
fractured. He feels torn apart. He is vulnerable. He is
ill. He is lost.
And he is a beloved child of God.
Evil ends up destroying itself. We’re told the demons
entered the swine and the swine rushed into a lake and
drowned. It may take time, but evil and wrong doing will be
This story is retold far and wide. Folk arrive to see what’s
happened, and find the man, fully restored to health, sat at
Jesus’s feet, learning from him.
And because people don’t understand, they are frightened –
they ask Jesus to leave.
There is so much ‘unclean’ in this story. The man, the
tombs, the pigs. How do we think of them? Do we think of
them with compassion? What would be the comparison for
today? – vagrants in our streets, bag ladies, whatever you
want to call them? People who for whatever reason find they
have no home – those people we shy away from? For they are
the Legions of today. Waiting for help from soup kitchens,
the odd coin, food or sandwich from a passer- by. Think of
those whose lives have been ruined by addictions. They’re
the Legions of today. And so many of them are mentally
unwell and push away those who care for them, or have no one
at all to care for them and try to steer them towards help.
They may not have people around to check they take
medication, for example.
And yes, we may freely admit that their behaviour challenges
It’s easier to look the other way.
Our society is very quick to judge and is no different to
the society back in Jesus’s time. How uncomfortable we may
feel if someone around us starts to behave beyond the
boundaries of our social norm!
But we don’t know the issues that others face. The young,
harassed mom in the supermarket with a child who is
screaming and having a tantrum may be overwhelmed by the
responsibility of caring for a child who cannot self-
regulate – for example, may have sensory issues. We judge,
we tut. Do we offer to help?
What do we do to help those who feel they are like Legion?
For these folk are out there.
Would we even ask, “what is your name?”
I do wonder why the folk who witnessed the miracle were
scared. Perhaps I’m more like them than I care to admit, for
don’t most of us fear the unknown? Why weren’t the witnesses
filled with joy for the man? Of what were they afraid? Of
what are we afraid?
Jesus tells the man, “Go home. Tell everyone what God has
done for you!”
The man is to be a messenger – God’s messenger. I wonder how
he was received by people – would they listen to him?
And Jesus reminds the man that God has cured him. The man
goes away proclaiming how much Jesus has done for him. God
and Jesus. One person. Tom Wright says, “If you want to tell
people what God has done, tell them what Jesus has done.”
As Christ comes to Legion, he comes to each and every one of
us now.
Knowing exactly who and what we are.
Offering love and acceptance.
Asking us to show that love and acceptance to others.
To reach out and ask, “what is your name?” and to accompany
them on their journey.
Which is exactly what I witnessed at the summer fair
yesterday. People chatting over coffee, making connections,
listening to others.
We never know what a difference that makes in someone’s day.
But if we hold on to the amazing truth that Christ comes to
us all, as he did to Legion, we will continue to build those
Are we prepared to sit at the feet of Jesus, and then go and
tell others what God has done for us?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:22 am.

Saturday, 11 June 2022:

Trinity Sunday 2022

May I speak in the name of the Father, our Creator; the name
of the Son, Jesus who lived on earth for us; and of the Holy
Spirit, who lives within us. Amen.
Trinity Sunday is very often a day whereby curates or
ordinands preach. Hmmm…we don’t have a curate, and our
ordinand is away on placement. I guess it’s time, then, that
I put some thoughts together about the Trinity.
Firstly, it’s easy to try to explain the Trinity. I thought
about using a marmalade sandwich – we need the bread, the
butter, the marmalade, to make the whole sandwich. However,
as with all examples, this doesn’t hold up – actually it’s
heretical. So no, I’m not going to use an example.
Instead, what I’ll try to do is to draw you into the mystery
of the Holy Trinity. For it is a real mystery. How can God
be three persons? How can Jesus be God, Holy Spirit, and
So – no explanations here, but perhaps different ways in to
thinking about aspects of the Holy Trinity. And be prepared
– we’re going to make a craft to help us.
Our readings this week draw us into the mystery of the
Trinity. We’re invited to reflect on the works of the
Trinity within the intimacy of the Three Persons of God; we
are also asked to join in these works. As Christians, we
are to participate in the life of the Trinity. But how? Our
reading from Romans is depicted by Paul as entering into a
relationship with God, fulfilled through Jesus Christ, and
made real through the Holy Spirit.
As quick as we may think we’ve grasped the concept, - for me
anyway – the understanding falls away and I’m left gazing in
astonishment, bewilderment, and awe.
Our Gospel reading for today was also the Gospel reading for
our midweek Mass almost three weeks ago. I’ve been wrestling
with all sorts of thoughts ever since then. Jesus knows his
time is limited here, knows that he is approaching the time
for him to be with God. He wants to give as much
instruction and teaching to his disciples as he possibly can
– but he also knows they will not understand the full
implications of his teaching.
Let’s just pick up a couple of strands of Jesus’s speech and
try to sit with them for a moment.
He reminds his disciples – reminds us – that everything we
learn comes from the Father, through the Son, and from the
Son through the Spirit. It’s One; One Person, not three
separate revelations.
How mind-blowing is that?!
We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, both
personally and as a community – so that we can be faithful
to the truth that we know from Jesus.
He’s right when He said, “You can’t bear all I want to say,
now.” It’s almost too big to grasp. How can One person be
St Augustine summed up the great mystery of the Trinity, by
saying, “If you see charity, there you see the Trinity.” St
Ignatius spoke of the Trinity in terms of a musical chord,
each individual note makes a profound contribution to the
whole. St Patrick, it is thought, once used a shamrock to as
a visual representation of the Trinitarian concept using its
three leaves. Three in One, One in Three.
We’re invited by God to be drawn into the mystery of the
Holy Trinity. The Trinity is how we experience God in the
world: God the Father is the first person; Jesus, the Word,
is the second person. “Everything the Father has, is mine,”
says Jesus. Somehow, two persons in one God. And the Holy
Spirit is the third person. We can’t “bear it now,” – but
God dwells within us. In each every one of us, and we in
turn dwell in Him and it’s wonderful and mind boggling!
Put it another way. Everything the Father has, belongs to
the Word. That’s Jesus.
Everything that Jesus, the Word, has, belongs to the Spirit.
The Spirit is the third person of God – gives us back full
circle to the Creator God.
It’s a complete mystery, the revelation of the Holy Trinity.
I think we are to embrace it, to glory in it, because we
have no words to explain it. We’ll say, shortly, that we
believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As we
say those words in the creed, think what each Person of the
Trinity means to you.
And to help us, we make a craft. God is love, so with each
piece of card, we make a heart shape. God loves us all;
Jesus loves us, and we are guided by the Holy Spirit. We end
up with three heart shapes, which we will stick together to
form a shamrock or clover or trefoil shape – pick which word
helps you. We stick them onto a paper straw, and suddenly we
have a spinner. I’m sure the children will demonstrate how
these can fly.
The heart shaped trefoil reminds us of the love of the
Father, the Creator; the love of the Son, who lived on earth
and died for us; and the love of the Holy Spirit who lives
within each one of us.
We can’t solve or explain this mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Three in One, One in Three. No one more important than
another. However we understand this mystery, the mind-
boggling truth is that the Three Divine Persons understand
and love us.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:19 pm.

Sunday, 5 June 2022:

Pentecost/Jubilee 5.6.2022

Lord, take my lips and speak through them,
Take our minds and think through them,
Take our hearts, and set them on fire with your love. Amen.

Today – such a special day. The birthday of the Church, as
we receive God’s Holy Spirit. We revisit familiar stories
of how the Spirit rested on everyone present; there was a
sound of rushing wind; the fulfilment of prophecy. Pentecost
celebrates the outpouring of God’s love through his Spirit
upon the early church.
And so special this year as we celebrate our Queen’s
Platinum Jubilee, as we give thanks for her dedication and
service to this nation, fed through her unwavering faith and
trust in God, her belief in Jesus Christ.
I often like to try to imagine the scene at Pentecost. I
hear the wind howling around; see the tree branches waving
violently as they are stripped of leaves and foliage, as
trees become uprooted and fall to the floor. I hear the wind
as it howls around the house, uprooting beloved plants and
shrubs in the garden. I imagine a coastline being battered
by heavy seas and turbulent waves and the sense of
helplessness as gradually a well-known and beloved landscape
changes out of all recognition.
That’s Pentecost, isn’t it? For, filled with the Spirit, we
too are changed beyond all recognition. Not externally, of
course – but within our hearts. We’re not always aware it,
but if the Spirit of God rests in our hearts then our
outlook is changed. There is hope even in the darkest
moments. To know God, we have to look at the Son. But over
the last couple of weeks we’ve heard Jesus explain the
Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father and now,
finally, we have the Spirit of Truth added into the mix.
Can you imagine the surprise experienced by the disciples
when they heard this rushing wind, when they experienced the
tongues of fire, and the Spirit of Truth came to live in
each one of them?
How open are we to being surprised? How willing are we to be
in awe of God’s power?
How would it feel if we allow the Spirt to knock us and turn
us around, spinning us around so that we are disorientated
and well outside our comfort zone, sent in a new direction?
Apostles are sent by God to continue the work begun by
Jesus. God’s work. And there is so much to do! Morally,
ethically, so much to do – to help our Creation, to be fair
to everyone, to make ‘outsiders’ feel welcome and become
‘insiders.’ We feel helpless in the grand scheme of things
such as the war in Ukraine, the injustice in China and
Myanmar. Yes, so much to do.
But we are not alone. “I am in the Father and the Father is
in me.” Remember the phrase, “I am the vine, you are the
branches.” The world can be a hostile place but the truth is
there in Christian communities – for the Spirit of Truth is
a witness. John McClure writes, “the church is a community
of truth that lives in the world in new ways and works
within a vision of love.”
It seems to me that our Queen Elizabeth II lives in that
way. She often makes reference to her faith. “For me, the
life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace…is an inspiration
and an anchor in my life,” she said in her Christmas message
in 2014. She reminds us that we are all here to serve each
other; in her Christmas message in 2012, she said, “This is
the time of year when we remember that God sent his only Son
to serve, not to be served.”
In her radio broadcast from Cape Town on her 21st birthday,
Her Majesty said, “… we all go forward together with an
unwavering faith, a high courage and a quiet heart…we have a
more powerful influence for good in the world… I declare
before you all that my whole life whether it be long or
short shall be devoted to your service…and to the service of
the great family to which we all belong … I shall not have
strength to carry out this resolution alone…. God help me to
make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing
to share it.”
Whatever your view may be of the monarchy, it’s difficult to
feel anything but inspiration from our Queen who at 96
continues to work on our behalf; fed and nurtured by her
faith in God.
When we pray, we pray through the power of the Holy Spirit –
the ‘advocate.’ When we pray, we bring our suffering world
before God, and we help to bring God’s healing in our world.
The Holy Spirit is called an Advocate, a Paraclete. The word
Paraclete means, comforter. We can only give comfort to
others by drawing close to them - in other words, not
remaining distant, but by going amongst others, being with
them, sharing in their stories, joys and sorrows. Join with
them, pray for them.
This weekend there is an outpouring of love for Her Majesty
the Queen. An outpouring of love from all around the world,
as we give thanks for her dedication and service. There’s
also an outpouring of love from God, through his Holy
Spirit. Pentecost is the culmination of Easter. The
fulfilment of God’s promise to us all, a fulfilment of life
even after death, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We
believe that our Incarnate and Risen Lord still works to
heal a broken world. Today is therefore a huge celebration.
As the Queen trusts in God to work through her life, we too
in our turn allow God to work through us. We’ve all been
given different talents, gifts, skills. We use these gifts
for the service of Christ. We love, as Christians. Love is a
free choice; God’s love, however, is steady and sure. With
God’s love, our work can transform to “I can and I will,”
not, “if I can...”
We are to act in love, because we are filled with the Spirit
who is God’s love.

Come Holy Spirit; cleanse, renew and equip us, that we may
live and work for you in your power, for your glory. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:52 am.

Saturday, 28 May 2022:

Seventh Sunday of Easter 28.5.22 John 17:20-end

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
There’s so much beauty in our world isn’t there. On Friday I
walked in West Park and was captivated by the bright pinks,
purples and reds of the most stunningly beautiful flowers
grown there, carefully nurtured by the wardens and council
staff. Flocks of ducks, birds and geese by the lake; have
you ever studied the sheer beauty of a mallard’s wings? And
this week there have been evenings when I’ve managed to sit
outside for half an hour at twilight, listening to the call
of the birds as they answer each other and eventually settle
to roost.
There’s so much around us that can capture and delight us,
and that can fill our hearts with praise.
Jesus tells us that there’s more in store in the next world,
greater than anything our hearts can conceive, something
special beyond words.
He’s preparing his disciples for separation but is
reassuring them that we will all be one.
He’s calling for unity.
United in love, in prayer, in action, but also as one in a
deeper sense.
It’s hard to grasp, isn’t it. But to put it another way;
think of a successful football team, where the players fully
understand and trust their coaches and their manager; their
manager and coaches trust the players to get on with the
job; the club owners share the same vision and back the
manager and trust in his choice. That’s the sort of teamwork
Jesus is talking about, I think. United in a common vision,
a common goal, and trusted to get on with the job of sharing
the Gospel story.
In a world that can be suspicious of loving service in
action, there will always be people who don’t get it. Folk
who say, “why did you do that? What do want to gain from
helping others?”
Jesus gave his community a challenge, and it’s our challenge
today. The challenge? To recognise God in everyone we meet.
So, we are to be drawn into God’s love and made perfect in
his one-ness – which doesn’t mean we ourselves have to be
perfect because we know we can never reach that. What we’re
asked to do is to show our love for God, and show our love
for each other.
Through this, our lives become an offering to God, and a
chance for others to see and experience this love. For God’s
love isn’t exclusive. His love is an invitation for
Jesus, in his farewell message to his disciples in John’s
Gospel, prays for us all. Prays for his disciples. We’re the
ones (if you think about it) who have come to believe
because of the disciples’ words to others. Jesus prays we
will remain faithful and trust in the presence of the Holy
Spirit. Three times in today’s Gospel passage, he prays,
“that they may all be one, so that the world may believe you
have sent me.” So he links One-ness, or unity, with the
world believing in his Incarnation; that he is the Son sent
from God.
I think what he is saying is a call for the disciples to be
unified, as God is unified, because God is in Him and He is
in God, and he yearns for the disciples to be in them both.
And if they are unified, then other believers will become
part of this One-ness, this unity.
In our world today we’re called to be one, to be unified as
disciples of Christ. Yet our world is divisive, isn’t it.
Divided among racial, educational, socioeconomic and gender
lines – we’re not all the same, we don’t all believe the
same things. We know there are parts of our world where
women and children have no voice. We know that racism exists
and that people are restrained or hurt or killed because of
the colour of their skin. It’s easy to be divided. It’s
harder to remain as one.
And within the Church we are divided – with different
denominations, theological perspectives, choice of music and
so on.
Yet I believe God puts us where we are for a reason, because
not everyone can be the same. Not everyone wants to wave
their arms around during worship. Not everyone wants to be
quiet and reflective either. But still, the desire for unity
as a sign of Christian discipleship rings out from our
Gospel verses. For Jesus prayed for unity, not for
uniformity. The Church universal is never going to agree on
all aspects theological and on various styles of worship.
But we do agree that God is the One True God, that Jesus is
His Son, and in the power of the Trinity – that the Holy
Spirit is present in each and in us.

Jesus proclaims God’s love for the world, and yet prays for
protection from the world. Praying for protection for the
Good Shepherd as he seeks to protect his sheep.
And in a way he takes us back to the beginning of John’s
Gospel, which we read at Christmas. In the beginning was the
Word, the Logos, we read in Greek. Our Easter season
culminates where this Gospel began; Jesus, making God known
so that the world might know God. Making known that Creation
comes from God, and that we all have a place in His creative
Can we remain open to God’s surprises?
And what can we do, what openings may present themselves to
us each in our own individual calling, as we listen to each
other, build up relationships with each other, and together
perform loving acts of service.
For that’s unity.
That’s the unity and One-ness Jesus is talking about.
So we pray,
Loving Father,
Make us one with all who believe in you,
that the love we share will shine out and convince the world
that you were sent by the Father,
with whom you now reign in splendid unity.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:48 pm.

Friday, 20 May 2022:

Easter VI and Thy Kingdom Come 2022

John 5:1-9
Come, O Holy Spirit.
Lead us to your home, the one within us.
Discern for each of us, as you did for each apostle,
untold truths.
Be the fire that never dies,
the wind that lifts us––raising us high,
on wings that set us
Do you find when you read anything, that your mind wanders
off and you can imagine the scene?
Today’s Gospel intrigues me. I picture the portico – the
columns, the grandeur of the buildings set around the pool
in Jerusalem. This was a sacred site – there’s evidence that
it was regarded as a sacred place in pagan times.
There are many invalids lying there, sheltered by the
porches; waiting to enter the waters. The waters
periodically bubbled up. Many people believed that an angel
of the Lord would come and stir the waters, and whoever was
first into the pool would then be healed.
So we can imagine the scene. Ancient buildings, set around
a pool, with invalids lying around in the various porches
where they feel they would be most protected from the
elements. We can hear their cries of pain, their moans,
their groans, their muttering. We can feel the emptiness of
their lives.
But the man in our Gospel reading has been lying there for
38 years!
Jesus notices him.
Of course he does. And Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made
We notice straightaway that the man doesn’t say, “Yes!” In
fact, the lack of his affirmation is deafening. What does he
do? He moans! “No one is here to put me into the pool. I
have no chance to get well.”
I wonder if Jesus means, “Do you really want to get better,
or are you happy here to lie here, begging, for the rest of
your life?
And Jesus tells him to get up, pick up his mat and move on.
The man must have believed – or else why would he have got
up? It’s a sign, a miracle.
Two further things to consider. Did you notice the short
final line of today’s Gospel? “Now that day was a Sabbath.”
If we read on, the man will be interrogated by some Jews
simply because he is carrying a mat on the Sabbath. It’s not
permitted. Doesn’t fall within the norms. He will be asked,
“who healed you?” He will respond, “Jesus,” and we know
where that led. It led to the events of the week we call
Holy Week. So this morning’s Gospel reading is really
important. It gave some Jews permission to interrogate Jesus
at a later date.
So, it’s significant for us, as we look to celebrate
Ascension Day on Thursday. For without this healing, perhaps
there might not have been enough ‘evidence’ to condemn Jesus
to death. Without his death, there’s no resurrection. And
if no resurrection, no Ascension.
The period of time between Ascension and Pentecost has been
marked as a special period of prayer. It’s called ‘Thy
Kingdom Come’.
We pray to God the Father, through Jesus the Son, in the
power of the Holy Spirit.
It all began a few years ago, when the Archbishops of York
and Canterbury rekindled something that used to happen in
the early years of Christianity – a wave of prayer between
Ascension Day and Pentecost. The Archbishops asked
Christians to pray during these 10 days. They asked
Christians to think of five people who they would like to
see come to know Christ, to be touched by the Holy Spirit so
that in some way they would come to know of God’s love.

Following this, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby,
“I cannot remember in my life anything that I’ve been
involved in where I have sensed so clearly the work of the
Over the last few years, the Thy Kingdom Come initiative has
gone global. Truly global. Not only are Anglicans taking
part, and praying intentionally for people and for
situations, but also the Methodist Church and the Roman
Catholic Church. It has become a world-wide Church (with a
capital C) initiative.
And it helps us realise that every aspect of our lives is
the stuff of prayer. The Archbishops chose this particular
time because after the first Ascension Day, the disciples
gathered with Mary, constantly devoting themselves to prayer
while they waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at
Throughout the centuries, Christians have gathered at this
time to pray together for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
‘Thy Kingdom Come’ picks up this tradition. We pray that the
Spirit will equip and inspire us to share the Good News of
Jesus with others.
That those who have not yet heard about the Gospel, will
hear it and believe.
Our way of taking part is to pray.
So how do we pray? If we can’t think of what to say, well,
we have the Lord’s Prayer to help us. When you say it, pause
between each line; allow yourself some time and space.
We’re giving you all a prayer journal and prayer booklet to
use as works best for you – we’ve got children’s books too,
for our children and for those we encounter through Messy
Church, baptisms and so on.
When you pray, you may not have any words. Maybe a visual
image or a particular piece of music may help you. Maybe as
you travel on the bus you can pray for someone. As you stand
in the queue at the supermarket, you can pray for someone.
When you are in the car waiting at traffic lights, pray for
someone. Prayers do not have to be lengthy. Martin Luther
said, “The fewer the words, the better the prayer.” Surely,
we can find moments throughout the day to pray. And, as our
archdeacon reminds us, not only to ask, but also to give

Let’s play our part, and try to transform our community and
our parish.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:22 pm.

Saturday, 14 May 2022:

Easter V – Dementia Awareness Acts 11:1-18 Revelation21:1-6 John 13:31-35

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Dementia Awareness Week, and
so today seems an appropriate Sunday to introduce our
Dementia Co-Ordinator Jenni Ellis, and to talk through our
action plan for the coming year. Some of this comes under
our Mission Action Plan, and it’s important that we all
understand why we feel so passionate about this.
Today’s readings invite us examine and join in God’s
creative and redemptive works. This is for everyone -
everyone! - and actually the Gospel message ‘Love one
another’ could be our parish church’s strapline (perhaps we
should think about that?!) - the message to take part in
the new commandment is to engage in self-sacrificial love.
The context of our Gospel reading: Jesus is having his last
supper with his disciples before he is crucified. His
sacrifice and obedience to God bring about the fulfilment
and fullness of God’s revelation. Jesus gives his disciples
a new commandment, to love one another.
“Love one another just as I love you,” he tells his friends.
And without his love, without God’s grace, we can’t love
others as God would want. We are reliant on the power of the
Holy Spirit.
Jesus’s new commandment came just after Judas Iscariot had
gone to betray him – and yet Jesus tells us all to love each
other. Not soppy, romantic love but real genuine, caring
love. Love for the other, for those who look or sound
different to us, to those who worship differently, to those
who don’t believe, to those who are ill, to those with whom
we lose patience.
Love one another. It’s easy to feel love when things seem to
be going well. It’s harder to love when we are tired, when
we feel pressured, when we feel we are not receiving
anything back.
And it’s hard to stay patient when we are asked a question
for the hundredth time in a matter of hours. That’s why this
week is so important. That’s why we are asking you to make
dementia awareness a focus for your prayer life this coming
(over to Jen!)
As you know I’m our Dementia Co-Ordinator; initially my
awareness of dementia became stronger through my work.
Dementia Awareness week follows on from mental Health
Awareness week, and I feel strongly that there’s a link
between these. No matter what’s going on in anyone’s life,
be it dementia or mental health struggles, we know the love
of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be with us always,
as written in Romans chapter 8.
As a Church we do so much to be ‘Dementia Friendly’ already:
We are warm and welcoming and accommodating to varying
We now have reading sheets and hymn sheets to allow for
easier participation.
We are supportive and aware of folk who may be missing and
check on their circumstances.
What we want to work on is:
Developing a Dementia Awareness Noticeboard – this will
hopefully detail support options locally and general
information. I am hoping the children will help with this.
Continuing to have Dementia Awareness as a focus in a
service at least annually.
Developing a dementia friendly memory box in church.
Purchasing a “Strength for the journey” resource book for
Through my current role I am aware of Dementia Services
getting back up and running following the pandemic, however,
service users still have reservations and some groups are
not very well supported. The concerns being that so many are
not seeking the support and for carers the respite available
to them. If we become more aware of what’s available locally
we can advertise these services more.
We only get one chance in life, we have to make the most of
it. I’m a big fan of the YOLO saying (you only live once) My
time working in a Dementia care home changed my life and my
outlook completely. It made me so thankful for my life, the
health my family share, the memories we are able to make and
cherish. The words from the hymn There’s a spirit in the air
stick with me: “God in Christ has come to stay, Live
tomorrows life today”

Cherish and make the most of every day, this week, we please
ask you hold those affected by Dementia in prayer.
I am hoping the children have written a prayer for us to
finish with:
(We end with a prayer which has been written by the
children, the first letter of each line begins with the
letter from ‘Dementia Friends.’

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:58 pm.

Thursday, 5 May 2022:

4th Sunday of Easter ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’

Acts 9:36-end; Revelation 7:9-end; John 10:22-30; Psalm 23
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our
redeemer. Amen.
While I was away on retreat, I spent a little time watching
the sheep and lambs on the fields and hills behind the
caravan site. The lambs were tiny and gawky, long-legged and
frisky. It was amusing to watch them suddenly jump into the
air for what appeared to be no reason. They seemed to have
not a care in the world, but should I get too close to them
the mother sheep would swiftly guide the lambs away to
safety – they’d run off following her, bleating and skipping
and jumping as they went – ready to settle back to munching
the grass, and to doing whatever it is that lambs like to
do, in safety.
It did amuse me; it also left me reflecting on how important
it is to have a figure to represent safety in our lives, and
– sadly – made me think how many youngsters and adults have
not had that security.
But there is a Shepherd who, if we acknowledge Him, will
take care of us and push us in the right direction, should
we choose to listen.
Today is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Our reading
from Acts tells how an Apostle resuscitates Tabitha – an
important story for it not only marks the first healing by
an apostle, but tells of the first woman disciple to be
healed – miraculous works performed by the apostles in
Jesus’s name. If we read the psalm today, you wouldn’t be
surprised to find it is psalm 23. The reading from
Revelation includes a vision of the fulfillment to some,
with God’s work resulting in people from all nationalities
following him. And our Gospel from John focusses on the
Jesus’s identity as the Messiah. Our readings show a
wonderfully rich portrait of the work of the Good Shepherd,
which continues through the apostles.
Today’s Gospel, of course, has taken us back in time after
the resurrection appearances we’ve thought about in recent
weeks. It helps us focus on what the Jews were expecting in
a Messiah – someone who is promised to them. First century
Jews were convinced a Messiah would come and redeem them
from Roman rule and oppression. Jesus was trying to open
their minds. I can picture him, standing in the temple
where he has been teaching. The air is hostile – in a way
it’s an unofficial trial. He is surrounded by opponents all
trying to catch him out. I can hear the spite in their
voices, the anger, the hostility hanging in the air – what’s
the expression – we could cut the air with a knife.
“Are you the Messiah? How long will you keep us in
And Jesus seems unfazed. He knows what he is about. He is
following his Father’s will, giving these people yet another
chance to understand and believe.
“My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus says. “You don’t hear,
because you don’t believe. I do everything in my Father’s
name. Everything I do is in my Father’s name.”
The problem, of course, is that these people will never
believe because they do not belong to his sheep.
The works Jesus talks about reveal him as God’s son. Reveal
his true identity – only the crowd isn’t prepared to listen
or understand. Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.”
Father and Son, united in the works that God has given Jesus
to do.
The shepherd was the Biblical term for a king, so anyone
saying he was a shepherd of people was understood to be
saying, “I’m a king – I’m the anointed one.”
The theologian Scott Williamson describes the readings today
as an expression of how we can believe and help to create a
feeling of community. But it’s hard work, he says. It’s
easy to create community and harmony when we look the same
as other people. When we sound like them. He says as we move
forward in one direction, we take two steps back in other.
The community gathered around the throne in our reading from
Revelation is inclusive, hospitable, generous; our challenge
on Good Shepherd Sunday is to recognise the ways we resist
or testify to the Good Works of our Shepherd. Do social
boundaries prevent us from more outreach?
How can we point to the true identity of Christ?
I didn’t see any shepherds while I was watching the sheep,
but I know they must be around at some point. In
Mediterranean times, shepherds were vital to the flocks’
well- being. Flocks of sheep would arrive into Jerusalem and
herded into one huge sheepfold. No branding marks in those
days; the only way the sheep knew their shepherd was by his
voice (it would be a male.) The shepherd knew his sheep by
heart, they knew his voice; when it was time to move on, he
simply called them. They followed him out of the sheepfold.
This is what Jesus is referring to. “My sheep hear my voice.
They follow me.”
And we are those sheep.
It’s perhaps a harsh reminder that Christ’s love is not
selective. He is the Good Shepherd and as a church, as his
followers, we are called to carry on his mission. That God
loves us all – all – even those whom we consider unlovable –
Hitler, Putin, those who carry out atrocities in Somalia –
God’s love is for all.
Being ‘sheep’ doesn’t mean we blindly follow, though. I
think it means we take an active role, listening for the
voice of the Shepherd, heeding his words. Following the Good
Shepherd leads to eternal life, we believe – but doesn’t
mean it’s an easy ride. Jesus’s sheep hear words for a
different Kingdom. We’re called to offer a new life, a new
understanding or our common purpose. A new way of looking
at life – why we are here, those sorts of questions.
As followers of Jesus Christ we are to help others hear his
voice. I wonder, how can we do that? For the voice calls us
all by name, claims us as his own.
I wonder, can we in our daily lives say or do enough to
prompt even one person to begin to find God?
The sheep I watched out on the Welsh hillsides knew enough
to run away from ‘dangerous’ humans and to find distant
places of safety. Our challenge is to call out these
dangerous places; to speak up for the marginalized; to
continue to see where we can offer help and support; to
speak up for ourselves and our faith and to be proud of who
we are individually and collectively.
I wonder, are we secure enough in the Shepherd to step out
of our comfort zone?
I wonder, what difference does the presence of the Shepherd
make in our lives?
A prayer poem ‘No One can take them out of my hand’ taken
from the internet:
Good Shepherd, let us hear you in the beauty of our world,
in your poor, and in one another, on the rocky and rough
roads we travel.
Please pick us up when our legs can walk no more. Pull us
from brambles that snarl us: climate, racism, divisions,
Ukranian suffering. Carry all our brothers and sisters to
Good Shepherd, hold us close in your arms.
Speak to our hearts.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:25 pm.

Monday, 25 April 2022:

Easter 2

A few weeks ago we had the start of British Summer time where the
clocks went forward. Guess who forgot to put the clock forward. But it
was not an issue as Hugo my big tabby always wakes me really early
looking for not only attention but also to give a reminder that it was
time that I fed him. No joke at 6 in the morning or earlier. But on
this particular Sunday was glad he did.
This Sunday was one of two in the year where internal clocks on our
devices have to be reset because of the time change. Thankfully most do
it automatically but am sure that most of us here can remember a time
when we used to have to do it manually? When we would have had to reset
the clock on the video recorder or perhaps a posh microwave. This could
be a source of frustration as it was a case of trying to remember which
buttons reset the timer, and if you could not it was a case of trying
to find the instruction booklet in the back of a draw. Out of
everything that I have with a clock the one that I never rush to change
is the one in the car. Partially it is a case of can I remember how to
do it, but also I am not particularly worried if it is showing a time
that is an hour fast. With the clocks going forward it is now telling
the right time having been on British Summer time all winter.
Resetting the clock is very much part of our journey with God. And when
I say this it is not about a physical clock but a resetting about our
relationship with Him.
On that first Easter morning we find the disciples together in the
upper room where they had shared that last meal with Jesus. The door
was locked for they feared that the Jewish authorities would come after
them next. Many had come before Jesus claiming to be the Messiah and
all had met the same fate as him. So it was no wonder that they feared
that they too would have a cross with their name on it. They were also
bowed down with a collective burden of guilt. All of them had all
deserted Jesus when put to the test and for Peter this was especially
painful as he even denied knowing Jesus three times when things had
become difficult.
But now what? Jesus failed to live up to their expectations as the
Messiah and the cross meant failure. Many of them may have been
contemplating returning to old lives as if the three years spent with
Jesus had never happened. And it was into this room of raw emotion
that Jesus suddenly appeared bearing a greeting of peace. We can only
imagine the joy that the disciples suddenly felt at meeting Jesus
again. The person who had meant so much to them was back. It was like
the cross had never happened – and yet it had, for the marks of the
nails were only too evident. But Jesus had one thing for them and that
was the gift of the Holy Spirit. This he had promised in his farewell
discourse at the last supper. That he would send the Holy Spirit who
would be with them forever so that they could continue the work that he
had started in his earthly ministry. By receiving the Spirit they
received their commission and that was to point them to new life in
Jesus. They had now received forgiveness for the times when they had
let Jesus down, and for the many other sins that they no doubt had.
Their commission was now to show with others how they too could obtain
this forgiveness and a new beginning which leads to eternal life. Jesus
believed that they could do it, and as we will hear in the coming weeks
that breathing the Holy Spirit transformed a band of uneducated and
unconfident men into powerful proclaimers of the Gospel.
This is a nice story but as with most of stories in John there are
multiple layers of meaning and reading anything in John is a bit like
peeling an onion as when one layer is peeled back there is another
waiting to be explored. Jesus breathing new life into the disciples
has parallels with the original creation account at the beginning of
time. Before the fall God breathed life into Adam so that he could be a
living being. Adam was to have a personal relationship with the God
that loved him and to live within the boundaries that he set. However,
sin marred that relationship as Adam decided to become something that
was forbidden and that was to try and be like God. As a result, we
became separated from him and suffered the consequences of our own
humanity. But God came as Jesus into the world to change this and show
the depth of God’s love for us all. For He was not prepared to leave us
with the consequences of our own making for he wants us to have life to
the full. And by doing this He was able to reset our relationship with
him following the resurrection, so that all could regain what was lost
when Adam rebelled against God. And this is what Easter is all about.
Just to help you see where I am coming from just imagine for a minute a
video tape where you are not happy with what has been recorded. I am
sure that practically everyone here can remember video tapes. Before
Jesus came humanity was like this for what is on the tape as our sin
and disobedience which cut us off from God and is clearly seen. God had
tried to build bridges through the prophets but humanity had ignored
them. When Jesus went to the cross, he took the full weight of our all
of our sin on his shoulders. He allowed the powers of this world to do
their worse so that as he hung there but by dying and rising again, he
broke the power that sin had over us.
At that point it was as if God pressed the pause button and stopped the
tape. Then in those three days between the cross and that first Easter
it was as if He had pressed the rewind button and the wound the tape is
back to the beginning. When Jesus rose again from the dead the record
button was pressed. All that is on the tape now is new life in Jesus.
The old recording which was our sin and guilt has been over recorded
and God no longer sees them for they have gone. God has reset the clock
and is through the sacrifice that Jesus made that the gate that leads
to eternal life open for all.
Because of this he no longer sees us as being stained with sin but
clothed with his son. And he can only look at us through the blood
shed on the cross by Jesus because that is all that is on our tapes. He
is constantly reminded of the price that Jesus paid the price for all
and because of this he willingly forgives all of our mistakes and times
when we have let him down. We can approach him now as our father who
loves us so much that he has adopted us so that we can share in the
risen life of his son, and join him in the new Jerusalem. It was this
new beginning that he gave to the disciples on that first Easter day
when Jesus breathed new life into them, and is now given to each one of
us. For his breath was a restoring breath that symbolised a new
beginning where God has reset this world for the better.
We too have all had an upper room experience when we first met Jesus.
How many of us here have been like the disciples in as far as we were
bowed down by a burden of guilt about something may have been done, or
perhaps not done. Maybe there are times when you may have dug yourself
into a hole because of life’s circumstances. When you are troubled and
think that life has no direction then Jesus will grant you his peace in
the same way that he came to his disciples on that first Easter day.
For he offers all a release from the heavy burden of sin so that all
can have a fresh start with God. For the crucified and risen Christ has
reset your relationship with Him so that all here may become Easter
People, forgiven and free from the cost of our sin. And as a sign that
this is true, he has also given us his spirit so that we are united
with him, and the promises that he gives to us are real. For Jesus
claims us as his own and in return for all that he asks is that we
return his love and walk with him through our journey of life.
He knows that we are human and will at times may mess up, that we will
try and do our own things without him. When things have gone wrong and
we return back to him as Jesus gives the assurance that because of his
work on the cross our personal tape will be wiped clean again so that
we all may take our place amongst the Easter people again here in this
place. So, this Easter if you are carrying a burden of guilt or
remorse for something that you wished you had done or not done ask
Jesus to minister to you by putting at the foot of the cross. You are
loved and cherished by God and there is nothing he will not forgive –
and he will. The disciples experienced the joy of the risen Jesus who
showed his love for them by giving them his peace and in this Easter
season and each day as we walk with him we have the assurance that he
will do this for us as well.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:46 pm.

Sunday, 3 April 2022:

Passion Sunday 2022

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our

Today’s readings – I wonder what words come into your head
as we read our Gospel, the story of Mary anointing Jesus
with costly perfume and wiping her feet with her hair. It is
a shocking story and perhaps we are too familiar with it,
and too far removed from the culture of the time.
The Mediterranean culture dictated that slaves or women were
the ones to wash the feet of their guests. Today, though, we
see Mary anointing the Anointed one – for if my research is
right, the name ‘Messiah’ in Hebrew translates as ‘the
anointed one, the one anointed with oil.’

A woman letting down her hair in public was shocking – it
was taboo, too sensual, too intimate in that Galilean
culture. And women were not supposed to be sat at the feet
of the teacher.

We know Martha served Jesus and the guests. Later on, Jesus
will say, “Whoever serves me must follow me, where I am,
there will my servant be also.” So Martha serves Jesus,
doing what Jesus expects his disciples to do.

Mary loves Jesus; like her sister Martha she believes in
him, follows him, and perhaps their home is the nearest to a
family home Jesus had, where he could be himself. Today
though is different. Perhaps the meal is to say thank you
for raising Lazarus from the dead. The disciples and the
women must have been looking at Jesus with fresh eyes – who
exactly is this man, who raises people from the dead?

We don’t know Mary’s thoughts, of course. What we do know is
that she loved Jesus. That she had been saving costly
perfume to anoint someone. And that she recognised that this
was the moment for her elaborate gift and outpouring of
love. By anointing him, she recognises that he is a king.
And by this act she anoints his body for burial.

There are many trains of thought, too many! – I could preach
about how the Gospels have a different take on this story; I
could preach how Judas is derogatory about Mary’s outpouring
of love and how we could ask ourselves are we more like Mary
with our outpouring of love of generosity for Jesus, or are
we more like Judas – begrudging, belittling the efforts of
others? I could preach on the aspect of anointing and what
it means for us. However – given all of that, what I am
going to do is read a meditation on today’s Gospel, a
meditation about Mary and her thoughts and actions, which
was written by a colleague.
So I invite you to close your eyes, and to latch onto any of
the thoughts in which ever way God directs you.

Meditation of Mary:
Have you heard about my brother? I’m sure you have;
everybody is talking about it. He’s called Lazarus. Yes,
that’s the one. The man who was dead but came back to life.
Our friend Jesus went to the tomb and called to him to come
out. And he did. Just like that. It took a few days for the
enormity of what had happened to actually sink in. But now
we have realised that just saying thank you really wasn’t
enough. Nothing is enough really. How do you thank someone
for bringing back your brother?
We’ve decided to have a special meal in his honour. A small
token of our appreciation. We’ve invited all of his
disciples and lots of people from the village, well the ones
who support Jesus anyway. Although since he brought back
Lazarus that number is growing by the day.
Martha is going to cook. She’s much better at that than me.
Hopefully she won’t complain about it this time, as she is
doing it to say thank you. To say just how much she
appreciates and loves Jesus. Jesus was a bit short with her
last time when she complained about me sitting and doing
nothing whilst she had to do everything. I guess I probably
ought to give her a little help though, it’s only fair with
quite so many people coming. I do have a plan though, for
what I can do to say thank you. It’s a bit scary. But I
think it will be the right thing to do. I hope the others
see it that way too.

Well everybody is sat their enjoying the food. Martha has
come up trumps again. Lazarus and Jesus are reclining at the
table sharing their tales of what happened last week. The
disciples are laughing and joking. Well, all except Judas.
He looks a little morose. He hasn’t been his normal self
recently. I’ve caught glimpses of conversation from the
other disciples that they think he’s been pilfering the odd
coins from their money. It’s almost like he isn’t happy that
Lazarus has come back to life. That he thinks that Jesus has
better things to do with his time than being generous with
his friends. But maybe he is just worried about Jesus. I
know that I am. They say that he is continuing with his
plans to go to Jerusalem, maybe to overthrow the Romans.
Even I know how risky that will be. And if that isn’t bad
enough, the high priests and the Pharisees haven’t been
happy since they heard about Lazarus. They seem to think
that he isn’t doing God’s will. That he is claiming to be
God. But I’m sure that God must be with him. How else did
Lazarus come back to life? That can’t be from the devil, can
it. But who knows what they might do to him.
I think it is time to pour out my thanks and adoration to
Jesus. I have a pot of nard that I’ve been saving for a
special day. Maybe my wedding day as a gift for my husband.
I open it every now and then to have a little sniff. It’s a
beautiful deep red colour and it smells divine. Like
gladioli flowers. I was going to anoint his head, like in
the psalm, but I’m not brave enough to do that. I’m not
worthy to anoint his head. But I can look after his feet. I
don’t mind that he has walked a long way to be here and they
will be a bit dirty or smelly. I break open the bottle and
the delicious aroma fills the surrounding air. As I pour the
perfume onto his feet, as he lays at the table talking, it
is as if there is no one else there, but him and me. The man
who has brought me so close to God that I sometimes think I
can feel his very presence there with me. The man who has
taught me so much. The man who has brought my brother back
from the dead. And without thinking I loosen my hair from
its fastening and let it hang down in front of me. I can’t
just use a rag to dry up the perfume, I have to use the best
that I have, and that’s my hair. It’s gentle and soft.

A sharp voice brings me out of my reverie. I’m suddenly
aware again of just how many people are present. I have my
hair down in front of others. How humiliating. The shame I
have brought on Lazarus. Tears fill my eyes as I hear the
voice of Judas cutting through my heart. “Why wasn’t this
perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a
year’s wages.” I look down at the pot. It’s empty. My whole
inheritance and dowry gone. What have I done? What was I
thinking? No man should be worth that much to me, however
holy they might appear. I shrink back. The whole room is
staring at me. The rich smell of the nard that is filling
the whole room suddenly seems sickeningly sweet. Not
beautiful. As out of place in that room as I am. I should
have stayed with Martha in the kitchen. I keep my head bowed
so no one can see me as I prepare to flee.
When suddenly I am aware of a gentle touch on my shoulder
and a soft voice comforting me. Mary. Mary.

He turns and talks more sharply to Judas “Leave her alone.
It was intended that she should save this perfume for the
day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you,
but you will not always have me.” My tears of humiliation
become tears of relief. He isn’t angry with me after all. He
seems to realise that it was an act of adoration. I don’t
really understand what he means. He isn’t going to die is
he? Not yet? He’s a hero. But a small feeling of doubt
starts to niggle my heart that maybe I’ve just opened the
door to the plotting of others. That I’ve anointed him with
the spices of burial. That things are all about to change.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:19 pm.

Saturday, 26 March 2022:

Mothering Sunday 2022

1 Samuel 1:20-end; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; John 19:25b-27
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our
redeemer. Amen.
Today can be a day of celebration, of sadness, or it can be
a day of desperation.
Celebration for those who have family who value the role of
a mother and all that it involves, whoever it may be who
fulfils the role of a mom.
Sadness for those whose families may not bother. Or those
who feel they can’t afford to send a card or a gift and feel
guilty. Or sadness if families are split across the country
or across the globe.
Desperation for those for whom today can be unbearably hard.
Those who have children who may be dysregulated; those
recently bereaved; those for whom parenthood is not their
All that and more.
So today is a challenge for anyone who is preaching.
There’s a balance to be found between the celebration and
the despair. It’s a fine line to tread.
So before we go down the sentimental, sickly sweet line
about Mothering Sunday being a day to say thank you to our
Mums, let’s have a look at what the role of Mom/Mum entails.
There’s a slight problem though. Everyone’s experience of a
mother is different. No one’s experience is the same as
anyone else’s. Straight away we’re backed into a corner.
Colourful cards in the shops, beautiful flowers, various
plants, all sorts of gifts from toiletries to chocolates,
all these have been out in the shops trying to tempt buyers.
Trying to appeal to shoppers’ good nature. “Thank your Mom
with a gift from here!” screamed a banner in a shop window.
Thank her for what?
We know the history of today – the fourth Sunday of Lent,
when servant girls would go home for the day and often
picked little posies of flowers to give to their mother when
home. Nowadays it’s usually called Mother’s Day. If you hunt
around, there are still cards to be found out there bearing
the words Mothering Sunday. I wonder though, is it relevant
in today’s society?
Let’s have a look at our Bible readings today and see how
they help us interpret the mothering role.
Samuel was born as a result of Hannah’s answered prayer. How
difficult it must have been for her to hand her beloved
child over to Eli! She kept her faith with God. The result
was the prophet Samuel led and advised the people of Israel
and became part of our own story.
The reading from John’s Gospel points us to the Cross, to
the events of Holy Week. Like Mary, we watch, helpless, as
Jesus dies on the cross. Mary and the beloved disciple did
not abandon Jesus and run away. They stayed loyal to the
Neither of these stories glorify motherhood. If anything
they speak of the pain it can bring – sorrow and grief.
Motherhood is no bed of roses.
Wait, though. This isn’t all about women. For Jesus in his
agony looks down from the cross. He knows who is there. And
he says to Mary, “behold your son.” And to John, he says,
“here is your mother.”
A new family is formed right there at the foot of the cross.
A family formed not through any bloodline, but through love.
Jesus loved his mother. He loved his friend. A woman in
that society would be cast out without a husband or sons to
provide for her. Here he makes sure that Mary is provided
for. Taken care of. And I bet Jesus knew that in turn she
would support John.
Love is a two- way process. If the last two years have
taught us anything, they’ve taught us that we are all to
care for and look after one another. We share in each
other’s sorrows and sufferings, and we rejoice together when
things go well.
Is this the sort of love God wants to show us? The love God
wants us to live by? Love rooted in God, knowing that he
nurtures and cares for us.
The name Samuel means, ‘asked of the Lord.’ Samuel was God’s
answer to Hannah’s prayers.
And without Mary’s ‘yes’ to God, we wouldn’t be here now,
sharing together!

However you may feel today, and whatever you think about
Mothering Sunday, you’re not on your own. Today is about
love. We can celebrate that on earth there are parents and
carers and aunts and uncles and grandparents who fulfil the
nurturing, mothering role. We can listen to and walk
alongside those who sadly have not had nurturing, loving
experiences in their own lives. And we can share the love of
God with everyone we meet, for God loves everyone no matter
who we are, what family we are born into, what family we
grow up in, whether we are young or old – God’s love is for
us all.
And in the same way that today makes sure we don’t take
those who care for us for granted, I wonder if perhaps it’s
a little nudge to remind us not to take God for granted.
Is today relevant? I suppose it depends how cynical we may
feel. But if today reminds us that someone loves us, that we
are cared for, and accepted for who we are, and if we can
thank God for those people in our own lives who do love us,
or who have loved us, then yes I think it’s relevant.
So today text or call someone who is important to you,
someone who plays a special role in your life.
And remember that we love because Christ first loved us.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:00 pm.

Monday, 21 March 2022:

3rd Sunday of Lent 2022

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in your sight O Lord, for you are our strength
and our redeemer. Amen.

Our readings this week invite us to think how we draw
boundaries, how we define those who are ‘in’ and who are
‘out.’ They all tell of suffering; they speak of sin and the
need to repent. Repent doesn’t only mean saying sorry; it
means turning away, changing ways, going back to how God
wants us to live.
Our Old Testament reading from Isaiah tells of a God who is
patient and loving, who will forgive and give second chances
in ways we can never understand, for God’s mercy is beyond
our comprehension. As for our Gospel, it seems that here is
a great opportunity for Jesus to condemn the Roman
authorities, for him to condemn Pilate.
We can imagine the crowd huddled in groups talking about the
latest catastrophe, appalled that Pilate has murdered a
group of Galileans. Then someone says, “And how about those
workers south of the city working on the Tower of Siloam –
it’s collapsed on them, they’re dead too.” And before you
can collect your thoughts, your neighbour pipes up, “Well,
they probably deserved it, they must have brought it upon
themselves, there is no other explanation.”
How easy it is to judge. How easy it is to look on at the
situation in Ukraine and feel compassion for all those
displaced people, or for those who have lost their lives.
And it’s right that there should be a way to help those
fleeing from war, and offer places of safety. But where
were those places of safety for people of Syria? How easy it
is to judge and to accept those who look more like
ourselves, whatever we look like.
A closer look at the Gospel and the context behind it may
help us to understand both Jesus’s comments and the parable.
Jesus is told that Pilate has murdered Galileans, and
mingled their blood with sacrifices – it’s a gruesome story,
and in light of recent weeks we may be tempted to think,
“that’s like Putin and the innocent people in Ukraine.”
Jesus says, “Do you think these people deserved what
happened to them? That they deserved it because of sin?” Of
course they didn’t deserve it. How many times do we speak to
each other in conversation, talking about someone who has
suffered and died, saying, “He/she didn’t deserve that…”We
mean well, of course; what we are saying is that we don’t
wish our loved ones to have to suffer. But suffering is part
of the nature of being human and we can’t separate the good
and the bad stuff out of life. Jesus says we all go wrong
and mess up, we all sin, and we are to turn back to God and
say sorry, and change our ways. Second, third, fourth
Jesus shows the compassion of the God in Isaiah who loves
and forgives in ways we cannot begin to understand. So he
tells that well-known parable of the fig tree. In those
days, the landlord would be an absentee landlord, who owned
the land, and would rent it out to a famer who sowed the
crops, looked after them, harvested them and would use some
of that income to pay his rent for farming the land. It was
a harsh existence. It seems that the owner of the land only
cares about if the fig tree flowers or not. If it doesn’t
flower, it’s no good for it will not produce fruit to sell.
The gardener – the farmer – waters and nurtures the plant,
perhaps sees that there is still life there and wants to
give the plant another chance. It will bear fruit. But if
not, cut it down – in other words, there will be a day of
judgement, a day of reckoning.
In the Old Testament, vines and fig trees were used as a
common symbol for peace and prosperity, so Jesus’s listeners
would well understand the symbolic meaning of this story.
Unproductive plants were seen as a symbol of unfaithful
nations or unfaithful people.
We need to understand that the Palestinian fig tree takes
three years to grow, and according to the book of Leviticus
the fruit for the following three years is forbidden, but
after that the fruit is considered suitable for offering to
the Lord and to be eaten. The tree bears fruit for about 10
months of the year, either ripening or ripe – so a healthy
tree would be easy to see. A stern warning from Jesus about
what happens if we persist in sin. Don’t point the finger at
others, pointing out what they are doing wrong – look at
what’s going on in your own life, and say sorry, and change
your mindset. That’s what Jesus is saying.
And it’s hard! I’m not making excuses, but it’s easy to
think ‘karma comes around’ – and to a certain extent I’ve
thought it myself. But we’re not the ones to judge. Are we
so sure we’re the good people? Leave judgement to God, and
make sure we’re living by God’s rules.
The theologian Paula Gooder offers some thoughts on this
Firstly, is God the absentee landowner? Is Jesus the
gardener? Is humanity the unproductive fig tree?
If the landlord is absent and uncaring, though, it can’t be
Or, does the landlord ‘deserve’ to find much fruit on the
tree and is therefore disappointed when there is not
harvest? Is this how we want to depict God?
Or, she says, are the gardener and landlord foils to the fig
tree which is offered a reprieve and time to become
reproductive? Whatever your view, the meaning is clear –
change your ways in order to become productive. Change needs
to happen before it’s too late.
God is patient; he offers us chance after chance. But there
will be a day of reckoning…
And so we pray that this Lent we may focus on God’s will…
that we can be brave and honest enough to examine ourselves
and repent, in order to flourish and grow for God, bearing
fruit for him.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 3:26 pm.

Saturday, 12 March 2022:

Second Sunday of Lent 2022

Our readings today are a reminder that God’s promises are
not for a life without pain. The reflection for Saturday’s
‘Live Lent – embracing justice’ contemplated how we are to
think through how we seek justice and compassion for all.
The war in Ukraine is upper most in our thoughts, and we’re
not to forget there are other parts of the world where there
is unrest, fighting, injustice, no rights.
So today we stand along those who are stretched to their
utmost limit. We pray with them. We pray for them.
Prayer is strong. Sometimes- because we’re human - we need a
visual sign of our prayer.
Today we pray for peace. The choir will sing a Taize chant
(please join in!) and feel free to light a candle as a
symbol of your prayer response at this time.
We pray,
Lord, we join our hearts to you, for it’s you who goes
before us, amongst the troubles, with the grief and
brokenness of conflict.
We join our hearts to you, for it’s you who is beneath us,
carrying the wounded, the homeless, the outcasts and the
We join our hearts to you, for it’s you who reigns above,
who sees the earth filled with love and beauty, yet a world
shrouded in darkness.
We join our hearts to you, for our prayers are yours,
prayers for this land to be clothed in the saving grace
which flows from Calvary.
We join our hearts to you, for we long to be you’re your
hands, your feet, your voice and your love to the world.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:53 pm.

Saturday, 5 March 2022:

1st Sunday of Lent 2022

Through the written words and the spoken word, may we know
your Living Word, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our readings this morning all call on faith communities to
remember their own stories of oppression and injustice and
to commit to seeking justice for others.
How apt, given the terrible situation in Ukraine.
How apt, given all those places in our world where there is
injustice and where many people have no rights.
The psalm set for today, verses from psalm 91, reminds us
that God is with us throughout the good and troubled times.
Our salvation, we learn from our readings, is bound up in
good deeds and service, and our Gospel reminds us that the
way of the Cross is not wealth, power and ease, but with
justice, kindness and mercy.
So where does that leave us in March 2022, coming out of a
pandemic and straight into conflict between Russia and
Ukraine and the immediate impact the invasion has on the
world? Where is the justice, kindness and mercy for Ukraine
as Russia targets it for further devastation? And where is
the justice, kindness and mercy for the ordinary citizens of
Russia who are fed media lies and whose own lives are being
squeezed due to the necessary sanctions?
Tough questions, and not ones I can answer!
Our reading from Deuteronomy reminds us of God’s goodness.
It was written to remind the Israelite community of all that
God had done for them and how he led them out of slavery.
The readings from Exodus (which we will use in Holy Week)
are part of our own story, of our own heritage, of our own
faith. Being reminded of God’s goodness and how He is always
there, even when He feels far away – well, the reminder
helps to sustain a thankful heart.
It helps to remember that Jesus knew what we term the Old
Testament scriptures. He read them, prayed them. We can hold
that thought and allow the reality, the implication of that
to seep into our minds.
The story of Jesus tempted in the desert is well known.
Luke’s version differs slightly to Matthew’s Gospel; in
Luke, the last two temptations are transposed; and in Luke,
we read that the devil departs ‘until an opportune time.’
I’ll come back to that later…
The reading from Deuteronomy reminds us that the Israelites
spent 40 years in the wilderness, and our Gospel tells us
Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, in the wilderness. And
all three of Jesus’s responses to the devil are drawn from
the story of Israel’s testing when in the desert.
Let’s have a brief look at the temptations of Jesus. He was
in the desert for 40 days and Luke records he ate nothing at
all during those days. I’ve never been to the Holy Land but
I can picture the harsh paths and the stark skyline. I can
imagine how the days were counted by seeing the stars and
the changing moon. Deserts may be warm by day, but they drop
very cold at night; there’s no cloud cover to retain the
heat. How difficult it must have been to stay there…yet, we
read that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. Not on his
own, then. This is a test of his humanity. The temptation
would be to use his divine skills to make his life easier.
“Turn these stones into bread,” suggests the tempter. No
need to starve yourself, you’re a man who works miracles!
You can do this! But Jesus counteracts with a quote from
Deuteronomy (8:3): “One does not live on bread alone.” We
could end that quote with, “but by every word that comes
from the mouth of the Lord.”
I wonder, how do we appease our hunger? How do we relieve
our physical hunger, but also our hunger for God and for his
The second temptation is to have the glory of all the
kingdoms of the world and in return to worship the devil –
to worship evil. Again, Jesus responds to the tempter with
a quote from Deuteronomy (6:16) “It is written, ‘You shall
only worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
In other words, the temptation is being even bigger than the
Heavenly Father.
I wonder, who do we serve? Who do we serve instead of God?
The final temptation is to throw himself off the parapet of
a great height and allow the angels to protect him. Jesus
quotes again from Deuteronomy (6:16): “It’s written do not
put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus did not show off
his power. God the Father is over and above all of us. I
wonder, do we sometimes want to show off our own power?
So – three temptations. Three responses with quotes from the
Scriptures which perhaps point us to Jesus reliving the
story of the Israelites in the wilderness, but getting it
right with God, avoiding temptation.
Temptation is difficult! Let’s not trivialize it. Most of
you know I’ve been steadily losing weight over the last 18
months and the temptation to binge on chocolate can be so
hard at times! Of course there are times when I give in to
temptation. And there are times when I can be more
We’re not to beat ourselves up, not set ourselves up to
fail. The lesson from today is that God travels this road
with us. We do have strength to resist if we call on God.
And when we mess up, which we will all do, we can receive
forgiveness when we are penitent. Jesus’s rejection of
temptation can give us a pattern for our own lives – even
when things are unbelievably tough, we do not have to feel
desperate, the Word of God can fill us.
And I know that’s not easy to hold onto when life is
unbelievably tough.
To return to the last line of today’s Gospel: “and the devil
departed from Jesus until an opportune time.” In the Gospels
of Mark and Matthew, the devil departs immediately. In
Luke, however, the tempter returns. And when does he return?
Luke’s Gospel suggests that Jesus is tempted time after time
when he is challenged by various groups. He is challenged
in the Garden of Gethsemane, in his trial, and most of all
on the cross. Temptation comes in many forms, in many ways.
Luke challenges us to stay alert and to be aware of this,
before we ourselves are spun off course.
Luke presents Jesus as the more powerful one. We know that,
deep down. But it does help to remember that although he is
the Son of God, he was fully human.
So as we look with sadness and heavy hearts, we recognise
all that the cross is not. It’s not power, or wealth, or
take-overs. It’s not God’s will for people to be hurt or
killed, or for there to be reign of terror. What we’re
called to do is to speak out for justice, to avoid being
tempted by thoughts of ‘what can I do, I can do nothing.’
For we can all do something – we can all pray for peace and
for those in power in Russia to have a change of heart. We
can pray for the people displaced by war. If we’re followers
of Jesus, we are to look to what the cross stands for –
justice, mercy, kindness, and follow Jesus.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:39 pm.

Thursday, 3 March 2022:

Ash Wednesday 2022

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Today’s liturgy speaks for itself, so only a few words from
me tonight. We can allow the liturgy, the music, the words
to wash over and seep into us, bringing us closer to the God
who calls each and every one of us by name.
Ash Wednesday is a day of turning: turning away from sin;
turning inwards as we examine our own lives; winter turning
towards spring and waiting for Easter.
Ashes are a traditional sign of repentance. It may seem
strange for us to go out of church this evening with the
mark of a cross in ash on our foreheads, when we think of
Jesus’s comments from tonight’s Gospel reading. Matthew, as
a Gospel writer, presented Jesus as a man who reformed what
discipleship meant. And surely the aim of any religious
practice is to help us develop our relationship with God.
But I think Jesus was asking people to be humble. Not to
shout from the rooftops, “Look, I’m doing x, y, and z for
good causes.” What Jesus is saying is do the actions, pray,
but do them quietly – God knows what you are doing and that
is enough. Go quietly about your business, and some of God’s
quietness will rub off on you.
For faith is a sign of an inward difference in our lives.
Our faith and belief in God makes us different people.
Makes us see life through a different lens. And self-
denial, if we think about Lenten fasts and the discussions
about giving things up for Lent, - self- denial is not
denial if we’re constantly talking about it.
It’s difficult to focus on much when we see the struggles
and sufferings of people in the Ukraine, engaged in a war,
invaded by a Russian army who themselves will be devoid of
the facts and could well be as scared as anyone else. It’s
difficult to focus on self-denial and discipline as we look
on, feeling helpless at other situations in the world –
poverty, injustice, starvation, - across the globe.
Helpless. And yet we are not on our own. God answers
prayer. He answers heartfelt prayer.
As we pray for peace, we are not on our own. Christians
throughout the world have held today as a day of fasting and
of prayer for peace in Ukraine. Sadness and anger runs deep
But God is not cut off from us. He does not abandon us but
offers us love and mercy.
What can we do this Lent? We can all offer various ways of a
F – FIRST – God needs to be first, top of our list. Give him
our time and attention as we pray.
A – Another person. What can we do or give that someone else
needs? This may be,
S – Something we’d miss. It could be money to a charity,
food to The Well, but it’s the kind of giving that costs us.
T – Time –we all have time, and we can ask God to help us
use it well.
FAST – First God, another person, something we’d miss, time.
One way of using time to draw closer to God is to pray,
maybe use the Live Lent books we’ve given out, and pray –
especially – for peace in Ukraine.
And so we pray:

Keep our faith real, Lord,
Fresh and alive.
Nurture our relationship with you, help us to pray.
Help us to make you our first priority.
Loving God,
We pray for the people of Ukraine,
for all those suffering or afraid,
that you will be close to them and protect them.
We pray for world leaders,
for compassion, strength and wisdom to guide their choices.
We pray for the world
that in this moment of crisis,
we may reach out in solidarity
to our brothers and sisters in need.
May we walk in your ways
so that peace and justice
become a reality for the people of Ukraine
and for all the world.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 4:18 pm.

Saturday, 19 February 2022:

2nd Sunday before Lent 2022

Luke 8:22-25 Stilling the Storm
Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word and the gift
and power of your Holy Spirit; we ask that our hearts and
minds be open to hear you. Amen.
Storms can be exhilarating, can’t they. Storms can also be
Whenever there’s a storm brewing, we have the luxury of
warnings from weather forecasters. We can batten down the
hatches. We can sit back and ride it out. If we’re not in
the middle of it, we marvel at the scenes on TV of wild seas
and huge waves crashing onto the sea front, onto the
promenade, onto the streets. There will be amazing photos
online which show the sea surges and the power and
magnificence of the waves.
Only last year, when camping in North Wales for a few days,
I spent a day on the sea front at Criccieth on a very wet,
blustery day. I remember I felt energised by the spray and
rain on my face, the feeling of being pulled about by the
wind. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore filled my
ears, assailed all my senses.
How I loved it! Easy to say, though, when I had a car to
retreat to and where I could dry off and wait for the storm
to pass.
For storms are either exhilarating or terrifying dependent
upon where you stand. Exhilarating if you watch from
relative safety. Terrifying if you are actually in the
middle of them.
As I write (Thursday afternoon,) Storm Eunice is predicted
to hit overnight and for large chunks of tomorrow. Many
outdoor events are already cancelled. Organisers have the
luxury of knowing the predicted weather pattern. People have
the chance to stay safe at home.
The disciples didn’t have this luxury!
And I don’t know if you noticed, but it’s Jesus himself who
leads the disciples into such danger. “Come on,” he said.
“Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.”
The Sea of Galilee is about thirteen miles long and seven
miles wide. It’s about 700 feet below sea level. On its
eastern side, it is surrounded by mountains some of them up
to 2000 feet above sea level – twice the size of Mount
Snowden, to put them into context. And the winds hurl
themselves down those hills, through the valleys, and cause
sudden, violent storms.
The storm in today’s Gospel takes the disciples, these
experienced fishermen, by surprise.
It didn’t take Jesus by surprise.
Storms hit us in all aspects of our lives. Just because we
follow Christ, does not make us exempt from the storms of
our own lives. The disciples obeyed Jesus – going out in the
boat into the deeper waters. The storm affected them even
though they did as He suggested.
I do wonder how he could sleep through it all! I can imagine
the growing fear of these men out there as the waves grew
bigger and more violent, as visibility decreased, as the
boat tossed and turned, at the mercy of the elements. No
shelter for these men. How could Jesus possibly sleep
through it?
If we take a step back, though, one thing is obvious. The
disciples fear for their own lives. And yet Jesus was with
them! He was there, with them through the storm.
“Save us!” they cried to him. The irony is, their Saviour
was with them all along. At the moment of complete turmoil
and panic, they feared for their own lives. Understandable.
I’m sure I’d be no different! Jesus, as he awakes, reveals
the bigger picture.
For here we see the incarnation at work – Jesus, fully
human, fully divine.
“Where is your faith?” he asks. We see him calming the
waters – those waters He created when present at the
Creation – here Jesus gives us a glimpse of God’s power.
“Where is your faith?” he asks us, as we pray through our
vision. As we move on with faculty applications and funding
repairs. “Where is your faith?”
And like the disciples, we look on, awestruck, pondering,
“Who is this, that the winds and waves obey him?”
If we believe Jesus is Lord over all, we have to entrust the
storms of life to him as well as the good bits.
“Where is your faith?” What feeds your faith? Space and time
to simply be? Music in the car or on the bus during a
journey, or an uplifting piece on the radio? A sunset or a
spectacular rainbow? A full moon that almost takes your
breath away? Where is your faith, where is your space to
allow faith in God to be nurtured, where is your faith, our
faith, in those difficult times?
Do we trust that God is with us through these times? If we
rely on our own strength, we are lost. We’re all at sea.
But in the strength of God, all things are possible even
though they’ll probably not work out how we envisage.

I end with a prayer by Judith Dimond:

Dear Lord, we cannot imitate your command of the winds and
the waves;
We know our place in the natural world is insignificant
But your incarnation makes us count, somehow.
May we place our faith in your love and power,
So that when we are in danger, we pray rather than panic
And when life is good, we give thanks.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:59 pm.

Saturday, 12 February 2022:

3rd Sunday before Lent 2022

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit, Amen.
When I look around my desk, there are several quotes that I
keep in sight. Quotes to inspire me and to motivate me.
Quotes to help me accept who I am and to simply do my best.
Quotes to make me smile.
For example, I have a tile print sent by a friend, which
reads: “Be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”
(a quote from 1 Corinthians 16 verses 13 and 14.) And I have
a card sent to me on my ordination as priest, a Hannah
Dunnett card for those who know that name. It’s a seascape
with fish and yachts bobbing up and down on the waves; it’s
entitled “Breath of God” and has the words to the hymn
“Breathe on me, breath of God” all around the images.
There’s a day-by-day tear-off calendar of ‘happy notes’ with
a daily reminder of positivity – such as, ‘You are loved
more than you realise’ and, ‘It’s not about perfect, it’s
about effort.’
All sorts of things that feed me, that help me to settle, to
accept who I am. Daily reminders that ‘God’s got this’ or –
to make the point – ‘God’s got me.’
But as we listen, read and pray through our readings today,
we may wonder what it’s all about. Our reading from
Jeremiah, our Old Testament reading, reminds us that people
had begun to trust in themselves, in religious rituals, in
wealth, and pretty much to trust in everything except God -
and look at the results! Paul reminds the Corinthians to
trust in the resurrection (and when he was writing, the idea
of resurrection was a fairly new belief and understanding)
because if they don’t believe in that, he says everything he
has taught them about God is in question.
And Jesus – seemingly – tells us that if we suffer, we are
Or is he? Is that what he is really saying?
The Hebrew scriptures used words like, “Blessed are you… you
will receive blessings,” so the crowd around Jesus would not
be surprised to hear him use such phrases in his own
teaching. They offered a cultural value, belief or pattern
of behaviour that was honourable, that was for the good of
everyone. But is Jesus really saying that we are to be poor,
in pain, in poverty, in order to follow his teachings?
To understand this a bit better, we need to look at the
context. In the ancient world two thousand years ago, the
word ‘poor’ meant poor as a social reality, as opposed to
economic wealth. So it could apply to an outsider, or a
misfit – someone outside the norm. And in that culture, if
you had power you could acquire wealth, whereas in our
modern Western world, wealth itself becomes power. And in
the ancient world, the poor were unable to defend
themselves. The phrase we often read is ‘poor, orphans,
widows.’ Orphans had no adult to look after or defend them.
As for widows, my reading informs me that even if she had
money, a widow was deemed poor if she had no son.
So perhaps we can better understand Jesus’s teaching if,
instead of the word poor, we use words like greedy or
socially burdened or troubled.
So we can see Jesus promises a reward for the powerless –
and that would apply to most of the people in that ancient
world. These Beatitudes become words of hope to those who
desperately needed it.
A bit like the ‘Happy notes’ day to day calendar on my
windowsill, only much better!
Luke’s Beatitudes differ to Matthew’s Gospel – we don’t have
the ‘woes’ in Matthew for example, but Luke is all about
encouraging faith and exploring what this may mean. So here
he is praising and lifting up the underdogs simply because
they are who they are where they are – and heaping coals on
those who see and do nothing to help. The woes, ancient
prophecies, go hand in hand with the beatitudes.
This sermon is addressed to the disciples with the crowd
listening on, so the teaching is aimed at those people who
have already decided to follow Christ. His words flow with
passion and as he heals folk in the crowd, we sense his
power – God’s power.
Does God only love us when we’re miserable? Of course not!
God loves us as we are with our many flaws and
imperfections. Jesus’s words remind us we are loved when we
are so low we feel we couldn’t sink any deeper. When we are
concerned about finances and rising bills; when we make
choices, when we are envious – through all of this, God
loves us.
But today’s readings are all about trust. Put our trust in
God. Empty ourselves, so that the space can be filled with
God. Realise that we rely on God, not on ourselves. When we
get that, when we grasp that and make a space for God to
fill, and spend some time in prayer or in reading the Bible,
then we begin to understand a bit deeper. We may lack power
– like children, childlike (not childish) but we are
empowered with the knowledge that what we do and say is in
God’s name.
Put our trust in God.
We see how God’s power pours out of Jesus, healing those who
came forward to be healed. Remember, though, that we aren’t
told that all healings are physical. Remember that Spiritual
healing is real healing too.
Our world needs this healing more than ever. We only have to
look at our own country to see the gaps – government
promises of ‘levelling up’ shows exactly the issues between
the north/south divide (and where does that leave the
Midlands?) – the gaps in wealth, the postcode lottery for
health care- we are called to pray through and address
these issues (and more) for God’s sake and our own.
Trust in God.
Jeremiah, saying trust in God not in ‘things.’
Paul, saying trust in the Resurrection and get on with God’s
Luke, telling those who follow Jesus that they are blessed,
encouraging them. His Gospel is good news for the poor.
Where do we fit into all this?
Where are we to place our trust?
Take the reading sheet home with you this week, and focus on
one of the readings – whichever makes the most sense to you.
Read it each day. Spend a few minutes in prayer; even if no
conscious thoughts come to mind, you will be resting in God.
And allow God to do the rest.
Trust in our God who comes to each one of us. Think of the
beautiful imagery of the tree spreading out its roots near
water, the imagery in the reading from Jeremiah. Pray that
we draw closer to God in faith and in love.
And in the words of my tile print, “be courageous; be
strong. Do everything in love.”

Posted by Janet Taylor at 3:09 pm.

Sunday, 6 February 2022:

4th Sunday before Lent 2022 Accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne

Accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our
redeemer. Amen.
Seventy years ago today our Queen heard that her beloved
father had died. This meant that she herself became Queen.
A calling she had not expected prior to the abdication. A
calling she embraced and continues to embrace even though
she is a wonderful 95 years old.
Our readings today are all about calling. Isaiah in the
temple, hears a call from God.
Paul, writing to his beloved friends in Corinth, writing as
someone who recognised the call of Jesus on his life.
Peter, out in the boat, recognises something in Jesus that
makes him call out, ‘Lord!’ – a term used by the evangelists
after the resurrection – but Peter recognises Jesus’s true
Calling. The calling of discipleship. That’s what today is
about, in our readings, and also reflected in the calling
our Queen.
Isaiah, Paul and Peter all expressed their doubts. Their
unworthiness, their, “Who, me? You’ve got that wrong, God!”
The disciples must have known Jesus pretty well by now.
Fishing is their job, their family way of life. They’re the
experts when it comes to fishing out on those waters. Jesus
is a carpenter by trade – not a fisherman! Yet he is a
fisherman, but not in the traditional sense, the literal way
we would understand it. Simon and his mates have been out on
the waters all night with little reward, and we can imagine
their anxiety; another few nights like this and their
livelihoods are at a risk, their way of life threatened.
Given all that, the disciples sense in Jesus something that
compels them to do as he suggests –to give the nets another
go, no matter how mad it must seem and how other fishermen
might ridicule them.
I wonder how often Jesus had watched Simon. He must have
been in their town for a while, observing, while he began to
heal and to preach.
Once the disciples followed Jesus’s instructions, they were
so convinced of him that they left everything to follow him.
I wonder if that was because he met them at a low point,
when they really needed him – and recognised in him the Good
News for everyone. The catch of fish they hauled in was so
great that there would be enough to trade and support their
families and communities for a further few days.
Jesus met them where they were, coming to them, in their
need, in their particular situation. Which is exactly what
Jesus will do for us if we trust him enough.
The Queen has a deep faith in God. In 1947, she said,
“My whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted
to your service…but I shall not have strength to carry out
this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I
now invite you to do: I know that your support will be
unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God
bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”
She recognised her call, but leant on God and asked for
prayers, believing in the power of prayer, believing firmly
in God and the promises of Jesus.
Like the fishermen with empty nets, we will all recognise
empty times in our lives. Bleak times, times when all
seemed or seems lost. We’ve shared the experience of living
through the pandemic and now face difficult financial
decisions with rising fuel bills and the like. Shared
experiences. And in the same moment, Jesus comes to us all.
Will come to us in this Eucharist as we share Holy
Communion. Comes to us in our own needs, in different ways,
if we – like Simon Peter – acknowledge him.
That’s not to say that life will be rosy and easy once we
recognise the call of Jesus. It won’t! But we will have a
constant companion and guide. And a hope of better things to
However it may come, God’s call on our lives is important.
God provides our needs – not our wish list or our wants. Her
Majesty the Queen was called unexpectedly to her role once
her father became King. She has been faithful to her
promises, to her calling.
And us? What of our calling?
I wonder, from where do we gain support and encouragement at
the times of hopelessness? What helps us to keep going?
I wonder, how do we seek out where God is at work in our
lives? In our congregation? In our parish? Wherever we may
Many of us will I’m sure think, “Who me? No, I can’t do
that!” when an idea or thought comes to us. I know I thought
“Not me, God!” when I initially heard the call to
ordination. Whatever, however we are called to act, I offer
a few thoughts:
Focus not on our unworthiness, our initial “who, me? No
way!” reaction, but instead ask and allow God to give us the
worthiness, the strength and vision to do whatever we are
called to do. For God says to each and every one of us, “I
love you.” He does not say, “I reject you!”
I wonder, who are the apostles in our world? Who will God
send today?
The call of people comes at different times in different
places. It doesn’t matter where we are. What matters is
that we recognise and hear this call.
What matters is that our discipleship rests on God, on Jesus
– not in our own strength, not in our own efforts.
God says to each of us: “I have a job for you. Forget your
self -doubts. You can do this. I’ll support you.”
And in so doing, like Simon Peter as he fished out on the
lake, we will be helped in the catching, and be caught

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:13 am.

Saturday, 29 January 2022:

30.1.22 4th Sunday of Epiphany

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our
redeemer. Amen.
On Thursday I managed to spend an hour or so in the garden,
tidying the borders, getting rid of the dead and decaying
branches. Nothing remarkable about that, you may think, and
on one level you’d be right. However, that hour became a
transformative time. A time of revelation, as it were, an
Epiphany moment.
What was it that was so special about that time?
Well, at first I was leaning forwards, bending over the
plants and the soil from a standing position. It took me ten
minutes to realise that this wasn’t going to do my back any
good! So I found something to kneel on, and then knelt down
surrounded by the soil.
Gradually, I found my senses were assailed by different
smells; the scent of the rich earth, the smell of plants way
past their best, none of it unpleasant. I’m sure I’m not
being fanciful here - I think I could hear the soil moving
as insects moved out of my way. I could see so much more
when I was closer to the ground. It was easier to gently
ease the soil away from roots and dead branches, when I was
right by the roots and in amongst the soil.
And I found myself feeling at peace despite everything
that’s going on around us – despite the long ‘to do’ list
that I have. I found a rhythm. A sense of contentment. And
I know it led me into prayer; prayer without words, allowing
the repetitive nature of pruning and weeding to take me
deeper into God.
I felt a connection with the soil, and the plants, that I’ve
not felt before. A feeling that each part is important and
as necessary as the other. That I had a role to play in this
too, to ensure the eco structure continues, to encourage
bees and butterflies and insects into the garden as well as
our practical aim which is to turn a football pitch into a
garden for insects and wild birds to enjoy!
Our reading from Corinthians is well known. St Paul’s
litany to love. We hear it read at weddings, and also
funerals. He writes of the agape of love – how love is when
face to face with God, in whom we find our fulfilment and
our hope.
For today’s readings are all about love. Love, and the Holy
Spirit. Love is part of the very nature of God. Agape love
is that love which reaches out to one another with no
expectations of anything in return. That love which is
compassionate and caring. The giving form, or part, of
love. It’s the love that God extends to everyone. And what
gives us this love? The power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s love that calls this meeting of two different
generations in today’s Gospel. The love of, and for, God.
Simeon is guided by the Spirit. He has prayed faithfully in
the Temple, waiting for God to comfort Israel, to send light
and hope. The Spirit prompts Simeon to recognize this gift,
and to look upon the face of God in this infant child. His
reward for all those years of faithful waiting is to hold
the infant child in arms. He was awake. He recognized God
at work, he recognized that here in this baby was the
fulfilment of prophecies. Others may not have recognized.
Mary and Joseph went to the Temple as was the Jewish custom.
They went to fulfil the requirements of the Jewish law, for
Jesus to be blessed in the temple, and they took with them
the offering of the poor – two turtle doves.
We’ll explore this Gospel further on Wednesday, when we
celebrate the feast of Candlemas. But for now, we can think
of how both Anna and Simeon said words of prophecy, love and
hope when they encountered the infant Jesus.
Simeon recognised that Jesus is “the light to lighten the
Gentiles.” In other words, not only for Israel, not only for
the Jews, but for the whole world, all inclusive, everyone.
Anna recognised something special about the baby, and
continued to praise God and to say that the redemption of
Israel – the Jews – was at hand.
This was a world waiting for hope. A world no different to
Simeon and Anna recognised God in a baby.
May we too be prompted by the Holy Spirit to recognise God
in unexpected places.
May we, too, rest and wait in God, remaining faithful in
Simeon waited patiently in the Temple, praying. Can we wait
patiently, like him, trusting that we will receive all that
we need from God?
Simeon and Anna must have had moments of stillness. Moments
where prayer is prayer without words. A gift, a sense of
peace, just as I experienced in the garden. Those moments of
waiting upon God.
I wonder, can we be patient and pray for the future of this
church and this parish, trusting in God’s plan?
I wonder, are we aware enough to allow God to work through
us in unexpected ways?
Simeon recognised the great Light in Christ. As we come
towards the end of the Epiphany season, can we keep the
Light of Christ within us, that great Hope and Expectation
from Christmas and be open to the revelation of God at work
in our own lives?
In this final Sunday of the Epiphany season, my prayer is
that we, too, may focus on that Light, the Light of Christ,
wherever that may lead us.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:37 pm.

Monday, 24 January 2022:

Epiphany 3 2022

1 Cor 12
One of the things that you have to appreciate when working
in health care is how the body works. In training you
quickly discover how the various systems in the body are
dependent on each other if they are going to work
effectively. Take the brain for instance. It needs a good
oxygen supply to function and on top of this it takes the
lion’s share of the glucose that gets circulated after food
has been digested. Without these it does not work as it
should and anyone here who is diabetic may have experienced
the effects of when there is not enough glucose in the blood
for the brain to work. It can lead to some unpleasant
feelings and bizarre behaviour that could be mistaken for
The one thing that we try and do in hospital is to try where
possible to ensure that the various systems are working as
they should to ensure that people stay healthy. I used to
work on orthopaedic ward where people would come in with
broken hips. But it often was not just the fracture that
needed fixing but also the other health problems that may
have to. Often heart and lung conditions needed to have
medication started or changed, and then there was also
unstable diabetes which also needed attention. All of this
was to maximise health and possible prevent the risk of
further injuries.
The theme of the body being in many parts is the key one
running through our second reading. We know that Paul was
not a doctor but he seems to have a grasp on how the
different parts of the body contribute to the whole and he
is using it to make an important point to the church at
Corinth. The church at Corinth should have been a rising
star that had everything going for it. It was spiritually
blessed with gifts from the Holy Spirit and these were
clearly seen in its common life. However, it had many
Firstly, it lacked leadership as there was no single
individual holding the church together. Because of this
cliques and splinter groups have formed and many of them did
not get on. Some had taken their disputes to the courts to
settle their differences which showed that the church did
not have the spirit of love that Jesus gave to all.
At the start of the letter, we find out just how bad this
had become as some claimed to follow Paul and some Cephas
and some to Jesus. And in our reading Paul starts to deal
with and the question he had posed ‘has Christ been divided’
Then there was the issue of spiritual snobbery over the
gifts that had been given. Some groups felt superior to
others because of what they had been given and this led to
further division and ill feeling.
Paul has to remind them that the whole church is part of the
body of Christ. Just as the physical body is made of many
different parts then it is also true of the spiritual body
that is the church that makes up the body of Christ on
earth. Each member of the Corinthian church was received
into the body of Christ through their baptism and it is
through baptism that they were given the various gifts that
they now enjoy. Regardless of who they were in the church
or whichever gift that they were given they all still
belonged to the same body. And it was the example of the
physical body that he used to remind them that they were all
equal and were not to look down on anyone who had different
spiritual gifts or none at all. As a result of them
splitting into various groups these questioning the validity
of each other’s belonging. ‘You cannot possibly be a true
Christian because you cannot speak in tongues’. ‘My gift is
superior to yours because I can prophecy and you cannot’.
He reminds them of their own body and that the various parts
cannot say that they do not belong. The eye cannot say that
it does not belong because it is not an ear, and the foot
cannot say that it does not belong because it is not a hand.
For all play an important part in the bodies functioning as
a whole. If anyone was missing then the body would not work
effectively and no part of the body can say to another
because its function is different ‘I don’t need you’. All
are important and play a key role in being the body of
Christ here on earth. Just as God has created the physical
body, he has also created the spiritual body of Jesus so
that in their differences they were all equal and no one was
to look down on each other because of the gifts that they
had been given. In fact, they were to care for each other in
the same way that God cares for all, and that the least
blessed were to be given the greater honour. Dissension
amongst them was to cease. We will never know how effective
this message was as relations between Paul and the
Corinthian church were strained for a while despite his
affection for them.
Although much of what Paul has to say seems to be around the
use of spiritual gifts his message about the church being
the body of Christ made up of many parts applies to the
church today. If you were to look back through church
history you would find it did not heed Paul’s message and
the divisions that threatened to break the church at Corinth
have been repeated again and again. The early church fought
fiercely over points of doctrine especially over the nature
of Jesus and there were many battles over who had ultimate
authority which led to the church in the west and the east
splitting. The greatest tragedy was during the reformation
where the disputes over practice and belief caused many to
lose their lives.
Within my own faith journey, I have seen our church fight
over the role of women and inclusion. Whilst energy is being
put into this the eye seems to have been taken off the real
challenge that besets us and that is how to proclaim the
Gospel in a society that increasingly sees what we believe
as being irrelevant. Difference in tradition and church
practice should not be that which should divide us. Indeed,
it should be seen as what enriches the body of Christ as a
whole. The church as a whole need to accept that not
everyone needs to be an eye to be part of the body as it
needs ears and feet as well. We need to celebrate and hold
dear that which all parts of the body have in common and
accept each other and let us make each part of the body
welcome where ever the body may meet.
You may be thinking what has this got to do with me as it is
something I cannot change. But there is something. Today we
are part the way through the week of prayer for church
unity. This is something that we can all join in. Jesus on
the night before he died prayed that his disciples would all
be one as Jesus and the Father are one. In the week to come
this needs to be our prayer that God will draw the different
parts of his church together to see each other as fellow
travellers on the road of life and to value each other. That
the things that hold us back in our relationship with each
other may be overcome.
Over the course of the past 50 years or so there has been
significant progress in the relationships between churches
of different traditions and a growing realisation that we
can work together. But there is still much that needs to be
done until we truly can be seen as being Christ’s body here
on earth. Those of us who train at Queens are fortunate to
part of a community made of people from different
traditions, and it is a safe space for us to not only to be
formed into the likeness of Christ but to learn how to value
each other’s traditions. So that when we are ordained, we
are used to working ecumenically as one body. There needs to
be more places like Queens shaping future ministers of the
church so that the church may one day reflect on earth that
which is now in heaven, where all are united with God and
sing praise to Him with one voice. In heaven there is no
division and this is the hope that we should be working
However, until that time arises there are many challenges
that lie ahead as we the church in this community and others
join in with the mission that God invites us to join in.
This may mean that we need to put aside silo working and
instead work together to share the Gospel in a society that
does not want to hear it. We need God to draw his church
together so that one day the prayer we say at the Eucharist
may be the prayer of the whole church ‘although we are many,
we are one body because we share the same bread’ Can I
invite you all to join me in saying this prayer not only
over the next few days but also in the weeks that lie ahead.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 5:25 pm.

Friday, 14 January 2022:

Second Sunday of Epiphany 2022

May I speak in the name of God who is our Creator, our
Redeemer and our Sustainer. Amen.
Names are so important. We may be named after someone. Our
name might be a name that is traditionally handed down
throughout generations of the family. It might be a more
modern name, a name chosen because parents really like the
name. When I was a teacher I can remember raising eyebrows
at some of the names on the class register – and yet, when I
met the child, the name fitted exactly.
Unless we change our name by deed poll, one thing’s for
sure. We don’t get to choose our own name. Whether
abbreviated or always said in full, our names are important.
There’s always something very special about being addressed
by your own name – well, so it seems to me. That’s without
reflecting on the quotes from Isaiah chapter 43 (verse 1) –
“I have called by your name, you are mine.”
Where’s this taking us? Well, what strikes me as I read this
passage in John’s Gospel, is that Mary is never named. She
is known as “the Mother of Jesus.” The Matthew and Luke name
Mary as Jesus’s mother – possibly because it is in their
Gospels that we read about the birth of Jesus. John and Mark
don’t. They tell us who she is but never call her by her
Yet, as we visualize this story, we know it so well. We can
picture the scene. A very hot climate – yes, the need for
clean water, especially at a wedding, is vital. Imagine
yourself two thousand years ago in this scene. There’s a
cultural expectation for everything to be provided. The
bride and her family would be escorted to the groom’s house,
where the celebrations and festivities would begin. The
feast would last for a long time. Celebrations would
continue. The lack of wine at such an event was a serious
problem and would be a huge failure in hospitality. The
ancient custom was for guests to take along wedding gifts in
the form of food and drink. If there wasn’t enough, could
this be a sign to show the groom and his family did not
enjoy the support from the local community that they might
expect? Whatever the situation, Mary realises what’s going
I can imagine her whispers to Jesus. Whispers between a
mother and an adult son. A mother who understands the shame
that limited hospitality would bring on the groom’s family.
And so Mary – I imagine – whispers to Jesus that there’s no
more wine. Jesus’s response on first glance seems uncaring,
“Woman, what concern is that to you, and me?” he says. But
Mary doesn’t respond to him. She knows her son; knows how
he cares for others. Mothers often seem to know better,
don’t they…! Intuitively, she tells the servants to do
whatever he says.
The revelation of this story is revealed not to the family
or to the guests. The revelation is to the servants. The
lowest people in the society at the wedding. They’re the
only ones who know that Jesus instructed them to fill the
jars to the brim. Six stone water jars, each containing
about twenty or thirty gallons – that’s a lot of wine, 120-
180 gallons!
The steward himself doesn’t know who is responsible for
this. Mary knows. The servants know.
We know.
John calls this a sign. In John’s Gospel, it is the first
of seven such signs which point to something beyond
themselves. A bit like a road sign, pointing the way ahead.
This sign points us to something much better than the wine.
It points us to the source of our lives. It points us to
This Gospel reminds us of the ‘insider/outsider’ theme that
runs throughout John’s Gospel. Points us to the revelation
of Jesus’s sign to the servants. The outsiders, so to speak.
Yet they’re the ones who are privileged to know. Not to
understand. But to know.
God’s love overflows throughout this story. Overflows
throughout today’s readings – from Corinthians we read that
love never ends, and shows itself in many ways. We’re
reminded today of the gifts of the Spirit. What gifts are
present in our church? How can we use these gifts for the
benefit of the whole, for the benefit of our local community
and where we may live and work?
My prayer is that we ask God to help us discern where he is
at work in and around us.
For us to discern aspects of our lives where we may long for
water to be turned into wine. For people to have hope in
difficult circumstances.

“You’ve saved the best till now,” says the steward. It’s
easy to look back with fondness on days when the church was
full, when there were good times. But there are good times
now. Good times are not over. Are we alert to the
possibilities the Good News of Jesus can bring to those
around us?
We face with boldness the challenges ahead. And so, we pray:
Unchanging God, make us open to change and prepared for
challenge, for your love brings hope from despair and joy
from disaster. As we grow each in our own vocation, may our
faith in you never waver. May we be prepared to do whatever
you will. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:27 pm.

Monday, 10 January 2022:

Baptism of Christ 2022

May I speak in the name of our God who is our Creator, our
Redeemer and our Sustainer. Amen.
Baptism is an important aspect of our faith, where we
ourselves, or our parents/carers and Godparents, make
promises. Promises that we believe in God, that we believe
Jesus to be the Son of God, that we believe in the gift and
grace of the Holy Spirit. Promises that we reject evil. Big
promises, not to be undertaken lightly.
I expect most of us here can recall a baptism or christening
that felt really special. There have been many that stand
out for me for various reasons. A few years ago, I was
privileged to attend our niece’s baptism. She was in her
late teens and baptized into a Baptist church, where she’s
attended all her life. Being a Baptist church, the baptism
was by full immersion. It was the first baptism by immersion
I had seen and it was breathtaking. Firstly, the sense of
God being present was – quite simply – there. Secondly,
there was something very powerful about the symbolic nature
of being plunged under the water – and thirdly it occurred
to me how much our niece placed her trust in the pastor and
her Dad who were in the baptistry pool alongside her.
We don’t know if Jesus’s baptism in the River Jordan was by
full immersion or by sprinkling of water, having water
poured over him. We can’t know and the various commentaries
I’ve dipped into don’t reach a consensus. What is important
is that we have on record in the Gospels that Jesus himself
was baptized.
Symbolically and spiritually, water has always played its
part in religious experiences and traditions. During
lockdown I was drawn to the canal; I’d run to the canal bank
and then walk alongside the water, slowing down, finding a
rhythm. Whether a small pond, a spring or brook, a stream or
river, whether a lake or the sheer power of the sea; many
people find a sense of peace or exhilaration and a sense of
God and of His Spirit, when they are near water.
The account in Luke’s Gospel differs to the other Gospels.
In Mark and Matthew, it is John the Baptist who baptizes
Jesus. The verses that are omitted in today’s lectionary
tell us that, in Luke’s account, John is in prison before
Jesus is baptized. I’ve always imagined it to be John the
Baptist who baptized Jesus, but that’s not the case in
Luke’s Gospel. What is important for Luke is that Jesus and
all other believers were baptized. What’s important for
Luke, (and it’s no surprise, given that he also wrote the
Book of the Acts of the Apostles) is that the Holy Spirit
was revealed to come upon Jesus after the baptism.
John had prepared the crowds for the coming of Jesus. “I
will baptize with water, the One to come, will baptize you
with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Fire here could be an
image of the purifying word of God’s Spirit. Or perhaps
there’s something in the translation that links it to wind.
In Luke’s Gospel, crowds are always asking questions.
They’re not passive observers. They become part of the
I wonder, where would you place yourself at the scene of
Jesus’s baptism?
As you place yourself there, among the crowds, perhaps you
are being baptized yourself. Perhaps you are curious and
want to see what all this is about. And together with all
those present, you hear a voice.
“This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased.”
But – and this is key – we hear the voice, and we see the
dove, as Jesus prays.
So he is baptized, and then he prays to God. To his Father.
And it’s at that point that we see the dove, the Holy
Spirit, rest upon Jesus. And we hear those well-known words.
Jesus’s baptism is different.
And hearing those words won’t make life any easier for
He will be rejected by folk from his home town, who simply
do not want to hear his message.
He will be rejected by some of his family and friends before
he even begins his earthly ministry!
But those words show us God loves Jesus, delights in him.
Insert your own name into those words. “XXXX is my beloved
daughter. I delight in her.” “XXXX is my beloved son. I
delight in him.”
I wonder, how does it feel to know that God delights in you?
And do you truly believe that he does?
The dove is a well -known symbol of peace. However, it
wouldn’t have been the comfortable image that we perhaps
imagine. It takes us back to the flood, when the dove was
sent out of the ark to see if there was land. The dove would
very likely have been a bird resembling a wild goose, not
the comforting image we may think of today. The Spirit is
wild and free, unpredictable, and Jesus receives the Holy
Spirit when he is open to God, when he is praying.
Are we open to the Holy Spirit?
In this season of Epiphany, we look back at Luke’s account
of Jesus’ birth, and the events before- hand where Mary met
with Elizabeth – and realise how Luke (the Gospel writer)
downplays John and – I think – sees him as the last of the
great prophets of the Old Testament, pointing to the One who
is to come. The Birth of Jesus brings the promised one into
the world, the redemptive act of God, the epiphany – Jesus
as King of all. We may remember that at the annunciation,
the angel told Mary her son would be called the Son of God –
and here at his baptism, God announces that it is so. Jesus
is God’s beloved Son.
So what can we take from today’s readings?
That we are all God’s beloved children. Beloved sons,
beloved daughters. Beloved of God, however we may describe
ourselves. I wonder, what difference does it make in your
life if you truly believe it?
We receive God’s Spirit through our baptism, but also
through prayer. Being open to God. Finding moments during
the day to ‘tune in’ to God. And allow God to work through
And may the coming of the Holy Spirit bless us all and our
church as we work together through the next year, whatever
challenges there may be.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:44 pm.

Thursday, 6 January 2022:

Epiphany 2022

May I speak in the name of our God who is Creator, Redeemer
and Sustainer. Amen.
Some of you may have seen the latest cartoon doing the
rounds on social media. We’re used to the jokes about
‘three wise women would have brought a casserole, nappies,
and practical gifts’, and, for you Star Trek fans, the one
with the silhouette of men on camels with the words, ‘In a
Galaxy far, far away was the first Trek.’ Well, the latest
cartoon depicts three kings outside a stable or a house.
They stop, and produce their lateral flow test kits, test
themselves, and enter once they’ve checked they have a
negative result.
A sign of the times, perhaps. Two years ago we never dreamed
we would still be in a position to have to wear masks, to
try to keep distance, and some of us testing regularly to
make sure we’re not transmitting the virus. But we are where
we are.
Those who have followed the ‘At the heart of Christmas’
reflections since Christmas Day will have read today’s
thoughts that Epiphany seems tacked on to the end of
Christmas just as the tree and decorations are fetched down.
That may be the case, but Christmas continues right up until
Candlemas on February 2nd. That’s why the crib here in
church will stay in place until then. And I know of homes in
our parish and beyond where the crib sets will remain out
until then, now that the three kings have arrived bearing
their gifts.
Our Nativity story is mashed together from the Gospels of
Matthew and Luke. Watching Nativity stories over the years
can make us forget that much of them isn’t actually in the
Bible. The story of Christ’s birth has become a familiar
story. Perhaps too familiar. Perhaps Epiphany is where we
sit up and take note. It’s in Matthew’s Gospel that we read
of the Magi travelling from the East. We don’t know who
these men are, and over the years they became associated
with three kings and given names. The early church
interpreted the story of the arrival of these Magi in the
light of the Old Testament prophecies and attached great
importance to this visit.
As I said, we don’t know who these Magi were. We don’t know
how many there were. What we do know, however, is that they
travelled from the East. In other words, they were not
Jewish. And something made them do something extraordinary.
They were most probably a priestly caste who studied the
stars and had some reputation for astrology. The Greek word,
‘Magos’ can also be identified with royalty.
It’s not surprising that these men, whoever they were,
followed a star. How else is God going to communicate with
them? God speaks where He is recognised (either later or at
the time) in other words, He speaks or acts in ways people
can understand, in ways that mean something to them. Given
that these Magi were astrologers; they were always going to
notice a different sign in the sky.
What’s important for us is that they did take note. They
followed the star, the sign of God. They trusted the sign.
We don’t know how long the journey took but we can travel
with them in our minds’ eye. And they were led to Herod, who
not unnaturally was alarmed at their claims about the birth
of a new King. They were also open enough to God to
understand through a dream that they should not return to
What does this story mean? Why is it so important that we’re
here tonight, celebrating our Patronal Festival, our Feast
of Title?
Firstly, it shows how God is in charge. The star doesn’t
appear out of nowhere. He guides these Magi, then warns them
in a dream. God is in charge.
Secondly, it shows how God is for all. God is not just for
the Israelites, for the Jewish communities. The revelation
of Epiphany is that God is revealed as Lord of all to those
people who aren’t Jewish. Those people who will not have
the same traditions, heritage and stories that the Jewish
community had. God is revealed to everyone – in Biblical
terms, he is revealed as God, as Lord of all, to the
Gentiles, the non-Jews. They’re invited into the story of a
Jewish Messiah. Epiphany is the mystery of God among us,
right here, right now. God taking a personal part in our
lives. The revelation of Jesus as the Christ.
The revelation of Jesus as Christ comes to us, for we too
can have times when God seems distant. But Christ makes all
things new. And we can take heart from the trust and faith
and belief of the Wise men, and enter into the story full of
trust and faith ourselves. As I said last Sunday, this year
will be challenging as we (fingers crossed) manage to at
last sort out the roof. We step out in faith, knowing that
our ultimate hope and trust is in God. Christ is with us.
Thirdly, the Wise Men follow a guiding star. I wonder, to
whom can you be a guiding star, guiding others to God, as
you go about your daily lives, living Christ’s values in
today’s world.
So - God is in charge. Do we allow ourselves the time to
enter into a relationship with Him and trust that although
we ourselves don’t know the ultimate plan, God does?
2) Jesus is revealed as the Messiah, the Christ, to those
who are non- Jews. God is for everyone, without exception.
For you, for me, for your neighbour, for those across the
world. God is all inclusive.
And how can you be a guiding star at this Epiphany tide and
throughout the year?
And to return to the beginning of my sermon, it may be
through doing lateral flow tests or by helping people in
May we who with the wise men have been drawn to Your light,
discern the presence of our God, the Word made Flesh, Jesus
Christ our Lord.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:58 pm.

Monday, 3 January 2022:

Second Sunday of Christmas 2022

And the Word became flesh and lived among us
Context is everything, helping us to understand what is
happening, why it happens, and I’ll be talking about the
context of ‘being present’ in a minute. As we think about
John’s Gospel, it’s helpful to remember that it was
originally written in Greek, and that our translation is
exactly that – a translation which doesn’t always help us
with the context or original meaning.
The Greek word for ‘lived’ is ‘Skenoo’ – it means literally,
‘pitched his tent’ or ‘tabernacle.’ Think back to the
stories we read of the Israelites in the Wilderness; God
travelled with them, and He travels with us now. And he is
able to do this through the Word in human flesh, through the
Incarnation. God manifested in human form. John announces
that God has chosen to ‘pitch his tent’ among us.
And that matters. It makes a whole world of difference.
God is no distant deity.
He is here, present with us now. Present always. Taking part
in our lives every second of every day.
If nothing else, the last two years (almost) has shown us
how much we need interaction with others. We can text, we
can email, video message, even meet online. Many of us will
have had trainings and meetings and quizzes online. Such a
strange experience, for there we are alongside others, and
yet not alongside them – separated by distance, but able to
meet through a screen. I suspect many of us have realised
how much we need to be alongside others. Physically with
them – where you can understand from their facial
expressions and body language what’s going on, how they
feel. On Boxing Day evening, we were fortunate as a family
to be able to meet together (having done lateral flow tests
first) at a family member’s. Four generations of our family
were there and it was a wonderful evening. We’d so missed
these events. I found myself having photos taken with
everyone there. Not to splay on social media, but for me to
look at and to remember the sheer joy of meeting together in
person after so long; to value each and every one who was
there, for they all play a special part in my life.
It reminded me that no matter how good it is to keep in
touch by phone or through a computer screen, there’s nothing
better than the human touch.
That’s exactly what God did. He came to be among us in
person, sharing and showing his love and compassion.
As I prepare this sermon, it’s New Year’s Day. I find
myself looking back on the whirlwind of the last twelve
months, and looking ahead to 2022. Part of me is glad is
that 2021 is over. And yet despite the difficulties and the
challenges, there were many moments of joy and times of
refreshment. Times of deep fellowship and times of
heartbreak. I suspect many of us will have similar thoughts
and experiences.
When I was training at Queen’s, we were offered a special
opportunity at the beginning of each new year. Queen’s as
most of you know is an Ecumenical theological college so I
trained alongside many Methodist colleagues. The Methodist
Church offers its members a chance to re-commit themselves
to God at the beginning of each year. To do so, they say
together a special Covenant prayer. Many other churches
have taken this idea on board.
As we begin 2022, we have a fresh opportunity to celebrate
all that God has done for us here at Oxley. To celebrate
and give thanks for our continued fellowship and prayer, for
our life together as a worshipping congregation. To give
thanks for the outreach we offer. For the space and times
for quiet prayer, as well as our usual services. For the
gift of God, dwelling here among us.
We can give thanks that in faith we have been able to pay
our parish share in full.
We can look ahead to 2022, knowing that there are challenges
ahead. For we need to be able to pay our share this year
(thanking the diocese that it is reduced by about £4,000)
and we need to be open and honest and to pay contributions
and find grants to get the flat roof mended, so that our
beloved Lady Chapel can once again be the prayer space we
find so valuable; so that the organ chamber can be safe and
dry and our organ repaired and restored.
2022 is when we at Oxley step out in faith. Step out in
faith knowing that God pitches his tent here among us. Step
out prayerfully, spiritually. We surrender to God’s love
and joy, knowing that he walks alongside us.
If you look on the reading sheet, you’ll see the Covenant
Prayer. Take a moment to read through it, and then I’ll say
it as a prayer – please join in if you feel able.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in
The Methodist Covenant Prayer
The child in the manger is only the beginning of the story.
Don’t leave the child there this Christmas. Our New Year
prayer can be to recommit ourselves to God, to each other,
to step out in faith ready to face the challenges of the
year ahead.
Remind yourself that God walks among us. Let the child grow
up and walk among us and we will know the presence of God.
In the words of today’s post communion prayer,
‘So that he may continually dwell in us and reign on earth
as he reigns in heaven, now and forever.’
‘For the Word became flesh, and lived among us, and we
beheld his glory.’ Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:52 pm.

Saturday, 25 December 2021:

Midnight Mass 2021

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was
the light of all people.”
The poetry of John’s Gospel leaves me feeling breathless.
It’s not like the other Gospels. It’s sheer poetry. The
opening 18 verses of John’s Gospel are known as the
Prologue. And it’s this story, the prologue, that is John’s
version of the birth of Jesus. The Gospel writers wrote for
their different communities, and we are blessed to have this
breadth of eye witness stories of Jesus in their various
contexts. No story of a journey to Bethlehem, no recount of
trying to find somewhere to stay. Not for John the story of
angels visiting shepherds, and shepherds hurrying to find
the baby King, as we read in Luke’s Gospel. Not for John
the visit of the magi or wise men, as we find in Matthew.
No, John’s Gospel begins with a link to our very beginning.
He speaks of Creation. He reminds us that God was at the
very centre of creation.
And into that story, John tells us that Jesus was part of
Creation from the very beginning.
He tells us that Jesus is the light in a dark world, a world
that had problems and issues over 2000 years ago and still
has needs and troubles today.
It’s astonishing to think that God loved his creation so
much that he became part of it. The incarnation means “God
with us.” God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, born of Mary.
God’s reborn into the darkness of the world, for Jesus to be
the light.
Christmas, when we recall the birth of Jesus, happens at the
darkest time of year for us. Short days, long hours of
darkness. And a single flame can make such a difference in a
dark space. Jesus comes into the world to be that light.
To be our hope. If we have light, we have hope that we can
see the way
For we need to know where we are going. We need guidance.
If we let Him, if we allow Jesus to be part of our lives, He
will show us the way.
One of the carols the choir sang at our Festival of 9
Lessons and Carols was called, “Born on a New Day.” You’ll
hear it after Communion, and the words are in your hymn
sheet. The more I reflect on the words, the more I see how
they link into our Gospel reading. This year has been so
hard for many people. We never know what’s going on under
the surface of people’s lives, and on top of the lockdowns
of last year, we’ve had to contend with the emotional stress
of wondering ‘what will happen next, what will be allowed?’
as regards the pandemic. The worry of not seeing family and
friends. The empty places at the table for so many people.
The challenges of testing and of having to isolate; the
latest mutation of the virus, the uncertainty of how life
will be. And God speaks into all this, through the birth of
Jesus Christ. We will hear in ‘Born on a New Day,’
“When our life is darkest night,
Hope has burned away;
Love, your ray of guiding light,
Show us the new day.”
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was
the light of all people. Jesus is that life. He is the
light of all people, if we allow Him into our lives.
Christmas will not be over when the tree comes down, the
decorations stored away for another year. Christmas is only
just starting. And God doesn’t disappear when the tree comes
down either. God is always with us and we are invited to
have a relationship with Him through His Son. Through
Christmas is all about love. God’s love for His created
world. God’s love for us. And in our turn, our love for
God. Our love for each other. For families, friends,
neighbours. Our love for those who are hidden from society.
For those who have no home, for those who are addicts, for
those who are desperately trying to find a place of safety.
God’s love extends to all, and so should ours.
That’s the message of Christmas. Love. Care for others.
Sharing, so that everyone can have enough, instead of making
sure we’re ok and a disregard for anyone else. If we truly
believe Jesus is the Son of God, our way of living will
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was
the light of all people.
We’re invited to open our hearts and our lives to this
Christ child.
I end with a short poem, ‘Nativity’ by Kenneth Steven, from
‘Out of the Ordinary’, Canterbury Press:
When the miracle happened it was not
With bright light or fire –
But a farm door with the thick smell of sheep
And wind tugging at the shutters.

There was no sign the world had changed for ever
Or that God had taken place;
Just a child crying softly in a corner,
And the door open, for those who came to find.

An open door, for those who came to find.
May we too tiptoe to the manger to find the Light, the Word,
and allow ourselves to be born on a new day.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 2:36 am.

Wednesday, 22 December 2021:

Meditation of Mary, Mother of Jesus

This is a meditation based on the Gospel reading for the
fourth Sunday of Advent, written by Nick Fawcett. The Gospel
reading is Luke 1:39-55
They’ll call me blessed,
most favoured among women,
and I can understand why,
for incredibly God has chosen me to bear his Son,
me to carry the promised Messiah in my womb.
It’s an honour beyond words,
a privilege no once could ever earn or deserve,
and I don’t mind admitting I’m still reeling with the wonder
of it all.
Yes, it will involve wagging tongues,
knowing winks,
disapproving glances –
and no doubt Joseph will have a thing or two to say about it
as well –
but however awkward or painful that may be,
it is more than worth it for the joy of being chosen
and of offering myself in the service of the Lord.
Yet don’t think I’m the only one blessed –
for if you imagine that, you couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s good news for all of us,
every man, woman, and child:
news that will transform our lives,
our history,
the world itself.
For this child is sent by God to redeem his people:
to bring freedom, hope, joy and peace,
deliverance from whatever holds us captive,
and forgiveness for all our sins.
Think about what that means:
new life,
new beginnings –
an end to sorrow and suffering,
darkness and despair,
to death itself.
It’s what we’ve longed to see and so long waited for,
the answer to our prayers.
So yes, they’ll call me blessed,
but never forget that the blessing is equally yours –
God’s gracious gift being for me,
for you,
for everyone.
My soul magnifies the Lord
and rejoices in God my saviour!
What about yours?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 4:14 pm.

Sunday, 12 December 2021:

Advent III Year C 2021

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
“What should we do?”
Here’s today’s key question, running throughout all our
readings. And you’ll have noted that today we lit the pink
candle, the third candle on our Advent wreath. Today is
Gaudete Sunday, ‘gaudete’ is Latin for ‘rejoice.’ Why
rejoice today when we are still in Advent, we still await
our Lord’s coming, we’ve thought about repentance and hope?
We rejoice because we are in a season of hope. We rejoice
because we are in Advent. We rejoice because this coming
week, we can think about our own lives and the beauty in us
and around us, wherever God has placed us.
Our Old Testament reading from Zephaniah tells us to shout
for joy, but to watch out for all the worries that can
consume us – illness, poverty, unemployment, new
restrictions – in other words, telling us to rejoice in God
because that new way of living, focused on God, will help us
when times are really tough. A bit like that really catchy,
annoying song from years ago, “Don’t worry, be happy!” But
that makes our faith sound trite, doesn’t it. And we can
acknowledge that this year has been another really difficult
year for so many people, on so many levels. Yet – we are to
shout for joy, but to watch out. And our Epistle from the
letter to Philippians tells us to Rejoice. Our Gospel says
that John the Baptist preached the Good News. So – with all
that in mind – we rejoice, because today is Gaudete Sunday,
we are still in Advent but moving ever closer towards
Christmas and the coming of the Christ, we move closer to
the Second Coming.
Our reading from Zephaniah tells us that God will sing
joyfully because of you. Because of you! Because of me! How
easy is it for us to think that God could be singing because
of something we’re doing? Do we let our image of God stretch
that far? The thought of God ‘singing’ us into existence is
one that absolutely lifts my heart. Gaudete! We can rejoice.
As I prepared this sermon, I found an online passage
speaking of one of the Narnia books by CS Lewis. The
commentary went somewhere along the lines of; in the book
‘The Magician’s Nephew,’ the children are taken back to the
very beginning of creation. They hear the voice of Aslan,
the Christ-figure, singing out in the wilderness. As his
voice goes high, the children see blue sky, clouds, birds
appear. The melody changes and the children watch as
mountain ranges are formed. A low hum becomes the next
sound, and the very depths of the seas and oceans are
created. Creation, says the author, seems to be made out of
“What can we do?” hold onto that question, as we briefly
explore how we are God’s song.
For in our Gospel passage we find people queueing to see
John the Baptist and to be baptized, in expectation of the
Saviour who is to come. And the crowd, the tax collectors,
the soldiers all ask him, “what should we do?”
I think John’s answer to them all lies in the answer, “Let
your life sing. Allow God’s joyous harmony and melody sound
out of your life in great joy.”
Forgive me talking in metaphors, but the idea of God singing
for joy because of us, and the idea we are to let our lives
sing, appeals to me. How we all missed singing when we were
not allowed to sing in church. How singing and music can
uplift us – it seems a great way to express joy, whether or
not we feel we are good singers – that doesn’t matter. What
I’m trying to describe is the joy and emotion that singing
can offer us, no matter how imperfect our pitch or how out
of tune.
For if God’s joyous melody shines out in our lives, we will
be doing exactly what John the Baptist says; sharing our
cloak, our food, only collecting what is due to us. If we do
this, we sound the melody of our own lives, and God will be

John’s comment, “You brood of vipers!” may sound harsh to us
– but it places him firmly within the Jewish prophetic
tradition. His mission is to warn the crowds to turn their
ways back to God. To allow their souls to sing God’s tune.
They are to repent, to change their ways. And so are we. And
we are to sing that God’s way is Good News, allowing every
aspect of our lives to sing that song through what we do,
what we say – you get the idea. Don’t use empty words, make
sure our words are backed up by what we do.
What happens if we don’t feel like being happy, when
actually the worries of the world, of our individual
circumstances, are almost too much to bear? If we’re tired,
or alone, or overworked? Advent calls us out of sin – to
turn away and change how we may live. Advent calls us out
of our own darkness, to try to hear once again God singing
for joy because of us. Because of you.
What should we do? Live as God’s people – don’t let things
get in the way of our love for, and service to, God.
God will sing joyfully because of you. When do we stop and
say, “Listen! God is singing!”
I close with a poem from a Prayer Path website which became
the whole focus of my sermon preparation:
God’s zeal, God’s joy in us
brings a Saviour into
our very midst
to dwell in
hold out our
hands and soften
our hearts.

Our Lord,
we love your delight
in the beauty of days,
in the surprise of creation,
in the graced lives of the ones we love.
sing our
lives into being.

You sing our lives into being.
What can we do? Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:12 pm.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021:

Advent II Year C 2021

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Do you ever have those sudden moments of clarity that don’t
last long – often for a split second – but for that split
second, which seems to go on forever, you think you’ve
grasped something new, or taken something deeper?
I had a moment like that this week. The sun was pouring
through my study windows – I’m fortunate that my study’s at
the front of the house and catches the morning sun. However,
I couldn’t see properly. And the reason I couldn’t see
properly wasn’t because the blinds needed to be angled in a
different way. No, nothing like that. It took me a few
minutes to work out exactly what was the problem.
The windows (I hate to admit) probably hadn’t been cleaned
for a very long time. Once I worked that out, I quickly
found a cloth, wet it, and cleaned the windows.
Job done. And suddenly I could see clearly.
Well, for a second or two. Then I realised I did need to
angle the blinds differently. And my friend over the road,
working in her upstairs office as she currently works from
home, rang me to ask if I’d like to go over and clean her
windows, too…
All sorts of things get in our way of seeing clearly. It
might be physical things, like my grubby windows, but it may
be spiritual blocks too.

Imagine you’re on a long walk. Perhaps in the Welsh
mountains or Scottish Highlands, or in the Lake District.
You’re well prepared. You have correct gear on, decent
walking boots, you have a map and compass plus – if you’re
lucky – a decent network connection to Googlemaps. But as
you walk, admiring the view, it can suddenly become misty
and cloudy. The incredible landscape that you know is
there, can’t be seen. And the path way goes up and down, and
just as you think you must surely be coming to the peak you
realise the path dips, and then continues on upwards. You’re
not there yet. And like the song in Baruch, which is
Isaiah’s song, you long for the hills to be made low, for
the ground to be level, and the rough ways smooth.
Luke echoes the writers of the Hebrew Bible, the Old
Testament, at the beginning of our Gospel reading today.
Those writers of the Hebrew Bible announced prophets by
their lineage, by their genealogy. Luke does the same here,
for John the Baptist. He shows us how John has priestly
ancestors on both sides of his family. He makes it clear who
the religious and political leaders are of the time. Luke’s
making the point that the Word of God doesn’t reach these
powerful men in high office.
No, they reach out to a lone man in the wilderness.
The wilderness, or desert, is a place where we can encounter
God. Here John encounters God’s Word. But to hear God’s
word, John has to make space and time. He deliberately goes
out into the desert, the wilderness, to allow himself the
space to hear what God is calling him to do.
What is the desert of our lives? Where do we go, to have
some space and time with God? It may be a walk by the canal.
Curled up in a comfy chair, reading and praying through
weekly readings. It could be time in church. But where, I
wonder, is the desert, the wilderness in your life, where
you can encounter God?
And John, having heard God, didn’t sit back and do nothing.
He proclaimed the Word of God, proclaiming a baptism of
repentance. And we too are urged to have moments to rest, to
sit with God, and then go out energized to do His will.
Whatever that may be, however that may look like for you.
It may be packing charity bags for vulnerable people. It may
be being a listening ear for someone who is having a tough
time. It may simply be you going about your daily business,
and something you say, or something you do, deeply touches
someone. John’s wilderness is not a place of desolation.
It’s a place of hope.
I wonder if today’s challenge is to be ready for this. For
Advent is a time of waiting. I bet many of us have Advent
calendars or Advent candles to help us prepare and to wait-
some of us have badge Advent calendars and I wonder how much
we’ll regret that when we’re faced with 25 badges to sew on
our camp blankets come Christmas Day! The countdown to
Christmas Day has begun. Advent is more than preparing for
the birth of Christ, of buying presents and writing cards.
Advent is about intentionally waiting with hope, waiting
with expectation, because as Christians we believe the
Second coming of Christ will come. And we are to be ready.
To be awake.
St Paul writes, ‘the One who began a good work in you will
complete it.’
Who is the One who began the good work in you? Just
something to think over during this week.
The path connecting us and God isn’t always clear.
Sometimes it may be like a sunlit path bouncing across the
sea – but then cloud rolls in and we can no longer see the
path. Or, to use gardening terms, the path can become
covered in moss or weeds, and then can have new growth at
different points. If we visualize our own path as we
navigate our way through life, we note how people in our
lives clear the way for us. They’re our modern day John the
Baptists – helping to point us to God. Today is a good day
to remember with thanks all those who have cleared our own
paths, giving thanks for their wisdom, their love, their
teaching. And, in our turn, we prepare the way for those who
cross our own paths.

And so this second Sunday of Advent, we pray that we can
follow John into the wilderness; for our rough ways to be
made smooth, so that we can play our part in serving God in
our world.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:03 pm.

Monday, 29 November 2021:

Advent Sunday Year C

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
It may perhaps feel a bit strange to you, if I were to begin
by saying, “Happy New Year!” In the Church’s calendar, today
is exactly that. A new cycle of readings begin today, and
most of our Gospel passages until this time next year will
be from Luke, with bits from John’s Gospel ‘thrown in,’ as
it were. Today, Advent Sunday, is the first day of the
Church’s liturgical year.
Advent. That great season, often overtaken by Christmas,
when we are called to be expectant, and prepare for
Christmas. We are to be alert, to be watchful in joyful
expectation of Christ’s coming.
We use purple linen on the altar and for vestments; church
decorations are simple and sparse, at a time when many
Christmas decorations are already up in the secular world.
There is an air of penitence as with Lent, but I truly think
that the joy of Advent is in the waiting, the expectation.
We’re in the darkest season of the year. Short days, long
nights. Symbols of light and darkness speak powerfully to us
and I find myself wondering how it may feel to celebrate
Advent and Christmas on the other side of the world, a place
where the seasons are the opposite and therefore light and
darkness speak, liturgically, in the middle of each summer.
So I’m grateful that Advent falls in the darkest time of our
year. It’s easier to think through the images of light and
darkness when nature all around us is beginning to rest.
When my natural body clock slows down, the rhythm of my life

We live in a season of change. Cop 26 has been discussing
crucial ways of looking after our planet, of making our ways
of living more sustainable. It’s looked at the very real
issues of climate change. We only have to think of nature or
news programmes showing us how much ice is melting at the
polar north; how sea levels are rising and how the
temperature of the sea is also rising, causing untold damage
to sea life. We’ve seen images of tidal surges and waves
crashing upon seafronts, we’ve also seen how tidal surges
affect so many of our population when rivers break their
banks. Forest fires, huge areas of forests cut down – all of
these contribute indirectly to the wellbeing of every human
on earth. The end of the world as we know it is happening
right now.

So no wonder nations are being called to action. For we may
not be experiencing the frightening scenes described in
Luke’s Gospel, but these are frightening, urgent times. To
put our Gospel story in context, at the time this Gospel was
written there was a fierce war in Judaea. Jerusalem was
under siege by the Romans, with all the poverty and
injustice and fear that will cause. The Emperor Nero
committed suicide a few months ago and would-be emperors are
staking their claims. Everything is up in the air. As Tom
Wright says, ‘what language can you borrow to do justice to
the reality of living through those times?’ And so Luke uses
powerful imagery of tidal waves, and thunderbolts, because
there is nothing else that will do. And the writing is drawn
on the tradition of centuries; ‘The Son of Man coming in a
cloud, with great power and great glory,’ means that you
know Jesus will be here to rescue God’s people.
Our Gospel today, and for the Sundays of Advent, run in
reverse narrative order. By that, I mean that we’re near
the end of Luke’s Gospel today. Jesus is preaching to his
disciples and to crowds. Gradually over the next four weeks
we move backwards in Luke’s Gospel so that we have some of
Jesus’s teachings; we’ll have John the Baptist’s prophecy in
the Wilderness; we’ll have Mary’s song of exultation as she
visits her cousin Elizabeth and announces her pregnancy.
All that, taking us backwards, if you like, towards the
birth narrative, towards the stories of Jesus’s birth. Of
God Incarnate. God coming to earth as a frail, human baby.
Time is never straightforward, is it. In YG we have
discussions and a laugh over terms like ‘this week’ and
‘next week.’ For some, ‘this week’ means this coming week.
For others, it’s the present, and ‘next week’ becomes events
of a week away. So during the next four Sundays, be prepared
to experience a shifting sense of time. I mentioned earlier
that the Southern hemisphere is in its season of light. As I
write this at 6am, it’s pitch black outside. Yet for our
brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, they
will be experiencing the light of a summer evening. Our
today has already happened for them. (If you see what I
The pandemic has caused us all to experience a shifting
sense of time. It’s affected each and every one of us, and
we are constantly alert, evaluating our way of life – for
example, many office workers will continue to work from
home, their lives will never be the same as pre March 2020.
Our Gospel reading today focuses on Jesus’s words.
We’re reminded that God is not constrained by time.
Jesus tells us to look for signs of what is coming upon the
world, but he makes reference to the past. All these signs
will be known to those who hear him. They will interpret
them in the political unrest of the countries and through
understanding their traditional stories of redemption. The
past can make sense of the future. We know that following
winter, buds will begin to form in spring and the trees will
once again blossom and be full of life and colour. We know
that summer will arrive. We know that, because we ourselves
have experienced it year on year.
But to return to climate change, actually, we’re not sure if
new buds will form on all the trees. And we know that floods
that used to occur every hundred years or so are now
happening with frightening regularity. And this takes our
breath away. Our certainty of what we know becomes
Jesus’ answer though is that God’s reign will come. Will
come, and has come. We have to work together with God. We
are to look out for the signs of God in our lives.
I’ll be honest and admit I had to check the definition of
‘dissipation.’ One of its meanings is to squander our time,
our money, our resources. Advent - Jesus – calls us to think
through why we are doing what we are doing. To be alert. And
to try to let go of our anxiety and to trust more on Him who
is faithful.
And as we think through our issues here, hold on to hope and
the power of prayer. Hold on to inspiration. Hold on to
Jesus. Be firm in the faith, paying attention to what’s
around you.
For Jesus’s promised future means that all our tomorrows are
We watch. We wait. And we try not to plan to the nth
degree, for the Kingdom is here, and yet not here.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 2:13 pm.

Sunday, 21 November 2021:

Christ the King 2021

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.

Today is the last Sunday of the Church’s year, and we
celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Chance to reflect
on what we mean when we say Jesus is King.
The feast of Christ the King was created by Pius X1 in 1925
and only moved to be celebrated on the last Sunday before
Advent in 1970.
What sort of a King is he? What sort of a ruler?
We can imagine the background of this scene. The opulence
and luxury of the palace, scores of servants doing whatever
Pilate desired. Officials, plenty of them, making sure that
Pilate, as Emperor, is known and visible throughout the
Compare this to the area Jesus is from. Desert, wilderness,
villages, hillsides, a large lake. The contrast between the
two men could hardly be further apart.
This scene is in Jerusalem, of course, and it’s not long
before Jesus is condemned to death. Part of his trial.
And Pilate, knowing that Jesus has been brought before him,
is keen to get the upper hand.
So if He is a king, what’s he doing there? What on earth is
going on?
What was God playing at?
Pilate wants to be in control. He has all the cards. A
powerful ruler who doesn’t want any pressure from anyone who
may try to take his place.
Or so he thinks.
And so he asks Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Perhaps he assumes Jesus has been handed to him because he
says he himself is a king. Yet that’s not what Jesus has
said. Here we have a rich, powerful man standing against a
poor man, a humble man from the ‘wrong’ background. It’s
almost laughable.
Ask a teacher a question, and you very often receive a
question back in the reply. Jesus shows his strength as a
teacher. “Do you ask because you’ve heard of me, or do you
ask because you’ve been told about me?”
I can imagine the anger bubbling up in Pilate, and the
quiet, humble nature of Jesus. We know from our readings
over recent weeks that Jesus can be exasperated but this
isn’t one of those times.
Pilate fears that Jesus will take control. A revolutionary.
The crown had absolute power and was handed from father to
son, or to a male relative, but of course occasionally there
was a revolution – violence – to gain power. To gain the
crown. The only word Pilate focuses on, is ‘King.’

Jesus isn’t the sort of king Pilate expects. And as we look
on the scene, we may wonder which man displays the greatest
Jesus engages in conversation with Herod, as he does in so
many situations. Allowing Herod to speak, when Jesus
himself could easily take control of the conversation and of
his own destiny. But that’s not his style.
What does Pilate stand for here? What about Jesus? Pilate
stands for political power and authority. Jesus, for Truth.
In this last Gospel reading of the Church’s year, Jesus
confirms for us that He alone is the absolute Truth. The
truth, and the way. Any other way of living, then, is
Jesus confirms the work God is doing through him. And we
look on, recognizing the strength of the man we call our
For he’s not a political king, not a violent, oppressive
king, but a king of love. A king of truth. King of a
community, not of troops going in to battle. A King without
an opulent palace, a King without a crown. A wise King. A
King whose only power is that of love.

And it’s love that brings Margaret and Pete here today, with
family and friends. Twenty-five years ago they made their
wedding vows to each other, declaring their love for each
other. Today they will renew their vows in this holy house,
in the presence of God and of us all.
And how wonderful that their Silver anniversary falls on the
Feast of Christ the King. On a day when we remind ourselves
of the true King – the king of love, the king of truth.
God our Father,
Help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in
His service,
Whose kingdom has no end;
Where He reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one

Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:12 pm.

Saturday, 13 November 2021:

Address Memorial Service 2021

This time of year is very much a time for remembering.
In Church we’ve recently celebrated All Saints day and All
Souls Day.
All around us we see people wearing poppies, a symbol we
wear to remember all those lives lost in times of war and of
But this evening we come with our own memories and with
overflowing hearts, to light candles, to place leaves around
our Memorial Tree, as we quietly remember those whom we have
loved and who have died.
Remembering is tough. It’s hard, for we become face to face
with the pain of our loss. And sometimes the very last thing
we want to do is to remember.
But tonight we’re all in this together. None of us here
will be untouched by death. Each of us has loved and lost
family and friends. Whether that’s in recent months or if it
was years ago, the act of remembering is still painful. It
can be very raw.
Our Christian faith has a strong tradition of remembering.
Jesus met with his friends and shared a special meal with
them, telling them, as he approached his own death, to
remember him, every time they broke bread together and
shared wine. Jesus knew he was going to die, but wanted his
friends to know that he would never leave them. And every
week, we come and remember Jesus as we receive Holy
Communion, but we’re not just remembering or retelling a
story in some way. We become aware of the past, but in the
context of today’s reality. We know the future will look
different. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.
I often say at funerals, “tell each other’s stories.” As we
share memories and stories together, our loved ones come
down off their pedestals. We remember their quirky habits;
their often repeated comments; the things that made us
laugh; the things that made us so proud of them; and yes,
the things about them that irritated us, too.
And I often say, “Life has changed, but it will go on.” And
there’s a poem I’ve adapted, by David Harkins, that is
entitled ‘They’re gone’:
You can shed tears that they are gone,
Or you can smile because they have lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that they will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that they have left.
Your heart can be empty because you no longer see them,
Or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember them and only that they are gone,
Or you can cherish the memories and let them live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your
Or you can do what they would want, smile, open your eyes,
Love, and go on.
And I often think our lives become like a series of jigsaws
– the image of a jigsaw is one I regularly use in the
context of my own life, in the life of the parish and
particularly at times when we grieve. For our well-ordered
life jigsaw becomes all jumbled up when those we love die.
A much-loved piece goes missing. There’s an empty space.
But gradually our memories become a little less painful. We
learn we can laugh. We can smile. And of course, we will
still cry. And the jigsaw pieces of our lives begin to
reassemble into a new image, a new way of life, with the
memories of our dear loved ones still an integral part of
our lives. They will always be close to us.
There will always be times during the day or week that
almost break us, times when we miss our loved ones in a
particular way. Perhaps when you begin to mow the garden,
because that’s something your loved one always used to do.
Or closing the curtains or putting on the kettle for the
last drink of the day, or putting the hot water bottle in
bed, because it’s what they used to do. Or maybe you miss
watching a particular TV programme, or listening to a
special piece of music together. For many of you here
tonight, this particular Christmas will be hard, the first
Christmas you are separated. Sometimes the act of
remembering may make us smile. Other times it may reduce us
to tears.
And all of that is okay, or as okay as it can get, given
that the jigsaws of our lives will continue to be jumbled up
and to reassemble in many different ways.
St Paul, writing to his friends in Rome to encourage them in
their longing to follow Jesus, gives us a real sense of
encouragement. What can separate us from love, he asks? And
follows it up saying, nothing can separate us from love. “I
am convinced that neither death, not life, not angels, nor
rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ
Jesus our Lord.”
Take courage from these words, these words of encouragement
and wisdom. Nothing can separate from God’s love, and
nothing can separate us from the love we shared with our
loved ones.
Love is stronger than death.
Love is of God.
So as we allow the jigsaw pieces of our lives to reassemble,
we take comfort that we are not on our own. That others do
understand that there are tough days, and sad days, and
happy days. That you have memories to treasure and stories
to tell.
And never ever stop telling those stories. Allow them to
fill you with hope.
And remember there is the unfailing love of God that’s there
for you; for every single one of us.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:57 pm.

Saturday, 13 November 2021:

Remembrance Sunday 2021

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
These notes are a rough transcript of the interactive sermon
on Remembrance Sunday and some are based from Messy Church
in 2018.
Today is all about Remembrance. Remembering and
acknowledging the hurt and atrocities of war, and
remembering all those who give their lives for peace. This
week I’ve talked in school assemblies about the symbolism of
remembering – the poppies, the red poppy, the white and
purple poppies, and how there is a different symbol in some
countries. France, for example, uses the blue cornflower and
India & Pakistan use the marigold.
And our Christian faith uses symbols, too, and uses many
symbols to help us remember our story. And to help us
remember that God remembers us.
God remembers us.
I’m going to need some help, some volunteers to fetch
something out of my bag…

• Rainbow picture.
The story of Noah and the ark is in Genesis 8 and it’s here
that we read the wonderful words ‘God remembered Noah’ (v.
1, NIV). Noah was in a bad place, with the world washed away
and just his family and the animals on the boat. Perhaps he
thought God had forgotten him. But God remembered Noah and
God remembers each one of us by name and knows exactly our
situation even if we think we are forgotten. The rainbow is
a reminder that God will never forget us. God always
remembers us.
• A small bottle.
I wonder what might go in here. (Take ideas.) What about
tears? In Psalm 56, David writes, ‘You have stored my tears
in your bottle and counted each of them’ (v. 8, CEV). In
other words, God knows and remembers everything that’s
happened to us, particularly when we were in times of
trouble and despair. Elsewhere, you can read that God
remembered Rachel (see Genesis 30:22–23) and Hannah (see 1
Samuel 1:19) when they couldn’t have any children, and God
answered their prayers. In the same book, God remembered
Abraham, who was distressed that his nephew had been
captured in a war, and God came to help (see Genesis 14).
God remembers us in our troubles. He knows exactly what’s
happening to us and so we can trust that God will rescue us
and come close to us when we are facing trouble.
• A journal.
There is another special book according to the Bible: a Book
of Life where God records all that happens, so he can
remember us. At the end of the Old Testament, there is a
lovely promise in the book of Malachi where it says, ‘All
those who truly respected the Lord and honoured his name
started discussing these things, and when God saw what was
happening, he had their names written as a reminder in his
book’ (Malachi 3:16, CEV). God knows and remembers all our
prayers, our hopes and our longings – all the work we have
tried to do faithfully for him, even though it often goes
wrong. God will keep his promise and will not rub us out of
this Book of Life. So God remembers us by name; God
remembers us in trouble; and God remembers all that we have
done and so we can trust him – his mercy, his faithfulness
and his promises. But what does God forget?

• Blank paper with ink spots all over it.
God doesn’t really ever forget. God can’t forget because he
knows everything that ever was, is and will be. When the
word ‘forget’ is used in the Bible regarding God, it means
God chooses not to remember. The big thing that he chooses
not to remember is the mess we make of our lives. He says so
both in the Old and New Testaments and it’s in Jeremiah 31,
where God says, ‘I will… forget the evil things they have
done’ (v. 34, CEV). In other words, God will forget our
sins, our failures, our mistakes and the mess up we make of
things. But how can God do this?
• A cross.
It’s because of this – because of the cross. It’s a mystery,
but because of what Jesus did on the cross by dying
innocently, this can put right all the injustice of the
world and in our lives and it can give us a fresh start.
• Pitta bread.
To experience this fresh start (because God forgets our
sins), we need to remember; to remember what Jesus has done.
He gave a very simple way of doing that as we break bread
and as a way of remembering that Jesus was broken and wants
to be inside each one of us. Jesus says: ‘Do this in
remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19, NIV). So God remembers our
name; remembers our troubles; remembers our hard work and
faithfulness; and because of the cross, God chooses not to
remember all the mess we make of our lives. But there’s one
more mystery about remembrance.
• Jigsaw pieces.
The word ‘re-member’ actually means to put back together
again. A member is the part of something, like a member of a
club, and to re- member is to put back together – to
reassemble something. So remembering is putting back
together something from long ago so we can see it now in our
heads as a memory. God promises to re-member us; to put us
back together again. We all of us have messy lives… On the
cross, Jesus was asked by the thief at his side to ‘remember
me’. In other words, to put him back together again and make
him into the person
Remembrance is a big word when we remember the cost of war
so that we will not forget and therefore be determined never
to do the same again; in a year when we remember people from
long ago who died to give us freedom and peace; in this
year, we can also think of an even bigger remembrance –
God’s remembrance of us. A God who remembers our name,
remembers our troubles, remembers the hard work that we have
done in his name, but who also chooses not to remember our
sins because of the cross, so that he can re-member us – put
us back together again.

Then prayer for peace.
Lead me… from death to life (hands crossed over body and
then hands raised above the head) …
from falsehood to truth (one hand close to the mouth,
suggesting a malicious whisper, and then both hands with
thumbs up next to the mouth suggesting the truth)
… from despair to hope (one hand on the forehead in despair
and then the same hand shading the eyes, looking out to the
future in hope) …
from fear to trust (two hands by the mouth expressing
terror and then both hands open in front of the body
expressing trust) …
from hate to love (one hand raised as a fist and then two
hands over the heart) …
from war to peace. (one hand shaped like a gun and then two
hands linked by the thumbs, palms inward, creating a dove of
Let peace fill… our heart (the hands still as the dove of
peace near to the heart)
… our world (hands as the dove of peace making a small
circle away from the heart)
… our universe. (hands as a dove of peace making a much
larger circle away from the body)

Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:55 pm.

Thursday, 4 November 2021:

3rd Sunday before Advent Mark 1:14-20

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
How many of us, I wonder, act spontaneously? How many of us
are planners, needing time to reflect and think through
implications of what we may do, implications both for others
and ourselves? How many of us would do exactly what Simon
and Andrew did, that day out on the shores of the Lake of

I’ll leave that to sit with you for a few minutes and we’ll
come back to it later.
Have you ever been somewhere that feels so special, that if
feels like a sacred place? Some places feel very special,
very ‘prayed in,’ if you like. The Holy island of
Lindisfarne up just off the North East coast in
Northumberland is one such place, what is known as a ‘thin
place’ where heaven and earth feel as one, and somehow we
experience a sense of God there without being able to
explain precisely why that is.
When we were away last week we stumbled across a tiny
church, seating 6 people; St Trillo’s along the coastal path
of Rhos on Sea in North Wales. An ancient church dedicated
to the sixth century Celtic saint, where a grid before the
altar stands over a well which bubbles away. The well water
was used to baptize everyone throughout the medieval parish.
A holy place indeed.
And I’m told that the Sea of Galilee is another such holy
place, a ‘thin place.’ I have no idea what it is about this
region that makes it feel holy, I’ve not had the privilege
of visiting there, but apparently it is somewhere that can
take your breath away. The Jewish Talmud, which is the core
Jewish text of ancient teachings, mentions the Sea of
Galilee as ‘God’s gem.’ There must be something special
about this place.
So with that in mind, we can imagine the scene. The
fishermen, perhaps fourth generation of fishermen in this
family, tending the nets. We can hear the gentle waves of
the lake as the waters lap the shore, we can imagine the
sunset over the calm waters. And the unhurried action of
these men as they carefully mend their nets. They will have
to go deep out of their depth to catch their fish to make
their living. Working as a team, working together to ensure
they provide for others, working together to obtain the best
outcome they can.
My reading informs me that the people who lived in this area
of Galilee were quite independent. In other words, they did
not adhere so strictly to the Temple rules as those who
lived in Jerusalem. These people were religious, but lived
life in its fullness. Perhaps that’s why Jesus came here to
choose his disciples. It’s an area close to home but where
men and women weren’t bound by strict Temple rules and
regulations. They were willing to take risks.

And fishermen who have to go out to sea way out of their
depth have to take such risks.
I wonder what they thought when they heard Jesus say, “The
Kingdom of God is near.” I wonder what they thought. Perhaps
they would expect such an announcement to be made in
Were they excited to be the first to hear such news? Were
they scared? For here was someone who trusted in them.
Someone who saw them for who they were. Someone offering
them a place in God’s Kingdom, if they dared to accept.
And what do you think they understood about becoming
‘fishers of people?’ casting their nets far and wide,
risking their own lives.
This story is earth shattering, in the words of Tom Wright.
He reminds us that the call to follow Jesus would send
echoes through the minds of these men, memories of the call
of Abraham, the call of Moses, going wherever they were sent
by God.
And what is this Kingdom of God? It’s life here and now,
living the way Jesus tells us, as well as our hopes of
heaven. At this time of COP 26 with all the environmental
challenges and issues surrounding climate change, it’s
living in a more sustainable way. A more caring and
thoughtful way. A way to ensure our planet is here for
future generations.
Living the way of God’s Kingdom is as much about climate
change and thinking about our own carbon footprint as it is
about looking out for each other, for ‘the other,’ and
taking responsibilities seriously. Do we really need the
car for short journeys? Can we walk or use public transport?
Are we being careful with heating, do we think about the air
miles our food may have clocked up before it reaches our
plate? Are we using lower temperatures for our washing
cycles, thinking through if we really do need to use a
dishwasher or could we possibly become more organized and
wash the dishes in the sink?
God’s Kingdom includes all of that, as well as taking care
of others. As well as donating to The Well, for example. As
well as thinking about Bushbury Buddies. It’s about changing
the world as best we can so that God’s reign is fully
established here.
This is an urgent call from Jesus to these two men. It’s an
urgent call to us. No time to lose. We’re dealing with now.
This gift of God’s Good News is for everyone and it’s our
responsibility to share it and to show it through our
actions and through what we say.
And we are to repent, to enter this kingdom. And to keep on
saying “we messed up, we’re sorry,” and to make every effort
to put it right.
Jonah finally obeyed God and went to Ninevah as God had told
him to do. He encouraged the citizens there to turn from
their wrongdoing and his example and encouragement saved
them from God’s wrath. Jesus wants people to change. We
can become part of God’s Kingdom and in so doing can make it
near for others.
To return to the call of Simon and Andrew. They heard
Jesus’s call on their lives asking them to use their
talents, their time, their skills for His service.
Pray that we too may have that same understanding of
Christ’s call on our lives.
Determination to follow Him. Patience to continue. The
grace to work together. To respond to God’s call in our own
small way.
May we, too, believe, and trust, allow ourselves to be taken
out of our depth and become fishers of people.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:01 pm.

Thursday, 4 November 2021:

All Saints 2021

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Saints are so hard to live up to, aren’t they!
I read about different saints and wonder if I can ever be
like them. And of course, the answer is a resounding no,
for they were who they were, and I am who I am, and I don’t
really think I’m cut out to be quite as holy as some of the
saints were.
Some were called to be mystics and contemplatives, others
were called to be do-ers, and they all have amazing stories
to tell of ordinary people whose lives were transformed in
some way.
And as Christians we believe that their lives were
transformed by God. By having a personal relationship with
And I hope we believe that of ourselves, too.
And there’s something in the stories of the saints that
tells of God’s glory.
Sometimes we may need to unpick individual stories of life
and death to find it. But it’s there, and when we see it,
it’s resoundingly obvious…
And what on earth are saints to do with our readings today?
In our Gospel we pick up on the story of the raising of
Lazarus. We know the story well. But there are messages
here for us to think about. Messages that pinpoint who
Jesus is. Signposts revealing to us God incarnate.
In John’s Gospel we don’t have miracles, we have signposts
pointing the way.
For here we see Jesus mourning the death of his friend. Our
incarnate God, weeping, emotional. Showing that Jesus
himself is not unmoved by death and grief.
And we can almost hear Mary’s subtext: “If you’d been here,
my brother would not have died.” Showing the faith she had
in Jesus mixed with the emotions of her love and friendship.
It feels hopeless. A hopeless situation, amidst the flurry
of activity at the funeral. Yet into this hopeless place,
there is life. Jesus brings life.
And I wonder, if in our own times of hopelessness, there is
a similar pattern to this story. Many of us will, I’m sure,
have been in places of utter darkness, where it feels there
is no hope. And we give up. And on the 3rd day we throw in
the towel and say that everything is too late to change. To
echo the words from the cross, we mutter, “It is finished.”
And yet…. and yet, there is a voice that still calls to us.
Still calls our name.
Like Mary, somewhere deep in the waiting, we wait for God to
dry our tears.
Like Mary, somewhere deep in the hoping, we hope that Jesus’
words are true.
And like Mary, somewhere in the trusting we trust and
believe that God prepares a place for all people.

For we find in the waiting, in the hoping, in the trusting,
that these are all found in the raising of Lazarus.
Listen to three of Jesus’s commands from this story:
“Take away the stone.” What, I wonder, do we need to remove
from our lives so that Jesus can reach us?
“Lazarus, come out!” Do we really get that even in death,
Jesus reaches out to us and calls us by name?
“Unbind him and let him go.” Do we allow ourselves, I
wonder, to be helped to let go and to be free in Christ?
And who is waiting for us to help them?
This story all points to Jesus the Incarnate God. Points us
to Jesus as the Son, points to His story where we will also
find a tomb. Where we will also find women wailing outside
a tomb. Where we will also find a stone rolled away and
linen cloths.
For Jesus calls to us all and gives us life – here and now.
He is the very presence of God. He shows us there is life on
both sides of death. Transforming.

On this All Saints Day, we remember not just the saints from
many years ago or those of more recent years. We remind
ourselves that their lives and deaths point us to the
promise of resurrection.
Saints. Ordinary men and women living out their ordinary
lives in ordinary ways.
Touching people’s souls in extraordinary ways.
Living for the benefit of others, often without realizing
On this day may we be reminded that the promise of God’s
upside down land is in every single one of us. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:00 pm.

Saturday, 16 October 2021:

Sermon Trinity 20 Year B

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
One of the things I love about having my mobile phone is
that I can instantly take photos. I bet some of you are
thinking, “But you can just use a camera!” Well, yes, but
I’m not one of those people who can wait patiently for the
perfect shot. I like to snap images from walks, or of
special times spent with family and friends, or silly things
the tortoise gets up to, and my phone is always – usually! –
with me. A camera would take more time and I might lose the
moment, if you get my drift.
Scrolling through some recent photos, I was amused to see
two or three photos of my feet.
Not very glamorous feet, I have to say.
Feet bearing the marks of summer, still with a faint mark
where my flip flops have been worn. Feet that prefer to be
barefoot wherever possible. And the photos are really quite
funny. One was from our residential last week, where I sat
outside with my feet up on a bench for a mid- morning coffee
break on a glorious, sunny autumn day. The photo shows my
coffee, and my feet (and my crazy sunflower leggings) and
the beautiful countryside. Photo two shows me dancing
around with Achilles the tortoise chasing my feet. Photo
three shows my feet standing on our scales, with the scales
showing a weight of 0 stones 0 pounds. I know I’ve been
losing weight but I’m pretty sure I’m not weightless!
And very often when I’m setting up church ready for the
Eucharist, I wander around with bare feet.
There is a point to this musing about feet.
For sometimes we think we can stand on our feet, not share
or open up to other people. We think we can get by on our
And I think today’s readings tell us we can’t.
Job’s not a very jolly character, is he? I must admit to
heaving a great sigh whenever we read through Job at Morning
or Evening Prayer, and it’s not been that jolly reading him
on Sundays either, has it. The thing is, though, that
despite his anger and frustration at whatever life throws at
him, he encounters a God who protects and transforms him,
even when Job is at his lowest. Job shouts at God. “Why
does all this rubbish happen to me?” he exclaims. How many
times has any of us here today said that? “Why me?” And I
can almost hear God answer, “Why not you?”
Perhaps there’s a message there for us when we are at our
lowest. God is there, always. A God who transforms and
overwhelms us at the very depth of our pain. A God who is

And Jesus must have inwardly sighed a huge sigh of
frustration with his disciples, and perhaps asked for
patience, in our Gospel reading today. Today we know he is
walking a little ahead of his disciples – are they in awe of
him now? Is he perhaps stepping out ahead to gain a bit of
space for himself, knowing that they really don’t want to
hear what he has to say?
For he tells them again about his death. This is the third
time he has told them. And in Bible speak if something is
repeated three times, it means it is very, very, very
important. And today we hear that, for the third time, the
disciples react inappropriately. It’s James and John who get
it spectacularly wrong.
I wonder why it’s James and John who are asking to be with
Jesus in his glory. I wonder if it’s sibling rivalry. They
don’t know what they’re asking for.

I wonder why the brothers still crave fame, glory,
affirmation. Perhaps they give us a glimpse of how hard we
can make things for ourselves. We try to guarantee
everything will be well – but that’s setting our agenda, not
God’s. We try to ensure we are ticking the right boxes, but
again that’s our agenda – or perhaps that of the diocese or
the national Church – at what point are we listening to and
being guided by God?
For we will not be rewarded by what we do, but by being
faithful to God. Jesus shows the model of servant
leadership, and our reading from Hebrews reminds us of
priests who are obedient even when suffering.
It seems to me that the disciples want all the good bits,
the fun bits. The bits where they help Jesus, where they
meet and talk with people, where they’re known as being one
of his crowd. It seems to me that they’d prefer to skip over
the idea of a trial, of suffering, of a cross.
Last week’s Gospel passage ended with, ‘For God, nothing is
impossible.’ Jesus is trying to tell the disciples that he
will do the impossible. And the disciples will have none of
it. “Will you drink from my cup?” he asks. “Will you share
in my baptism?”
Can you imagine the confused looks on their faces?
We’re called to be servants. To be servant people in
service to others, in service to our creation, to our
environment, to people we encounter.
So simply talking about Jesus, or the Good News of the
Kingdom, or of church, isn’t enough. We’re called to get
our feet dirty, to live out the message that Jesus teaches
us. To let our feet become ‘swift and beautiful for thee.’
The Brownie law asks Brownies to think of others before
themselves. There’s a message there of being aware of
others’ needs, of serving others.
What does it mean to be ‘servant of all?’ Not just servants
of those we choose to speak with. It’s serving those who are
ungrateful; the down and outs; those in prison. It’s serving
with grace when we feel pressured. It’s loving others even
when we really don’t want to go near them.
And it’s praying for those people, too – that’s also servant
I end with a quote supposedly from Teresa of Avila, who
entered a Carmelite monastery when she was eighteen, and who
was a mystic, a writer, and a reformer in the sixteenth
century. You’ll all know it; I’ve used it before. But it
fits perfectly with the image of bare feet, which after all
is a Biblical image – remember Moses removed his sandals on
holy ground!
Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:45 pm.

Sunday, 10 October 2021:

Sermon Trinity 19 Year B

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our Strength and our

Earlier this week, I was privileged to be on a residential
course with priests who are in their first post of
responsibility from across 7 dioceses within the West
Midlands. We stayed in a beautiful (if slightly run down)
hotel set in acres of magnificent countryside. The hotel had
a swimming pool and gym, a bar, decent rooms; food was
plentiful and different diets were catered for. We were
asked to take with us an object that represents our context,
and each of us had to speak for about five minutes, a little
about our own background but mainly about the context we now
find ourselves in.
It was fascinating and humbling to hear everyone’s stories.
All so different and varied; some were in ‘honeymoon
periods’ with new parishes; others were only just beginning
ministry in a new place; and a couple, like me, were
beginning a new ministry but in the same place.
The common thread was the deep desire to serve God and to
follow Jesus, prompted by the Holy Spirit. It was deeply
humbling to hear the different stories and challenges that
lie ahead, with an openness and freshness to God’s Word. And
the two-day course was a gift allowing us chance to reflect
on our role as priests, on what challenges us according to
our own gifts and preferences, and a chance to meet up with
new people after months of online meetings.
So to come from that to prepare a sermon on some of the most
radical of Jesus’ teachings is pretty tough!
For the young man in today’s Gospel story seems to be open,
doesn’t he? He seems to understand the Commandments, and has
tried to keep them since his youth – since he was old enough
to work things out for himself. And the disciples left their
homes behind, and their livelihoods, and went and followed
So let’s imagine the scene. Jesus is ‘setting out on a
journey.’ In Mark’s Gospel, this is another hint that Jesus
is on the way to Jerusalem, on the way to the Cross. A hint
there of what Jesus demands of himself. And this young man
runs up to Jesus and kneels before him. Imagine the
expression on the young man’s face – filled with hope, with
love, with expectation. He is eager to please – imagine how
his face falls when he hears Jesus’s reply to his question.
It may seem odd to us, but on reflection I think I think
Jesus is building up faith in this young man. He growing
seeds of faith. Mark’s Gospel uses the word ‘love’ three
times, and this is one of them. Jesus looks at this young
man, and looks at him with love. And Mark’s Gospel is the
most succinct of all the Gospel’s, the most abrupt. Here
Jesus is building up faith in someone he loves.
We know this man is asking how to gain entry to heaven. But
here’s the thing – we don’t have to be perfect to enter
heaven. I wonder what Jesus’s answer would have been for
anyone else with him. What his answer would be to you.
What he would reply to me.
For this young man was wealthy – he had many possessions.
Perhaps this was his gift, his talent. And we all have
gifts. Gifts of talent and skills. A gift for learning, a
gift for music, a gift for practical tasks, a gift for
organization, whatever our gift we are called to give back
in service to God.
So perhaps we’re being called to use our gifts and talents
for God, to give them in service to Him as we go about our
daily lives. Perhaps that’s what Jesus would say to us –
believe in yourself, in your ideas, in how to spread the
Gospel story. Perhaps we are to grow our gifts and talents
and not bury them in the ground to keep safe. Is that what
Jesus is saying?
This isn’t just about getting rid of possessions, for Jesus
tells the man to sell and give to the poor. In other words,
people matter. Go and help them.
And this is the Spirit of Wisdom from our Hebrews reading,
God’s Word that is active and living and effective.
We all, I guess, have some possessions that are important to
us. And I also bet the most important ones to us are those
things that carry emotional attachment and value rather than
financial. I wonder if Jesus is saying that he gives total,
unconditional love to everyone. He asks for our heart – we
are to give up worldly ways and follow him.
That doesn’t mean we are to sell up and wander around like
nomads. What it does mean, and I’ve alluded to this, is to
follow Jesus with our heart. Which means we then serve
people around us – in our daily lives, at home, those whom
we meet, or work with, or encounter. Treat them like human
beings. Treat them as God’s children. Share what we can, of
our time, our talents and skills, our ideas. In the
Mediterranean world, ‘wealth’ was interpreted as family,
home and land. Of course, the disciples left these behind as
they followed Jesus.
Perhaps the unwillingness to share what he had, was what
held the young man back.
It’s not necessary to give up all wealth to gain eternal
life, but it is necessary to follow Jesus and live a life of
So what does this mean for us, as we face challenges ahead?
A challenge of being ‘the church in the cul de sac hidden
away from the main road’. A challenge of finances – we are
about to push on to sort the Lady Chapel roof and the roof
over the organ chamber and the vestries. A challenge of
spreading God’s Word into the new estate.
Perhaps we could think of this in a fresh way. What are we
being challenged by God to change, as we follow Him?
I mentioned earlier that we had to take an object
representing our context to my course. Some of you may
wonder what I took with me.
I took a jigsaw.
For each piece is as important as the other. With a piece
missing, the jigsaw is incomplete. Each piece is different
and unique. And the jigsaw also represents the life of the
parish – the shops, the schools, the GP surgeries, the
funeral directors, the homes, those who travel through our
parish on a daily basis – all of that is our context.
For God loves and cares for us. Jesus loved that young man,
and challenged him to change.
What, I wonder, is God challenging you to do?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:05 pm.

Saturday, 2 October 2021:

Sermon - Sunday 3rd October Feast of St Michael and All Angels

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
I wonder, have you ever seen an angel?
One of the reasons I wanted to use today to celebrate the
festival of Michael and All Angels, which was actually on
29th September, is because it allows us the opportunity to
explore a little about angels. Not sure about you, but I
know I have rarely thought much about them, and from
Whatsapp conversations with the standing committee I know
I’m not alone in that. I wonder, what comes to your mind
when you think about angels?
Do you think of Nativity plays, children dressed in white
with assorted bits of tinsel round their heads as halos?
Do you think of people who are generally considered to be
‘very good’?
Or do you give little thought to angels other than when we
hear about them in Bible readings?
I wonder, what does an angel mean for you?
The dictionary definition of an angel is: “A spiritual being
believed to act as an attendant, agent or messenger of God,
conventionally represented in human form with wings and a
long robe.”
Our Collect today tells us that God created and ordained
angels.: “Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted
the ministries of angels and mortals in a wonderful order;
grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven,
so at your command, they may help and defend us on earth.”
So we know angels were created by God. We don’t hear of that
in the Creation story, but Psalm 8 verse 5 says that God
made human beings “lower than the angels”. Angels serve God.
They don’t serve us humans.
Angels are spiritual beings. So often depicted in stained
glass windows, we find stories of their visits in both the
Old and New Testament. For example, in Hebrews chapter 1 we
read, ‘Angels are spirits who serve God and are sent by Him
to those who are to receive salvation.’ The Angel of the
Lord appeared to Hagar after she had conceived Abraham’s
child, and an angel ministered to both Hagar and Ishmael
when they were sent away by Abraham and Sarah. Three angels
visited Abraham – see the picture of Rublev’s Trinity here -
and two angels rescued Lot from the destruction of Sodom.
And today we heard of Jacob’s dream, with angels ascending
and descending a ladder between earth and heaven. Then there
was the angel in the Passover story, the angel of death we
read about in Exodus chapter 12. Of course, we read in the
New Testament that an angel appeared to Joseph to reassure
him that Mary was indeed carrying God’s Son; we read of the
angels visiting the shepherds; visiting Joseph in a dream to
tell him not to travel home – in other words, protecting
Jesus from King Herod. God sent an angel to strengthen
Jesus before his trial and his death. An angel was at the
tomb, at the resurrection. There are so many appearances we
could brain storm and think about. But why do they appear,
and what do they do?

The archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael help us learn
more about God and of God’s purposes. The name Michael
means, ‘who is like God.’ Well, no one can be like God, of
course, for God is God! But Jesus shows us what God is like.
Perhaps the vision Jacob sees of the angels going up and
down the ladder is also an image of what Jesus will do at
his death and resurrection and ascension into heaven.
So angels carry news from God to humans. We become aware of
their presence only if it is God’s will. As God’s messengers
they appear throughout Biblical history, bringing comfort,
bringing fear.

What I have learnt is that I have never really thought much
about angels. We hear their names, we hear the words
seraphim, cherubim, all falling down and worshipping God. We
hear of the angel Gabriel appearing to people. But to my
shame I’ve never really given them much thought.

Angels must be considered important – just think of all the
beautiful stained glass windows in older churches where
angels are depicted with their huge wings, coming as God’s
messenger to speak or reveal something of God to people.
Lichfield Cathedral has its own ‘Lichfield Angel’ which was
discovered in 2003. For centuries this carved limestone
panel remained hidden, thought to be possibly the corner
panel of the shrine of St Chad dating back to 800 AD. The
carving depicts an angel with his right hand raised in
blessing and his left hand holding a sceptre. It is thought
that it is of the Angel Gabriel.
So angels have been considered important beings over many
And the picture I have here is by an artist called Tanner
and it is his interpretation of the Annunciation, when the
Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she would carry
the Son of God in her womb. What I like about this picture
is that we don’t see the angel, but we see so much light.
The colours are warm. Mary sits on her unmade bed. She is
modestly covered. Her hands are clasped tightly together;
she knows she is in the presence of an angel who is serving
God. But what really draws me to this picture is the
expression on her face. She is looking up. She may have
fallen on her knees, we don’t know, but I can imagine the
angel reassuring her, drawing her up, being able to look at
her at eye level. There is such trust and confusion in her
face. And she knows it is God who speaks to her.
The archangel Michael is seen as a healing angel, and over
time his role became that of protector, leading the army of
God against evil. Raphael is mentioned in the book of Tobit,
and is recognized as one of the three heavenly visitors
Abraham entertained at the Oak of Mamre – again, see our
image of Rublev’s Trinity. And we know the Angel Gabriel
explains visions to Daniel, and foretells the birth of John
the Baptist and of Jesus.
God’s messengers. We have a choice, to hear their words or
not. We can ignore what they say and carry on in our own
sweet way, or we can learn from and listen to them.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen or heard an angel, though.
But I know I have heard God speak to me in the night.
And as Michael Martin says in the thought for the week on
the weekly sheet, we know that angels are trusted deliverers
of messages from God, in whatever form they exist.
So I leave you with this question, have you ever seen an

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:08 pm.

Monday, 27 September 2021:

Sermon Harvest Festival 2021

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
“Strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
Today we celebrate our Harvest festival and I know I’m not
alone when I say I love this time of year. My favourite
season is Autumn. I find the crisp morning air invigorating;
there’s often still some heat in the sun; we’re treated to a
magnificent display of colour as September merges into
October. In my fanciful way I feel a sense of nature winding
down in preparation for sleep through the winter, ready to
begin again in spring. Autumn appeals to all my senses – the
colourful displays of foliage, the sound of squirrels
foraging amongst the leaves – and have you heard a squirrel
chatter? The first time I heard it I was taken by surprise.
Often we smell bonfires and there’s a certain smell about
the crisp air in any case – and there are autumn fruits –
the comforting crumbles we make, the pumpkins and butternut
squash and the green beans available …and so on.
And the moon is often so big and spectacularly beautiful as
it rises in the night sky – we’ve had the blessing of seeing
this during the week that’s just past.
And with Autumn comes various celebrations, and amongst
them, the now traditional Harvest festival.
I know that my clergy friends in rural parishes will be
celebrating in very different ways to us. We don’t often see
the tractors and balers gathering in crops and hay ready for
the winter. And I’m sure you’ve noticed how our harvest
offerings and decorations have changed especially over more
recent years. So why do we still continue this peculiar
tradition of celebrating all things ‘Harvesty’ when we live
in built up areas?
The answer lies within all our readings today. I’m homing
in on a sentence from our Gospel:
“Strive first for the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness…
and all good things will be given to you as well.”
I wonder what you think of when we use words like ‘the
Kingdom of God.’
Well, traditionally Harvest time offers us the opportunity
to give thanks to God for all that He provides for us. We
may not have spent long hours in the fields sowing crops or
gathering in harvests, but we reap the benefits. And here we
can give thanks for what we have. Give thanks for those
people who produced it. And give thanks for those within the
chain of people and producers who have transported our food
around the country.
Within that, we have a duty to be mindful of our Creation.
It is our responsibility to nurture and care for our
environment. This is why we have been mindful of
Creationtide throughout September.
For our Gospel reading tells us not to worry about ourselves
but to accept
and use what we have to God’s glory.
We are to strive first for the Kingdom of God.
Well, what does this mean? Jesus often speaks of the
Kingdom. We hear it referred to in the New Testament and it
draws on the teachings of the Old Testament. Bringing
everything together, like the pieces of a jigsaw, in a way.
And I think it means opening ourselves up to Jesus. Opening
ourselves up to God. And in so doing, we then allow
ourselves to thrive under the watchful loving gaze of Our
Father. Kingdom values means taking care of each other,
living as a community of believers.
And that’s where Harvest comes in. For taking care of others
means that we can no longer ignore those for whom life is
particularly tough – indeed, many of us will experience such
tough times ourselves. Mother Theresa said. “If we have no
peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to
each other.” For we are all connected to and with each
other. For example, our daily interaction with people often
leads us to cashiers and check out operators, who in their
turn rely on the shelf stackers, who in their turn rely on
warehouse workers, who rely on goods being transported – you
get the drift. A few years ago, the Brownies explained about
all the people who were needed in the supply chain for
bananas, from the farmer, right through to the staff in the
shops in our country. It’s a long, long list. And we all
rely on each other.
This links us to Creation tide. We are to look after our
world, to nurture and care for our environment. How many
miles are spent transporting food around the world simply so
that consumers can eat what we want when we want, instead of
relying on the fruits of the season? Harvest allows us the
opportunity to reflect on our own behaviours, as well as the
opportunity to give thanks.
Yes, this time of year can be stunning in our natural world.
Only a few days ago I watched buzzards circling over
Bushbury Hill. We have some wonderful photos of sunflowers
at the back of church (I really must print our photos) from
the sunflower seeds we sent out at Easter. And those
sunflowers have grown, nurtured with water and the sun. In
some case they have grown to be 8 or 9 feet tall. This
beauty from our Creator God. Beauty not from named brand
clothes or make up. Beauty that is just there. Glorious,
And for that we should give thanks.
Our Harvest donations may not look as ‘pretty’ as a display
in a rural church or as displays and collections we may have
had in the past. But we live in a world that sadly can be
unfair. A world where there are genuine families in need of
extra help. A world where a sudden crisis in a family can
lead to hunger.
What would you do if you were suddenly made redundant and
couldn’t find work? What would you do if you were at your
wits end and had no local family or friends to help support
If you had to flee your home due to domestic violence or
If you struggled with form-filling which meant benefit
payments were delayed?
If you had unexpected bills and no savings?
For at least 120 families turn to The Well foodbank each
The strapline of The Well is, #because you are loved.
For – as we’ve said – everyone is loved by God. And the
values of the Kingdom extend to everyone. Meaning that we
care for and help all who we can.
The big thing is that we uphold each other in prayer. Hold
the work of The Well in prayer – for their staff, their
volunteers, for the families who use their services.
For being rooted in prayer means that we uphold the values
of God’s Kingdom. To live a life rooted in prayer is what
we are called to do – in our Epistle we hear that we are to
pray for everyone, and to give thanks. We are to look
outward and not inward. We try not to be consumed by the
constant bombardment of adverts in the media, all the clever
ways of making us feel unhappy with what we have and to want
In a way, Jesus’s words may seem out of step with our
We’ve had constant challenges and changes with the pandemic.
There are issues with gas supplies, and problems in the meat
chain. Many of us have begun to appreciate nature so much
more since the early lockdowns.
Harvest offers us a chance to think about what really
matters to us. To live more sustainably. To live in God’s
love. To care for others.
Can we, dare we, entrust all that we have to God? How
should we live our lives?
“Strive first for the Kingdom of God.” Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:13 pm.

Thursday, 16 September 2021:

Sermon - Trinity 16 Mark 9 30-37

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Last Sunday afternoon I was privileged to baptize a baby
who only 3 days earlier had turned one-year-old. The most
delightful little girl, who beamed up at me as I baptized
her and poured water over her head, and who simply wanted
to play in the water as her parents and Godparents made
promises on her behalf. She chuckled and gurgled and even
babbled, “Yeah, yeah” as promises were made. You couldn’t
help but feel the love and delight felt for this little
girl – our church was full, and to me it felt full of

What is it about children that can melt the hardest of
I say this because today we hear of Jesus taking a little
child in the middle of the disciples.
So let’s – as ever – set the scene.
We’ve been hearing about Jesus and his disciples
constantly on the move Sometimes in Jewish territory,
sometimes in Gentile lands. This band of people is forever
moving around, meeting new people, in awe of their leader.
Maybe they’re thinking of questions they daren’t ask him,
for they feel they’re forever getting it wrong. Jesus has
once again predicted his death and resurrection and they
really don’t like what they hear. Instead of asking him
further questions, they begin to turn inwards upon
themselves. They’re muddled, afraid, and have been
arguing amongst themselves. Who is the most important of
them? Which of them is the greatest?
And Jesus appears to sense this. In fact, he knows
exactly what they’ve been arguing about. They reach home –
Capernaum – and Jesus sorts them out not by a stern word
or by more difficult teaching. No. I like to imagine
Jesus gently picking up a child perhaps from its bed, or a
toddler hiding behind her mother’s skirts. Look, then, at
this beloved child – at the tousled hair, messed from
sleeping; at the clear, beautiful skin; at those huge,
dark eyes. Smell the baby’s clean baby smell. And Jesus
reaches for this child, so gently, and teaches his
disciples by a gentle example.
For Jesus insists we welcome children and even become like
them again. Become as open and spontaneous, live in the
moment, be unafraid to show emotions – well, that’s how
childhood should be (we know, sadly, it isn’t like this
for every child.) Children have the innate ability to live
in the present moment and that’s important to Jesus.
But with childhood comes vulnerability, as we know too
well. Children can never claim to be first, can’t take
charge and move away from situations – the younger they
are, the more reliant they are and accepting of the
situation around them. In the ancient world, children had
no legal protection, no rights, no status.
And Jesus identifies with them.
Think back to some of your childhood memories. When was
it, do you think, that you first began to wish you were
more important, or perhaps as clever as someone else at
school, or as pretty; when was it that the innocence
disappeared and worldly pressures began to emerge?
For – as we know – God has no favourites. Jesus loves you
as his child. Unconditionally, no matter how old or young
you are, God loves you. And we are called to rest in His
arms as I like to imagine Jesus cradling the small child.
As baby Nancy rested in her parents’ arms as she came for
Holy Baptism last week. And as you rest in His arms, feel
the support and strength around you, and the love.
You know, yet again, it’s unsurprising that the disciples
don’t get it. Jesus has asked them some hard questions and
the meaning is hidden under the surface. This time he is
clear about what will happen to him – maybe the disciples
are looking for a hidden meaning that isn’t there. And we
can get why the disciples don’t understand, for the
predicted torture and death isn’t, as Tom Wright says,
part of their game plan, it’s not their understanding of
what a Messiah might do. And I totally sympathise with
I wonder, though, what questions the disciples had that
they were frightened to ask.
Questions such as, “Why must all this happen?” at a guess…
You know, the closer we are to Jesus, the more we are
meant to know. Aren’t we? The disciples were as close as
they could be to him. And you’d think after 6 years of
studying and formation at theological college I’d have
more answers – when the real truth is, I probably have
more questions and am more confused than ever!
I wonder, do we ask each other tough questions, or do we
shy away?
Questions like why do good people suffer, why is there war
and suffering and violence in the world, why is there evil
or wrong doing around us?
I don’t have the answers, but I do know that our Loving
God walks alongside us, carrying us through these really
tough times.
Perhaps we have to share these big questions to make sure
that, unlike the disciples, we don’t become argumentative
with each other.
Do you find yourself wondering what the conversations may
have been if the disciples had been brave enough to speak
out and to ask for understanding and clarification? And if
we speak out to each other in love, where might our
conversations go?
For as we’ve said, there are no cliques with Jesus. No one
is more important than anyone else. We are all valued for
who and what we are, and there is strength in knowing
that, for it removes any fear we may have of asking the
big questions.
And in our reading from James, we are told not to be too
busy for God but to make sure we have space and time to be
with Him. James asks are we full of worldly values, or do
we have understanding of God’s values – in other words,
are we informed by the world, or by God?
So try to allow yourself to lose some of the worldly
cynicism and rest in God. He loves you as you are.
He knows the very worst of us, and the very best.
And we are enough, if we only believe it.
And if we believe it, I wonder what can we do His name?


Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:08 pm.

Friday, 10 September 2021:

Sermon 15th Sunday after Trinity Mark 8: 27-38

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
“Who do you say I am?”
We can just imagine the scene. The disciples and Jesus
walking along, discussing this, that and the other. All
very comfortable. A motley group of tax collectors,
fishermen, and women – don’t forget that we know women
were alongside them. Comfortable with each other’s
company, content to be together, perhaps discussing the
latest events. And then, ever so casually, Jesus drops
into the conversation, “And who do people say I am?”
The disciples probably filter out the bad stuff, the
comments that haven’t been complimentary. “Some say
you’re John the Baptist,” they reply. “Or a prophet, or
We can imagine Jesus taking this on board. And then he
fires the ultimate question – “And who do you say I am?”
Again, imagine the uncomfortable, stunned silence. Who is
going to be the spokesperson for the group? Of course, it
has to be Peter.
“Well, you’re the Messiah!” – only for Jesus to then tell
them NOT to tell anyone about him.

How weird, we may think. If Jesus is spreading the message
about God, why not tell everyone who he is, why not shout
it from the rooftops? But Jesus begins more direct
teaching to the disciples. And they really don’t like
what they hear. It’s uncomfortable. In short, Jesus
begins to prepare them for the scenes in Jerusalem, for
the events of his arrest, trial, his death, and his
Of course, the disciples don’t get it. They don’t want to
get it. How can their leader be telling them of his own
death? It’s an interesting word that Peter uses, for the
word ‘Messiah’ (from Greek) or Christ (from Hebrew) refers
to an anointed King, and Peter actually hasn’t a clue what
he is talking about. He thinks he knows – but he has no
real understanding. I wonder what Peter and the disciples
secretly hoped for – for Jesus to begin an uprising once
they arrived in Jerusalem?
So we can understand Peter’s response to Jesus - I imagine
him saying, “No, there’s no way this can happen to you!
How can you say all this, Jesus, you’re meant to sort the
Romans not allow yourself to be killed by them!”

“Who do you say I am?”

For we know the full story. The disciples didn’t have this
luxury. And we know that Jesus is God. We can’t box him up
and expect him to follow our agenda. He is not a
superhero, come to sort things out. He is the Son of God.
And we are to be willing to follow him. To take up our
own crosses – in other words, look outside our comfort
zone. Allow ourselves to be challenged, do what we have
to do to follow him.

And to sum up the reading from James – we are to listen
more, and talk less. Be careful what we say. Things that
hurt, stick. I remember being criticized during
confirmation classes when I was 11 because I wasn’t sure
of something. “You’re the lay-reader’s daughter!” I was
told. “I expected you to know that!” The effect of that
careless, unnecessary remark was to silence me in any
group situation or meeting for many, many years.

“Who do you say I am?” Perhaps it’s easier today, with our
rights as individuals to fulfil our own potential, to have
a sense of identity. I’m not so sure that the first
century Palestinians would have understood this idea
though. They would look upon themselves as someone’s son
or daughter, from a particular town or village, speaking a
particular language – that’s how they would identify
themselves. Who would you say you are? Who would you say
we are, as a Church community?

Jesus says we are to abandon ourselves. But we remember
we are loved for who and what we are – with our likes and
dislikes, our talents and skills, our hobbies, our
knowledge – so how does that sit alongside his order to
‘take up our cross and follow him?’
I think we’re reminded here not to choose safety. Not to
choose the predictable path, not to make our own safety
and comfort (as in our own comfort zone) the most
important thing.
During early summer we had some stunning poppies in our
back garden. They flowered, gave us much joy, and then
died off. The heads became dry. This week we carefully
picked those dry heads and emptied them of all the seeds
so that they can be spread and shared and hopefully bring
joy to more people next year.
What I’m trying to say is, those poppy heads could have
just been left as dried up and used seeds. Nothing would
change. But by spreading the seeds we have chance of
What seeds can we spread?
Who do we say Jesus is?
There are times when Jesus may test us to the limit.
That’s what he does!

With PCC this coming week, it’s a good time to think, “Who
do I say Jesus is?” to ask ourselves questions that may be
challenging: how can we keep our faith real and vibrant?
How can we develop our personal relationship with God so
that is a real relationship? How can we let go of
ourselves so that we walk unrestricted with Jesus, ready
to carry our cross, to walk out of our comfort zone.
And what seeds might that sow?

“Who do you say I am?”

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:52 pm.

Monday, 6 September 2021:

Sermon 14th Sunday after Trinity Mark 7:24-37

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
God does not have favourites.
As I go around talking with people, it’s interesting to
note how some people view faith as a mysterious, magical
safety blanket. I believe in God, so that’s ok, and I’m
ok. Yes, I say, that may be so, but what do you actually
do to develop your relationship with God? How do you pray?
Do you make space and time for God? And what do you do
with your life that shows others you have a faith and that
that faith matters, it’s not a magical, mysterious belief
in a vague omnipresent being?
Hard questions. Tough questions. But I’m sure you get the
point. For it’s not enough to have faith, to believe. For
trusting in and following Jesus means that we can no
longer sit on the fence or look the other way. We are to
And that’s what James is saying, in his letter to that
early Christian community. James is saying that belief
affects the way you live your life. Affects the way we
live our lives. Faith is not some sort of insurance
policy. For God sees everyone and loves them for who they
are, whatever their circumstances. God loves those who
are employed and unemployed; he loves those who are
retired and those newly born. God’s love extends to the
very margins of society - those who we may be tempted to
try to avoid. In short, God doesn’t love only those with a
particularly good postcode or address. He loves us all,

God does not have favourites.
So, having been assured of God’s love, James reminds us we
are to act. And I spoke of that last week, but more of
that in a moment.

Today’s Gospel reading comes after we heard of his
argument with the Pharisees, those strict upholders of
Jewish laws – we thought about that last week. And I think
Mark places this Gospel story in such a position to make a
point. We hear of two healings today; one from a distance,
one with a deeply personal touch. Both unlikely healings.
In both requests, Jesus is face to face with the unclean,
outcast of society.
Let’s set the scene. He is in deeply Gentile territory.
Not Jewish lands. He’s gone there for a reason. I wonder
how tired he was, entering a house not wanting anyone to
know he was there – was he hoping for a couple of days off
perhaps, a bit of peace, a retreat? I’m not sure, but
whenever he really knows he needs to be with God we hear
that Jesus goes to a mountain. Well, the region we read
about today is not Jewish land, and not mountainous. So
why was Jesus there, in strange and unfamiliar
surroundings, with people who do not understand or believe
in the Jewish faith?
Jesus is there trying to lay low because he’s been saying
some pretty risky things about the Law and traditions.

And by naming these areas – Tyre, Syrophoenicia, Sidon,
the Decapolis, - Mark firmly reminds his followers that
Jesus was in Gentile lands. In short, Jesus was in an
area despised by the Jews – a land inhabited by the
‘other’, the unclean, the Gentiles. And Jesus is
approached by the woman from Syrophoenicia. A woman who
breaks all the unsaid traditions. Unaccompanied by a male
relative, she dares to speak to Jesus.
At first it seems that Jesus rejects her. Nowhere else in
Mark’s Gospel records Jesus as ignoring a request for
healing. I’ve read various commentaries; some suggest this
woman teaches Jesus about racism. I’m really not
convinced of that. Is Jesus’s own admission that he is
here for the Jews?
What we have here is teasing banter between the woman and
Jesus. Jews often thought of the Gentiles as ‘dogs’ and
I’m pretty sure there were uncomplimentary feelings about
the Jews on the Gentiles’ side too. What is happening here
is that Jesus is very conscious that he is here to redeem
Israel – the Jews – and that by doing so, they can work
together to teach and share the Gospel with the Gentiles.

And perhaps the woman reminds Jesus of his humanity. The
banter is teasing, but throughout it we hear her faith.
She knows Jesus can heal her daughter and in so doing can
set them both free, for while her daughter acts in
unpredictable ways they are both outcasts of society. She
shows the faith in her heart.
God’s love and healing power knows no boundaries.
God does not have favourites.

And again, the deaf man in the Decapolis is an outsider.
Unable to speak or hear, what was his world like? And yet
Jesus treats him privately. Places fingers in the man’s
ears, spits and touches the man’s tongue. ‘Ephphatha – be
opened,” Jesus says. And the man is healed.
We may wonder why Jesus wants no one to know. For of
course, words gets around. And perhaps it’s this – he
wants people to approach him through faith, not for
healing, for what they can get out of it.
Time and time again we see Jesus interacting with ‘the
other’ – those who were considered outside society. The
message is hammered home – God does not have favourites.
So what is our response to the terrible situation in
Afghanistan, to the refugees who may arrive in
Wolverhampton? What is our response to the people brave
enough to request help from The Well foodbank, to the
neighbour who needs help?
We are a very generous congregation. I have no doubt that
at Harvest our box at the back of church will be filled
with donations for The Well. And some of you may have
responded to appeals for help for the refugees from
Afghanistan, and we all have charities that are dear to
our hearts.
But as well as practical action or aid, we are called to
pray. To pray intentionally for the other, for the
outcast, for those who are, quite simply, different to us.
And we pray, too that as we know we are special and
precious in God’s sight, so may those we try to reach come
to know that that truth too.

For God does not have favourites.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:41 pm.

Saturday, 28 August 2021:

Sermon - Trinity 13 Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Hands are amazing things, aren’t they. I find myself
watching people’s hands and have noted over time how hands
can often portray a speaker’s intentions. Hands can be
outstretched in welcome or in a plea, clenched to show
some inner turmoil, anguish or anger. They’re often used
expressively as we speak and interact with each other.
Hands can reveal our interests and occupations. Restless
hands are rarely still – knitting or crocheting perhaps.

And I find myself thinking about Jesus’s hands. Rough,
brown, perhaps with scars from his years of carpentry. I
imagine him wiping away the dust of his journey. Here we
can see the scar from when a splinter eventually forced
its way out of his finger, and maybe his nail is blackened
from a slipped hammer. Working hands, hands willing to act
as servant for his friends. Hands that poured water and
washed his friends’ feet. Hands that caught and hauled in
fish, hands that made the fire, cooked the fish, and
shared it with friends. Hands that broke bread and
shared. Hands that were scarred way before Jesus was
nailed to the cross.

Today’s Gospel focuses, in a way, on hands. For the
Pharisees and the scribes are horrified that some of them
eat with unwashed hands. Indirectly criticizing Jesus, by
criticizing his disciples.
We should remember that different Jews followed different
traditions. Just as many of us will cross ourselves at
certain points of the service and make the sign of the
cross before we receive the Sacrament, we have to remember
that is part of our tradition. And it’s not what my more
evangelical friends would do. Neither is right, neither is

We often misunderstand the Pharisees. They recognized that
God’s law was a gift, and tried so hard to observe that
law. This was their way of giving glory to God, as a
witness to Him. And as priests serving in the Temple they
were expected to wash their hands before meals. The meals
became sacred. They thought all Jews should follow this
observance as a way of bringing God into every day, into
every aspect of their lives. The problem is that, over
time, these traditions became their way of preserving
their Jewish faith. Remember that the country was under
Roman occupation…they want to maintain their traditions
and practices as much as possible. So the Pharisees would
see Jesus’s disciples eating with unwashed hands and it
would horrify them. For them, it showed a lack of respect
for God’s law.
Jesus is harsh in his reply. He says, you’re too focused
on external things and you’re not paying enough attention
to your own hearts. You’re putting up barriers between
yourselves and others. Barriers between clean and
unclean. These barriers became rituals and focused on who
was ‘in’ and who was ‘outside’. Rituals that cause
barriers to come between themselves and the very people
they were meant to serve.

Do you know, we may have more in common with the Pharisees
than we like to think. We recognise – I hope! – that we
are called by God. We recognise the true gift of this
calling. Well, so did the Pharisees. Our response to this
calling is to try to live how God calls us to live, and
our calling now is to work out what that means. And how
easy it is to fall into the trap of judging others, as we
ourselves try to live a Godly life.

Traditions are important. Our tradition here – the music,
liturgy, use of the lectionary readings, all point us to a
Sacramental worship. We place high esteem on the
Sacraments – on Holy Communion, on Baptism, Confirmation
and so on. And our traditions point us towards God. The
traditions themselves are not Godly – they are pointers of
the way we are to travel.

So often we hear, “We’ve always done it like this!” at the
hint of any change. (Don’t worry, I’m not about to wade in
with loads of changes!) We are here for God’s glory, and
sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of that – that
there are different ways to glorify and honour God. Our
traditions and our comfort zone are not God’s law,
however. We are to be aware that our own traditions could,
over time, get in our way. Traditions in themselves are
not the problem but the internal corruption becomes the
evil of which Jesus speaks.

And we need to remind ourselves that evil comes from
within. We are proud, we can be hypocritical, we can be
greedy, we do not always look after our world. The list
goes on. We are to be aware of the darkness within our own
hearts. So yes, our hearts can cause great harm. But they
can also cause great good. Our hearts can love. Jesus
sees and knows all the darkness in our hearts – the evil –
he knows us as we are. And yet He still loves us.
For we are called to follow Jesus, to follow God, and to
get our hands dirty in the process. To get our hands dirty
as we care for those for whom many would regard as
‘unclean.’ With a heart cleansed by God.
If you want an example of how we know God works, and how
we know our hearts can do great good, well we’ve had a
classic case in our parish only this last week. If you’re
on social media, some of you will know that we were
approached by a desperate family. A Mum had given birth
in those circumstances we sometimes hear about – she had
no idea she was pregnant. No obvious signs of pregnancy,
no weight gain, so you can imagine the family’s shock when
on Sunday the Mum gave birth to a beautiful, 5lb baby boy.
They turned to us to ask for any help, for they had
nothing ready for a baby. There had been none of the
hopeful preparation and anticipation prior to this little
boy’s arrival. We put an appeal over Facebook. Within 48
hours this little boy and Mum had all they need to begin
their new life together, thanks to the very generous
hearts of those who saw and shared the message. Some
people I’d never met before contacted me to offer their
help and support. Congregation members who saw the appeal
dropped off baby items to us. And the baby and Mum were
able to go home on Tuesday knowing that they would be ok,
and feeling surrounded by love. Absolutely no judgements.
An outpouring of love and generosity that took the family
aback and they are so very grateful.
Yes. Our traditions point us towards God. And we find
God in what we do, in what we say, in the music we hear,
using all our senses as we worship God here, in this holy
place. And when we find God, we cannot then ignore the
Laws. We are to share God’s love as we leave this place.
Honour God with our lips. With our hearts. With our

Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:56 pm.

Saturday, 21 August 2021:

Trinity 12 Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69

“Be strong in the Lord…Put on the whole armour of God.”
It’s horrifying to see the news reports of Afghanistan and
of the militant take-over of the Taliban. It’s beyond
awful to see the desperation of the citizens trying to
flee their country. To hear how some women now feel
vulnerable, unsafe to go to work or to wear their everyday
clothes. How children look lost and frightened. I find
myself wondering what the last twenty years have been
about, and where will this end. I bet I’m not alone in
that thought.
Perhaps the situation in Afghanistan is the reason why our
Epistle, our reading from Ephesians, speaks so strongly to
me today. For we cannot underestimate the militant
language used here by St Paul, writing from a prison when
he himself would have been in chains. And in our own
‘safe’ Western world, the use of such military language
may feel uncomfortable. It’s not in our comfort zone. Not
the sort of language we use nowadays, here in the UK at
this time.
However, at the time of this letter, military language
would have been the norm. The Ephesians would have been
used to and would have understood it. They were a minority
group, this first century group of Christians, and so the
idea of battle was part of their way of life. Their
commitment to Christ put them at odds with others around
them. In short, they needed to be prepared for anything.
Paul gives them a long, extended metaphor for how to live
a Godly, Christian life amidst such surroundings.

You can imagine the scene – we’ve seen it in films, read
it in books. The General assembling his troops, giving
them the pep talk before they go into battle. We see it on
the football pitch, the captain talking in a huddle to his
team just before kick- off. Motivating, urging,
inspiring, demanding. That type of talk.

It has been suggested that perhaps they craved a certain
type of armour to keep them safe.
But not safe in the magical “please look after us and keep
us safe” type of belief. For this was reality. This was
truly how they needed to live their lives. It’s like a
battle speech to fill them with determination. Urging
them to be brave, to persevere.

St Paul uses words we often shy away from, in our
tradition. He speaks of the forces of evil. But we have
to face the fact that as Christians we are called to arm
ourselves against the spiritual battle of evil. The fact
is that we’re not called to fight a ‘battle,’ for God won
the battle over evil and sin when Jesus died, was
resurrected and ascended to heaven. However we believe it
and in whatever way we understand it, we are justified in
our faith but on the defensive, not the offensive. Let’s
just unpack the military language a little to see where we
may go with this.
This armour of God is to help us stand firm in our faith,
in our belief in Jesus Christ. Belief that He died for
us, rose again and lives. Belief that Sunday by Sunday in
some way we encounter Him as we come to the altar to
receive Communion. This armour helps us to stand firm, to
withhold attacks of evil. For we are aware that evil does
exist – a glance into the news confirms this – and evil
can seek to overthrow the people of God. Again, think of
Afghanistan – what happens to the Christians in that
country, along with all the civilians who are dragged into
an unwanted battle with extreme laws?
Our resistance and understanding and perseverance comes
from God, not from our own strength.
For our strength comes from God. From Jesus Christ. From
the Holy Spirit. We’re called to speak in love, holding
our shield of faith, wearing our helmet of salvation –
saved by the grace of God, not through our own actions,
but a true gift from God.
And it feels too easy to be saying all this here in a
country where our faith is unchallenged, where we have the
right to be able to practice our faith in safety. How
strong is our faith, what would we saying or doing if we
were challenged? There are no answers, for we ourselves
just don’t know.
One thing I do know, and I’ve heard time and time again
over the past eighteen months, is that God is a God of
surprises who takes us where we ourselves never dream to
go; who challenges us in ways we would never entertain; a
God who throws at us what we can bear. And I do believe
this – but we have to put our trust in God and that makes
us both vulnerable and protected at the same time.
For St Paul has been urging the Ephesians on throughout
his letter. Not everyone will have the gift of speech to
talk about God, not everyone will have the practical
skills necessary to maintain their Christian way of life,
not everyone will have the skills to teach, to preach, to
look after others. But coming together as a community of
believers, everyone has the gifts they need to enhance
that community and beyond.

And that applies to us, here, now. Paul urges the
Ephesians to continue in prayer through the power of the
Holy Spirit. We don’t rely on our own abilities but remain
open to the gifts and opportunities the Holy Spirit offers
us. In this way, we grow together, as the Body of
Christ, here in this place.
And so we pray, as we put on the armour of God. We pray
for God’s Spirit to guide us and we ask that we may hear
His voice, His promptings.
And to look briefly at our Gospel, Peter hears what Jesus
says, and understands enough to say that Jesus is the way,
Jesus is the life. Believing in Jesus does not make us
exempt from the problems that life may throw at us. But we
do have an eternal hope in our salvation and a belief that
in Christ all may be made whole.
And so we pray that we may be fed by the Living Bread; be
nourished by the Word; that we may live to serve Christ
here on earth; that we may stand firm as did St Paul; that
we may pray for those situations we feel powerless to
help, that we may fervently pray and be aware of God’s

We pray that we ourselves may be strong in the Lord; that
we may put on the whole armour of God.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:05 pm.

Friday, 6 August 2021:

Transfiguration 2021 Luke 9:28-36 - Sermon

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
On one of our training residential weekends at Shallowford
House, whilst a curate, we watched a film called The Way.
It’s a really good film, about a group of travellers or
pilgrims who are searching for a deeper meaning to their
lives. It centres around Tom, whose adult son died whilst
walking the Camino de Santiago, the way of St James. Tom
decides to walk the route of the pilgrimage in tribute to
his son, taking his ashes with him, and en route of course
we find out about the stories of a particular group of the
Whichever route you take, at the end of the pilgrim route
you come to the cathedral, the Santiago de Compostela in
Spain. Here a daily Mass is held for the pilgrims. On
the feast days, the Botafumeiro is lit. This is the
world’s largest censer for incense – weighs around 80 kg,
that’s around twelve and a half stone, and holds 40kg of
incense. It makes quite a cloud of smoke.
From looking at images on line and on film, it literally
looks as if pilgrims are surrounded in a cloud of smoke.
I wonder if in that moment they sense they are in the
presence of God.
I wonder if in that moment they sense they are surrounded
by the glory of God.

I guess we’ve all had those moments that we wish could
last forever. Those glimpses of something so wonderful
that the feelings we experience are indescribable. Those
moments we wish that could go on and on and on and never
What moments have there been in your life, when you felt
so overwhelmed by the sheer beauty/glory/happiness (choose
your own word) that moved you? A sudden rainbow in the
midst of a dark sky? Sunrise, sunset, those moments when
rays of light seem to transcend from the clouds in sheets
of light? A wonderful goal as the ball hits the back of
the net? A special moment with someone you love? Whatever
those moments may have been for you, at that point you’ve
encountered the glory of God.
Perhaps it can be explained as those moments when we are
so overwhelmed by the presence of God that you feel
yourself being changed by it, from the inside out.
Perhaps we may say, God is always just about to surround
us in a cloud of smoke.
I must say here that these thoughts are developed from
some online reading.
Today’s Gospel story tells us of the transfiguration. Of
how the glory of God is revealed in Jesus, in a cloud of
smoke up on a mountain, with Peter, James and John as
The story points us to God’s glory and where we might see
it in our own lives.

Firstly, the story tells us that glory is about being set
free. We read that as Jesus is transfigured he appears in
dazzling white, and the Old Testament comes to life as
Moses and Elijah appear alongside him.
Jesus talked about his departure. Luke uses the word
exodus. As we’ve explored in recent weeks, first century
Jews would have understood the weight of the meaning of
that word, and so do we. For the Exodus story is the
story of God setting his people free by liberating them
from slavery – it’s the great rescue story of the Old
The presence of Moses and Elijah there tell us about
Jesus. We don’t know what glory is, without the story of
Israel. Remember that Moses represents the law – God gave
the law to Moses on top of a mountain in a cloud of smoke,
and the law was written on tablets and kept in the ark of
the covenant, carried with the Israelites and placed in
the holiest place in the temple. It was God’s covenant
with his people, and that’s what the presence of Moses at
the transfiguration is all about.
Jesus is the covenant between God and God’s people, turned
to flesh and blood.
Every time the Israelites forgot the law and strayed from
the covenant, God sent prophets to remind them what it
meant to love and be loved. And that’s what the presence
of Elijah the prophet is all about.
The law of Moses and the prophecy of Elijah were all about
upholding the freedom that God had given them.
So the glory of God is about being set free.

Secondly, the Glory of God is about suffering. We can’t
forget, can we, the sort of departure, the exodus, they
are talking about. It’s not an escape plan. They are
talking about the fact that Jesus is going to Jerusalem to
die. Glory is found in facing the reality of suffering,
allowing others to see God in you. So through failure,
foolishness and pain, the Glory of God can be revealed.
The Glory of God is about suffering.

The Glory of God is about the Church. As Jesus is
transfigured, Peter makes a mindless suggestion about
making three tents – you wonder how Jesus had the patience
for his followers!
Sometimes we might still wonder how Jesus has the patience
for his followers as we are today.
Yet in this moment of glory, he still wants them there.
God wants us to be part of his glory.
So the glory of God is about the Church.
Finally, the Glory of God is about prayer.
When did the Transfiguration happen? During a time of
prayer, when Jesus had gone up the mountain to seek God’s
presence. So perhaps transfiguration is what we hope for
each time we pray. If we allow God to speak to us, the
cloud of smoke will surround us and God will reveal his
glory to us.
So the transfiguration is about prayer.
And at the end of the story, we learn that the disciples
who were there and witnessed the transfiguration kept
silent. They did not tell anyone what they had witnessed.
I suspect this may be because there were no words to
describe what they had seen. If, perhaps, you struggle to
share your faith with others, it may not be because your
faith is lacking. It may be that the glory of God, that
cloud of smoke that is always about to surround us, is
hard to put into words. We may find it hard to understand
or explain, but God reveals his glory and this story tells
us where.
God reveals his glory in setting people free.

Have you seen how forgiveness frees a person from guilt?
Have you seen how a friendship frees someone from despair?
Have you seen how kind hands can free a person from
Have you seen a word of faith free a person from fear?
Have you seen steadfast love, or an act of courage free a
person, from a prison of their own or another’s making?
Maybe it is you who has been set free.
And that’s where to look for glory.

God reveals his glory in suffering. That’s what the cross
is about.
Have you felt the presence of God in times of your own
suffering? That cloud of smoke surrounding you at a time
when you felt most alone.
Have you been alongside someone in their suffering and
shared the burden of it with them?
Have you seen hope come alive in a situation that seemed
Do you put your own suffering in the presence of God, for
him to transfigure?
That’s where to find glory.

And God reveals his glory in the Church.
The ordinary Church.
Have you felt the presence of God surround you in worship?
Have you heard him speak to you through scripture, or
music, or silence, or through the Sacraments?
Have you experienced the love of God through generosity
and fellowship, or in stumbling attempts at hospitality
and holiness?
Have you looked for God’s hand among a people sharing
their joys and sorrows over years and decades of joyful
weddings, tearful funerals, of prayers offered, candles
lit, craft activities, coffee and biscuits?
Because that’s where your tired eyes might just see glory.

And we remember that Jesus was transfigured when he went
away to pray.
Do you go away to pray? Do you take your freedom, your
suffering, your irrational thoughts and hold them out to
God? Do you allow the cloud of smoke to surround them and

And when you go away to pray, do you ask God to
transfigure you?
Do you expect your face and your clothes to dazzle and
brighten so that others might see the glory of God through
God is always just about to surround us in a cloud of
smoke. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:05 pm.

Sunday, 1 August 2021:

Trinity IX (Proper 13) John 6:24-35 - Sermon

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never
be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be
I like to imagine scenes of Jesus and the crowds and the
beach. One of the favourite pictures in my mind is of
Jesus around a campfire with his disciples, and as they
talk, they eat. It’s probably dusk. They’ve had a busy
day walking, teaching, being with crowds. Now is some time
for them to rest before they do it all again tomorrow.
And as I picture the scene, I see something in Jesus’s
Bread. It’s always bread.
For there is something about sharing food together that
helps to build up a community. Something about being
hospitable, and making space and time for people.
The shared act of eating together builds bonds.
And in my mind, it’s always Jesus who holds the bread.
Breaks it. Shares.
Well, you may be thinking, that’s all very well but it’s
not part of our Gospel story today, is it. And you’d be
right. But, I’m sure you’re beginning to get this now, I
like to try to set the scene. And this is the scene I can
imagine after the feeding of the 5000, which we thought
about last week. When the boy offered all he had, and
Jesus took it, blessed it, shared it, and there was more
than enough to go round.
So this is the scene I build on as we look at today’s
Bread. Imagine your favourite bread – whatever it may be.
Crusty, wholemeal, tiger bread, French stick, whatever –
imagine it freshly baked. That glorious smell of just-
baked bread, and that taste in your mouth that nothing
else can give.
Yet it’s made from only water, flour, yeast. So simple.
But it nourishes, and fills, and satisfies.
And bread is the metaphor for how God can fill our lives,
how God can satisfy our longings. So let’s explore that a
little more.
The crowd today have actually gone out in boats across the
sea to reach Jesus. (It reminds me of TV images of small
boats setting out from the south of England during WW2 at
Dunkirk.) This crowd wants to be satisfied. They want to
see more signs from Jesus. They want to be fed by him –
only yesterday, he provided for them at the feeding of the
They want more.
And it’s easy to sympathise with them, I think. For the
more we see, the more we try to understand. The more we
are taught, the more we learn. This crowd is hungry for
Jesus recognizes why they follow him. He turns the
tables, questioning them, making them think. “You’re here
because yesterday you had all you need,” he says to them.
“And now, you want more.”
Then he adds something strange. He tells them to work for
what the Son of Man can give them. “Well, what do we need
to do then?” They’re used to signs, and John’s Gospel is
full of signs. They remind Jesus that their ancestors ate
manna in the wilderness, bread from heaven – another
signpost as to who Jesus is.
Here’s the rub. The crowd have seen the signs, but don’t
get it. They don’t quite get what Jesus is driving at
here, and we should be sympathetic, for time and time
again, we’re exactly the same. So Jesus reminds them that
it was God, not Moses who provided the manna, the food
from heaven. He says, “The Bread of Heaven, the bread of
God, gives life to the world.”
Well, naturally, the crowd want some of this. Jesus links
the story of feeding in the wilderness, during the Exodus,
to the ongoing gift from God.
Stories define us. Our own story defines who we are.
Collectively and individually, stories are important, and
perhaps we need to start sharing our own stories a bit
more to give us the confidence, a voice, to speak out and
own our faith. The crowd with Jesus would know that their
story of the Exodus is their shared story, their identity.
It links the present with the past.
“I am the bread of life,” says Jesus. “The Bread of God…
gives life to the world.” Gives. Present, ongoing, not
past tense. For God gives, and gives and will keep giving.
There may well be a hunger in our lives. A hunger for –
well, what? It’s hard to articulate. I remember eleven
years ago, when I first felt God was calling me for
something but I had no idea what, or why, or what I should
be doing. I remember paddling in the sea, with a great
longing to do something, but what? All I knew was that
there such a deep sense of longing within me that it felt
a physical ache.
And if we truly believe in Jesus as the Son of God, as our
Saviour, that longing is filled when we take on board what
God calls each of us to do, in our own way.
We hunger to be understood, to be fed, to belong. But all
Jesus asks of us is to believe.
Believing may be one thing. Living it out, living our
faith as people of God, is another.
Our reading from Samuel tells us pretty shocking things
about David – who was called by God. What I like is that
we can see how God calls flawed people. And he gets them
to work things out for themselves. Nathan is bold and
prompts David but doesn’t give him the answers, he allows
David to work things out for himself. What, I wonder, is
so deeply engrained in us that we need these signposts to
wake up, to see what is really going on? And our Ephesians
reading reminds us that God chose us all. He chose us
all, humankind, each with our own gifts, to be members of
his family, his church.
And that’s our challenge, while the diocese looks at
Shaping for Mission, looking at our deaneries and the
strengths, weaknesses, visions. We are all one family.
We can be together, working for a shared vision, together
as the Body of Christ in this place, or we can act on our
own – that’s a bit like a leg without a body though.
“I am the bread of life.” Our hunger and thirst for God is
satisfied when we truly believe that God satisfies. More
than satisfies. In fact, if we truly believe that Jesus
is the bread of life we will overflow with his love.
Do we keep it to ourselves or do we try to share it?
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never
be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:25 pm.

Thursday, 29 July 2021:

Trinity VIII (Proper 12) John 6:1-21 - Sermon

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.
Our Gospel reading today gives us two miracles. The story
of the Feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle to be
recorded in all four Gospels, and today we hear that story
together with the miracle of Jesus walking on water.
The difference for us this week is that we’ve switched to
accounts from John’s Gospel – for most of this year we’ve
been reading from Mark. Our Lectionary year gives us a
three- year cycle, a year for Matthew, a year for Mark, a
year for Luke, and each year we have different parts of
John’s Gospel added in. John’s Gospel offers us a
different insight into the story and into the mystery of
He sets the scene very carefully. Our attention is drawn
to the mountains, to the wilderness, to Jesus as the
teacher, to the crowds who have – as we know – been
following him, desperate to hear him and to see more
signs, and to the disciples. We are also told that the
Jewish festival of Passover was very near.
Last week, I talked about Jesus’s compassion. In the
passage today I don’t sense that feeling of compassion – I
almost sense detachment. Our focus is on Jesus, and the
main players – the boy, and on Philip and Andrew.
The rich symbolism of the story may need teasing out. In
the synoptic Gospels, Jesus takes bread. John’s Gospel
tells us that the bread was in fact barley loaves.
Symbolic on different levels: barley loaves was the sort
of bread available to the poor. There’s also a parallel
with the Old Testament story we find in the 2nd book of
Kings, when the Prophet Elisha served a large crowd from
twenty barley loaves and had some food left over. John’s
placed this story around the time of the Passover. The
crowds would understand the symbolism, the parallels.
Just as Moses led the people of Israel, we see Jesus
leading this crowd. The stories of Moses and of the
prophets would be upmost in the crowds’ minds at this
special time. They will recognize a prophet when they see
And that’s exactly what they recognize in Jesus – that he
is a prophet. They witness the amazing things he does,
and want more. They want to make him their king.
And that’s why Jesus withdraws to a mountain by himself.
That’s where he prays. Where he gains his strength. And we
read that as evening falls, the disciples are left to head
out in their boat. It grows dark. The sea becomes rough –
remember from a couple of weeks ago how we said the Sea of
Galilee was prone to sudden squalls and storms. And Jesus
walks on water towards the disciples, appearing out of
Jesus’s divine nature revealed here, out on that lake. No
wonder the disciples reacted with terror. Perhaps an
instinctive human reaction to the unknown is to show fear.
Perhaps they recognize, but can’t articulate, that they
are indeed in the presence of God.
Jesus, revealing his kingship over Creation, when he
himself refuses to be made a human king.
Jesus’s miracles signpost us to God’s glory.
What are these important miracle stories telling us today?
On one level I want to say that God provides. Jesus knew
what he was going to do to feed the crowd, but he asked
Philip what they should do. Philip knew they had no money
and nowhere to buy food anyway! We can sense his
disbelief, his helplessness. Andrew brings the boy
forward, knowing that the little he had would not be of
any use to a large crowd. Jesus, we note, gives thanks.
This is the Eucharistic meal, as told in John’s Gospel.
Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks and shares. Jesus
uses what is available, and look at the result. Look what

On another level, I want to say that when we ourselves
have no idea what to do, we can pray. Bring our jumbled
up thoughts and petitions and hopes to God. Our problems
to God. I’m not saying that things will be magically
solved overnight – that’s not how God works. Perhaps,
though, we can use these stories to help us.
Knowing our own resources, we may often – always?! – feel
inadequate. But if we offer them to Jesus, who knows what
can happen.
We do this not in our own stead, but in the knowledge that
Jesus walks alongside us. Who knows what may happen if we
trust and lean on him.
Who knows what may happen if we allow Jesus to take our
talents, our time, our skills – just see what he does with
When I think of these two stories, I can sense the
excitement of the crowd at the feeding of the 5000. And I
can definitely understand the fear shown by the disciples
out there in the dark, in the boat on a rough sea. We
have two different moods here. Exhilaration, and
excitement, contrasted with unease, darkness, fear. It
may be worth spending a few minutes thinking through these
different moods, these reactions.
I wonder, where would you be in the first miracle. Would
you be in the crowd, feeling hungry but not wanting to
leave through fear of missing out.
Would you be Philip – throwing up your hands and saying
yes there’s a problem but I don’t know what we can do
about it.
Would you be Andrew, who seems to be able to get to know
people, who can bring a young boy to Jesus.
Or would you be the young boy, offering all that he has to
For here at Epiphany we have a task on our hands. Not
only in sorting out the church roof, but in spreading the
Gospel message. In short, for doing what we are all called
to do.
I wonder. Do we hold up our hands, shrug and say we don’t
know what to do? Do we pass the buck and leave it for
someone else to think through, and sort out? Because if we
do that, I can tell you exactly where we’ll be in a few
years’ time.
And it probably won’t be here.
Or do we get out there and talk with folk, and through
being who we are, reveal a sense of God’s love, which is
for everyone. Do we make that clear? If not, how can we do
And do we pray, intentionally pray, for God’s guidance and
a sense of his Spirit? Not in the ‘Dear God, please help
me/us to do this, that and the other’ type of way. We
can’t project our hopes and wishes onto God and hope for a
miracle! We can, however, pray intentionally for the Holy
Spirit to guide us in ways and paths we may never have
thought of.
The big point from today is can we pray and trust enough
in Jesus to see what He will do, where He will lead us?
Over to you. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:51 am.

Monday, 19 July 2021:

Trinity VII Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Trinity VII Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest
A few weeks ago, I remember asking you to think of your
favourite coastline or beach. We thought about how it is
when it’s calm and peaceful, and how it changes during a
storm. Today we hear Jesus speak directly to us. “Come
away by yourselves and rest awhile.”
Dependent upon my mood, when I hear those words I’m either
transported to a beach in North Wales, with the stunning
mountains of Snowdonia all around and the beautiful
coastline of the Llyn Peninsular. Or, I may be taken to
the island of Lindisfarne with its rich sense of history,
of pilgrimage, of prayer, of peace and restoration. On
other days I could be (in my mind’s eye) in the Forest of
Dean or Cannock Chase, both beautiful forests with space
to explore away from the popular walking or activity
I wonder where you would go, either physically or in your
mind’s eye, to rest awhile.
Somewhere where you can rest awhile in God, not to be
rushing around or forever available to anyone. Somewhere
where you can rest and ‘be’ even if only for a few hours.
You’ll have worked out by now that I like to imagine the
scene. It’s worth spending time to try to put yourself
into the story – are you an onlooker, a disciple, someone
who desperately wants to see Jesus so that you can be
healed? Jesus is becoming a popular figure. Crowds are
attracted to him and Jesus responds by teaching and
healing. And as he looks at the crowds he feels an
overriding sense of compassion for them. They need more
than healing. They need to know and experience God’s
love. They have to be taught.
The disciples have just returned from their first mission
on their own, where they themselves were witness to Jesus,
they healed and taught crowds wherever they went. So you
can imagine this first meeting of them all – living on
their nerves, each desperate to say what they’ve been
doing and to validate their own calling – and what
happens? They can hardly be heard. Jesus understands. He
gets it, the tiredness, the exhaustion, the buzz of work
well done. His reaction is the same as we saw when he was
with Jairus and the little girl. His reaction is to care –
practically – for his disciples before they face
exhaustion and burnout. We sense his compassion for them.
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest
We see Jesus putting the needs of others before himself.
Caring for the wellbeing of the disciples. But then he
realises the crowd is still urgent, insistent.
The short boat trip is the only time the disciples and
Jesus have time to themselves. The boat becomes a
sanctuary, whereas a few weeks ago it was anything but (in
the calming of the storm.) The Sea of Galilee is really a
medium sized lake, surrounded by mountains, and the crowd
could therefore track the progress of the boat out on the
sea before it came to land.
Jesus, as I said, sees and understands the urgency of the
crowd. He feels compassion. Compassion isn’t merely about
pity or sympathy. I think it’s a gut-wrenching ache, of
caring for others, of walking beside them, of providing
for them. The crowd must engulf the boat as the disciples
and Jesus come to land. Jesus it seems to me is calm,
responsive. He understands the people are lost – they
lack an awareness of God in their lives. I can’t help
comparing the kind of leader Jesus is to Herod, thinking
of last week’s reading. Here we have two kings. One rules
by fear. The other, by compassion. Compassion – an urge
to alleviate the suffering of others. To walk alongside
I wonder if the boat itself becomes the place of retreat,
even if for such a short time. And I wonder if you’ve
ever gazed up with wonder at the roof inside an older
church. On Wednesday evening, I looked up at the roof
inside St Peter’s in the city centre during choral
evensong. It stuck me that the roof is like the hull of
an upturned boat. The church building itself can become a
place of retreat.
I end with a meditation from Nick Fawcett. It’s called
‘Meditation of Matthew.”
He was concerned for the multitude, we knew that,
for he’d ministered to them so often,
responding to the broken in body, mind and spirit,
and bringing hope and healing.
But he was equally concerned about us-
about our wholeness too.
We’d forgotten that in our excitement,
too focused on our newfound mission
after he sent us out to preach and teach in his name.
Some of us had travelled miles,
determined to cover the most ground,
reach the most people,
win the most converts,
each vying to outdo the other,
almost as if it were a competition.
We meant well, of course,
but, looking back, I realise it was too much about us,
and too little about him-
as though everything depended on our efforts,
whereas finally, of course, it was down to him.
You should have seen us when we got together again.
Like excited schoolchildren we were,
each desperate to share what we’d been up to and to win
his plaudits,
but he gently quietened us,
urging us first to get some rest and take some food.
The message was simple:
we were called to serve,
not run ourselves into the ground;
to minister to others
but also to take care of ourselves,
and, to do that, we needed time and space for reflection –
time and space for God.
He didn’t ram the point home,
just gently offered guidance,
and events were to prove him right,
for, before we knew it, the crowd was upon us again,
We realised then, more than ever, the wisdom of his words,
the importance of physical and spiritual refreshment.
Work for God’s kingdom, certainly,
do what you can to bring it nearer,
but don’t think it depends entirely on you.
Make time for yourself as well as others,
or else you’ll be no use to anyone,
including him.

Jesus’ compassion, not only for the crowd but for his
disciples, shows he understands the need for spiritual and
physical rest.
What compassion do we show for the marginalized, for the
abused, for the ‘other.’
And do we pay attention to ourselves, to go away to a
deserted place by ourselves, and rest awhile.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:22 pm.

Saturday, 10 July 2021:

Trinity V1 Proper 10 Mark 6:14-29

May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Last week was such a special moment in the life of this
church community, and I’d like to thank each and every one
of you for your involvement and participation. There was a
real feeling of community, a sense of God’s presence and
power, and a deep feeling of being in God’s presence.
Our reading from Samuel touches on the presence of God,
the power of God amongst the people of Israel. They
regard the Ark of God as a symbol of God’s presence and
power, and they understand all too well the dangers and
the joys of being aware that they are in God’s presence.
I’ll avoid the temptation to drift off into fantasy land,
but if you’ve watched the Indiana Jones film Raiders of
the Lost Ark, you’ll know that as the Ark is found and
opened, it radiates glory and power and a real sense of
the presence of someone or something unknown, a powerful

This powerful entity is expounded in our reading from
Ephesians, this lyrical reading which, in the original
Greek, is written as one long sentence. The trouble with
that is that it needs translating for those who don’t read
Greek, and there are limitations and some confusion as to
how and where to punctuate this passage, where to
demarcate the sentences, which words accurately convey the
author’s original meaning.
Well, I’m no Greek scholar, but the beginning of the
passage accurately reflects how blessed we were last week,
and how blessed we are, fullstop. The times when we can
come together as a community to celebrate and witness a
wedding, or a win for your national or local team, or
whatever the occasion. We come together in joy, and in
sorrow, but as a church we are here, called to bless our
neighbours and our local communities of which we are a
part. We are called to be ‘in Christ’ or ‘through Christ’
– as a whole community, not just a collection of
individuals but as a new way of being, collectively. Our
lives are experienced and lived ‘in Christ’ – we are
joined by, and in, the presence of God. In Christ we
mourn together, we rejoice together, we join together.
So what’s this got to do with our Gospel reading, where we
have another ‘Markan sandwich’ with the story of John’s
death recorded within the commissioning of the Twelve and
their return.
Mark gives us a very different interpretation of Herod
than Matthew. Mark’s Herod is almost sympathetic to John.
However, he has the power. If we think of all the powerful
leaders of our world, we can all imagine the violence they
can release – in recent years we can name ethnic
cleansing, street children, children scrabbling for food
in waste dumps – yes, we see images of all these on our TV
screens. There are leaders and dictators who ignore the
rights of ordinary people, so that they can make sure they
stay in power.
I’m not saying that’s Mark’s portrayal of Herod, but it is
something to think through. For Herod is a powerful man.
We hear, however, that he feared John, acknowledging that
John is a holy, righteous man. John’s life differs vastly
to Herod’s. John lives simply. He preaches to the poor,
but was not afraid to challenge the powerful and rich.
Think where he lived – he lived in the wilderness. Herod
even liked to listen to John. He heard God’s word. So
what caused him to grant John’s execution?
Perhaps he did not believe that he needed to repent, to
listen to God, maybe he did believe that he could live a
simpler life or allow his identity to God to come to the
fore. Maybe he did not feel he deserved God’s love. Who
knows? What he did do, was to allow evil to exist, and to
build on it, and not challenge it.
We read in Mark that Herod protected John, until the
request came from his daughter for the head of John the
Baptist. Herod’s public oath was his own demise, for in
the Biblical tradition, Jews did not dismiss any oaths.
We learn of Herodias’ grudge against John only in Mark’s
Gospel. That Herod had married his brother’s wife, and
that John disapproved. Traditionally we imagine the
daughter to be provocative, dancing in a sexually alluring
manner. However, the Greek word that Mark uses for her is
‘korasion’ and Mark uses the same word for Jairus’s
daughter, remember, when Jesus said, “Little girl, get
up?” It’s difficult to picture the scene, but however old
she was, she was promised whatever she wanted – and her
mother then suggested the head of John the Baptist.
In the Bible, those agents of God who challenge those in
power and authority usually come to a sticky end. John’s
case was no different.
John strived to conform to God’s will. He remained
faithful, and dies for his faith. How courageous was he,
in his fight for justice.
Who are the John’s of this world, the John’s in the
wilderness, in all the places where God’s love is not
being lived?
What would John say to the tyrants of today?
And how does this translate to our lives? For we are
rightly concerned with the life of our church, and of our
building, but where do we challenge injustice? Poverty?
Do we have the courage to stand up to the tyrants of
today, or to stand up to today’s false values?
Do we speak out for justice?
Herod was left wondering if in some way, Jesus was John
the Baptist.
Herod had a sense that John was a man of God, and began to
fear Jesus.
So what’s all this mean for us?
There are times when we may try to shut out God’s voice,
to stop unwelcome questions, but we end up going round in
circles. Does the desire to please people override our
desire to obey God?
For nothing can shut out God’s voice, and the reality is
that as we challenge injustice and speak up for those who
have no voice, only then do we begin to find a peace with
God and ourselves.
So our big challenge is to be honest with ourselves. What
is God calling us to do, individually and as a
What are the next steps for our Church?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:07 pm.

Saturday, 26 June 2021:

Trinity 4 (Proper 8) Mark 5:21-43

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Yet again we have crowd scenes in today’s Gospel story,
and yet again I have to try to remember what it felt like
to be part of a crowd, given the strange times we have
been living through. Two years ago this week I was
ordained priest and the congregation felt quite big in St
Michael’s Lichfield. Almost three years ago I was
ordained Deacon in a packed Cathedral – now yes, that felt
like a crowd, albeit an orderly crowd. Then I think back
to other crowds I’ve been in, at concerts and shows, but
particularly at football matches. Several occasions stick
out in my mind at various games, times when we’ve been
right in the middle of a slow, shuffling crowd edging its
way towards an exit. Several bleats of “Baaaa!” and good
natured banter surrounded us as we slowly crept forwards.
At times like this you become so aware of the other people
around you; elbows nudging you, pushes in the back, the
occasional knock on your ankles or legs – gosh it’s a good
job the football was worth it!

Mark sandwiches one story inside another. We begin with a
young girl who is so ill that her distraught father goes
to find Jesus to ask him to heal her. What’s so
noticeable about that, you may ask – by this point,
Jesus’s reputation had spread so far that many people
realised that here was someone different who made things
happen. Well, Jairus was a Jewish leader, a leader at the
synagogue. What must it have cost him to find Jesus and
to beg for healing for his daughter?
Mark interrupts this story by telling us of another
healing, this time a healing that’s unasked for. We hear
of the woman who has been bleeding for twelve long years.
Then our Gospel passage ends with Jesus raising Jairus’s
daughter, even though she had already died whilst waiting
for Jesus to arrive.
Why does Mark write like this? These stories reveal Jesus
to us in different ways. They point to Jesus’s healing
power but also of the nature of salvation we can find
through him. It looks like Jesus can heal even when he
himself does not initiate that healing. He can raise
someone who he failed to heal in time.
We recall that Jesus was in a boat, with crowds around –
crossing the lake - and today’s Gospel links our last two
weeks’ stories, from both the Jewish and the Gentile sides
of the lake, or the sea.
Jairus has faith in Jesus. He believes that if Jesus lays
his hands on his beloved twelve-year-old daughter, she
will be healed. What must it have cost him as synagogue
leader to associate with Jesus, given the mixed reputation
that Jesus had? Then we hear how the crowds press in on
Jesus. The crowds make such a noise, and move so slowly…
and the woman who has been bleeding for so many years
manages to get near to Jesus. Unheard of – not only is
she a woman, she’s an outcast because of her bleeding.
She must have been wealthy at one point, because she has
spent money on doctors, trying to get better. Can you
imagine her – I imagine her pale and listless, in pain.
She is ritually unclean, at the bottom of the pile.
Desperate to be healed, for this bleeding to stop.
I can imagine Jairus’s frustration and fear as Jesus
stands still. “Who touched me?” Jesus asks. Hear the
laughs of the crowd; “Well, how on earth can we find out
who touched you, Jesus, look around you, it’s a sea of
people!” I can imagine the crowd saying.
Not much loving in a crowd, is there. And yet Jesus
stops, full of love. He knows something has happened. He
knows what has happened. And yet, “who touched me?” he
asks. Can you sense the crowd’s impatience as he stops,
and talks, and with his compelling eyes almost demands the
woman to come forward and announce herself? Many of the
crowd would know of her and her story and I suspect would
be really annoyed at Jesus spending time with her. And she
had the nerve to touch the hem of Jesus’s clothes.
Immediately, she knows within herself that she is healed.
She has no need of a doctor to say she is cured. She
knows at that split second that she is cured, her bleeding
has ceased. She is brave enough to overcome the crowd’s
increasing hostility towards her. She tells Jesus what has
“Daughter,” says Jesus.
He sees not an outcast or reject, but he sees her for who
she is. He sees her fully restored. She waits – not for
an outpouring of anger, but for his gentle love. For his
blessing of peace.
Then we return to the house of Jairus, where, as he and
Jesus and the crowd approach, they are met by wailing and
professional mourners and a tidal wave of grief. Jesus,
being Jesus, says, “Why all the fuss and commotion? The
child is asleep.” And we can imagine the crowd mocking
It’s Jairus and his wife who witness what happens next,
for Jesus withdraws them from the crowd and takes them to
the child. We know the story – he takes her hand, says,
“Little girl, get up!” – and incredibly, astonishingly,
amazingly, that’s exactly what she does.
Telling the family to keep quiet, Jesus attends to
practical matters: “Give her something to eat,” he directs
the astounded, overjoyed parents.
The mysterious Jesus. We are pointed to a new way of
healing, and of new creation. Both stories are about fear
and faith. It’s worth thinking through, and praying
through, both stories separately. Tom Wright, the
theologian, suggests that when we feel the pressures of
life crowding in upon us, we can allow ourselves to creep
forwards, touch the hem of Jesus’s clothes – creep up
behind Jesus, in the odd mixture of faith and fear that
seems to characterize so much of our Christian
This is not a magician, creating magic tricks. We know he
is God’s Son – the onlookers don’t know that at this
point, of course.
Don’t be afraid, Jesus is saying. There’s enough love for
everyone. Love for the outcast, for the sick, for women,
for men, for children. God’s love and care is for
Commitment to Jesus is no guarantee of an easy ride. Not
every problem will be resolved as we would wish, healing
does not always happen, death will come to us all.
There’s no guarantee of a trouble-free ride through life.
What we do have, though, is the assurance that God travels
this path with us, for strength and support, for comfort.
We have an unclean, outcast woman playing a central part
in Jesus’s teaching of redemption and healing.
We have a twelve-year-old girl showing us the power of
Christ to restore us to fullness of life.
We’re left, as ever, with questions. Why did Jesus tell
them not to tell anyone what had happened? Why did Jesus
do something about the little girl only after it had been
brought to his attention? After all, many other children
would die in those times. Why does Mark note that Jesus
says, “Talitha, cum”, the Aramaic words when the rest of
the narrative speech is not recorded? What is the
significance of twelve, given that the child is aged
twelve and the woman had been bleeding for twelve years?
Perhaps these stories can help us to navigate our way
through life’s storms.
Perhaps these stories show us God’s healing power, both
spiritual and physical.
Salvation, healing and faith. That’s the point of these
stories being included in the Gospel, and today’s reading
especially feels to me like it has been written by an eye
witness. The woman’s faith saves her, and then she is
healed. So faith, salvation, healing, are all bound
together in the presence and power of Jesus.
I wonder, how will our lives be transformed as we continue
to follow Christ in discipleship?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:20 pm.

Saturday, 19 June 2021:

Trinity 3 (Proper 7) The Stilling of the Storm

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
I wonder if you, like me, find the sea an irresistible
I wonder if the sea invokes in you a sense of majesty, of
awe, of inspiration. Never the same, constantly moving,
one-minute calm, the next a sudden surge and swell.
I wonder if the sea captivates you, with the smells, the
sounds, the salty taste of the air.
I wonder if there is an area of coastline that is
particularly special to you, somewhere you go to – in your
mind’s eye – for restoration of body and soul.
And I wonder if, for you, the sense of paddling through
the shallows and jumping the waves, creates in you an
overwhelming sense of the vastness and power of God, as
you look ahead to the horizon and see miles and miles of
water. I wonder if, either physically or in your mind’s
eye, this is where you meet God, aware of God’s majesty
and power. Is this the place where you are aware of God?

Now imagine that same coastline in a sudden storm. Hear
the waves crashing as they tumble and surge upon the
beach, or around the harbour walls. Hear the roar of the
gale. Again, from the safety of the land, we can marvel at
the power and strength of the sea. Marvel at the sheer
awesomeness of nature. Marvel at the glory of God’s
But the disciples out on the boat on the Sea of Galilee
were very much in the middle of the storm. The Sea lies
low in the great Rift Valley, surrounded by steep hills.
It is prone to sudden storms such as we read about in
today’s Gospel. These storms were life threatening, make
no mistake about that. These storms were well-known to the
Galilean fishermen. These storms were well known,
therefore, to the disciples in the boat.
So can you imagine their panic, their fear, as they try to
bale water out of the boat, as they desperately try to
keep their balance, as they hear the creaking of their
frail vessel as waves pound against its hull.
And where’s Jesus? Improbably, almost impossibly, he is
asleep. Resting as peacefully as if he’s dozing in a sunny
garden on a warm afternoon.
If you were in that boat, I wonder how you’d be feeling
now. I wonder how safe you feel, as the waves pitch your
small boat higher and higher and then the sudden drop
until the next wave comes.
And can you imagine the deeper sense of fear and wonder as
the disciples wake up Jesus. Perhaps they see that he
himself displays no sense of fear. I wonder if they see
no sign of concern across his face when he realises the
situation they’re in. The wind is rebuked. And, to the
waves – “Peace! Be still!”
I wonder if the disciples, at that moment, felt more
frightened of Jesus than they had of the storm.
Just who is this man?
Perhaps we miss the startling nature of this story, for we
come to it already knowing who Jesus is. We know he is the
Son of God. The disciples have been with Jesus a while –
seen him heal the sick, forgive sins – but this is a whole
new level of power, isn’t it. Here’s Jesus changing not
only people, but the world itself.
And here’s Jesus rebuking the disciples. “Why are you
afraid? Have you still no faith?” he asks. Rebuking them
for their lack of faith.
The theologian Tom Wright says that early Christians
reading this story would instinctively have thought of the
Goliaths ahead of them, waiting to challenge them and
their God. This story would bring home to them the
challenge to be faithful despite everything.
And having spent last week studying the early Reformation
in Europe, it brings home to me the costly nature of
following God.
For we have many daily fears, don’t we. When we’re out,
our minds race ahead to alert us to possible dangers. And
there are health worries, financial, economical, and
worries and concerns we carry for our friends and loved
“Peace. Be still,” says Jesus. Faith in Jesus doesn’t
mean that everything will automatically be okay or easy.
He may calm our fears, but we are still called to try to
heal the hurts of this world. We may not always see the
results of our efforts but he will work through them – we
have to have faith.
For we can’t control the world around us any more than
those early disciples could do. What we can do is to
trust, and pray.
And Paul, continuing in his letter to the Corinthians,
might by now be battered yet still he goes forwards,
urging the Corinthians to open their hearts and lives to
Back to our Gospel. For here we see the mysterious Jesus.
This is not just another miracle story. In context, we’ve
just had the sowing of the seeds, and we are drawn into
the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And perhaps the
troubles out on the boat are storms of life but also
cosmic. Context is key, for, we know Mark’s Gospel was
written about 70 AD, at around the time of the Destruction
of the Temple – where the very place at the centre of
worship was destroyed, the cultural and religious centre
was no more. What would that feel like to the early
Christians? How scared must they have felt?
In today’s Gospel passage, there is one little sentence
that slips though almost unnoticed. I wonder if it
registered with you…
“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the
boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.”
Other boats were with him! So there were others there too,
out in the sea, in that terrible storm. There with him,
but not in the same boat. And how we’ve travelled these
last sixteen months, all of us, travelling through the
same storm of the pandemic, but not necessarily in the
same boat.
There’s a prayer from Evening Prayer that stays on my
‘Still us, O Lord, as you stilled the storm;
Calm us, O Lord, keep us from harm.
Let all tumult within us cease,
Enfold us Lord in your peace.
Still us, Lord, as you stilled the storm.”
Perhaps, if we allow ourselves to be still, we may hear
God’s voice calling to us.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:13 pm.

Thursday, 17 June 2021:

Trinity 2 Proper VI

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
One of the things I love about this time of year is the
profusion and riot of colour and plants in the gardens and
hedgerows. When I walk or run by the canal, I see bees and
butterflies and other insects busily going about their
business, flying from plant to plant, and over the last
two weeks there seems to have been an explosion of cow
parsley, nettles and other plants (I don’t know all the
names!) We’re encouraged to grow wild gardens to encourage
insects. At home, we along with many others I know, have
planted wild seeds and we’re quite excited to see small
shoots begin to grow.
And several members of the congregation have, I know, been
busy tending sunflowers, growing from the seeds we gave
out on Easter Day.
It always fascinates me how seeds begin to grow. I
remember from my teaching days how small children wondered
with amazement as they watched bean shoots grow, and have
you ever grown cress? I remember we grew cress for
vegetation along a pretend River Nile one year when we
learned about Ancient Egypt – and children loved to see
how quickly seeds grew.
Children are taught to see the miracle of new life as
seeds germinate and send out shoots.
As adults, it’s easy to forget this miracle, for it is
indeed a miracle. And in Mark’s Gospel the seed metaphors
just keep coming.
Mustard seeds produce a sprawling plant. It could easily
take over a field. Nothing like the mighty cedars we
remember from Psalms – these would be tall, strong trees
and would take years to grow. Nations compared themselves
to the mighty cedars. In comparison, the mustard plant
was short. Scruffy. Small. When Jesus lived, the mustard
seed would produce prolific plants like a common weed and
would start to multiply. A bit like thistles, but bigger.
Growing steadily. Not easily got rid of.
It’s only comparatively recently that we’ve learned the
importance of shade, both for ourselves and for other
wildlife. In places in the Mediterranean or African
climates, shade has long been regarded as important. I
remember the heatwave of 1976, in particular going on a
school trip to see England Ladies’ cricket team play, and
coming home quite sunburnt – we seemed unaware back then
of the dangers of sun and I don’t recall taking lots of
water or sun cream with me, nor a hat. We’ve experienced
more scorching days over the years, and I guess we all
understand the longing for shade in those times.

Mark’s Gospel gives us very few parables. The ones he
does include – and he was probably writing about 70 years
after Jesus’s crucifixion – really count. They matter. It
really irritates me that we read Jesus spoke to everyone
in parables, but explained everything in private to his
disciples. It would have been really helpful if those
explanations had been shared with us. We have to pray and
think carefully through our readings, through the stories,
and ask God for guidance. What are these stories telling
us here today?
Jesus speaks of seeds growing without any help or
interference from us. After all, although we may water our
gardens and plants we don’t rush to water the hedgerows or
the wild islands in town, do we, and the hedgerows seem to
be doing alright.
God’s Kingdom will take root so subtly we may not
recognize it. It will take root in the world. In our
parish. In our hearts.
Perhaps the mighty mustard seed gives us an inkling that
God’s kingdom will not necessarily look pretty. It will,
however, establish comfort and shade for wild creatures.
It will give us comfort as and support as reach out to
others and do what we can to spread the word of God. I can
imagine the birds finding shelter in the protective shade
of the mustard tree. I wonder, do we get that God’s
Kingdom provides space for us to just be… to shelter…
somewhere where we can be at any time…somewhere where we,
too, can grow, if we are properly planted.
“The greatest of all shrubs,” says Jesus. I can just
imagine him grinning as he speaks, and how his listeners
would laugh at the absurdity of a mustard seed being seen
as the greatest of all plants. For this is a truly
ordinary plant which will steadily take over the ground
inch by inch.
So, what is this telling us? God’s reign will be
established without any boundaries. The shoots will grow
at any moment, anywhere. Every single one of us will have
different roots – we all have our own history, our own
story. Some of us will have firm roots made during a safe
childhood, when we were nurtured by loving parents. Others
will have formed roots from firm friendships, or perhaps
from a local church. We need firm roots in order to grow.
Jesus’s followers may have thought the small seed meant
Jesus himself, and that new beginnings, change, would
happen through him. I wonder when they began to realise
that Jesus meant they were the small seeds, too. Following
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, his followers were
called to scatter the seed themselves.
And it may feel a bit like that to us. What difference can
we make, what chance do we have of spreading God’s kingdom
– the story of love – who on earth is going to listen to
us? How can we make any difference at all?
Well, there’s one big thing to remember. We’re not on our
own. We’re working with God. God gives us the seed,
nurtures it, causes it to grow, in ways we would never
have dreamt of. And that’s why we have a baptism here
later today. Who knows what the seeds will produce. We may
never know – but God knows.
Remember great results come from small beginnings. We have
exciting times ahead, but daunting ones too – the roof to
sort, finances to look at, but also the exciting
opportunity of reaching out to others, letting them know
we are here – a welcoming community of people of faith,
trying in our own way to show Jesus’s love to those with
whom we meet.
The Good News of Christ spreads no matter what we do –
like a weed that’s difficult to get rid of.
Like a mustard seed.
In God’s hands, a little goes a long way.
I wonder, what suggestions do you have, to spread the love
of God around you?
I wonder, what ideas is God planting in you, for you to
bring to harvest?
Whatever you’re able to do, do it in faith. Remember
great results come from small beginnings.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:06 pm.

Saturday, 5 June 2021:

Trinity 1(Proper 5) Mark 3:20-35

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
As Fr Michael said last week, now begins our period of
growth, the season of the church’s year when we can
revisit many of Jesus’s words and actions and think
through what they mean for us here today. The altar
frontal is green, linking us to the natural world outside
where there is so much growth and beauty. The major
festivals are done for this liturgical year, which began
on Advent Sunday. Now we take stock. We breathe. And if
we allow ourselves, we grow.
As we reflect on today’s Gospel, I find myself having to
remember what it’s like to be out in a crowd. Living
through a pandemic brings restrictions, of course, and as
we gently ease out of them it can feel strange having
other people around us. Only two weeks ago, the numbers
allowed in the chapels at the Crem were raised from 15 to
30, and my goodness how the congregation felt like a crowd
the first service I took when 30 people arrived! Think
back to crowded market days, or crowds at a football
match, or a busy town centre, or a very busy seafront like
Blackpool. Hear the noise, the banter, feel yourself
buffered by others, with the cacophony of sound, the smell
of people, allow yourself to enter the general hubbub.
And that’s the crowd scene where people are desperate to
hear what Jesus has to say, interested in a new way of
life, people drawn to listen to this itinerant preacher.
That’s in a time when news spread by word of mouth, by
people talking about Jesus as they travelled around. No
social media, radio, tv scenes on the news. But the way
crowds are gathering alerts the authorities. And so to
add to our crowd scene, the scribes and leaders arrive
from Jerusalem.
Not being open to the Holy Spirit, they denounce Jesus as
the agent of Satan. Of evil. Of the unknown. They show
their narrow thinking, how they are unprepared to explore
how God may restore his Creation. They show that they
themselves have no hope, that this is how life is, it just
is! They see how people around them are set free from
illness or from their troubles – but are suspicious of
Jesus and of his ways. No, they decide, Jesus is a
trouble maker. Someone who is whipping crowds into a
frenzy and speaking in the name of God. He is to be
watched, marked. And so they denounce him as an agent of
And into this scene, arrives Jesus’s family. I can just
imagine Mary in the village in Nazareth, listening to all
the rumours that reach their mountain home. “Oh no,” she
thinks. “What’s he doing now? He’s not even looking after
himself! He’ll make himself ill!” So the family hurry to
Capernaum, a 30 mile journey, to try to persuade Jesus to
tone it down a bit. They don’t want Jesus to be branded as
a rebel, and Mary’s determined to try to convince Jesus to
behave, tone it down, possibly come home for a rest –
after all, he’s not thinking clearly, is he, he must be
‘beside himself.’ As they near Capernaum they don’t need
to ask where Jesus is staying for the crowds show only too
clearly where he is. “Jesus will listen to me,” I can
imagine Mary thinking.

So we have the crowds. The scribes from Jerusalem.
Jesus’s family arrived from Nazareth. And these three
groups of people are all brought together when Jesus
For Jesus acknowledges people where they are. He spends
little time refuting the scribes’ assessment of him. He
points out flaws in their thinking. What he is doing is
establishing God’s Kingdom.
For God’s Kingdom arrives and is established through
And if we think about it, the early Church didn’t think he
was mad.
Jesus says to the scribes and leaders that if everyone
pulls together, everyone is stronger. If a kingdom stands
together, or a household, they make a stronger unit. They
are a safer unit than if they stand in dissension.
We’ve seen this time and time again, haven’t we, when we
see politicians arguing back and forth across the House of
Commons, or simply slating each other’s policies and often
each other in interviews. “Why don’t they pull together
for the good of everyone?” I’ve often wondered. And in a
way Jesus is making the same point. Work together for the
good of everyone.

What Jesus does in this passage, and does very clearly, is
to redraw the lines of family. In a culture where family
and kinship was everything, he redraws the boundaries. At
that time your identity and stability were all bound up in
kinship. Perhaps his words “whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother” are not so shocking
to us in the Western world in 2021 – for the natural way
of things is for families to disperse, to live their own
lives – we don’t expect them to come home to live. With a
brother who lives in Crete and a son who lives in Portugal
and family scattered both north and south, much as I love
to see them all and would love to see them, I know that
they are living their own lives. But to those who heard
Jesus, those words were shocking. They had tight family
bonds and family loyalty. Yes, we may have that today but
in a more dispersed sense. These were deeply shocking
I wonder if Mary had any idea what Jesus was up to.
For He was creating a new family, a new holy people.
And being a follower of Jesus isn’t cosy, isn’t easy. It’s
shocking. We are called to stick with Jesus whatever the
Called to walk with God through every aspect of our lives,
constantly praying for His guidance.
Many people in that crowd were worried. Worried for their
safety – we’ve all seen how large crowds can be
inappropriately policed and how a peaceful protest, for
example, can escalate into a riot – crowds excited at the
news Jesus was bringing them, with an alternative way of
life, of thinking, of being. Scribes and leaders worried
about crowd safety and about their own positions – just
who does this itinerant preacher think he is! And the
family, worried about the rumours of Jesus being branded
as a Galilean rebel, come to persuade him to go home with
Crowds. Scribes and leaders. Family. All worried in their
own way about different things relating to Jesus. All who
hear his message in very different ways.

Exactly as we do, here, today. For the Good News is not
always comfortable news. The Good News is shocking, for we
have to respond. God’s reign means we are involved, if we
respond to Christ.
Whatever our political, social, cultural, economic or
ethnic allegiances, we are to put God at the very centre
of our lives.
I can imagine the crowd drinking in each and every one of
Jesus’s words. Listening with rapt attention as He made
God known to each and every one of them. Honouring the
Father, doing His will.
I wonder, do we listen to His voice with the same
attention. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:24 pm.

Friday, 4 June 2021:

Trinity Sunday 30/5/21

“Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not
understand these things?” John 3:10
Most of us grow up with fairy stories. These are the tales
that offer us heroes and heroines, magic and fantasy,
danger and courage.
Whatever disruption has taken place, whatever evil has to
be overcome, in the end we find a state of contentment,
with the assurance that the characters will live “happily
ever after”. The story reaches the joyous peak and then
As children, we are left satisfied that everything has
been sorted out and put right, and that the characters we
have been cheering for are living a life of endless bliss.
As we grow up, we might ponder – perhaps as we retell
those same stories to our own children or grandchildren –
what really happens beyond the final page?
What lies after the “happy ever after” conclusion?
What happens now?
Trinity Sunday arrives in the Church’s year after a long
seam of rich and spiritually engaging narratives.
It feels like the natural end point of a season that began
as far back as Advent.
We have, since December, been in a lockdown, taken in
Christmas, Candlemas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension
and Pentecost.
All of salvation history is done and now we return to
“Ordinary” Time and the many Sundays after Trinity.
Trinity Sunday sends us out into Ordinary Time with a
Isaiah has his tremendous vision of God in the Temple,
“high and lofty”; Paul bursts with joy and delight in
praise of the God we may call “Abba”.
In the Gospel reading Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, has a
mind-bending encounter with Jesus that challenges
everything he thought he knew.
But what happens next?
What happens in the ordinary time?
In the verses immediately beyond Isaiah 6:8, God tells
Isaiah that he is going to preach to people who will not
listen to him. God doesn’t want them to listen in case
they repent.
The city will be laid waste, the land will be desolate,
and the people will go into exile.
After the majestic vision of God, Isaiah discovers he has
a hard and unwelcome message to preach.
After a lyrical burst of praise in Romans 8, Paul turns
immediately to a dense argument about the relationship
between Jews and Gentiles.
We move from the transformation of the universe to the
nitty gritty of church life.
In John’s gospel, after a life-changing encounter with
Jesus, Nicodemus does not drop everything to follow him;
we next meet him in John 7, in a council meeting, where he
is being harassed.
He returns in John 19 to help bury Jesus.
He moves from a thrilling conversation, to a council
meeting, and death.
Our faith in God as Trinity tells us that the divine
purpose encompasses all of life, the ordinary as well as
the festive.
God encompasses everything.
Whether we are sitting in unpleasant meetings, like
Nicodemus, or having unhelpful conversations with people
who don’t listen, like Isaiah.
Or dealing with disputes and squabbles, like Paul.
Or simply doing the daily stuff of life, God as Trinity
embraces it all and weaves through it all, breathes in it
Because the ordinary matters.
If the ordinary matters, if God possesses and encompasses
the ordinary as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then we
matter too, when we are ordinary.
And all of us are ordinary, for most of the time.
So, what happens next?
What happens now the major Christian festivals are over
until December?
Now the growth begins, now we learn to live each day
again, as God’s people.
Now we wait for the whispers of God’s spirit, for glimpses
of glory, for quiet imitations of love and hope.
We learn, like Isaiah, Paul and Nicodemus before us, to
recognise them for what they are: the exquisite and
extraordinary signposts of God set within our daily,
ordinary, life.

Sermon by Fr Michael, thank you.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:46 pm.

Sunday, 23 May 2021:

Sermon Pentecost Sunday Year B 23/5/2021

Sermon Pentecost Sunday Year B 23/5/2021

Lord, take my lips and speak through them,
Take our minds and think through them,
Take our hearts, and set them on fire with your love.
I wonder what it was like on the day of Pentecost when the
Holy Spirit came and rested on Jesus’s followers in
Jerusalem. What is this ‘Counsellor’ Jesus is talking
Today – Pentecost Sunday – is a great day for our APCM,
for it allows us to look back objectively at the year
that’s past, and begins to allow us chance to look forward
to the future. Chance to reflect on the gifts the Holy
Spirit has given us as a congregation and to focus on an
awareness of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit.
And so not a sermon from me per se, but a meditation from
the writer Nick Fawcett, who writes a short discussion
between three of the disciples, Peter, James and John. We
will read this in three voices. Allow yourself to be part
of the discussion:
From today’s Gospel: John 16:12-14
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot
bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will
guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his
own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare
to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me,
because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Meditation of Peter, James and John
Peter: There were things he felt unable to tell us at
the time, not because he
didn’t want to or had something to hide, but
because we simply
weren’t ready to hear them.
John: We weren’t expecting his death, for a start,
each of us still secretly hoping he’d reign
earth, here and now.
James: And if we weren’t prepared for his death,
we weren’t ready either for his
None of us believed the tomb was empty, not
at first. We thought it was nonsense, do
John: It was his return to the Father though that got
me most – I just couldn’t get my head round
One moment he was back by our side and the
next gone again. Or so it seemed at the
Peter: And as for the gift of the Spirit, power from on
high, well, he may have promised it often
enough, but we’d no idea what he actually
meant! It took us by surprise completely!
John: Yes, we’ve come a long way since we rode
with him into Jerusalem,
the crowds welcoming him as king.
He’d told us what to expect, but we couldn’t
even take that in at first, let alone more.
James: And he continues to astonish us, even now,
the Spirit time and again offering fresh
insights into the things he taught us.
Peter: We needed time to learn,
to accept,
to grow,
and of course, we still do,
for we’re talking here of the things of
of grasping the unseen.
James: It needs patience to do that,
John: Trust,
Peter: Discipline,
James: A life lived with him.
John: We’re on a journey of faith,
James: And we’ve not finished it yet,
Peter: Not by a long way.
All: We’ve only just begun.
We pray:
Mighty and mysterious God, we like to think we know it all
– that we have understood the Gospel and grasped the
wonder of who and what you are.
But the reality is different, for your ways are not our
ways, or your thoughts our thoughts.
So much is beyond us, leaving us baffled and bemused, and
much else is at best only partially fathomed.
Time and again what we thought we knew is challenged and
tested, needing to be either revised or discarded
Give us the humility we need to accept that our knowledge
is incomplete, that there is always more to learn.
Open our hearts to the great adventure of discovery you
set before us, until that day when we finally see you face
to face, and know you, even as we are fully known.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:24 am.

Saturday, 22 May 2021:

Dementia Friends Sunday

I have spoken about how this has become an important part
of my life before, but I’ll recap…
I previously worked in Lightmoor View Care Home. I
randomly saw an advert for an activities coordinator,
knowing nothing about working with the elderly, or
dementia or EMI patients, but I knew the skills I had were
transferrable and it got me out of the hotel industry. My
time there was a bit unnerving at times, I remember
thinking I was out of my depth and wasn’t sure what I had
let myself in for but grew to love the role, times changed
and I took ownership of the role as a whole and then
luckily gained an amazing team and it felt like we worked
wonders. My love for supporting those with dementia had
begun, my job became less about a role to support the
residents alone and more about supporting the family and
friends watching their loved ones change daily. I will
never forget a lady saying to me on way back to the home
from a trip ‘I feel like his wife again’

I can honestly say my time at Lightmoor changed my life,
changed my outlook on life and my outlook on dementia as a
whole, while I agree Dementia is an awful disease, I refer
back to my experiences of happiness at Lightmoor, the
beaming smiles on residents faces, the everyday
conversations about children and family and home life, the
dancing, the laughter, yes at times confusion and anger
and anxiety, those living with Dementia may have changed
from the person they once were but getting into their
world and going along with some of the most random
conversations was a great highlight to my day. My time at
Lightmoor made me so incredibly thankful for my life, the
health my family share, the memories we are able to make
and cherish.
We don’t know what life is going to throw at us, but we
know the Love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be
with us always, as written in Romans chapter 8:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither
angels nor demons,, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything
else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the
love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I have been in my current role for 3 years and although I
don’t work so closely with people living with Dementia but
I believe I was meant to do that job and my support for
them and the Alzheimer’s Society will continue.
The company I work for now manages the home that a member
of our congregation is now in, Limewood, in Stafford.
Throughout the pandemic I have been able to see just how
hard staff work to enhance the lives of those in their
care. I have been able to share pictures with family that
they ordinarily would not have seen. We recently had
company awards where 2 different awards went to staff at
that very home, one for the activities team going above
and beyond to stimulate and support the residents during
an extremely challenging time. The other to a housekeeper,
who stayed with a resident so they were not alone when
they passed away. There are some incredibly special people
in this world and in my opinion, those in the caring
profession and those supporting anyone affected by
Dementia are some of the very best.

Restrictions on our daily lives continue and it offers us
opportunities to reflect. Our normal social activities and
methods of contact are put on hold and our chances to
celebrate, comfort and support one another restricted. For
some, their chances of being with loved ones are gone,
their time together cut short and we pray that the love
and guidance of God will be with them.
We pray for the strength carers need not only to work
alongside those with Dementia but also with the added
pressures of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the way they
have adapted to continue contact with family and friends
and continue to offer their support and stimulation to
those in need. We hope that as restrictions continue to
ease families will receive comfort in being reunited.
The BBC aired a programme in 2019 called ‘The Dementia
Choir’ I may have already spoken about this but it was
incredible to watch, extremely emotional, heart warming
yet heart wrenching at the same time. The confidence,
support and joy the choir brought to all was incredible.
The programme proved how, sadly, this disease can affect
As we head into Dementia Action Week I ask that as a
church we continue with our support and prayers for those
Living with Dementia. I ask that you pray for those living
with Dementia, their carers, their loved ones and for all
those who dedicate time and intelligence in to Dementia
As a church we already do so much in being so welcoming
and reactive to anything which supports our efforts in
being Dementia Friendly.
We are committing to developing an information board for
ease of access to information and support available in the
local area. We will run another dementia friends session
when restrictions allow.
Last week we took Ciaran, Lucas and Niamh over to the hall
to discuss Dementia Action Week, we shared a video from
the Alzheimer’s Society called ‘My Grandma with Dementia’
and had a talk about Dementia, the effects of it and what
we can do, we spent time back in Church writing our own
prayer which you can see at the back of church and will
also be read during our intercessions. We discussed this
analogy from the Dementia Friends Session…. Dementia can
be thought of as set of fairy lights, like those that go
around the Christmas tree, the individual lights
representing different parts of the brain, Dementia
affects those lights, some may flicker on and off, some
may switch off completely. For those whom Christianity has
been a big and ongoing part of their lives we know that
the light and love of God will not go out.
Let prayer be our help, let prayer be our strength, let
prayer rise like a fountain of love.
May we come together in prayer for all those affected by
You all have a slip of paper with forget me nots on… I
invite you to write your own prayer for Dementia Action
Week and stick it on the board at the back of church as we
work together to continue to become a Dementia Friendly


Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:01 pm.

Saturday, 8 May 2021:

6th Sunday of Easter

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Have you ever traced the Trinity symbol with your finger,
seeing how the symbol weaves its way around, never
stopping, always constant, always one continuous line? Or
imagine an old illuminated manuscript, lovingly worked
over by a monk in a remote cell many hundreds of years
ago, and in your mind’s eye allow yourself to sense the
richness of the colours, how one part of the image
seamlessly blends into the next, words carefully crafted.
Sense how every part of that manuscript is important.
Or think of your favourite song or orchestral piece or
choral piece. Each instrument or voice takes up their own
part and together they make a whole. The piece would not
work as well if the 2nd violins were missing, if the alto
was missing, if the guitar was missing. If even one bar of
music was missing, the music would be incomplete and
wouldn’t sound as it should. There would be a dissonance,
the music would jar.
And now come back to this morning’s Gospel reading from
John’s Gospel. It’s from what we call the final
discourse, where Jesus is giving his last instructions and
his last teaching to his disciples. And as we think of how
music or art would be incomplete if – to be blunt - we
took a bit out- well, John’s Gospel would be incomplete
without this teaching from Jesus.
For this passage is so important. It helps us to
understand what Jesus was and is all about. God’s plan for
us all, for all of His Creation, is for us to love each
other. To care for each other. Jesus must think this is
important for he hammers it home, doesn’t he.
And yet it’s so hard a commandment to follow. I wonder,
what stops you from loving your neighbour? From loving the
people around you and the people we don’t meet? What stops
you from loving the other, from loving those who may look
and act differently to you?
Jesus’s disciples must have had some inkling of how he
interpreted the Commandments, after following him for
three years. The underlying message is of love. We can
only show by our lives what God is like. Jesus now hammers
the message home to his disciples. Love God. Be loved by
God. Show God’s love.
“For your ways are not my ways,” we heard in our Old
Testament reading from Isaiah. “Listen to me. Listen, so
that you may live.” These words were written hundreds of
years before Jesus was born. God spoke to His people then,
he spoke through Jesus two thousand years ago, He speaks
to us now.
And we are given help and examples. We see how God loved
his Son, how God loves Jesus, who tells us we are his
friends, not his servants. We are not slaves – we are free
to serve God and to make sure as far as we can, we love
others. And if we do this, if we love God and take heed of
Jesus’ commandment, we show our love by actions, by
prayer, and most especially through the things we say.
We have Jesus’s examples and teachings to help us. His
parables, his miracles, the unexpected things he did to
show that he was there for everyone, regardless of their
social status, or nationality, regardless of Jew or
Gentile. Everything we do and say should be in and through
love. Love for each other and love for God.
The relationship of the Father and Son is interwoven with
the Holy Spirit, unable to be separated, much like the
illuminated manuscript, or the Trinity symbol or the piece
of music we thought about earlier. One minute we are
pondering God’s word through Isaiah, the next we are
thinking of Jesus’s words and his example. And the next
minute we are prompted by the Holy Spirit. In our reading
from Acts, Luke writes how the Jews were amazed that the
Gentiles received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God’s love
and power is for everyone. It breaks boundaries.
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. Love one
another as I have loved you.” It sounds really simple,
doesn’t it. Yet it is so challenging. Love is costly –
after all, it led Jesus to the cross.
I wonder, what does it take to set aside prejudices and
all we believe about others, to truly be part of the Body
of Christ? For we are called to love. Not just to love
people who may look like us, or act like us, but to love
all. We abide in God’s love by keeping this commandment:
to love. We are to bear fruit, (think back to last week’s
Gospel) –we are to bear fruit, fruit that will last.
Love is the very heart of our faith. It’s not just a new
commandment, it’s the greatest commandment of all.
And as we pray, live and work in and through love, we are
bid to pray for five people, that they may know the love
of Christ in their lives, and to pray for these people
every day especially between the nine days from Ascension
(this Thursday) through till Pentecost Sunday. This is
the global wave of prayer; Thy Kingdom Come initiative.
So we have chance now to think of those for whom we would
pray. Write their names down on the fish, and as you
leave church, put them in the net at the back of church.
And do this again on Thursday, if you are here, and next
Sunday, and in two weeks’ time on Pentecost. The net will
be a physical reminder of our prayers and love for others.
As we think in love of those for whom we would pray, we’ll
finish with a couple of minutes’ quiet for you to write
names on the fish, and hold them in prayer before God. And
as I said, as you leave church today please put your fish
in the net at the back of church.
“Abide in my love. You are my friends if you do as I
command you.” Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:54 pm.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021:

5th Sunday of Easter

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
“I am the vine. You are the branches.”
One of my favourite day trips, going back several years
ago, was a visit to a local vineyard with John. We’d
booked for a tour of the vineyard, together with a testing
and tasting experience with a light lunch – well, you have
to, don’t you! I always thought vines needed very hot
growing conditions such as we’ve seen when we’ve explored
vineyards when on holiday abroad – again, in the dim and
distant past – but the climate at Halfpenny Green can
hardly be called hot. If I remember correctly, it was
quite a chilly day when we were there.
What we learnt, though, was that there is a sort of
microclimate at Halfpenny Green. That the perfect growing
conditions for a certain vine could be met by the ambient
temperature, correct amount of rainfall and the right
conditions and nutrients within the soil. We were told
that storms sort of go around the vineyard and rarely pass
over it – clouds bubble up in the distance, get nearer and
nearer, and then break away, forming a circle around the
perimeter of the vineyard so that although they do have
rain, they do not have the torrents or winds usually
associated with storms. In short, Halfpenny Green was
exactly the right place to cultivate particular species of
I remember the glorious aroma of the grapes as the smell
from the vines wafted towards me. And on the ground were
twigs and bits of pruned vine that hadn’t made the grade,
and small grapes, all on the floor becoming recycled
nutrients in order that the vines could continue to
The tour guide explained how the winegrower makes certain
choices. Choices about which vines to grow, and then as
they become established and grow, choosing which vines
should be allowed to flourish. Pruning very carefully so
that the plant can continue to thrive.
And I wonder, are we like that? For prior to lockdown,
many of us were probably guilty of spreading ourselves too
thinly. Trying to do too much adequately, instead of
making sure we did 2 or 3 things well.
I wonder, which path are we on? In the coming months,
we’ll have the chance to think about this and to think
about which paths we think we should concentrate on as a
church. Exciting times!
But we also have to think about it from our own
perspective, each of us in our own individual context.
What, I wonder, works for you?
This coming week, do you have plans for activity or work,
and plans for some downtime or quiet? Chance to be outside
and hear the birdsong and chance to simply be? Space to
just be? Or do you feel you need to be constantly busy?
For if we are constantly busy, how and when is God able to
speak to us?
Perhaps the lockdowns have helped us to slow down. Perhaps
the enforced lockdowns have helped us see that there are
times when we will need to be busy, and times when we need
some downtime.
If we abide in the Vine we will bear fruit as a disciple
of Jesus, which means we will bear fruit in His service.
For God our Father gives us the growth we need, if we
allow ourselves time to nurture and to be fed, much as the
owner of the vineyard feeds and nurtures the plants in
his/her care. We work together with God, to flourish.
And if we live in love, and believe God wants us to abide
in Him, God will give us growth through Christ. It’s
God’s message we spread, it’s not about us. If we trust in
Him, we are nurtured. Only as we trust in Him will our
lives yield a harvest. And so we are drawn into God’s
love, drawn into the very nature of God. Love is the sign
of God. God loves us.
In our reading from Acts, Philip seizes his chance to show
the Ethiopian eunuch the love of God. He sees that he is
reading from the prophet Isaiah, and learns that he has
been worshipping in the temple in Jerusalem. So we know
the Ethiopian is a Jew, wanting to know more about God’s
love and care for us all – because he’s been to the
temple, he’s made that long, important journey. Philip
interprets the scriptures for him, and tells him of the
Good News of Jesus – and promptly the man sees water
nearby and asks to be baptized.
How much do we speak of the love of Christ? How much do we
show it? For often actions speak louder than words, and it
is through actions that conversations can flow – we’ve
seen that happen at Messy Church.
Jesus is the Vine. God the Father the vinegrower, and the
disciples are the branches. Where are we? Where, I
wonder, are you? For we, too, are called to be the
branches. There will be times when we find it hard going,
when we will need to prune and cut away the very things
that stop us from flourishing, and we will need to allow
ourselves to be nurtured in order to reach fruition as the
very people God created us to be.
For this is our time. We are called here, now, to this
place, to be the branches for our local community,
wherever that may be – within the parish of course, but
also wherever and in whatever we are doing.
I wonder, do we trust ourselves enough to be able to
More than that, do we trust our creator God to give us all
we need, the confidence, the ability to act and speak, to
do whatever we are called to do. Do we have space and time
for prayer, or do we consider weekly intercession in
church all the prayer we need?
I’m hoping not the latter!
Abide in me, says Jesus, as I abide in you. Or to put it
another way, accept me, as I accept you. Jesus knows and
accepts us as we are – there’s no need to put up a front
or to pretend to be anything we’re not. We’re not called
to be holier than thou, or to pretend we have all the
What we are called to do, though, is to fully accept and
trust in the love of God. To accept the love of Jesus, and
to believe in ourselves. For if we fully abide in God’s
love, we accept ourselves for who we are in all the
messiness of life. There is no need to put on a front –
God knows it all anyway! We can embrace ourselves as
beloved children of God, working together with God and
through God in the power of the Holy Spirit in order that
we, the branches, can flourish and spread the news of God.
And for me that’s the most exciting thing, for we’re all
doing it without realizing. We’re showing God’s love
through our actions and through the things we say. The
challenge is to make sure we pay attention and prune away
those things from our lives that stop us putting God at
the centre of our lives.
Abode in me, as I abide in you, says Jesus. May we
continue to walk in his way, rejoice in his Truth, and
share his risen life. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:16 pm.

Sunday, 25 April 2021:

Fourth Sunday of Easter Vocations Sunday

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.

One of the things I’ve had to reflect on, write and talk
about over recent months is the role of a priest as a Good
Shepherd. And certainly in my funeral ministry there’s
been a lot of talk about a Shepherd watching over us, as
we would read in Psalm 23. We all know that psalm, I’m
sure, and it is in fact the psalm set for today. A
shepherd watching over us is a comforting thought. Like
many of you, my only experience of shepherds is from
watching them on TV. What always strikes me is how well
they know the animals in their care. They know where they
will be, whether in fields or on mountains. They know how
many sheep they have. They look after them, move them to
new pastures, care for them, tend them.
Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel of wanting his flock to be
together. To trust in Him.
To trust in what brings us here, to this place, today.
Trust. In our reading from Acts, Peter and John have been
arrested, for they have healed a lame man, and preached,
and the Temple authorities are asking how they did that,
they are understandably very suspicious of these new
Christians who go about mixing with all sorts of people
and preaching.
What stands out for me in this passage today is Peter’s
absolute trust in God. He and John are filled with the
strength of the Holy Spirit. They have courage to believe
that Jesus is the name that connects heaven and earth.
Jesus is our connection with God.
They trust in Him.
And our trust brings us here, as I say, to this place, at
this time.
For those early Christians, as for us now, there is a
price to pay for following Jesus.
Love. Cost. Purpose.
Love – makes us vulnerable.
Cost – we may often find ourselves doing totally
unexpected things, things we never dreamed we would do –
in God’s name.
Purpose. – Why are we here? What are we trying to do,
individually and as a congregation, to spread God’s word?
Jesus wants us all to be in His care, in His flock. I’m
reminded of the Wolves’ manager’s line, ‘One Strength, One
For there is strength in a common belief. There is comfort
in finding others who believe similar things to you. But
it would be too easy, too cosy, if all our time is spent
with fellow Christians, doing similar things.
For we are to live in our world as if we really do believe
in Jesus. That we really believe in his death and
resurrection and that it makes a difference to our lives.
We are called to allow the voice of the Good Shepherd to
speak to us – through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Love. Cost. Purpose. That all sounds a bit heavy
actually. But I firmly believe we are all called by the
Shepherd. We are called to do our bit for God, to spread
the news of the Kingdom.
We are all called each to our own ministry. And given that
we are all unique, and all known intimately by God, the
ministry of each one of us will be different. Every one of
us will be called to our ministry, called by the Shepherd.
What are we called to do? Well, to live our lives in the
best way we can to glorify God. And yes we will mess up at
times but we get back up, we say sorry, we carry on.
But what exactly are we being called to do, to be?
Well, some will have a calling for ordination. Some for
recognized lay ministry. Others for cleaning, for
arranging flowers, for music, for serving. Some for
pastoral work. And that’s all alongside and intermingled
with the way we live our daily lives, in our occupations,
in how we spend our days. And if – as I suspect – some of
you are thinking “well I can’t get out and about much now
“ – then I wonder if your vocation, your calling now, is
to pray?
I’ll just leave that out there…
At the PCC’s last Away morning, we thought through what we
do well, what we want to do, and what is God prompting us
to do now? This always needs to be our focus, and over
time as we gradually re-open and restrictions ease we will
be back to praying together through those questions.
On this Vocations Sunday, please, please know that you are
loved and valued by God, by the Good Shepherd who calls
you. For Everyone is loved by God. Everyone. I was so
pleased to read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments
during the week, following the verdict of the trial of the
ex- police officer in Minneapolis for the murder of George
Floyd. Archbishop Justin said,
“Justice for George Floyd was essential…praying for all
who live with the trauma of racist violence and
oppression, endured over many generations and all who
continue to wait and struggle for justice.”
We are all called by God. We are all loved by Him. Our
calling is to love others as He loves us.
So perhaps this week, allow yourself some space and time
to reflect and pray through what you are called to do. I
know we still have Covid restrictions, but what do you
think God is calling you to do? Value what you can do. Own
it. Make space for it to happen. Explore different ideas.
One thing’s for certain, God doesn’t sit still. If you
allow Him He will constantly probe and press.
And how do we hear God’s call? Ok for some it may be a
dramatic calling; for me it was the voice of God saying
“You still have work to do” when I lay wired up to all
sorts of machines in a hospital bed in intensive care. But
God’s voice may be through what others see in you. It
may be through what someone says, that inner prompting, a
little nudge, which sets off a new trail of thought in
you. Trust that instinct. Trust that inner voice.
And we are all called to pray. Pray. Talk. Act. Our
callings are all unique, for God’s relationship with each
one of us is unique.
We are called to trust and follow the Good Shepherd, and
allow our eyes and ears to be opened to any possibilities
that come our way.
“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own, and my own know
My prayer this Vocation Sunday is that you will know and
experience the love and the call of God in your lives.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:45 pm.

Sunday, 25 April 2021:

Third Sunday of Easter

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.

The last week has been a strange week in our household.
For me, times of interviews on Zoom, a long afternoon
training session, lots of soul searching. For others in
the house, times when noise levels needed to be at a
minimum, alongside it being the college Easter holidays. A
really strange week.
And collectively we’ve gone through, and are still going
through, strange and difficult times. Lockdowns. No
socialization. Keeping away from others. Key workers
working frantically throughout, others on furlough or even
worse, losing jobs. Finding ways to meaningfully fill our
time. Illness. Death and bereavement. Vaccinations.
Testing. Add into the mix any complex family situations,
concerns at not being able to be with those we love,
thoughts about family living abroad, all sorts of things
to think about and concern ourselves about as we slowly
emerge out of lockdown. The feeling we may have if someone
gets too close to us; wondering if we should really make a
particular journey; on the other hand, the joy of being
able to visit the barber’s or hairdresser’s, the pub…the
list goes on.
Perhaps, in due time, we will begin to appreciate what we
have, what we can do.
Maybe, in due time, we will look back on all this and
realise how far we have come individually, collectively as
a church congregation, as a city, as a nation.
And in the middle of all this, our lives continue. We go
about our daily business, whatever it may be. And still we
wonder about the vaccine, about testing, and how safe it
is to get out and about. And we know that there are people
out there who don’t really care about the wellbeing of
anyone except themselves.
How on earth do we even begin to come to terms with all
And as we hold those thoughts, I wonder how on earth the
disciples were expected to react as they lived through the
events of Palm Sunday. Of Holy Week. We’ve thought about
having feet washed on Maundy Thursday, of watching – from
somewhere – the crucifixion, of hearing the nails hammered
into flesh and wood, of hearing the sobs as the body of
our friend is fetched down from the cross. We’ve had the
silence of Holy Saturday, the joy and confusion of the
resurrection on Easter Day. Last week, we thought about
Thomas’s reaction, and Fr Michael shared how at times he
still experiences a sense of doubt, of being Thomas.
And now, today, we read that the disciples were talking
among themselves, when Jesus appeared. Imagine being
there. I wonder which disciple you are. You hear the
voice, saying, “Peace be with you.”
I wonder, would you react any differently to those
disciples and women.
I wonder, would you, too, be startled and terrified, and
wonder if you are seeing things.
And Jesus speaks again. Speaks to us in all our doubt and
confusion. “Look, it’s me. See my hands. See my feet.”
And with joy you recognize him, your Lord, your teacher.
And yet you still doubt, for how can this be?
And I wonder, too, how they recognize him from seeing his
hands and feet. For when I look at someone, I notice their
face, their eyes, their body language, their mannerisms. I
may be able to pick out some of you from your hands,
purely from the hugely privileged position I have of
placing bread into your outstretched palms. But feet? We
hide them away. We would expect to notice someone by their
voice, their face.
But not now. Not in this time of confusion. Jesus is
different. And they still don’t truly understand what is
going on. So, in their presence, he takes a piece of
broiled fish. Breaks it. Eats it.
And the simple action of watching his hands break the fish
remind those present of other things those hands have
done. I wonder, what do you think of? Watching those hands
break bread? Watching those hands take a bowl, a towel and
water, and wash your feet? Do you see those hands turning
water into wine? Or taking a dead child by the hand and
telling her to get up? Do you see those hands put mud onto
a blind person’s eyes and restore his sight?
And I wonder, what are those hands reaching out to do for
you today?
And as we think of the feet, do you see them as feet that
have walked countless miles as Jesus taught and preached
and told others of God’s love, of God’s Kingdom? Or do you
remember how embarrassed you felt as you watched someone
washing his feet with oil, and wiping them with her hair?
Or perhaps it was you, performing that most intimate of
Perhaps, this year, more than ever, we can stand alongside
those early disciples, women and men, and recognize that
they, like us, are all wounded. For we are all wounded
emotionally following the events of the last year. And we
need to allow ourselves time to process, to think through
what matters, to grieve, to heal, just as those early
disciples did.
We are no different.
And Jesus speaks to them. To us. “You are my witnesses,
“he says. And slowly, we believe. Yet we still don’t truly
get it.
And the world looks to us to act as the Body of Christ, to
act now, for we are along with all Christians throughout
the world, the Body of Christ.
Our minds are stretched and frazzled by what’s being going
on, let alone by the thought of resurrection. Of
repentance and the forgiveness of things we may do wrong,
or of things we may prefer not to do.
For now, more than ever, we can sense the trauma felt by
the disciples.
We are no different.
Their reaction is, perhaps, exactly as ours would be.
Maybe their reaction is still as ours is today.
And to allow that to settle, we must allow ourselves some
space and time to sit in the presence of God, allow the
Risen Christ to speak to our hearts and minds, and allow
ourselves time to heal.
And so I will finish by offering the words of the Gaelic
Blessing. Allow the music and the words to seep into you.
To speak to you. For we all need the peace of the Risen
Christ within us, before we can even begin to start again.
My prayer is that we all encounter the deep peace of
Christ this coming week. Amen.

Gaelic Blessing
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:44 pm.

Saturday, 3 April 2021:

Easter Day Year B

Last week, I suggested we allow the Passion narrative to
speak for itself. And now I invite you to do the same with
the Resurrection account.
I’ve deliberately chosen the account from Mark rather than
John, for I find it interesting what we don’t hear in Mark
– what’s missing.
For, like the Christmas story, the Easter narrative takes
on a different approach dependent upon which Gospel you
are reading.
And the Mark narrative strikes me as being so succinct,
it’s interesting to think what he misses out.
So, allow yourself to be an onlooker. Perhaps you are one
of the women running to the tomb, intent on doing the very
best and last thing you can do for your friend. Perhaps
you are carrying the sweet smelling spices with which to
anoint Jesus.
Or perhaps you are one of the disciples who ran away, and
you’re wondering what to do now. Perhaps you guess that
the women will go to the tomb to anoint Jesus, as was the
And if you are one of the women, perhaps you are wondering
whether or not to ask how you may roll the stone away from
the cave entrance. So you voice your thoughts, and are
grateful that no one shouts you down. Grateful that the
others were thinking the same, but hadn’t been brave
enough to say it.
And just imagine your shock and horror when you approach
the tomb and find that the stone has been rolled away.
What thoughts race through your mind?
I wonder, are you the first to peer inside the tomb? Are
you the first to edge your way inside, or are you hanging
back behind the others, frightened, confused, but needing
to know what’s happened to Jesus?

I wonder, what do you think when you meet the angel inside
the tomb? Do you recognize him as a messenger from God?
How frightened are you? For listen, he tells you, “be not
afraid. Don’t be frightened.”
Does that make you even more worried? Skeptical? Unsure of
your next move?
Or are you reassured by the angel’s words?
And do you wonder if the disciples will believe you, when
you tell them that Jesus is not in the tomb? That an
angel says he will see you all in Galilee?
What will you do? Will you discuss amongst yourselves
where to go, who to tell?
Our Gospel reading ends on an astonishing note. We read,
“they were afraid.” Amazing, astonishing ending for the
story, for this was the original ending of Mark’s Gospel.
I wonder, if you were given the message, “He is risen!”
would you run to someone and tell them?
Or would you need time to process this, think it through,
and work out your next move?
For because of the resurrection, we can now live lives of
resurrection hope. For we know death is not the end. That
there is something more, a resurrection life with Jesus.
We may not be able to comprehend or imagine it, but our
faith allows us to believe.
We are offered a new life, a new beginning.
The women were not frightened of death or of the task they
set themselves. At a death, there is comfort in doing
things, and the practical task of anointing Jesus would
bring the women some comfort. But they are afraid of the
angel’s message. They don’t understand what he is telling
them. They do not yet link it to some of Jesus’s sayings.
They do not understand.
Their grief makes it almost too hard to take in. Too hard
to bear the enormity of it all.
And so the cross of shame has become a cross of glory.
Death cannot contain Jesus. Death will not contain us.
The cross becomes a symbol of hope.
Outside in the church grounds, you will see a cross. It’s
made from the church Christmas tree, linking the Christmas
and Easter stories together in a symbolic way. On it you
will see some ribbons.
Perhaps you would like to tie a ribbon onto the cross, as
a way of showing how, for you, the cross becomes a symbol
of hope.
Take a moment to reflect what the cross means for you,
especially as we think over the past year of restrictions,
devastation, of statistics, of the effects of the
Tom Wright suggests that the abrupt ending of our Gospel
encourages us to explore our own faith.
What blank in the story are we expected to fill for
We know the Easter story so well, but, this year, has
anything fresh struck you? Some new understanding? Have
you placed yourself within the story and allowed your
imagination to experience the horror and then the Good
News with a renewed sense of hope?
Wherever you place yourself in the Easter story, my prayer
is that you allow yourself to go deeper into the mystery
of Christ. To know that you are a beloved Child of God.
That the ultimate message of the Gospel is that of Love.
And allow the risen presence of Christ to be present in
our hearts, in our church, in our community.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:28 pm.

Saturday, 3 April 2021:

Good Friday

For those of you who were here last night, I offered space
for you to imagine Jesus washing your feet. For you to
think through the implications of that act of love and
humility, and to ask yourself what changes for you when
you realise Jesus kneels at your feet.
Today, I invite you to think for a few minutes about the
story we have just heard. To allow yourself to enter into
that story. To be an onlooker. Perhaps you are a disciple,
distraught and confused by today’s events. Maybe you are
one of the women who has been loyal throughout, who stood
at the foot of the cross, who watched, who waited. Or
perhaps you are one of the braying crowd, shouting for
Barrabas, caught up in the frenzy of the moment.
Where do you place yourself in this story?
For today we are asked, what difference does the cross
make to you?
Look at it. Hear the hammer of nails into flesh, the cries
of agony.
Smell the smell of human degradation, the sweat, the
stench of the angry crowd.
Why didn’t God step in, why did God allow it to happen?
And think back to the words Jesus spoke at the Last
“This is my Body, given for you.
This is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of
sins. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry; whoever
believes in me will never be thirsty.”
And as you watch on, from wherever you are – hiding, or at
the foot of the cross, - perhaps those words begin to
take on a new sense of meaning.
That Jesus died for our sins. For you, for me.
And recognize that in John’s Gospel account, Jesus goes
willingly to the cross. He knew what would happen. He
didn’t ask why, in fact he asked for God to give him
strength to complete the task.
A man hanging there on a cross. An innocent man, guilty
of no crime.
Hear the words from the cross which we hear in Matthew and
Mark’s Gospels: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken
He speaks. “Woman, here is your son. Here is your
We realise that even now, he thinks of others. Recognises
the despair of his mother and his friend, and makes sure
his mother is provided for.
And hear the last triumphant cry, “It is finished!”
Was it triumphant? Weary? Or said in sheer thanksgiving?
As we look back, we can see how Jesus walked the way of
the cross.
The horror is over. The work is done.
How do you feel now?
Numb? Full of grief? Can’t quite comprehend what you can
see, the lifeless form upon the cross?
Do some of Jesus’s words come to mind, which you begin to
understand in a new way?
The cross is an instrument of torture. Perhaps we want to
run away, to avoid the awful sight. Yet we are called to
watch and wait. To watch as the suffering unfolds. We can
do nothing – the crowds have had their way. We become mere
And as the body is pierced, and fetched down from the
cross, how gently and carefully will you anoint with
spices? Although you must hurry, for it is the day of
And you must leave the body in the tomb, and go home, and
wonder what to make of it all.
“It is finished.” Jesus’s death comes as the completion of
a life lived to the full, offered for others.
I wonder, what difference this revelation will make to

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:27 pm.

Saturday, 3 April 2021:

Maundy Thursday Year B 2021

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
On Sunday, I invited the congregation to allow the story
of Holy Week to speak for itself. To allow the events to
carry you, as if you were there as a witness. To think
through what they mean for you. To put yourself, perhaps
into the story as it unfolds before your eyes.
And that’s what I invite you to do this evening, through a
short meditation on the act of footwashing.
This remarkable evening, as Jesus offers himself in the
form of bread, of wine, and in washing the feet of his
On Sunday, I suggested that today you could watch as Jesus
washes your feet.
And so I will continue with that theme.
In the culture at that time, it was the custom for
servants or slaves to wash the feet of visitors and their
owners. It was a gesture of hospitality. A routine job.
Roads were dusty, so visitors would have their feet washed
to be refreshed as they shared their host’s hospitality.
Dusty, dirty, calloused, smelly feet – not a pleasant job
to wash them! And I wonder how many people were so intent
on speaking with their hosts and friends that they hardly
even noticed the servant kneeling at their feet,
performing this most intimate of acts.
For it is as servant that Jesus comes to wash the feet of
his disciples.
And it is as servant that Jesus comes to wash your feet.

And so watch as Jesus kneels before you to wash your feet.
Feel how the refreshingly cool water soothes and caresses
your skin. Sense how tenderly Jesus wipes away dust and
dirt, and how gently he dries your feet.
I wonder, how does this make you feel?
Are you uncomfortable, ashamed of your feet, ashamed that
Jesus sees them as they are?
Are you embarrassed?
Or are you beginning to understand that this charismatic
healer, preacher, teacher, friend washes your feet as a
sign of his love for you?
Do you fully grasp the depth of his love for you?
Perhaps this is a moment of revelation. An Epiphany. A
flash of understanding that Jesus loves you.
And after your feet are dried, he moves on to the person
sat next to you. Gently, tenderly washes their feet. Dries
them. And moves onto the person sat opposite you.
And the room falls silent, as the enormity of what is
happening begins to sink in.
Jesus washes the feet of all his disciples.
Every one. Judas included.
I wonder, how does that make Judas feel, knowing he will
betray Jesus.
I wonder, too, as we continue to examine ourselves, how it
feels as we acknowledge there are times when we have been
a Judas to others, perhaps even to ourselves.
For tonight’s message is a challenge. Jesus tells us to
love one another.
Not as an emotion. But out of choice.
Humbling. Love demands something of us. It makes us
vulnerable, open to rejection.
And yet even then, we join with Jesus who himself was
rejected. But that’s tomorrow’s story.
Tonight’s story takes on a deeper meaning as we understand
how God’s love and grace are so freely given to everyone.
To everyone,
In washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus showed his love for
each and every one of them.
As he washes our feet, he shows that same love.
I wonder, what response will you give?
What will your response be to the Lord who serves, who
offers of himself?
And in acknowledging that we are called to serve and love
others, particularly at this time after the year we have
all experienced, note that we are called to serve
ourselves, too.
For Jesus often went into the wilderness to pray – to
recharge – to reconnect with God, perhaps.
And we all have times when we need to put ourselves first.
To think of our own mental and physical health, for in
taking care of ourselves we can be better placed to serve
It’s not being selfish. It’s knowing when we need to
And so I leave you with something to think through.
How do you feel, when Jesus kneels to wash your feet? When
you realise that it is God himself reaching down to you?
What response does Jesus ask of you?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:25 pm.

Saturday, 3 April 2021:

Palm Sunday

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
It’s so good to be able to worship together again in
A few thoughts on today, and none of this will be new, but
I hope that perhaps one or two thoughts may stay with you
as we journey through this week.
For it’s a week unlike any other week. So much remembering
and reflecting. So much rich liturgy. A chance to re-
enter into the story, into God’s story, knowing that we
are to play our part in a story that began thousands of
years ago.
For today we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into
Jerusalem. A busy city, with Jews ready to celebrate the
Passover together. A city under Roman occupation. A city
bustling with life, with traders, with people going about
their daily lives.
And into that scene, into that busy place, that holy city,
rides Jesus.
Hailed by his followers as a king. Crowds flock to see
him, to wave, to greet him, to cheer him.
No wonder the Roman leaders and temple authorities were
getting worried. No wonder they were concerned about this
itinerant preacher who had been healing people, hanging
out with those people rejected by society. This man who
had fed thousands of people. Turned water into wine. No
wonder the leaders were on high alert.
And here’s Jesus. Riding into the city with his friends.
Crowds go wild, shouting Hosanna, waving palm branches.
How symbolic is all this. Jesus, riding into the sacred
city at a time when the Jewish people were about to
celebrate the Passover, their ancient celebration of God
saving the Israelites out of exile when they left Egypt.
Here’s Jesus as a symbol of hope. A new leader, who
would, they hoped, free them from the Roman oppression. No
wonder they shouted “Hosanna.” It means, “save us.”
I wonder, where are you in this story?
Are you following on behind Jesus, with the frenzied crowd
pressing against you as they strive to get a glimpse of
Are you one of his disciples, trying to make sure that his
way is clear, proud to be associated with such a
wonderful, charismatic man?
Or are you one of the onlookers, swept up in the moment,
wondering what to make of it all.
Where would you place yourself in this story?
And yet this King comes not as an exulted ruler perhaps on
horseback, but on a lowly donkey.
A man who has come to save us, but not in the way we might
The donkey, a symbol of peace.
So we have a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where Jesus
goes straight to the temple before going to Bethany with
his disciples.
How could they have guessed what would happen next. How
the crowd would so swiftly turn to hatred and scorn.
As this week unfolds, I pray that you will allow the story
to speak for itself.
To journey with our Lord. To be there at the Last Supper,
and watch as he washes your feet.
To journey with him to the Cross. To feel the shame and
humiliation and degradation. To hear the shouts of the
crowd. The hammer of nails into wood. To hear him cry, “It
is finished.”
And allow him to be placed into the tomb.
And rest. Because following that, we don’t know exactly
what happened.
We do know, though, that because somehow he burst through
the tomb, we in our turn have the hope of resurrection
We won’t all be able to be in church on Maundy Thursday or
Good Friday, of course, but I urge you to allow some time
to sit with the story. To read the Gospel passages. Use
the #Live Lent reflection booklets, or perhaps the Holy
Week booklet you will have found on your chair or
delivered to you.
Allow the story to speak to you.
But for now we leave Jesus about to head to Bethany with
his disciples, after arriving in Jerusalem.
We, in our turn, shout “Hosanna, save us.”
May this week be a blessed and holy week, whatever you are
doing, wherever you are, and that you feel the love of
Jesus in your lives as we go deeper into the mystery of
his story.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:24 pm.

Saturday, 20 March 2021:

Curate's Sermon

5th Sunday of Lent Passion Sunday
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.

Having read Jeanette’s sermon, I almost wonder what to
write! Jeanette Hartwell, who has written the diocese
sermon this week, is the diocese head of vocations and
training team. She lectures part time at Queen’s (for the
diocese) and she has played an important part in my
journey to date. I recommend her sermon to you.
Today’s Gospel made me feel uncomfortable, for it made me
reflect on who we glorify. Pop stars, football stars,
artists, musicians, we glorify so many of them and put
these people on a pedestal. We see their names online or
in the papers, in magazines; their photos are everywhere.
They are often paid what seems like obscene salaries.
Press photographers follow them. It feels as if we know
Except, of course, we don’t know them at all. We may know
the public image they produce, or that they are talented
at football, at rugby, at motor racing, or that they make
a lot of money from producing records or singing. But we
don’t actually know them at all. The celebrities remain
out of reach. And the more we want to know about them, the
more we seem to glorify them as celebrities.
Contrast that with the way God glorifies his Son, in that
thin space between heaven and earth, as we hear his voice
saying, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it
It makes me wonder, where do we hear God’s voice? In the
sounds of nature? In music or singing? Last week, I wrote
that sometimes I wonder if a particular verse has been
snuck into a Bible passage because it jumps out at me in a
new way when I hear the Bible passage being read. In the
same way, a piece of music that I know well can surprise
me and move me in a new way, and lines from well- known
hymns can take on a fresh meaning, a new significance. Is
that the voice of God? My vocabulary is limited but music
certainly allows me to feel the glory of God. And I know
so many of us have experienced God’s glory and voice by
the sea, or when we witness the most beautiful, star-
filled sky that goes on for ever and ever, or through a
glorious sunset, or a child’s laugh. Perhaps we need to be
more attentive. Perhaps we may recognize God’s voice in
all these things if we allow ourselves to listen.

Our Old Testament reading from Jeremiah tells us that
there will be a new covenant, that God will make sure we
know the law and love him and he will always be part of
us. That sounds very simple, but I don’t think it is.
Jeremiah reminds us that God’s covenant has been broken
time and time again – broken not by God, but by humans. He
is saying God will change how he covenants with us because
we keep breaking it – so, God will wipe the slate clean
and start afresh.

And the cost of this is that Jesus will come as God’s Son.
Human and yet Divine. An Incarnate God. And he is the one
who will suffer and die.
So we arrive towards Jerusalem with Jesus, drawn into the
story. And we realise, with the benefit of hindsight
because we know the end of the story, that Jesus himself
is a sign of God’s presence.

Before the Passover, pilgrims would flock to Jerusalem to
go through the purification rituals so that they would
then be able to join in the Passover festival. There is
already a large crowd present, therefore, let alone the
crowd that begins to follow Jesus. He is a problem, then,
for the leaders who will fear for the crowd and for any
retribution from the Roman authorities. He is a problem
because the leaders expect him to be treated as a
celebrity, to be idolized.

And what does Jesus do? He speaks to the Jews and Gentiles
alike. As the first century synagogues welcomed Gentiles,
we ought not to be surprised that there were Greeks
amongst the crowd. And I notice how the Gentiles are drawn
towards Jesus, wanting to know more, wanting to learn from
him, rather than going straight to the temple. Learning
from him, rather than learning rules and laws.
John’s Gospel makes it abundantly clear that it is not
enough to want to see Jesus, or to know of him. We are to
listen and to see what happens to him. We are to
experience the heartbreak and agony of the crucifixion –
we cannot avoid it; we cannot omit this from the story we
His story. Our story.
We have to trust in God.
We have to trust in the new life that is offered to us,
trusting in the promise that God will light our path.
By saying that the seed will die, Jesus is referring to
his own death. And we hear how the seed will change, and
Jesus tells us this is ‘glorification.’
As I say, we know the end of the story. Jesus is speaking
of eternity. He is not talking of a quick fix. God will
glorify his name as he dies on the cross. He places his
life into God’s hands.
I wonder, how ready are we to do the same.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:23 pm.

Saturday, 20 March 2021:

Idle curiosity or faithful discipleship?

Revd Dr Jeanette Hartwell's Sermon for 21 March 2021 Fifth
Sunday of Lent-John 12:20-33 Today the church celebrates
Passion Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Lent and our thoughts
begin to turn to the last events of Jesus' life on earth.
Next week we shall celebrate Palm Sunday - Jesus entering
Jerusalem and being hailed as a king by the people. And we
see in the events recorded as we journey through Holy Week
that it was not an easy journey for Jesus to make - the
doubt, the inner conflict and yet today's reading suggests
a recognition from Jesus that the end is approaching and
we are drawn in journeying with him to wrestling with what
the life and death of Jesus means for us as his disciples.
And the reading from John 12:20-33 appears a strange one
because on first hearing it might appear to make no sense
at all. From the outset we are drawn into a theme of
liberation with the setting of the celebration of the
Passover festival, the celebration of the liberation from
slavery in Egypt. And indeed, John places the passage
before us today after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem
(John 12:12-15) and a narrative of Jesus' increasing
popularity with the crowd because of the signs that he had
performed. Amongst the many who have come to worship at
the festival John draws attention to some Greeks who wish
to see Jesus and when Jesus is told of this, instead of
being delighted that people are interested in him and
arranging a meeting he responds to Philip and Andrew's
request by starting to speak in riddles. So what are we to
make of all this? There is no doubt that at this time
Jesus' popularity was on the rise and that there is fear
and concern amongst the religious authorities of the day.
At a time of religious fervour and political tensions (the
two often go hand in hand) people were undoubtedly drawn
to Jesus and it was not uncommon for individuals to be
claiming that they had come with the special purpose of
restoring Israel and overthrowing the Roman rulers.
Tensions then were high and there was much at stake in
terms of religious observance and political unrest. In
this context John draws attention to God fearing Greeks
(why else might they be at the festival?) as outsiders who
want to know more about this man Jesus and the claims he
was making.
In his response to Philip and Andrew's request, Jesus
avoids the temptation of becoming the local celebrity, no
doubt with the memory of his entry into Jerusalem firmly
in his mind. What we don't read in John's account of this
encounter is Jesus perhaps questioning why they wanted to
see him, of trying to decide whether it is nothing more
than idle curiosity, or whether they were genuine in their
desire for an audience with him. Perhaps they genuinely
wanted to debate on an intellectual level and question him
in order to come to their own mind about him, or
alternatively, whether they simply want to see him so that
they could say that they had.

And so, Jesus in his answer goes deeper than the
immediately obvious. Unconcerned with the motives of those
who want to see him, he begins to explain what he's really
about and that has nothing to do with seeing him, with
intellectual debate or following him because he is the
celebrity of the day.
The time has come - my time has come says Jesus in stark
contrast to the earlier comments in John that his time has
not yet come (in John 2 to his mother at the wedding in
Cana and John 7 when some tried to seize him while he was
teaching in
the temple courts). Here then is the moment to which John
has been pointing, when the time is come for the Son of
Man to be lifted up in order that all the world might see
Jesus and recognise him, in order that God's glory be
revealed. This will be the time when all the world
(represented by 'the Greeks') and not just faithful Israel
will see and believe in him, not through intellectual
debate but through the saving action of Jesus, the man who
willingly goes to the cross to confront sin and evil.
And Jesus uses the agricultural imagery of seeds in the
ground to drive home his point, suggesting that it is not
going to be as might be expected. In fact, on the contrary
it might look hidden and be perceived as a complete
disaster. The joy for those of us this side of the
resurrection is that we know the ending to the story but
Jesus is painting a very different picture than what
people might have been looking for or expecting. The time
for preparation is over and the true picture of who Jesus
is, is about to be revealed. One of the major themes of
John's gospel is seeing and knowing and we see it (to
excuse the pun) being played out in this passage. The
Greeks wish to see Jesus, not only in the physical sense
but in getting to know him and who he truly was. We might
ask ourselves what it is that we want to see in Jesus?
What is our motivation? Are we merely curious in seeing
what it's all about without necessarily wanting to take to
the disturbing points that Jesus goes on to make about
losing our life? Interestingly we are not told whether the
Greeks got to see Jesus, both in the literal sense of
meeting with him or in them getting to know who he claimed
to be.
There are several responses to merely seeing Jesus, to
being inquisitive, to recognising the man that people have
been talking about and coming to believe in who he said he
was. And Jesus is perhaps indicating in his response that
it is simply not enough to see and engage in an
intellectual discussion but what is required in truly
knowing him is a change in attitude as to our whole life.
And this from a Rabbi who as we know from the gospels was
not afraid to engage in rigorous debate, as was their
So what are we to make of Jesus's discussion of our losing
our life in order that we So what are we to make of
Jesus's discussion might keep it for eternal life. So
often I think that we interpret this in the sense of some
form of grand scale martyrdom, that our discipleship might
demand some grand gesture of costly sacrifice. Yet it
seems to me that what Jesus is asking of us is the small
almost seemingly inconsequential acts contained within the
process self, of being attentive to the ways in which we
are tempted to act in ways that serve
self rather than God, of the daily decision to face the
cross, and attempt, by God's grace and God's grace alone
to live lives that reflect God's glory. It is in these
daily acts of self-denial that God's glory continues to be
revealed and in many ways these acts are buried like the
grain that falls into the earth. They are often held
between God and ourselves buried in the soil of our
ordinary, everyday, daily existence. There is a sense in
which it requires a certain degree of dogged determination
and persistence and I suspect that John is warning us in
the words of Jesus that it is not for the fainthearted.
And just as we might wait for new shoots to break forth
from the ground so too, we wait with patience for what God
will bring about in God's good time. It is a timely lesson
perhaps as we begin to emerge tentatively from Lockdown
with Easter just around the corner. We are a faith
community that has death and resurrection at the heart of
its being. As we journey over the next few weeks with
Jesus as he makes his way to Golgotha what might God be
asking us, as individuals and communities to allow to fall
to the ground and to die in order that it might bear much
fruit in the future? And so may God grant us dogged
determination, faithful patience that we might see God's
glory. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:21 pm.

Saturday, 20 March 2021:

Curate's Blog

Mothering Sunday 2021
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.
Mothering Sunday offers us a break in Lent. A chance to
say thank you
to the mother figures in our lives, and/or to think of
those who have been
so important to us. Chance to take a step back from the
readings, when we have been reminded of God’s covenants
with us
since the very beginning. Yes, a bit of a break before we
hit Passion
Sunday, and then Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Our readings for today are so familiar, I’d like to try to
look at them from
a different starting point. Firstly, as we are not
currently worshipping in
church, may I recommend that you read them out loud – not
for anyone
to listen to, but for you to hear the spoken word. The
words come to life
as they are said, and we’re missing this element at the
moment. So
often, when wonderful folk read the set readings for us
each Sunday, I
find myself thinking, “I haven’t heard that verse before!”
or, “when did
that phrase sneak into the Bible?” Just hearing someone
read a passage
that you know well can sometimes jog your subconscious to
a new level
of understanding purely by a different inflection or tone
of voice. So, give
it a go, read the readings out loud to yourself and see if
anything jumps
out to you.
And if it doesn’t, don’t worry! Just enjoy feeling and
hearing these words
of Scripture and know that they tell us something of God.
For today is all about God. Yes, I know it’s Mothering
Sunday, but the
word that springs to mind for me about today is ‘love.’
The theme of love
runs throughout our readings. I’ll expand on this, but
remember that one
of our fundamental beliefs is that God is Love. One of the
phrases I often use before we share the Peace is, “God is
love, and those who live in
love live in God, and God lives in them.’
I know for some people their experience of motherly love
is not a positive
one. And I know for others, it is not a mother who raises
a child but
perhaps a relative or foster-carer. There are so many
different types of
family nowadays, and I am not at all trying to trivialize
the role of a
mother. What I do hope is that within families there is
someone who
plays that mothering, nurturing role, and that even if it
has not been in
your experience, you can relate to the nurturing,
mothering instincts of
someone close to you.
For we love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
We love God by loving what God loves.
Our reading from Exodus is so familiar, isn’t it. The
story of Moses in the
bulrushes. His mother hid him for the first three months
of his life, and
then when she could no longer keep him safely hidden, made
a basket
and put her son in it and left the basket in the reeds of
the river bank.
But she didn’t just leave him and walk away. We’re told
that his sister
stood on the river bank to watch to see what would happen.
For of course the baby was a Hebrew child and the orders
from the
Pharaoh was to massacre all Hebrew baby boys; Pharaoh had
begun to
fear the Hebrews. And we know the story, that Pharaoh’s
daughter found
the baby and asked for a Hebrew woman to nurse the child.
And so the
baby’s own mother was able to nurse her own son in safety.
Motherly love. Instinctive, caring, protective love. And
I would suggest
that both male and female experience that primeval surge
of love at
some time even if they do not have children.And I would
also suggest that that’s exactly the love that God has for
Our Gospel reading from John points us to a new family. A
horrific scene
– a mother at the foot of a cross on which hangs her
beloved son. Her
son’s friend supporting her, unable to take away the hurt
unbelievable pain. Here we witness at first-hand how Mary
must have
travelled with Jesus- watching his miracles, travelling
with the women
who were his companions along the road together with the
This must have been the worst pain imaginable, having to
let her child
go, unable to help. I know that will resonate with some of
you. Yet she
doesn’t duck out of this. She stays with her son till the
end. I wonder,
did she recall the words of Simeon who said, ‘A sword will
pierce your
own soul, too.’ I wonder how hard it was for her to be
And despite his pain, and his terror (for surely he must
have been
terrified, he was human and yet divine) Jesus recognized
that his mother
and friend were with him. He creates a new family, there
at the foot of
the cross. Women had few rights in that society, and a
mother without a
husband or son to support her would have been left and
cast aside.
Jesus provides for his mother as he hangs on the cross.
And as we’ll explore further during Holy Week, the reason
Jesus is on
the cross in the first place is love. ‘He opens his arms
for us on the
cross, he put an end to death by dying for us’ we say
during the
Eucharistic prayer. God loves us, pure and simple.
A few years ago, the Guiders showed how God puts his arms
round us
as He protects us with His love. Imagine the figure on the
cross, with
arms outstretched. Easier to imagine it without the
horror, I know. And
into each arm walks someone else who needs love, who needs

nurturing. And they in turn open their arms, for someone
else. It
becomes a chain of love. A chain of care.
And that’s why I said Mothering Sunday is all about love.
We are rightly
grateful for the love shown by those mother figures who
have influenced
our lives, and we remember them with love. But Mothering
perhaps this year more than ever, offers us a time to
celebrate love. Our
love for each other, family love, the love for our church
family, love for
those in our care. And as we care for others, however we
do this –
shopping, writing notes, making phone calls, collecting
and delivering
newspapers, whatever we are doing – we are showing love.
We spread
a little of God’s love through what we do, what we say.
Jesus’s message was of love. Love for one another. Love
of family and
friends. Love for the outcasts, the downtrodden, the
marginalized, the
homeless. When we offer someone a hug, we offer ourselves
of course
– but we also offer God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And God as
The theologian Richard Rohr said that we love God by
loving what God
loves. He went on to say that we love God by loving
So today say thank you for the power of love. We are all
separated due
to restrictions and that in itself offers us a common
bond. If we have lost
our mums, or a child, we can smile through tears to thank
God for the
love and the part they played in our lives. Male or
female, we celebrate
God’s love for us all. And however you spend today, know
that are loved
by God.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:10 pm.

Saturday, 20 March 2021:

The three Rs of motherhood

The Ven Paul Thomas's Sermon for 14 March 2021 Gospel
Reading: John 19 v25b - 27 Mothering Sunday John's
description of the exchange between Jesus and his mother
at the cross furnishes us with three deep insights into
The first insight is what I would call the reality of
motherhood. In v25b we read: 'Stood near the cross was the
mother of Jesus.' As she stands at the foot of the cross
Mary, the mother of Jesus (though John's Gospel never uses
her name!) is experiencing the heartbreak of losing her
son to a premature death. She is aware of the terrible
pain that he is enduring and of the shame which belongs to
this very public act of execution. She had lived with this
fear ever since
Simeon, the elderly priest at the Temple, had prophesied
that a sword would pierce
rown heart. And now as she faces this costly sacrifice,
and embraces suffering and loss, Mary epitomises the
reality of motherhood. To love a child as a mother does is
to leave the heart and mind defenceless against whatever
trouble or trauma that child might bring. Winifred Holtby,
writing to her lifelong friend Vera Brittain said this:
'Babies are a nuisance. But so does everything seem to be
that is worthwhile...husbands and books and committees and
being loved and everything. We have to choose between
barren ease and rich unrest...or
rather one does not choose; life somehow chooses.' The
'rich unrest of motherhood stems from the fact that most
mothers do what John 19 v25 tells us that Mary did on that
dark Friday afternoon when Jesus was being done to death
on the cross: she 'stood near'. Mary was near, attentive
to every groan and heavy breath, to the straining of
muscles and to the tearing of flesh as Jesus struggled to
hold off the onset of death. She was near so she could
dispel the awful loneliness of his dying. She was near
because there was nowhere else she could dream of being
knowing the pain and humiliation her son was going
through. Hugh MacDiarmid in his poem, The Two Parents,
begins by admitting his own sense of detachment towards
his sick child and then compares it with the deep
commitment and motherly love of his wife:
I love my little son, and yet when he was ill I could not
confine myself to his bedside.
I was impatient of his squalid little needs. His laboured
breathing and the fretful way he cried. And longed for my
wide range of interests again, Whereas his mother sank
without another care
To that dread level of nothing but life itself And stayed
day and night, till he was better, there. Women may
pretend, yet they always dismiss
Everything but mere being just like this.

Mary had descended to that'dread level of nothing but life
itself' as she stayed close to her dying son. And it is
from this recognition of how much our mothers are willing
to forego and sacrifice in order to be available to us
that our deep sense of gratitude springs. As we grow up it
gradually dawns on us how costly and selfless was the love
our mothers bestowed on us; their quiet heroism and
courage leaves us ever indebted to them.
The second insight we can glean from today's Gospel
concerns the reward of motherhood. In v26 we read: When
Jesus saw his mother he said to her, 'Woman here is your
son.' Knowing how devastated she would be by his imminent
death lesus provides for her through the care and
companionship of the beloved disciple. Here is the love
Jesus had received from his mother throughout his life
being returned. He shows how much he understands her
vulnerability and how deep runs his desire to ease her
sense of loss. And that must surely be the chief reward of
motherhood - to receive back freely and joyfully and
unsolicited the love of a child. What the mother has
lavished on the child, all the values she has sought to
teach him or her, all the sensitivity and care she has
tried to nurture, has not been wasted. Instead it has
borne fruit in the formation of a person who now shares
those same values and exercises that same care. The love
has become reciprocal and it flows in both directions
between mother and child. When my mother was a widow
living alone in South Wales and I was serving a parish in
York I knew one thing which brought her a lot of enjoyment
was a hand-written letter. So every Thursday I sat at my
desk and wrote a long letter to my mother. It was often
hard to think of news because we had a weekly phone call
lasting three-quarters of an hour in which I had updated
her on all the latest happenings in our lives. But I knew
when that envelope dropped through the letter-box on to
her front door mat it would make her day. 'I got your
letter - thanks very much! would be one of her opening
remarks on the phone next time we spoke. I'm sure you have
similar stories of how you have recognised the humanity
and vulnerability of your mother and acted to show her how
much you loved and valued her. 'Seeing his mother' says
John's Gospel, Jesus offered her the care of the beloved
disciple. Likewise all of us need to 'see' our mothers in
that way so that we can be sensitive to their need and
help them
experience and rejoice in the reward of motherhood. The
third insight to be found in these few verses from John 19
is what I want to call the reach of motherhood. Here is
v27: 'Then Jesus said to the disciple, 'Here is your
mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his
own home.' This shows the disciple at the foot of the
cross acting in a motherly way towards Mary, the mother of
Jesus. He made space for her in his home and committed
himself to being responsible for her well-being. And in
doing that the disciple was not showing motherly love to a
member of his own family but to a woman who in one sense
was a stranger. Her main claim on him was that Jesus had
asked him to care for her. He had no legal or familial
obligation to protect her or provide for her. The motherly
love he showed her was a free gift inspired by his love of
Jesus Christ. From this we can see how motherly love is
freed from its family bond and made universal in its

Such love can be shown as much by men as by women and
Jesus himself is the supreme example for all genders. 'The
human character of Jesus ... combining the strength of
manhood and the tenderness of womanhood in perfect
alliance is always strengthening to contemplate and adore'
wrote Bishop Charles Gore!. We catch a glimpse of his
motherly love as Jesus looks out over the city of
Jerusalem: 'How often | have desired to gather your
children together as a hen gathers her brood under her
wings and you were not willing!'I doubt that many hymns
have been written on those words of Jesus but I did find
one in a book called 'Zulu Zion and some Swazi Zionists' –
just the kind of book Archdeacons read late at night! Here
are a few verses:
Thou glorious hen We stand before Thee It is not only
That Thou lovest
So love us and hatch us
Thou glorious hen We stand before Thee
Hen of Heaven.
O Lord bring it forth This Ekuphakameni (paradise)
Like the hen
Loving her chickens
So the Church's focus on mothers and all they give to
their families invites us to do more than express
gratitude to them and to God. It challenges us as those
who stand before the glorious 'Hen of Heaven', Jesus
Christ, to respond to the desire he expressed over the
city of Jerusalem and which he directed to the beloved
disciple at the foot of the cross. It is the desire that
we who are loyal and obedient to him should extend the
power of motherly love into every part of our world,
taking it much further than the bonds of kinship. Then
that love can reach dark and troubled places like the city
of Jerusalem. It can be released towards those individuals
who are overwhelmed by pain and sorrow and loss like Mary.
For as we spread that love to others we are helping build
the Kingdom of God and becoming heralds of the salvation
available to us all in the cross of Jesus Christ. May this
Mothering Sunday be very special for each and everyone of
us and bring us all fresh inspiration. Amen.
The Incarnation of the Son of God, Bampton Lectures 1891
page 3. A great read!

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:07 pm.

Saturday, 13 March 2021:

Curate's Blog

3rd Sunday of Lent
We had the most glorious snow moon last weekend. The moon
hung in a clear sky, so large and bright that it took my
breath away. Some images of it will long remain in my
memory – you know, that breathtaking moment when you see
something so utterly spectacular that for a few moments
time stands still as you drink in the sight before you.
It was, for me, most definitely a moment when ‘the heavens
declared the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his
Today I’m focusing mainly on the psalm set for today,
Psalm 19. It’s a glorious psalm of praise for God’s
creation. I love the way it begins, with revelation of God
seen first in creation and then in divine instruction. And
as you read it, you may see that the psalmist moves from
the wonder of the divine creation, to the divine
instruction, and finally to the worshipper. It is a great
hymn of praise, explaining the glory of God through his
creation and his law. It compels us to be good stewards of
the world we inhabit, and a reminder that we, too, are
part of God’s created world. In responding to the wonder
of all this, the psalmist ends by asking for forgiveness,
and uses the well-known words,
‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my

That’s not a bad prayer to use on a daily basis, is it.
But the psalm isn’t only a song of praise for God’s
creation. It’s a song of praise for God’s law, too. And
towards the end, it makes a deep plea for human integrity,
for honesty, for solidarity, for togetherness. Can these
be achieved if we keep God’s law? The psalm arouses my
spiritual imagination. It has been suggested that early
Christians saw imagery in Psalm 19 that reflected Christ;
Angela Tilby, Canon Emeritus at Christ Church, Oxford,
writes that early Christians recognized a metaphor for the
incarnation here. The image of the sun rising as a giant
in the east and sinking in the west spoke to them of
Christ running the whole course of human life as our
champion and spreading his light and grace on the whole
So this psalm helps extend our sense of wonder. It draws
us deeper into God’s love and into a love of his law
inscribed in our hearts. The author C.S. Lewis once said
that psalm 19 is the ‘finest poem ever written.’ The
psalmist suggests that God intends to flood our minds, our
thoughts, our imaginations and our hearts with his glory
as he fills the whole of creation with his presence.
That’s a lot to take in.
And we’re told, ‘the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving
the soul.’(v7) The following verses refer to God’s
instruction as found in the Scriptures; the expression
‘fear of the Lord’ means trust and respect in the Lord.
For this psalm gives us the basis of our faith. Praise in
God the Creator, trust in God the Forgiver, and an
invitation to lead a life following God and his teaching.
And as we reflect on the psalm, I’m reminded that Jesus
would have prayed these psalms. He used the very words we
use. He prayed the same psalms we pray, day in, day out,
along with the same Commandments.
I’m not going to say much about our Old Testament reading
as Lindsey writes on this for her sermon today. (Dr
Lindsey Hall is the diocese leader of DVE, Discipleship,
Vocations and Evangelism.) But it reminds us of our
calling, to respect those around us, to take care of
others, to work and to rest.
So where does the Gospel fit into this? It describes the
temple during a time of preparation, as Jews began to
purify themselves before the Passover, much as we try to
keep Lent as a preparation for Easter. So we get that
there were things to do, rituals to be upheld, prayers to
be said. We get that. The Jews would arrive at the temple
to remember God’s deliverance, to honour God through their
rituals and repentance. I wonder, is that any different to
us, as we approach Holy Week?
And we see Jesus in a rage. Certainly not ‘gentle Jesus
meek and mild’ here! What does he do? He chases out the
animals and the merchants, turns over tables and scatters
the coins. You can just imagine the scene. A bustling
place of preparation and purification becomes a picture of
noise, shouts, frightened animals and bewildered cries of
rage. Pilgrims and priests may have stood by. Did they
wonder what exactly Jesus was doing? Why would Jesus want
to stop all the purification rites at such an important
time in preparation for the Passover festival?
It’s because the intention overcomes the action. It’s
because those who were purchasing the sacrifices and
offerings were doing so thinking that’s all they had to
do. That they could hand over money, make a sacrifice, and
not have to think much deeper. They were kidding
themselves that if they made these sacrifices, they could
continue with their lifestyle, living lives of oppression
and injustice.
They were going through the motions.
I wonder, are there times when we, too, go through the
Lent is a time when we may try to focus our lives more on
God. The Ten Commandments ask us to rely on, to trust in
God alone. They ask us to create a society that will be
ready to proclaim ‘Christ crucified.’ They ask us to speak
up for those who are wronged, to speak out when necessary.
And to return to Psalm 19, the psalmist prays that we too
are delivered from the things that get in our way of God,
from the things that cloud our vision, even those things
we do not intend to happen. That we can be delivered from
‘going through the motions.’ And so as we prepare to
journey through another week, in whatever we may be doing,
and as we gently prepare to come out of this lockdown,
perhaps the prayer we need to be on our hearts is exactly
the meditation in the final verse of the psalm.
‘Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my
Be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:14 pm.

Thursday, 11 March 2021:

The Lockdown commandments

Dr Lindsey Hall's Sermon for 7 March 2021
Third Sunday of Lent - Exodus 20:1-17, John 2:13-22

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 20:3 you shall have no other gods
before me. 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the
earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 20:5 You shall not bow down to
them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and
the fourth generation of those who reject me, 20:6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those
who love me and keep my commandments.
Do you ever try and see how many of the ten commandments you can remember? Maybe you had all ten drilled into you at an early age.
Or maybe you find the last six or seven easy to recall and the first two or three a bit more confusing. You shall have no gods
before me and you shall not make for yourselves idols- I can never remember whether that's 1 commandment or 2 separate ones.
Perhaps because, unlike the later commandments about murder, adultery and stealing, these seem to come from a different world.
In the ancient world, there were gods to choose from and different peoples named and honoured gods in different ways. The Jews were
unusual for their belief in one God: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Deut 6:4)
One God, who claims, in today's passage, to be a jealous God. A God who commands us not to put other gods first, or to make idols
for ourselves.
Well so far so good with keeping the commandments! I don't believe in any other gods and I have never bowed to a golden calf, or
worshipped the form of anything on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. So two out of two so far!
Our other reading today is John's account of Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple. This passage seems, instinctively, to have
something in common with Moses receiving the ten commandments. Perhaps they are both moments in the life of a community when
something was revealed to the people, when even those who already worshipped the one God were shown some of the ways in which they
had lost sight of God. The ways in which they gradually put other gods first and focussed their attention on idols.
No doubt the cattle and sheep sellers, the dove sellers and the money changers in the Temple would have assessed themselves as two
out of two for the first couple of commandments. They were in the Temple and so were almost certain to be law observing Jews. But
to the onlooker it might seem that they had lost their way a bit. Certainly, Jesus seemed to think so.
This incident is often referred to as Jesus cleansing the temple - purifying it from those
were making it something it was not meant to be. Those who were putting profit ahead of worship, those who had lost sight of what
the temple was really for.
They hadn't built a golden calf or an idol for people to bow before. But they do seem to have developed a system through which you
could buy favour with God; through which you could be made righteous. Through which you were being invited to put your hope in
something other than the One God.
It's much easier to spot the ways in which people have wandered from faithfulness to God when those people are in a different place
and culture and time. Much harder to notice all those things that we put our hope in that aren't God.
We have been through, and are in, an extraordinary time in this country and in the world. We have had challenges of restrictions,
illness, loss, isolation, separation' - and for many of us believing in the promises of God, the Good News of Jesus and the
resurrection hope has been essential to keep going.
But how do we notice when we have also hedged our bets on other gods? When we have constructed idols and then worshipped them?
How many times have you heard the word normal in the last year?
"I can't wait to get back to normal". "When things are back to normal we'll be able to..." "I want my normal life back". And then
of course our questions about the new normal: "what will the new normal be like? Is this the new normal now, or is it going to
change into something else? Will things ever seem normal again?"
As though normality - being normal - is the goal of our existence. As though the ideas of normal we have constructed should be
pursued above everything else.
As though this bit of life is merely a disruption to be endured.
As though life is suspended until normality returns. As though God's kingdom is out of sight until we can see it again in more
normal times I do not think any of the first disciples recognised in Jesus someone normal, and so chose to follow him. Quite the
And I do not think seeking normality is the same as seeking the kingdom of God.
The kingdom is not just for the good times, when the kids are in school and the shops and the pubs are open. It is for all times.
And even in the midst of a pandemic, the kingdom of God is amongst us, it is in our midst.
But even in the places where it is named and celebrated, it is surprisingly easy to lose sight of the kingdom of God.
I wonder what you have learnt during lockdown? Maybe it's something you already knew that has become really clear, or maybe you
have seen your community differently, learnt something new about what people are like, what matters to you, what's important.
One of the things we have noticed together as Christians we probably did already know but now see even more clearly: that our
church is not the building but the people gathered around Jesus.
In your church community, like in mine, you have no doubt seen new gifts emerge this year. New ways of praying, connecting and
serving that have been born out of the challenges we face.
These are testing times. And perhaps one of the greatest tests we face is how we seek the kingdom with the new revelations of this
time. How we respond to things that before we saw dimly, but now can see clearly. What are we going to make of the choice we are
presented with? Will we struggle to go back to something that no longer exists anyway, with all its flaws and familiarity; Or will
we, together, see Humbler, simpler, bolder. Focussed on seeking the Kingdom of God and joining with others to offer signs of the
kingdom to a broken world.
Familiarity can get in the way of focussing on the kingdom. Do you think other people who went to worship in the Temple were
offended by the traders and money changers in the Temple? Or had the sight of them and their practice had become so familiar, that
it felt normal and there seemed no reason to question it?
What in our Christian life together have we stopped noticing, that Jesus might overturn? What in the familiarity of our patterns of
worship, our use of buildings and the culture of our communities are we so keen to get back to that we are not stopping to ask is
it because they are normal, or because they are truly a sign of the kingdom of God?
If we read Exodus, we can see why God instructed the people to have no other gods before the Lord their God, and not to make idols.
They seem like good commandments for people in a society where many gods were worshipped and who were known to build golden calves.
But they are good commandments for us too. Even in a time of crisis, even in a global pandemic they remind us not to seek our
salvation in anything other than the Lord our God. Not in normality. Not in rushing back to the patterns of church we remember. Not
in our desperate longing for the familiar. These things may well be good things, but they are not ultimately, our hope and our
salvation. We find that only in the God made known to us in Jesus and in the kingdom which is already in our midst. Amen.
Dr Lindsey Hall

Posted by Josh Taylor at 4:32 pm.

Monday, 1 March 2021:

Curate's Blog

2 nd Sunday in Lent
Last week we had the story of God’s covenant with Noah,
setting the
rainbow as a sign of his love and of his promise to always
be with us.
Today’s Old Testament reading sees God make a promise to
“Walk before me, and be blameless,” says God to Abraham.
Abraham walks with God, and as he does so he realizes time
and time
again how he can trust God. Paul reminds us that God’s
promise to
Abraham is his promise to all of us, for we all have
chance to share our
faith and belief and trust in God with others.
And perhaps today’s Gospel seems hard-hitting. “Follow me,
and you
will also walk the road to the cross,” says Jesus. But is
that really what
he is saying? Let’s take a step back and try to tease out
this Gospel. It
comes just after the disciples have proclaimed him as the
Messiah and
Jesus has admitted that yes, he is. And he speaks out very
saying that he must suffer and die. Are we to think that
this is God’s will?
Well, yes, but it’s more than that. Jesus dies because he
disruption wherever he goes. He dies, because his
commitment to the
will of God is at odds with the views of the powerful
leaders. He dies
because his vision of how he should be faithful to God’s
mission is at
odds with the law.
So Jesus tries to teach his disciples what his role as the
Messiah will be.
He has accepted God’s will in the wilderness, where he
struggled with
temptation. And now here’s Peter putting his foot in it as
ever, tempting
Jesus not to go the way of the cross, throwing temptations
in Jesus’s
way when Jesus himself knows what he must do. We remember
Jesus struggled in the wilderness for some time. Peter and
the other
disciples have not had that chance; they do not have the
that Jesus has. No wonder Peter says what he does. No
wonder Peter
and the others don’t get it.
And Jesus replies saying that their minds must be fixed on
God, not on
earthly things. And in explaining this, Jesus at last
explains to his
disciples what his future will entail – persecution,
suffering, death.
And the disciples are to deny themselves, take up their
cross and follow
How tough must that have sounded.


It’s worth remembering that when Mark’s Gospel was
written, there’s a
good chance that the Christians already knew of the
persecution of
James and possibly even Peter. Mark’s version of
discipleship is costly.
But his vision of discipleship is what we are all called
to do – to join in
with Jesus’s mission here on earth. What is it that Teresa
of Avila said,
“Christ has no body on earth but ours, no feet but ours,
no hands but
ours.” That’s the point. That’s what we are called to do.
And perhaps the ‘denying ourselves’ is not - physically -
the way to the
Perhaps the ‘denying ourselves’ is a way of helping us to
face our own
temptations. What tempts you? Typical Lenten disciplines
temptations such as chocolate, wine, beer, watching too
much TV,
procrastination, gossiping, whatever it is – maybe, just
maybe during
Lent and beyond we are called to examine our own lives and
see where
we are found wanting. And I say that not as a way to beat
ourselves up,
but to take positives from it. Where does our weakness
lie? How can we
try to get over that? How can we try to be more patient
understanding, instead of jumping in with both feet? How
can we try to
live a life of service without being holier than thou?
For if we are serious about following Jesus, we are to pay
attention to
the inner voice that spurs us on, being open to the
prompts of the Holy
Spirit. We are also to pay attention to the inner voice
that tempts us.
The inner voice that stops us being the best we can be,
that prevents us
from reaching out to others because we are too busy
looking after
And as for the cross, just look at the cross on the wall
behind the altar.
There we see Christ enthroned in glory. The silver cross
on the altar
between services gleams and shines. If we time it right,
and the weather
conditions are in our favour, we can come into church just
as the rays of
the sun bounce through the windows straight onto the
cross. Then it truly
does radiate light. We hold the cross in such prominence,
and it’s hard
to explain why (as those who’ve been involved with Messy
Church and
schools visits to church will no doubt testify.) If we
think back to the
crosses on Golgatha, on the hill outside Jerusalem, I
wonder if we block


out some of the horror. The cross was a Roman instrument
of torture, of
death. Yet we honour and respect the cross.
What, I wonder, does this mean for us today?
I think it means three things:
To try to focus on God and to lead a life of witness to
Christ through
what we say and what we do.
To try to focus on our temptations as weaknesses and, in
that, to be more aware of those inner voices that drive us
To act as Christ’s representatives and disciples in our
world today.

What, I wonder, is God’s plan for you? For me? How will we
ourselves to be used by God? For the covenant God made
with Noah
and Abraham is extended to us, only this time Jesus is the
He is our new covenant. He offers us everything. We only
have to
What, I wonder, is God calling you to do?

I finish with a meditation by Nick Fawcett, the meditation
of Simon Peter.

Did those words of his hurt, you ask?
Well yes, of course they did.
It’s not every day someone calls you Satan.
And to be labelled such by your closest friend –
one you love and admire beyond all others –
understandably it leaves you shaken.
But let’s be clear,
I deserved it, a hundred per cent,
for I should have known better.
It wasn’t as though he’d said anything new in warning us
he must die.


He’d been utterly open about it from the start,
clear that he had come not to lord it over us as the
Romans did,
but to serve through sacrifice,
winning glory through humility,
triumph through defeat,
life through death.
Yet, I still couldn’t get my head round that;
still saw success through human eyes rather than divine.
“You can’t die,” I told him.
“You mustn’t.”
Understandable, perhaps,
but wrong-
hideously, hopelessly wrong.
For if he didn’t surrender his life,
choosing instead to serve self rather than others,
there would be no Gospel to proclaim,
no Messiah to set us free.
I may have meant well,
but that wasn’t enough,
the road to hell, as they say, paved with good intentions.
I wanted joy without sorrow,
pleasure without pain,
answers that asked nothing of him
and still less of me,
and he helped me to realise that, for his kingdom to come,
there must necessarily be cost:
a price he would pay,
for us all.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:00 pm.

Monday, 1 March 2021:

Take up your cross

Ven Julian Francis's Sermon for 28 February 2021 Second
Sunday of Lent - Mark 8:31-38
The first Christians had no access to the stories of Jesus
in the gospels; yet this mattered not, because they were
fired by a deep conviction over the power of
the cross for their lives. The crucified Lord was their
saviour and deliverer. Something in the crucifixion had
demonstrated to them that the man of Galilee was the way
to salvation. The tree of shame was their tree of glory.
And this primary recognition of the power of the cross for
Christian living is conveyed succinctly by Paul in his
first letter to the Corinthians. As he begins the
correspondence, he articulates a significant anxiety,
which is that 'the cross of Christ might be emptied of its
power'! He sees a risk that it may get obscured or
marginalised. Yet this cannot be allowed to happen; for as
Paul writes, whilst "the message of the cross is
foolishness to those who are perishing... to us who are
being saved it is the power of God." (Ch 1 v.18) No cross,
no power, no gospel! Paul goes on to say that this
'message of the cross' captures the soul in a way that
goes far beyond the wisdom of the wise, and is so much
more durable than the search for signs. He says, "Jews
demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim
Christ crucified, Christ the power of God and the wisdom
of God." And perhaps most memorably, Paul declares that
whilst he could have come to the Corinthians speaking
about mysteries and lofty wisdom, "I decided to know
nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him
crucified"... nothing else mattered, and arguably nothing
else matters still! The cross of Christ turns his healing,
transforming, justice-founded ministry into a way of
Now we all know this to be perhaps the truth of our faith.
But this morning we are challenged by having this
proclamation of saving grace turned directly towards us.
Because this is what happens in Mark chapter 8 when Jesus
addresses the disciples and says, "if any want to become
my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their
cross and follow me." What has quintessentially been
Jesus' vocation is becoming ours too! So, we must ask,
what is the Master calling us to? Today's verses from Mark
chapter 8 have a lot to say about Jesus' vocation to
suffering. They begin with what is known as the 'first
prediction of the passion', the first of three. "He began
to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great
suffering, be killed and after three days rise again." Now
very clearly, the disciples in this account do not have
the benefit, like the first Christians, of having
witnessed the crucifixion, and experienced its impact in
the community of believers. This is yet to come. The
thought, therefore, of Jesus being crucified is entirely
new. It is also anathema! And we see this clearly in
Peter's response, who "took Jesus aside and began to
rebuke him." Crucifixion was a particularly harsh and
degrading capital punishment that was reserved by the
Romans for ruffians and slaves. They would crucify tens,
even hundreds at once, so we are
told by the historian Josephus. Crucifixion was certainly
not for esteemed leaders. We can understand Peter's
protestations. But as readers of the gospel, we share,
along with the Corinthian Christians, a knowledge about
the saving death of Jesus. We know that through his death
we live! We are inclined, therefore, not to hear these
words of hiss with the starkness they would have had to
the disciples who first heard them. It is good, therefore,
if we can put ourselves in their shoes and hear Jesus as
if for the first time, declaring what his calling is from
God, to 'undergo great suffering, be killed and after
three days rise again'. Today is an opportunity to stop
and listen and take this in... We also observe that
today's crucial portion of scripture, that signifies both
Jesus' vocation to suffering and the vocation of his
followers to take up their cross, is sandwiched between
two great proclamations of who Jesus is. In chapter 8
v.29, it's the same Peter who declares, when asked, that
Jesus is the Messiah! Then in chapter 9 verse 7, in the
account of the Transfiguration, it is the voice of God
that announces, "This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to
him!" These two clarion calls from the text serve,
therefore, as two bookends, that point us towards what
happens in between. This textual construction acts as a
signpost telling us, if we hadn't quite got it the first
time, just how important this vocation is....
Interestingly, it happens right in the middle of the
gospel (in Ch 8 of 16) and should be thought of as the
heart of the gospel good news - that this Jesus, who is
the anointed one and the Beloved Son has a divinely
ordained vocation to suffer, to die and to be raised - and
this is the foundation of our faith!...
We are familiar with Jesus' response to Peter's rebuke. It
is in the strongest possible terms, "get behind me Satan!"
And the sharpness of Jesus' rebuke is yet another
indication of how important this teaching is about his
true vocation. The same can be said of the call to his
followers to walk in the way of the cross... If at ten
days into Lent you are still pondering what to give up or
take up for Lent, today you have your answer – take up the
cross!! Would that more of our Lenten observance led us
more deeply in this direction! For there can arguably be
no better time than Lent, and no better time than the
present, for us to give thought, prayer and consideration
to the meaning of the cross for our lives. Jesus says, “If
any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want
to save their life will lose it, and those who want to
lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the
gospel, will save it." In childhood I worried a lot that
if I was to be a good follower of Jesus, I might have to
countenance being crucified. This is one of the problems
of the literal mind of the child. And I may not have been
alone in this. As an adult I am struck by the fact that
the cross is not really about Jesus himself, even though
he must wrestle with accepting his vocation of suffering -
praying in the garden that the hour might pass from him,
"yet not what I want, but what you want." Rather, the true
focus of the cross is God's great desire and passion for
humanity. The cross is a means of salvation. The obedience
of the Son is part of that endeavour, as we know from Paul
in Philippians chapter 2, where he speaks of the Lord
“humbling himself and becoming obedient to the point of
death." But it is not the goal. In a similar way, our
calling to take up the cross as followers of Jesus is not
really about us, in the sense of being about
something we have to do or be or agree to. It is, rather,
I am inclined to think, about a willingness to be used by
God in the great arc of salvation bending towards humanity
and creation. It is a dispensation, an
openness of heart and mind. From Philippians 2 we
sometimes forget that Paul introduces the passage saying,
"let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus."
The calling to take up the cross is a habit of heart and
mind that we receive through grace, through his Spirit
working in us.
This leads to the thought that in the same way that we
sometimes talk of being co-creators with God in fashioning
the created world, so we are surely also co collaborators
with God, though grace, in ushering in his salvation – the
healing, wholeness, reconciliation and blessing that can
come about through taking up the cross and walking in the
way of suffering love. And we have surely witnessed some
extraordinary examples of people being used by God to walk
this costly and risky road in the circumstances of the
pandemic. Our frontline workers in health and social care,
so many people in public and retail services, both in the
foreground and in the background, have set aside their own
comforts and risked their lives to be out there in the
danger zone - sometimes as a professional necessity,
sometimes through personal decision, and at other times as
the only way to put bread on the table. And this tide of
suffering love has made all the difference, both to those
in peril and to the rest of us who have been shielded from
the storm to a much greater extent. And this reminds us
that our calling as Christians to walk this way with
Christ is forever open to us.... We can always attempt to
walk away from the suffering of others. But this is not
what our Saviour asks of us. As Archdeacon Paul referenced
in a recent bible study, when we seek transformation in
the world in Christ's name, "we bear in our bodies the
scars of his passion". We walk where he has travelled, on
the way of the cross - because this is the way that God
chooses to redeem what is broken in the world. The
brokenness of human lives and of the planet, and the
injustices of society, are out there waiting for us. To
take up the cross is our surest weaponry for the healing
of what is broken. But whilst Christ's road of suffering
was necessarily a lonely one, plumbing the depths of the
darkness of God, ours need not be. Why? Because he walks
with us. When we take up the cross, he is holding the
other end. John Bell's lovely hymn, Jesus Christ is
waiting' captures beautifully this calling at the heart of
discipleship. The final verse expresses especially well
how the way of suffering love is a path we walk in step
with the Lord: "Jesus Christ is calling, calling in the
streets. Who will join my journey? I will guide their
feet. Listen Lord Jesus, let my fears be few. Walk one
step before me. I will follow you."
Venerable Julian Francis

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:57 pm.

Sunday, 21 February 2021:

Curate's Blog

1st Sunday of Lent
I wonder if you’ve ever experienced a sudden change of
weather? Perhaps when you’ve been out for a walk. One day
a couple of weeks ago, I started my walk in glorious
sunshine. It was chilly but the sky was that glorious
winter blue, the birds were singing, there was a small
amount of warmth in the sun and all was well in my world.
For an hour or so this remained the case. You can imagine
the scene, as I walked along the local canal bank,
watching out for signs of wildlife, listening out for the
wren, the robin, hoping to catch a sound of the woodpecker
along a stretch of the canal where I knew I may encounter
such glories. And then…well, then the sky became ominously
dark. So dark, perhaps, that it felt like night time.
Birds stopped their singing and the wind picked up. Within
the space of a few minutes the heavens opened, and sleet,
snow, rain, you name it cascaded down.
When that happens, the canal bank is not a great place to
be! No shade, no cover, I was totally exposed to the
weather conditions.
It felt as if the heavens had been torn apart.
Another time, years ago, I became aware of glorious
sunlight in rays as the path of the sunlight danced across
the calm sea. The clouds parted and the sunlight radiated
through across the waters. Although we were with four
excited small children, I remember thinking it was as if
heaven itself opened to allow us this beautiful sight.
Neil (then aged 4) said he could see the whole wide world.
For that moment, it felt as if that was a real gift from
And yes, it’s perhaps easy to think that the Spirit of the
Lord was present in that light. Some places are described
as ‘thin places,’ which is a Celtic term. In these places
we feel closer to God and we may feel much more aware of
His presence. Places like Lindisfarne have such a feeling
– where it feels as if earth and heaven are together,
where the veil between them is so thin so it feels we are
walking where the saints have trod and where God is very
much present and all around us and within us.
At such a moment, Jesus is revealed as the Son of God.
And then – and then, the Spirit descends on him like a
dove – and then the Spirit drives Jesus into the
wilderness for forty days, where he is tempted by Satan
and waited on by angels.
I can’t imagine being ‘driven’ into a wilderness. I wonder
if Jesus wanted to go there. I wonder if we are prepared
to be ‘driven’ by the Spirit to places where we don’t
really want to go. I wonder if we are prepared for our
prayers to be answered in ways beyond our understanding.
Jesus is tested, just as the Israelites were tested
thousands of years before as they walked in the
wilderness. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the Gospels
and he gives us a very short account of the temptations.
We are simply told Jesus was tempted by Satan.
And I wonder if we are in a version of wilderness. We have
a sense of restlessness, of being displaced with life not
as we would want it, not how we expect it to be. Almost a
year after the first lockdown began, we did not expect to
still be in some sort of lockdown, finding it difficult to
make plans, missing our families and friends, missing our
freedom to be able to meet up and to visit places. Perhaps
we have learnt what is important, that simple things like
being able to meet for a chat and a coffee are more
important than ‘things.’
Jesus accepts where he has to go, what he has to do. He
goes where he is sent. Wild animals leave him alone. He
has nothing with him. Yet something happens to him whilst
he is in the wilderness. We can only imagine how he
suffers unimaginable torments but something changes.
For when he returns, he is geared up for action.
I wonder, what caused the change?
I wonder, is this when Jesus learned to put God first?
Nick Fawcett writes that Jesus entered the wilderness to
lead us out.
And that’s the comforting thing in all this. That no
matter what is going on in our lives, no matter how tough
restrictions may be, how sad or angry we may feel, Jesus
walks alongside us. We only have to allow him walk
alongside us.
My prayer for you this Lent is that we walk this journey
together, with Jesus and with each other. If we truly
believe that we God’s beloved children, we can trust that
he is with us, that he has our back.
Which of course doesn’t mean life will be easy. For we are
called to walk alongside the marginalized, the rejected.
We are to speak out for justice. We are to pray. We can’t
afford to be passive. But it does mean that Jesus is with
us, that God is with us.
Do we notice those times when the veil between heaven and
earth appears to be so thin we allow ourselves to become
aware of God’s presence?
And I wonder, do we truly believe that, no matter what
life throws at us, Jesus walks this way with us, God is
with us, so that we can trust in him and play our part in
serving his kingdom?
And if so, what exactly are we doing about it?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:26 pm.

Sunday, 21 February 2021:

Where Do We Find Hope?

Ven Sue Weller’s Sermon for the first Sunday in Lent, 21
February 2021
Genesis 9:8-17, 1 Peter 3:18-end, Mark 1:9-15
What things come to mind for you in this pandemic now in
its second year?

For me it includes the optimism and resilience of Sir
Captain Tom Moore, and his message of hope that ‘tomorrow
will be a good day’.

We continue to see the fragility of life in the face of
COVID 19 here and around the world. There is the
determination to keep going despite exhaustion and death,
and the incredible science that has given us vaccines so
quickly. The pandemic is affecting all of us, including
for many fear, as jobs and valuable education are lost,
and there continues to be uncertainty of what the future
might hold.
Yet not everyone seems to be on the same side. Often the
news gives us examples of the selfishness of those intent
on breaking the law, putting themselves and others at
risk, or the bitter ongoing battles between governments
of who gets the vaccines and when.

Whatever comes to mind for you, there is one over riding
symbol, that we will all have seen. A sign of trust in
and thanks for our NHS and all key workers, based on
their skill and commitment - the rainbow. A sign too of
our promise to play our part. We hope things will get
better, we hope we will come out the other side, we hope
that we can return not to normal life, but to a new life,
changed for the better by the pandemic.

Where does that hope come from?

The morning after the UK reached the heart-breaking total
of 100,000 deaths, for any reason within 28 days of a
positive COVID test, BBC Breakfast asked the question,
where do we find hope in this pandemic? They interviewed
the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. His answer to
the question, where do we find hope?
Was ‘I find my hope in Jesus Christ’. He went on to say,
‘death does not have the final word, God has the final
word. God is with us in the anger and the pain’.

I find my hope in Jesus Christ.

On this first Sunday in Lent, our readings show us that
we can all have that same enduring, concrete, certain

God knows us as we are, God knows that there is
suffering, injustice, and evil in this world. Our
solution if asked, might often be, why doesn’t God just
wipe out those things that are wrong? The pandemic,
violence, selfishness… but that doesn’t solve the
problem. Not one of us is perfect, including me. So where
would God draw the line?

The reading today from Genesis 9 begins to point us to a
very different solution. Genesis tells of God’s promise
for all generations to come, God said to Noah that all
life will never be destroyed again – I have set my
rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the
covenant (the promise) between me and the earth.
The stunning beauty seen in the rainbow is a reminder of
God’s promise not to destroy all life; something God
would have to do to wipe out all that is wrong in this
world. But God’s promises don’t end there. God promises
to save us.

In possibly the most well-known verses in the Bible, John
Chapter 3: 16-17, we read 16 For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes
in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God
did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.
God doesn’t abandon us to battle on in our own strength,
fearful of the future, fearful in the present, we are
offered life that not even death itself can take away. We
can’t buy eternal life; we can’t work for it; we can’t
inherit it as we would a family heir loom. Only God can
give us life, saving us through Jesus Christ.

As Jesus’ disciple Peter wrote in his first letter, that
we’ve read today, 1 Peter 3:21 reads, we are saved by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christ, a young man in his thirties, went through
horrific suffering, to save us, bearing all that is wrong
in our lives, bearing the sins of the world. Christ died
on the cross for you and for me. Christ was buried and on
the third day was raised to life by the Holy Spirit. The
tomb is empty.

God is not distant, leaving us to get on with life having
promised not to destroy us. In our reading from Mark’s
Gospel, Chapter 1, God the Father declared that Christ is
the Son of God. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are
my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Led by
the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days, Christ
overcame the temptations of Satan. On his return he
begins his adult ministry announcing the good news to the
people – “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and
believe the good news!” Jesus Christ is as alive today,
as he was that first Easter following his resurrection.
He conquered sin and all its consequences including death
and destroyed the power of Satan. Christ smashed through
all that separates us from God and each other.
“The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the
good news!”
God is with us and offers us the gift of living life in
the presence of God, knowing the love, power and hope
found in Christ. The kingdom of God has come near.
Knowing that God is close to us, how do we respond?
Christ calls us to Repent and believe the good news!
Repent, to turn away from living life our way, and turn
to Christ. And to believe – to believe in Him, trust
Him in every part of your life, receive all He longs to
give you.
Find hope in the face of suffering and death, faith to
see God at work in you and the world and know the love
your heavenly Father has for you, his precious child.
During this pandemic, with a long way still to go, it may
feel that it is too much to face the reality of your need
of God and do something about it. Even if that something,
turning to Christ and trusting in Him, will give you true
and lasting hope. Yet in this season of Lent, knowing all
is not OK, take the opportunity to stop, be open and
honest with God. Turn to Christ and know the forgiveness
of God. Take the opportunity thorough Lent to read or
listen to the Gospel of Mark, either for the first time,
or having done so many times before. Turn to God and
believe in Him.
Be embraced by the God who loves you in this life, as
well as the life to come, find hope in Jesus Christ,
that today, as well as tomorrow, despite suffering, fear
and uncertainty, will be a good day.

Gracious God,
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere and face the future
with hope in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.

Posted by Josh Taylor at 10:07 pm.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021:

Curate's Blog

Sunday before Lent

I wonder if, like me, you love those ‘break through’
moments? You know, the times that the sun’s rays burst
through the clouds and you hold your breath in wonder; the
times when you view a sunset over the sea, perhaps; those
moments when for a split second time stands still as you
drink in the sheer power and beauty of the scene before
And in a flash the moment has gone, to be long imprinted
on our memory with a yearning to go back, to be there to
be able to experience it all again.
I wonder if that’s how it felt to Peter, James and John on
the mountain with Jesus. For that moment heaven came down
to earth and the sheer beauty of God’s glory shone so
fully through Jesus that he was transformed. What a
moment. No wonder they were terrified. No wonder they were
confused. And to hear the voice from the cloud, “This is
my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
The past and present intermingle there on that mountain
top. Are we meant to be able to understand the
transfiguration? Well, on one level we understand that
Jesus’s glory is revealed. When the disciples see Jesus
with the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah, we
realise the Transfiguration places Jesus firmly alongside
these prophets, places him in the honour of these two
Jewish prophets.
The cloud covering and the voice from heaven link us back
to Jesus’s baptism, for there we heard, “You are my Son,
the beloved.” Now we hear, “This is my Son, listen to
him.” The disciples are the ones who hear, the voice is
addressed to them. So they witness the most amazing,
transformative event up there on the mountain and no
wonder they want to stay there and drink it in, no matter
how scared they must have felt. They want to stay up
there, in that place of revelation, of wonder. And what
They have to go back down. Not only that, they are told by
the very person who they saw transformed, to say nothing,
to go back down the mountain.
The Transfiguration changed the outer appearance of Jesus
but did not change who He is. The three disciples who
witnessed this were changed, however – they must have
been! And their lives were then transformed forever. God’s
left them in no doubt of who Jesus is. And they are to
journey on with Jesus while he talks of suffering and of
death, they are to journey with him as they recognize that
his words are the words of God.
“This is my Son. Listen to him.” Surely these words are
the climax of this Gospel story today, when we realise
that the Word made flesh, the Word who was there from the
very beginning of time, is God and is of God.
And we come down from the mountain top back into the
ordinary reality of life. Wanting to cling to those
moments of inspiration, those mountain top moments, but
having to come back down to earth, back to the ordinary
stuff of day to day life. And now we turn towards Lent,
towards Ash Wednesday when we are reminded we are but dust
and reminded of our own mortality.
We journey together as the church, the people of God. Like
the disciples, we are to accompany Jesus on his journey
towards the cross. We are to walk with Jesus up another
hill, when he is flanked by two other men. This time,
though, they will not be Jewish heroes, but criminals.
We are called to listen to Jesus, to listen and follow in
his way, to give hope to those who feel lost; to offer
strength to those who feel down; to listen and walk
alongside others on their own journeys.
We allow ourselves to become the disciples up on the
mountain top who have to come back down to earth and who
faithfully follow Jesus.
Yes, hold on to the spiritual highs especially in these
days of lockdown and restrictions. But allow yourself to
come back down to continue your walk alongside Jesus.
Ash Wednesday will be different this year, out of
necessity. Take time if you can to mark the sign of the
cross in ash on your forehead, and pray the little prayer
in the Lent in a Bag. Our Lent observances will be
different but God is aware of all our intentions. My
prayer is that you spend some time with him as we journey
together alongside Jesus.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:46 pm.

Saturday, 13 February 2021:

Jesus is different; he makes things different

Transfiguration Sunday; Racial Justice Sunday; Valentine’s Day.
Simon Foster’s Sermon for 14 March 2021
2 Corinthians 4.3-6
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has
blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who
is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your
slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Mark 9.2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by
themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one* on earth
could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to
Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for
Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud
there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;* listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no
one with them anymore, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the
Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Be our living word O God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I want to invite you to stand with me in front of a picture. It is a picture that speaks of the two themes of this
day – the transfiguration – and racial justice Sunday.

It is a picture that I bought in my early twenties, and it has hung on my wall ever since. I was not then a
Christian: it would be another fifteen years until I was baptised. But I knew even then that the man at the centre
of this picture was important to me.

It is a profound, but joyful picture; a picture of Jesus gathered with his followers. Here is God’s kingdom; and
looking at it, you, and I, are standing on the edge, seeing it from a doorway, perhaps.
You are right to be thinking that this is a picture of the last supper. But it is more than that: the painter has
brought the essence of the transfiguration into the picture, as much, even, as the last supper. The
transfiguration, the story we just heard from Mark’s gospel, is the point where the disciples suddenly see for
sure that they are dealing with someone who is different.

In this picture, as in the transfiguration Jesus seems transformed in front of his close friends and disciples: he
is different; the light of heaven – we call it glory – pours onto Jesus, clothes and all. I love how the artist
has taken Jesus’ clothes, ‘dazzling white, such as no-one on earth could bleach them’ and chosen to make them an
extraordinary, vivid red. I wonder why?

We see that Jesus’ attention is on the things of heaven, even while his feet rest on earth. He is connected to
God, confident to marshal God’s kingdom in this world. Even the room where we see him feels as if it is becoming
God’s kingdom, because he is in charge of it.

Jesus is different, the picture seems to say; and he makes things different.

And I think that’s why I chose it to be – it turned out - my lifelong companion of faith: so that I could wonder,
daily, at how he is different, and how he makes things different.

But I think I chose it because this picture held another truth, too, although I didn’t fully understand that at
the time. For it reminds us that Jesus’ world was totally different from ours. Like Jesus’ community, the people
in this picture live in a culture untouched by Western life; their clothes, home, furniture, and musical
instruments are different from what I see in my home.

Why was that important to me? After a childhood growing up in a small village on the north edge of Lichfield
diocese, a place where everyone was white, I was starting adult life in Birmingham. And in Birmingham, I met
people of colour from many heritages: beautiful, gentle, hopeful people, some with clear Christian vocations and
all so obviously made in the image of God. In getting to know them, attending to them, and learning their stories,
I discovered that every one of them had to navigate life with the baggage of racism loaded on their back. I heard,
too, the way white people sometimes spoke to, or about, them. And I wondered where the kingdom of God was in that.
This poster represented my instincts that the kingdom of God would never be fully present in England until this
nation had repaired those broken relationships.

Many British churches mark 14th February as Racial Justice Sunday. We mark this because we are Christians in a
country - and even sometimes a church - which has spent centuries decimating the cultures and bodies of many
nations and races. It is a shocking history, one which most of us who are able to would rather turn away from. But
it is one that lives on, and it can mark the everyday lives of people of colour today. The woman in the hijab who
was barked at outside my house. The young black pastor who thought maybe he would be wise to carry a knife when he
walked to his pastoral visits. And the black kid who came round to my house and thought this couldn’t possibly be
Jesus, because she’d never seen Jesus look like her.

That baggage is real, and it counts. It distorts the world and our relationships and even ourselves. It is a
burden first and foremost on the people who happen to have black or brown skin, but it fractures us all; our
relationships and ourselves.
Let us return to the picture.

I wonder how it speaks to you in this moment? You stand at the edge of this room, looking in. Jesus is raising
this great bowl – bread? Or wine? We don’t know – to heaven. God’s kingdom is here; and we stand on the edge of
it. We know from the gospels that we are invited to enter the kingdom. What would you feel, if you stood on the
threshold of this particular room?

I don’t know what that would make you aware of, but it is at this point I am aware of my own whiteness. White,
black, it shouldn’t matter, but it does - because of history. Should I enter? Would I be welcome? What would the
other people here make of me if I did? Would they see me, or would they see the history of my people represented
by my skin colour? Would they want me to enter, or wish that I would go away and leave them in peace?
Of course, what makes the difference is Jesus. He invites me; and if I knock, he will allow me to enter: ‘for
everyone who knocks, the door will be opened’.

But I think too that Jesus will expect me to acknowledge those he has already gathered; those whose spirit may be
even more battered by this world than mine is. Reconciliation in the kingdom of God will not be to blithely settle
together free from the past. There will be recogintion, and naming of the burdens. God’s kingdom will be peace,
not a truce. The burdens, fears and pains of the heart will be lifted through attention to each others’ stories
and not igoring them. It will be a place of love, not merely tolerance.

I wonder how you picture God’s kingdom? And I wonder what questions you think Jesus would ask you, as he invited
you to enter? What work would he ask you to do so that the kingdom with you in it, would remain be a place of
peace. Without Jesus, it would be challenging work indeed; but this picture reminds us that Jesus is at the centre
of God’s kingdom, making that work possible, hopeful, desirable, and worthwile.

This is my picture of faith. I have stood on the edge of this room for 30 years. I hope, in standing there with me
today, you find the space to ask your own questions about justice, about Jesus, and about God’s kingdom in your


Posted by Josh Taylor at 9:57 pm.

Saturday, 13 February 2021:

From the Curate

Second Sunday before Lent

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.

One of the things that saddened me when we fetched our
Christmas tree down was that I would miss the lights on
the tree. I love the decorations and each one has a
special meaning for us, but for me the lights on the tree
drew me into the story of the hope for the world offered
to us in Christ’s birth. There was something positive
about those lights. They shone out through the darkness of
the branches, offering light in the darkness. We often
sat with the tree lights and just one table lamp lit.
There was something comforting in the short, dark days in
the depths of winter when we had this light. We could
have put more lights on, of course. When you have a small
light illuminating the darkness, it is only then that we
realise how important and life-giving is that source of
What is the ‘true light that enlightens everyone?’ It’s
more than tree lights, or a small table lamp. It’s more
than the flick of a switch, or the light from the night
sky, or from the sun. The true light is within us. That
true light is the knowledge of God and of his love for us.
But we are nearing Lent, when we turn towards the Cross.
The lights of Christmas may feel a dim and distant memory.
Now we will have the contrast of the darkness of Lent and
Good Friday with that light. We read, ‘the darkness has
not understood’ and ‘the world did not recognize him.’ How
true those sentences are, for we see now that Jesus was
not recognized, people questioned who he was. ‘Who is this
man?’ they asked. And we remember, only then, that John
wrote his Gospel in the knowledge of who Jesus is. He
wrote knowing that he would go towards the Cross, towards
the grave, towards the resurrection.
It’s up to us to carry the light, to speak for Christ and
to express his love and care for everyone.
We cannot do this on our own. We do this in the power of
the Holy Spirit who strengthens and upholds us through
even the darkest of days. The light of Christ is there
even when we feel we cannot see it. When we notice even
the slightest chink of light, and reflect that light, we
may make a difference to someone else.
Next week we will think about the Transfiguration, when
the glory of Christ is revealed on the mountain. Today’s
Gospel points us towards that story, ‘and we have seen his
For over the last few weeks, Christ’s glory has been
revealed to us week by week within the Gospel readings.
The voice from heaven at his baptism, together with the
Spirit descending as a dove – “You are my son, the
beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The revelation of
who Christ is, as he called his disciples to follow him;
how he knew them before they knew Jesus himself. The
revelation, the miracle when water was changed into wine.
The absolute authority shown by Jesus in the temple. “They
were astounded at his teaching.” The man with the unclean
spirit who recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God.
Yes, week by week the glory of who Jesus is has been
revealed to us in the Gospels.
We will explore Christ’s glory in the story of the
Transfiguration next week, but for now we are left in no
uncertain terms. Christ is the Light of the world. He
was, and is, and is to come. The Alpha and the Omega, the
beginning and the end.
I wonder, what words light up God for you?
And I wonder, how has Christ’s glory been revealed to you
over the last few weeks?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:59 pm.

Thursday, 4 February 2021:

4th Sunday of Epiphany

Dear Friends,

These days are long and dark, with the awful news that
Covid-19 deaths now exceed 100,000 in our country. The
Archbishop of Canterbury has urged us all to pray at 6pm
each day, and to that end we’ve put the web link on the
weekly sheet, or else we have hand delivered suggestions
for prayers from the Church of England website.
6pm may be inconvenient of course – you may be travelling
home, preparing tea, hearing children read, but the idea
that as many of us as possible pray together at a similar
time is very powerful. Perhaps you can light a candle at a
time convenient to you, though – and spend just a couple
of minutes each day in prayer.
This week much of my time has been spent completing a
reflective essay about my curacy together, sadly, with
funeral ministry. There is hope. Death is not the end,
God’s love is too strong and powerful for that. Light
overcomes darkness. As Christians we believe that there is
life after death and we live in the light and hope of the
My time has also been spent preparing online assemblies
for Rakegate Primary School – how I long for the day when
I can visit school in person and see all the pupils and
staff again!
I received an unusual request as well. A Brownie unit in
Brighton, who are currently meeting online via Zoom,
needed to interview leaders about their jobs to learn
about what we do and to give the Brownies ideas as to what
they can aspire to. The Brownie leader sent a plea out on
social media, and – in a rush of blood – I offered to talk
to the girls. Feeling slightly nervous, I sat in front of
my laptop here in Oxley ready to Zoom with the Brownies in
Brighton. The girls asked some interesting questions! How
do you get to be a vicar? How many days a week do you
work? Do you get any time off? Are you treated any
different because you are a lady? Do your Brownies know
you are a vicar? What do you do every day? Is every day
the same? Do you know the vicar who comes into my school,
Fr Patrick? What do people call you?
Of course, I’m not ‘the vicar’ but it was going to be
tricky to explain ‘curate’ to 14 girls all on Zoom, who
were very keen to ask questions! Interesting questions
though. I was keen to tell the girls they can aim high, to
use the words of the Brownie promise ‘to be true to
The sermon this week is from the Right Revd Matthew
Parker, who is waiting to be consecrated as Bishop of
Stafford and who was licensed on 28th January. I note he
preaches on the Candlemass readings. Candlemass is
February 2nd and marks the end of the Christmas and
Epiphany season. With that in mind, I’d like to share a
couple of thoughts about Sunday’s Gospel, which you have
on the attached reading sheet.
The first thing I noticed is how quickly Jesus establishes
his authority in Mark’s Gospel. We are only a few weeks
away from Christmas, but already, through Mark’s Gospel,
we have read about Jesus’s own baptism, how he performed
the miracle turning water into wine at the wedding in
Cana. He has chosen, called, his disciples. And now we
notice the opposition, as it were. He heals the man with
an unclean spirit. Today we can understand this as the
things that bring us unhappiness, ill health, mental
health. Be aware that this ill man knows exactly who Jesus
is. He sees it, he gets it, before anyone else. “I know
who you are, the Holy One of God,” he says. Jesus heals
the man, and his name and fame spreads even further
afield. Just who is this man, who turns water into wine,
who heals people? This man who teaches with authority in
the synagogue? The other opposition are the teachers of
the law, those people who were reliant on traditions and
‘the right thing to do’ instead of allowing people to
freely develop their faith.
At a time when we try to abide to authority, to the
guidelines and laws and restrictions placed upon us during
the pandemic, there are many who are skeptical about the
need for the current restrictions and way of life. Our
world hasn’t changed much, has it. There will always be
those who know best, or who think that they do. Our
calling is to be true to the One who has authority over
us, the one who calls us all by name.

With my love and prayers,


Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:28 pm.

Thursday, 4 February 2021:

Rt Revd Matthew Parker’s sermon for 31 January 2020

The gift of hope

Fourth Sunday of Epiphany, Candlemas

The novelist Vikram Seth on Desert Island Discs chose as
one of his top discs a poignant recording made during the
war by a BBC sound engineer. The engineer was capturing
the song of nightingales in a Surrey garden but, whilst
recording, a hundred and ninety seven Lancaster bombers
passed overhead en route to a bombing raid in Germany. In
the recording you can hear the joyful song of the
nightingale and then, underneath and growing in intensity
and threatening to overwhelm the birdsong, the ominous
drone of the bombers. Seth spoke of the "heartbreaking
counterpoint of joy and pain".
In the gospel story of the Presentation of Christ in the
Temple we have just such a heartbreaking counterpoint of
joy and sorrow. Here we see so much that is good and
There is a new life represented in this child only days
old. Here is extraordinary hope and anticipation.
We have the pride of grateful parents, their joy in this
child who has been brought to birth, unique, theirs, and
yet a gift from God.
Here is great faith and devotion too. Simeon and Anna are
watching and waiting for God to bring consolation and
redemption to Israel. How easy it would be for them to
become disillusioned or distracted in their waiting. But
they stick with it because they believe that God is good
and loves Israel and will act for them.
And there is a blessing given to the baby Jesus by the
elderly Simeon; the insight that this little child will
bring light not only to waiting Israel but to all the
nations of the earth. The Spirit of God is at work in Anna
and Simeon and hovers over this child and his parents. In
God's temple, God's Spirit bears witness to God's son.
Life is glorious and to be celebrated. Nightingales sing!
There is love, joy, faithfulness, gratitude, new
discoveries and the knowledge that we are in the presence
of a loving God.

But this story of Jesus presented in the temple is a
bittersweet story; there is a darker note to be heard, a
counterpoint. Because when we look at all these
characters, we sense their vulnerability, their frailty.
What, after all, is more helpless and fragile than a baby?
And what of his parents? What is poor old Joseph to make
of this strange birth? And Mary? Does the taint of
disgrace still hang around her and her newborn child? The
circumstances of Jesus' birth were, after all, let's say,
unusual. It's all a bit messy and unsatisfactory, not
quite the perfect family as seen on TV advertising, more
like our families, more like our experience of that life
is actually like.
And Simeon and Anna carry their own vulnerabilities too.
Anna's husband died seven years into their marriage. For
the greater part of her life she has been widowed and, as
a widow in those times, lives a precarious existence
dependent on the charity of her male relatives.
And Simeon, waiting and waiting and waiting, must have had
his moments of doubt and disappointment. Sometimes he
must've hoped against hope and trusted through gritted
teeth that God would console Israel.
Because Simeon and Anna carry not only their own
struggles, doubts and the infirmities of old age but also
the sadness of their people. Simeon, we are told, is
waiting for the consolation of Israel. If Israel needs
consoling then Israel is living in a time of mourning and
sadness. It was hard for pious and faithful people to see
their nation, God's chosen people, under the oppression of
the Gentile nations.
Anna, we are told, is looking for the redemption of
Jerusalem. If Jerusalem needs redeeming it is because
Jerusalem is not free. Anna and Simeon are full of hope
and expectation for Israel but they also mourn its
So into such a world - in all its glory and all its
fragility - comes Jesus, the Lord's Christ, the glory of
his people Israel and the light that will lighten the
Gentiles. And how does he come? Does he come as the divine
fixer who will bypass all that complicated and messy human
emotion and experience? What is revealed is that, rather
than sidestepping the muddle of human life, in Jesus, God
chooses to dive straight down into it. So here is a great
mystery: the God who made the world now enters into that
world and submits to all its glory and fragility.
Simeon blesses Jesus but...
This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of
many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken
against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be
revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
This is not what a mother wants to hear about her baby.
She doesn't want to hear that he will be spoken against.
She doesn't want talk of swords that pierce the heart. But
in order to redeem our suffering, God enters into our
suffering. There is great light in this Candlemas story
but there is shadow too and by far the greatest shadow is
cast by the shape of a cross. We can hear, so to speak,
the nightingale song and the drone of Lancaster bombers.
And this light and the shade cannot –in this world, at
least - be separated out, as much as we might wish it to
be so.
I don't need to labour the point. In the past year we have
seen something of the glory of human life in the selfless
work of frontline workers of all kinds, the brilliance of
scientists in creating a vaccine and in countless moments
of human kindness and neighbourliness. But we have also
heard the threatening rumble of suffering and death. We
have seen - in hospital wards, lost jobs, lost school
days, mental health problems and widening divisions
between rich and poor - the heartbreaking fragility of
human life. We have all been touched by this crisis but
for some of us this will have come painfully close to our
homes and families.
In a world of sorrow and oppression, there is much we can
do as Christians – there are actions we can take. Run
foodbanks, setup telephone helplines, lead online worship,
get the shopping for a shielding neighbour and so on. All
really good things to do but, like Simeon and Anna, we
must also carry in our hearts the fragility of the world,
waiting and praying for its consolation and redemption.
This is the world into which Jesus was born and, in
fellowship with him and with all who suffer and mourn, we
pray, longing and waiting for the greater dawning of his
Kingdom in a world of shadow and suffering.
And as we faithfully bear witness in this way to the
sorrow of the world, we also bear faithful witness to the
one who has come amongst us, whose presence is a "light to
lighten the gentiles and the glory of God's people
Israel". In this fragile little child, Anna and Simeon see
salvation – one greater even than a much needed
vaccination! They see not only the piercing sword, the
falling and rising, the rumble of the engines of war
overhead, the stealthy spread of a deadly disease, they
see salvation, God's choice is not only to share with us
in the mess but also to redeem it.
As we hold together the counterpoint of joy and pain, may
God give us the faith to live as those who look for
consolation and redemption in these dark times. May God
give us grace to stand and wait in fellowship with Jesus
and all those who endure the pain of the world. And then
may God give us the gift of hope in the One who is coming
into the world, the light who will lighten the nations.
Rt Revd Matthew Parker

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:27 pm.

Saturday, 23 January 2021:

Epiphany 3 Thoughts – Water into Wine

This week we are privileged to have Bishop Michael’s
sermon (see below), so just a few thoughts
from me about our Gospel reading for today.
It’s such a well- known story that I wonder if we can
become blinkered in our
thoughts. Remember we are still in the season of Epiphany.
This story reveals so
much to us of who Jesus is, if we can but see it.
We can imagine the relief of the host family at the
wedding. Everything has gone
smoothly. Guests were content, the bride looked radiant,
the groom so happy. Only
after all the guests have gone can the hosts breathe a
sigh of relief that all has gone
Perhaps changing water into wine appears trivial when we
think of other miracles of
Jesus – healing people, feeding them. Jesus reminded us
the Kingdom is like a
banquet so actually this is a good place for us to think
about signs and miracles.
Jesus enjoyed a good party as much as the rest of us.
A miracle is exciting, but the point of the story is that
it is a sign. John writes, ‘Jesus
did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee.’
Signs are important – they point us in
the right direction. Signs contain a meaning deeper than
the sign itself. Jesus comes
to offer us life in all its fullness, so that the ordinary
water of our daily life should
taste like the finest champagne (or finest malt, or most
exquisite cup of tea – you get
my point.) Jesus was at the end of a long line of Jewish
prophets and teachers – God
kept the best till now.
This sign, this revelation, shows Jesus to the world. Are
we ready to see the
extraordinary in the ordinary?
This week we have been relieved to see the number of
positive Covid cases beginning
to fall. They are still horrifyingly high, however, and
Wolverhampton is still one of the
highest areas for positive cases. Please stay safe, and
pray for all who are ill, either at
home or in hospital. Pray for those tending the sick. For
those who have difficult
decisions to make. Hold in your prayers those who watch
and wait for news, those
who mourn and grieve, those who have to give others bad
news over the phone.
Pray too for those who are dying. These are long,
difficult days. Give thanks for the
continued roll-out of the vaccine, for the new life we
begin to see in our gardens, for
the new hope we have in Christ.
With my love and prayers,
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:40 pm.

Saturday, 23 January 2021:

Bishop Michael’s sermon for 24 January 2020

Quantity, quality, quaffability

Third Sunday of Epiphany, 21.01.24

Are you keeping Dry January this month? I am not, but I
know many who are. It is
an important public health opportunity, giving up alcohol
for a while after the
indulgence of Christmas. This year it can be particularly
helpful for us to attend to
our drinking in these days of lockdown. But if you are
trying to keep dry January,
this morning’s gospel reading might be quite a challenge,
because it shows Jesus
doing something very different.
At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, he produces a huge
amount of wine out of
water. Let’s do the mathematics. Six stone jars, each
holding between 20 or 30
gallons, are filled to the brim with water. Even if each
jar only holds 20 gallons,
this means 120 gallons, 545 litres, of wine. A standard
bottle of wine today is 75
cl: so Jesus has produced the equivalent of 727 bottles
for a party which has
already drunk its way through the cellar. On the higher
figure of 30 gallons, the
stock-taking rises to 1090 bottles, I think. If you had
been enjoying yourself at that
wedding in Cana of Galilee, you probably would have had a
very sore head next
That is a lot of wine. What is the gospel trying to tell
us? It is not really about
drinking alcohol or abstaining from alcohol. It is, as
John says, a sign: a sign of
abundance, of super-abundance.
Our God is a God of excessive generosity, exuberant in the
kindness he lavishes
upon us. This is his nature – how he is, who he is. This
theme of abundance runs
through the New Testament. The Sower scatters the grain
everywhere; most is
lost, but what falls on good soil produces amazing yields:
30, 60, 100-fold. In
another parable, workers recruited to the vineyard at the
last hour are paid with
the same generosity as others who have slaved through the
day, to the
bewilderment of all. Paul says that the love of God is
shed abroad by the Holy
Spirit into the hearts of the ungodly, and in their
justification the justice of God
bears the fruits of amazing grace. Christian faith speaks
of undeserved,
unexpected, unscientific abundance; this is the sign which
Jesus sets before us at
Cana of Galilee.
So this wedding at Cana is a story of great quantity; but
it is also a story of high
quality – the wine Jesus provides is of the very best.
There is a man called the
steward of the feast; today, we would call him the event
organiser. He is the
person who is meant to be in charge, making sure that all
the plans go right. He is
surprised that the Lord has kept the best wine till last.
One early writer says that
this steward is the only person whose judgement about the
wine we can trust. ​
Why is that? Well, because he has to organise the party,
he is the only person
there who has had to stay sober.
This best wine is kept to the end: what Jesus gives is
promised as the completion
of our time, the perfection of our human nature, a
fullness of life for which all our
days here on earth are a training and a preparation. John
says that at Cana Jesus
‘revealed his glory’: that is the word he uses for the
fulfilment of what we are
meant to be. The glorious quality of the life Jesus offers
to you and to me cannot
be beaten for quality.
So we have quantity and we have quality; but any sermon
needs three points, and
it would be good if the third also began with a ‘q’. So,
with apologies, I give you
the word ‘quaffability’: by which I mean, the urge to
drink more and more of this
wine. For an alcoholic, of course that is a problem; but
the water become wine that
Jesus gives is such that we want to return to it again and
again, because it
changes us from glory to glory drawing us closer to the
God whose nature is love.
The quaffability of this wine changes people’s lives as
they grow in their
relationship with God. The tradition of the Orthodox
Church says that the groom at
the wedding in Cana was actually Simon the Zealot, and it
was because of Cana
that he became one of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus
– he had been so
affected by what he experienced there. There are
traditions which says that Simon
preached the gospel in Africa and Asia, and some say in
Britain; and that he met a
martyr’s death in Persia, or some say near Grimsby.
That may or may not be the case, but we do not have to be
one of the twelve
apostles to want to drink again and again the wine of the
Kingdom which the Lord
gives us, and to have our lives changed as we do that. At
the moment, of course,
in most of our churches we are not gathering physically
for the eucharist, and
when we can do so it will be a long time before we can
again share in the common
cup of wine. But that experience, and the opportunity of
‘spiritual communion’
which we can make online, can make us think more deeply
about this great
sacramental gift, which we can usually enjoy and which we
often take for granted.
The early Christians saw in the miracle at Cana a pointer
to the wonder of Holy
Communion. One of them, St Cyril of Jerusalem, wrote this:
‘Once at Cana in
Galilee he changed water into wine by his own will; is it
incredible that he should
change wine into blood?’ This quaffable wine of Cana draws
us closer and closer to
our generous God. Its quality speaks to us of the
unimaginable glory to which we
are called. Its sheer quantity proclaims the vastness of
God’s love poured out for
us. And what was miraculously provided as a one-off for
invited guests in one town
in Galilee is now given to us all, in God’s grace freely
lavished upon us. Even in
these times of restriction and anxiety, particularly in
these times of restriction and
anxiety, God in Christ renews the wonder of Cana: he gives
us the abundant wine
of hope, to drink again and again.
+Michael Lich
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:39 pm.

Saturday, 9 January 2021:

Bishop Michael's sermon for Christmas 2

Beloved children
Bishop Michael’s sermon for 10 January 2020
Epiphany 1 [Baptism of the Lord]: 10th January 2021
Mk 1.4-11 (Gen 1.1-5, Ac 19.1-7)
The Gospel of Mark tells of the Baptism of Jesus two
thousand years ago. I want to tell you about the baptism
of my granddaughter Rosaline two and a bit years ago. Our
daughter-in-law is Russian, and Rosaline was baptised in a
little church in Russia near the Estonian border. It was a
joyful celebration, with little Rosalinka sat in a huge
tub as gallons of water were poured over her, she was
drenched in oil, and a great feast was had by all. It was
so different from the baptism of her grandfather – not me,
but her Russian grandfather, 50 something years ago. That
was in Soviet days, and Evgeni’s grandmother knew that her
daughter (his mother) would not approve, as a member of
the Communist party. So she arranged for the priest to
call in secret while her daughter was out at work, and he
hurriedly baptised little Evgeny in the kitchen sink. Fast
forward to two years ago, and Evgeny’s mother’s way of
thinking had changed so much that it was actually she who
arranged her own granddaughter’s baptism.
That family understood what a precious gift baptism is in
our lives. We sometimes take it for granted, but Mark puts
the story of Jesus’ baptism right at the start of his
gospel, to underline its importance not just for the Lord
but for us his followers. So what is it all about?
First of all, it is about a new creation, a starting all
over again. There is something fresh here breaking into
the world, breaking into our lives. Our readings this
morning underline that by taking us back to the beginning
of the whole Bible, to the opening verses of Genesis.
There, in the dawn of time, was the deep water, sign and
means of baptism. And over the face of the deep there
hovered what some translations call ‘a wind from God’. But
the Hebrew word also means ‘the Spirit of God’ – there,
right at the start, were water and the Spirit, just as the
Holy Spirit hovered over Jesus like a dove as he came out
from the waters of the Jordan. The story of creation
happens all over again in the life of the Christ; and it
happens all over again in the life of us Christians.
And then, that new creation is a gift. Like being born,
this is not something we can arrange for ourselves, but
only receive in gratitude. There is a power, a strength, a
wisdom, a love from beyond that is poured upon us. This is
the greatest of gifts given to us in creation, the
uncreated gift of the Spirit who is God. In the reading
from Acts 19 appointed for this morning, St Paul makes
this very clear to some people in Ephesus who so far have
only known the baptism of John. ‘Did you receive the Holy
Spirit?’, he asks them. ‘No, we have not even heard that
there is a Holy Spirit’, they reply. So Paul baptises them
in the name of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit comes upon them.
Our Christian life is not something we take for ourselves;
it is given to us in the Spirit.
As the Spirit comes down upon Jesus, there is a voice
heard from heaven. Now, this is the great climax of the
story. Think of it: there is a great crowd gathered there,
the heavens are torn apart, extraordinary things are going
on. Now is the time to get the message across – now, in
this moment of drama, when everybody’s attention is
riveted. Just imagine – what message would you want to get
across at that point if you were God? Suppose you had one
minute on prime-time TV to address a nation. What would
you want to say most of all? Suppose you had hired a plane
to pull a banner streaming across central London. What
would you write on that banner? Now is the time; what is
the message?
God’s message is so simple, it is almost an anticlimax. He
doesn’t tell people how to live; he doesn’t unveil a
secret wisdom; he doesn’t threaten; he doesn’t promise; he
doesn’t explain the future. He just says to Jesus: ‘You’re
my boy; and you’re all right’ – that’s what he means when
he says: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well
pleased’. This is the one important thing he needs to get
across: to tell Jesus how much he loves him. In other
words, this baptism is about identity: who Jesus is, and
who is the one he belongs to. And what God said to Jesus
he said to each one of us in the baptism that made us
Christians: ‘You’re my boy, my girl; and you’re all
right’. What Jesus is by nature, we become by adoption and
grace: beloved sons and daughters of a God who loves us
and make us his own.
That is the most important message God wants us to hear,
and that is why we need to take our baptism seriously:
because it assures us of our identity. We live in an age
where many people are really unsure about who they are,
confused about their identity, bewildered by the celebrity
‘icons’ paraded before them. People fight furiously about
identity, how A’s identity threatens B’s, or C’s is better
than D’s; and the more unsure of themselves they feel the
shriller they shout.
But, for us who are baptised in the name of Jesus Christ,
identity is given and secure. When my little Rosalinka was
lifted out of the tub, the priest lifted her up high above
his head and whooshed her along in front of the screen
full of icons – real icons, of saints not celebrities. Her
little face lit up with delight at their glittering golden
surfaces, but the inner joy was to know that these shining
ones were now her brothers and sisters: like you, like me,
she has become a citizen of heaven.
The great Reformer Martin Luther was troubled by doubts,
fears, anxieties throughout his life. Terrors would
suddenly grab him in the middle of the night, or when he
was sitting with friends. But he always had one way of
overcoming his fears. Lying in bed, to his wife’s
annoyance he would shout out: ‘Baptizatus sum, I have been
baptised’. Visiting his friends, to their annoyance he
would write on walls or tables with a piece of chalk:
Baptizatus sum. That identity gave him peace of mind.
Whether in the joy of celebration, or the anxiety of
mental distress, or just the everyday business of living,
this is what our baptism means for us. It marks us out as
a new creation of God. It tells us that both the start of
our Christian life and its continuance are a gift from God
the Holy Spirit. Most of all, it assures us that we are
who we are: beloved daughters and sons of God.
That identity is something which we are to carry with us
throughout our lives, and which nobody can take from us.
The theologian Elizabeth Stuart wrote these moving words
after being at the funeral of a friend:
There is only one identity stable enough to hope in … In
the end before the throne of grace everything will
dissolve except that identity … Gender, race, sexual
orientation, family, nationality and all other culturally
constructed identities will not survive the grave … [But]
the I that I am is God’s own special creation, and that is
my only ground for hope.
So, as you stand at the beginning of this new year of
2021, give thanks to God for the baptism with which he has
made you his own. Give thanks for the baptism in which he
said to you: ‘You’re my boy, my girl; and you’re all
right’. Give thanks for the baptism which gives you an
identity in which you can live your life with assurance of
love and hope of glory.
+Michael Lich

Posted by Janet Taylor at 2:41 pm.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021:


We will be celebrating our Feast of title on Wednesday 6th
January 2021 at 7.30pm with a said mass with music.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:54 pm.

Monday, 14 December 2020:

Advent 3 2020

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make
straight the way of the Lord.”
We’re over half way through Advent. It seems strange that
today’s the third Sunday of Advent – maybe it’s because we
were unable to worship here together in church on Advent
1. It’s a bit of a shock to realise that next Sunday is
the Sunday before Christmas. There’s still so much to be
done – presents to wrap (or even buy!), cards to write,
try to work out who to bubble up with for the precious 5
days from December 23-27… but still, we wait.

Who are we waiting for?

For all of today’s readings tell us to wait. In Isaiah we
read of the joyful waiting of the people of Israel as
God’s own people. They have hope. Our Gospel tells of
John the Baptist, the herald of Christ, himself waiting
for Christ with longing and expectation. The Messiah had
long been promised, long been prophesied.
How are we waiting for Christ?

Today’s Gospel is one of my favourite passages and I think
I see something new each time I read it. I love to picture
John surrounded by all these powerful people. Just
imagine the contrast: there’s John in his simplicity with
his lack of status, and there’s all these other people of
power pressing around him, asking questions, not quite
sure what to make of him. It doesn’t faze John, however.
He has a message to deliver – repent! Say you are sorry
for the wrong things you have done or said, and start
afresh. I often think he must have been a man of such
strength of character. What made him like this, I wonder?
Could it be the story of his birth to Elizabeth and
Zechariah? Could his mother’s tales of his extraordinary
birth give him the courage to do what he has to do? For
there he is, look, in that crowd over there, right in the
middle. They’re all pressing up around him (no social
distancing then, of course) – but is he scared of the
crowd or of the Pharisees and the officials? It would
seem not. He has strength from somewhere deep within
himself. His message is consistent. “Repent! Repent!” No
training for this. Who is this man, this man of fairly
low status, looking like a wild person, eating locusts and
wild honey.

Now think of all the characters in this story. Think of
the Levites and the priests, the Pharisees and Isaiah,
John and Elijah. So early on in this Gospel we hear of
disputes and challenges. John’s authority is questioned.
Local leaders’ resentment is fuelled as their norms and
traditions are being threatened. Just who is this man?
What does he think he is doing, and who sent him? How can
he offer baptism without their permission?
And even before Jesus is on the scene, we see the stage
being set for conflict between the strong and the weak,
between the rulers and the powerless. And as we go
through the liturgical year ahead, think how we will hear
Jesus preach and teach and how he will overthrow this
hierarchy again and again and again.

And, perhaps, consider how quickly we replaced the old
Jewish hierarchy for one of our own. Think how John from
the very start insists that in the new kingdom, hierarchy
will be replaced by humility.

And picture the scene, just imagine the idea of John
untying the laces of Jesus’s sandals. This task was
forbidden to the disciples of rabbis so would have been
shocking to John’s listeners. The job of untying sandals
and washing feet was left to the slaves – the lowest of
the low. What is this message telling John’s hearers and
telling us today? It’s saying we have to act as slaves for
Jesus. Yet Jesus came to make us all brothers and
sisters, free to follow and worship him and to serve
others. Think of Jesus later in the Gospels, washing his
disciples’ feet. Now who is acting as a slave or servant?

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make
straight the way of the Lord.”

John is sent by God. He’s aware none of this is his own
doing. It fascinates me to realise that John’s ministry
differs to ours. We journey along with Jesus. John did
not have that privilege. God revealed to John that ‘here
is the Lamb of God.’ When the crowd and the religious
leaders begin to press John, they don’t quite dare to ask
the question that they are all thinking. They’re
thinking, “Is this the promised Messiah?” but they don’t
quite dare to ask, and so they ask, “who are you?” They
don’t ask, “are you the one who is to come?”
John says that this great person is already among them, as
yet not recognised.
It’s not an answer the Jewish leaders are going to be
comfortable with. We know that they will in future reject
John’s teaching just as they question and reject the
teaching and actions of the One who comes after John.
Controversy around Jesus’s identity happens even before he
is in the public eye.
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make
straight the way of the Lord.”
John calls us to prepare the way of the Lord – to make
sure we allow space and time for God, to listen to Him, to
pray. Is there, perhaps, a danger that we may be tempted
not to take his words to heart. After all, John himself
was preaching over two thousand years ago and his words
are not directed at us. Or are they? Imagine John standing
here today and saying to us “the Lord is already among you
although you can’t recognise him”.
What difference that would make to the way we see each
other, the way we speak to and treat each other? What sort
of community we would build if we believe that any one of
us could be our Lord, the thong of whose sandal we are not
worthy to untie.
If John did speak to us in that way, it would not be a new
message; Jesus himself said that whatever we do for the
most humble of people we do for him. The difference might
be that in John’s urgency and passion we might hear that
message in a new way and act on it in new ways in order to
prepare the way of the Lord who is already among us.
The prophet Isaiah gives us the reassurance that God’s
chosen one will provide comfort to those in despair. He
will change the way people see themselves, how they act,
what they do, how they are thought of by others.

And still, we wait. We wait and make straight the way to
point to Christ. We wait, and we prepare our hearts for
the coming of Jesus. There is strength in waiting.
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make
straight the way of the Lord.”

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:48 pm.

Monday, 7 December 2020:

Advent 2 2020

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.

‘Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.’
How apt is that text for today. We’ve been in the grip of
the pandemic for most of the year, there have been – and
still are – restrictions on our lives. This year has
brought so much suffering to millions of people across the
globe. Illness, death, grief, redundancies, financial
worries. Fear. Loneliness. For some there is the fear of
being unsafe outside their own home. For others, the fear
of being unsafe inside their own home. You can add in your
own concerns and we’d probably all agree it’s been a year
where more than ever we need glimpses of hope. Glimpses
of comfort.

No wonder so many households have decided to put up some
decorations for Christmas earlier than they may usually
have done. One house I noticed as I passed by had
decorations up in mid -November. We have to do what is
right for ourselves as individuals, and I have to admit I
love to see Christmas lights and decorations as I travel
around, it somehow does offer a feeling of hope and
But, of course, we are still in Advent. It is not yet
Christmas. In the midst of all our expectations and
preparations, we wait. And many of us I suspect are tired.
Tired of the restrictions, of being unable to be with or
hug family and friends. Tired of plans having to change
time and time again. Tired of second guessing what we may
or may not be able to do. Tired of hearing only Covid-
related news.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
The people Isaiah was writing to were also tired. They
were lonely, they were suffering. They can see no sign of
God; in fact, they sense that God is hidden rather than
being aware of God’s presence. They were in exile, in a
strange land, far from home. Like us, they were
desperately in need of comfort. The prophet speaks to them
– look to God, he says. God will comfort and support you.
You will get through this. Trust in God.
That’s not to say that it would be easy – far from it.
And, knowing that it would be hard to notice the glimpses
of God, the prophet signposts where God is found – in
every valley, every hill, in every town and city, God is
there. It’s a wake- up call for Isaiah’s audience.
And advent is a wake up call for us. –a time of waiting,
of longing. A time to notice how God is active in our
lives as we prepare for His coming again – both as we
remember the nativity narrative on Christmas Day, and for
his second coming. Here is God at work in our lives – just
look at the generous response to The Well and Bushbury
Buddies. God is there as we care for each other, in each
phone call, text, delivery we make. God is there where we
work, helping through the long days. God is here. We have
prayed and worshipped in our own way, despite the church
building being closed for public worship. And there is
good news of a vaccine. God is definitely at work here.
The Advent themes of longing, waiting, judgement and
preparation speak in a new way into our lives during the
pandemic. There is much to do – the pandemic has exposed
the great rift, the inequalities faced by different areas
of our country and beyond, the higher risks to people
dependent upon their ethnicity. It’s uncomfortable to
acknowledge the truth, that the less advantaged members of
our society have been more adversely hit. And so the food
banks are so desperately needed. If any of you watched
the news reports on Wednesday, you, like me, may have been
in tears watching how organisers and priests wept as they
handed out food in Burnley, such was the need and poverty
of the recipients.
As we look back over 2020, it’s easy to see all the
hardship, the difficulties, the heartache. Look closer,
and there will be glimpses of hope. The signs of nature;
of goodwill, of neighbourliness.
2020 has been a time of exile. Comfort, O comfort my
people, says your God. And into that prophecy strides John
the Baptist, shouting about repentance, telling people to
make a pathway for God. We look and we listen, and we see
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
That’s why we have to be a voice for change. That’s why
you have been so generous in your donations to The Well
foodbank and to Bushbury Buddies. That’s why we know there
are issues to tackle, issues of inequality, of racial
We speak into the vision of change, the vision of
equality. The God we proclaim comes as Jesus, who stands
up for the disadvantaged, the downtrodden, the
marginalized. So we are right to acknowledge the pain and
the hurt of this year. But we acknowledge too that Jesus
is here with us as we work together to help others. Our
hope is grounded in God and in His faithfulness.
The light breaks in the midst of the darkness. There is
hope after despair.
Advent offers us the chance to reflect on our faith, and
the hope offered to us. Advent hope.
In the midst of all this, a baby will be reborn into our
own lives, offering us a way forward, a way of hope, of
justice, of speaking out for truth, a new way of living
that will save us. But not yet. For now, we cry,
Comfort, O comfort your people, O God.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:56 pm.

Sunday, 29 November 2020:

Stay awake in hope

Bishop Michael’s sermon for parishes, Advent Sunday: 29th
November 2020
A Happy New Year to you all – yes, today, Advent Sunday,
is the first day of the Church’s new year, which begins on
a note of expectancy, as we look for the coming of Jesus
our Lord. And what does the Lord say to us at the start of
this year? Mark’s Gospel is very clear: he says repeatedly
to his disciples: ‘Keep alert … keep awake … what I say to
you I say to all: Keep awake’.
‘Keep awake’. Well, you might think, did he really need to
say that to us just now. This is a time when many of us
have no problem in keeping awake; it is getting to sleep
that is difficult. What is keeping you awake at night?
Maybe it is worry over your children, your grandchildren,
your dear friend. Maybe it is concern over your own health
or that of your spouse or partner. Maybe it is anxiety
about your finances, or your job, or more generally the
state of our society and our world. Maybe the isolation is
getting to you, or you are so tired that you cannot even
sleep; maybe it is some fear that seems so big in the
small hours of the morning that you feel like the poet
Fleur Adcock in her poem ‘Things’:
There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected;
There are worse things than
not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in,
and stand icily about the bed,
looking worse and worse and worse.
Mental health issues have grown severely during this
pandemic and the restrictions it has brought; we know that
for a fact, and some of you may know it as an experience.
It is not hard to stay awake at such a time.
But the wakefulness which Jesus calls for is not like
this. He tells us to stay awake in expectancy, because we
are looking forward in hope. This is not a hope which
ignores the harshness of reality – the gospel passage is
describes a time of suffering, calamity and anxiety. The
hope which is given to us is one which acknowledges loss,
pain and sadness. But it is a real hope nonetheless.
This is the last Sunday of lockdown, and our expectation
is that from next week onwards it will be possible for
services to take place in our churches again. The skill
and inventiveness of our clergy and laypeople in taking
worship online has been amazing, and I am sure that
digital church will be part of our future from now on; but
what a joy it will be when we can gather together again in
person, when we can see one another face to face (through
our masks), when we can pray alongside one another
(socially distanced), when we can receive the sacrament
(maybe in one kind only). . And as we gather again, we
will be hearing and telling stories of hope that should
fill our hearts with joy.
In a few weeks, we will be telling again the great story
of the gift of Emmanuel. His name means ‘God-is-with-us’,
and that is the meaning of his life: he comes in Jesus to
be born among us, to share our sorrows as well as our
joys, and never ever to leave us. It will be an unusual
Christmas this year, but it will certainly be Christmas.
Maybe, as some of the dear familiar things we are so used
to cannot happen this year, and the dear familiar people
we love cannot join us, we will be able to focus a bit
more clearly on what it is all about. This year we
celebrated Easter when the death rate from the virus was
at its highest, and we were locked down in our homes: what
a time to proclaim Jesus’ new life bursting from the tomb.
And at the darkest time of this dark year we will
celebrate Christmas, feast of the shining light that never
can be overcome. Here is hope for us and here is hope for
our world.
And as we come back together again over the coming weeks
and months in our churches and communities, we will have
our own stories of hope to tell too. Stories of a people
who looked out for one another and took care of the
vulnerable and the isolated. Stories of workers in the
health service, in supermarkets, in deliveries, in many
essential jobs who carried on courageously doing their
duty for us all. Stories of people who learned new skills,
who adapted to new ways of living, who gave with
extraordinary generosity.
Stories of people who learned to see the world in a new
way, who realised that there is more to life than
shopping, who started exploring what it means to pray, who
found new meaning and purpose in church online. . Stories
of people who came to terms with their grief and their
loss and started rebuilding their lives. Stories of people
who were seized with anger at the injustices of our broken
world, and set about trying to change it.
We all know that there is a great deal of sadness, pain
and anxiety in our world just now; but Advent reminds us
that we are to look out for what is also there – the signs
of hope in our churches and our communities.
Jesus calls us his people to make a conscious choice to be
a people of hope. And there are two reasons why he does
that. The first is, because we need hope to keep on going.
The great Austrian Jewish psychotherapist Viktor Frankl,
who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, grasped this
when he wrote that nobody can live without hope. But if we
have a hope that gives us a reason for living, it gives us
a capacity to cope: ‘He who has a why to live for can bear
almost any how’, Frankl said. He experienced a time
immeasurably darker than what we have known, and yet he
insisted that the most basic of human freedoms could never
be taken away: ‘the freedom to choose one’s attitude in
any given circumstances’, And in every circumstance, the
attitude we should choose is hope.
But this is only half of the story. We need hope – but
what if there actually is no hope available to us? Then,
as St Paul said, we would be of all people the most
miserable. But Jesus points his disciples to a sign, the
sign of the fig tree: ‘as soon as its branch becomes
tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is
near’. He points us to something beyond ourselves, to
something we have not imagined, to something real. That
reality is not the climatic season of summer; we are as
many months from that as we can be. Rather, it is the
reality of Christ our sun dawning on our world, on our
lives. Our hope is built on this firmest ground: that in
Jesus, God has come to us, he has shared our life and our
death, and he has overcome the power of death through
bursting from the grave. This is the truth; it is not
something we have made up for ourselves; our hope is not
in vain.
This is the message we are to share with one another, with
our communities, with our world. It is a message which
transforms our lives and turns us from sadness to
expectant joy on this Advent Sunday. Today and every day,
let us make Charles Wesley’s prayer our own:
Christ, whose glory fills the skies; Christ, the true, the
only Light;
Sun of Righteousness, arise, Triumph o’er the shades of
dayspring from on high, be near; Daystar, in my heart
Visit, then, this soul of mine; pierce the gloom of sin
and grief;
fill me, Radiancy divine; scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display, shining to the perfect day.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:30 pm.

Sunday, 29 November 2020:

Advent Sunday 2020

So here we are, at the beginning of a new liturgical year
in church. Our Gospel
readings for the most part will be from Mark’s Gospel, and
today is Advent
Advent is about waiting, watching. We pause as we wait.
This year becomes
more poignant, as the grip of the pandemic means we have
tight restrictions
on our lives. Nothing is the same as it was. Nothing is
as we anticipated,
nothing as we planned.
Except this; new ways of doing what is important to us.
New ways of watching
and waiting and being patient alongside millions of
others, of all faiths and
none. New ways of showing we care and that we are present
in our
communities. New ways of watching, and waiting, and
The Advent themes of hope, longing, watching and waiting
mean as much now
as they ever did. We are called to wait with anticipation.
We may not know
what is to come, but we do know who is to come.
Only a few words from me, as we have Bishop Michael’s
sermon this week.
Next Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent December 6 th
, we will be able to
worship together back in church, to hear the Great O’s
sung, to break bread
and share Holy Communion, to be fed by Word and Sacrament.
We will be able
to light two candles on our Advent candle. We will wait,
and watch, yes, but
there is strength in watching, and waiting together.
My prayer is that we watch and wait together, with
anticipation, understanding
and longing.
May God bless you all.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:13 pm.

Sunday, 29 November 2020:

Advent Sunday

Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the
Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of
Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his
final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and
liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they
also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme
of divine judgement:
Every eye shall now behold him
robed in dreadful majesty.
(Charles Wesley)
Advent Sunday 2020 is a day like no other. Although we
cannot be together in church to worship and praise God, we
can, none the less, still pray! We will be back together
as a worshipping community on the second Sunday of Advent,
6th December.
Some of the liturgy we would use on Advent Sunday is here.
I hope it helps you to pray on this important day, the
first day of the Church’s liturgical new year.

When the Lord comes,
he will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness,
and will disclose the purposes of the heart.
Therefore in the light of Christ let us confess our sins.

Turn to us again, O God our saviour,
and let your anger cease from us:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Show us your compassion, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your salvation is near for those that fear you,
that glory may dwell in our land:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid
we pray to Jesus.

Come to your Church as Lord and judge.
We pray for your Church throughout the world. For Michael
and Clive, our Bishops. For all that church congregations
are doing to try to ease the way for others.
Help us to live in the light of your coming
and give us a longing for your kingdom.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to your world as King of the nations.
We pray for all the nations of the world, a world gripped
by the pandemic. We pray for all governments and pray for
discernment and wise decisions. We pray for our prime
minister, for our own government, for all local councils.
We pray for all schools and places of education, praying
especially for Rakegate Primary school, sadly closed due
to Covid-19. We pray for all pupils and for the staff.
Before you rulers will stand in silence.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter.
We pray for all those who are ill, for those suffering the
effects of Covid-19, for those whose operations and
treatments may be on hold. We thank you that there are
hopeful signs of a vaccine, and for our NHS, all medical
staff and those working in care homes.
Break into our lives,
where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls.
We remember all those who have died, giving thanks for
their lives, praying for them and for all who grieve.
Give us with all the faithful departed
a share in your victory over evil and death.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory.
Lift us up to meet you,
that with all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Silence is kept.
Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay;
give new courage to your people,
who trust in your love.
By your coming, raise us to share in the joy of your
on earth as in heaven,
where you live and reign with the Father and the Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Almighty God,
as your blessed Son Jesus Christ
first came to seek and to save the lost;
so may he come again to find in us
the completion of his redeeming work;
for he is now alive
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you,
scatter the darkness from before your path,
and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and
the Holy Spirit, be with us now and always. Amen.

As we await our coming Saviour,
go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Short Passages of Scripture

Now is the time to wake out of sleep,
for now our salvation is nearer than when we first
Romans 13.11

The night is far spent, the day is at hand:
let us therefore cast off the works of darkness
and let us put on the armour of light.
Romans 13.12

Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people.
Isaiah 52.9

Lift up your heads, O gates;
be lifted up, you everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Psalm 24.7

Watch at all times, praying that you may have the strength
escape all these things that will take place, and to stand
before the
Son of Man.
Luke 21.36

Stand up and raise your heads,
because your redemption is drawing near.
Luke 21.28

Our Lord says, ‘Surely, I come quickly.’
Even so; come, Lord Jesus.
Revelation 22.20
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.

Liturgy taken from Common Worship: Times and Seasons
Archbishops’ Council 2000

Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:06 pm.

Saturday, 14 November 2020:

2nd Sunday before Advent Meditation

Not my words this week, but a meditation from Nick Fawcett
from his book ‘A Most Amazing Man’ – reflections for
Lectionary Year A.
Meditation of a reader of Matthew 25

I’ll use my talents alright, don’t you worry about that!
Well, you have to, don’t you,
if you’re to get on in this world,
and, like any other, I mean to do that.
You know what they say,
‘God helps those who help themselves,’
So, spot on, Jesus:
nice parable.
What’s that you say?
I’ve got him wrong?
In what way?
You mean it’s about serving God,
not self?
About using our gifts for His glory,
His kingdom,
rather than personal gain?
I’m not sure I like the sound of that,
though I guess it does fit rather better with the man and
the message,
all that stuff of his about good news for the poor,
riches on earth,
treasure in heaven.
Shame, I was quite hopeful there,
thought I had carte blanche to feather my nest,
but it seems not,
the day coming when I’ll be called to account.
Oh well, I must overcome the habit of a lifetime, I
learn to give rather than take
But it won’t be easy –
not without help.
Ah, you feel the same!
That’s encouraging.
At least I’m not alone.
‘In more ways than one!’ you say?
‘Not one of us left to cope on our own?’
Tell me more.


‘God helps those who help themselves’ –
that’s what people sometimes tell us, Lord,
and that’s what we’d sometimes like the words of Jesus to
for it makes them more comfortable to live with,
fitting in nicely with our instinctive approach to life.

Yet, deep down, we know that the Gospel message
is not about doing well for ourselves,
looking after number one,
but about employing our gifts in whatever ways we can
to help further the growth of your Kingdom.

Help us to do that,
consecrating our lives to your service.
Help us to seek your glory and advancement
rather than our own.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:33 pm.

Monday, 9 November 2020:

Remembrance Sunday 2020

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit, Amen.
As a small girl I loved spending time with my Uncle Eric.
He was fun to be with.
What he never did, however, was to tell stories about his
time in World War II when he was a rear gunner with the
When I saw a Lancaster bomber plane at RAF Cosford, I
began to understand a little of the horrors he, and
thousands like him, endured. The space for the rear-gunner
was like a little bubble on the tail end of the plane.
Tiny. Surrounded by glass. How terrifying must it have
been each time they went up. It’s beyond me, what these
young men endured, these young people who were on the
front line.
Only just before his death did he tell his family that he
was on the reserve list for the Dambusters.
And like many families, we have links with the first World
War, finding the war grave of my Great Uncle Fred from the
South Staffs regiment. He died early in 1914 and his war
grave is in Soupir, France.
In the 1990s we had some wonderful family holidays in
Northern France. We explored the Landing beaches of World
War II. 360 degree cinemas revealed the sheer horror of
the D-Day landings and made us think about our own liberty
but perhaps also our mortality. The War Cemeteries so
beautifully kept, where there was almost silence. A sense
of peace. Birdsong. I remember our son Neil crying as he
went along the rows of graves at the Bayeux War Cemetery.
Most of the 4,648 burials here are from the Normandy
landings. Opposite it is the Bayeux War Memorial for the
1800 casualties from the Commonwealth forces who were
unnamed. As Neil walked along the rows of graves he was
focussed on the ages. These were young men, many aged 17,
18, 19, early 20s. Someone’s son, husband, partner,
brother. Someone’s father. Heartbreaking.
All those who died in service during the wars died for our
peace time. Sadly, war continues in countries across the
world. We remember too those in the armed forces who have
been injured serving their country. Those whose lives will
never be the same again, who are scarred mentally and
physically by their experiences as they served their
So today we remember and respect all those who died in
war, serving their country. We remember and pray for those
serving today in our armed forces, and we pray for their
Perhaps this year Remembrance Sunday feels more poignant
than ever, for during the pandemic many people have lost
their lives in their own service of others. Front line
doctors, nurses, carers, paramedics, fire fighters,
teachers and school staff – key workers who have lost
their own lives as they serve others through their calling
to their own vocation.
We say thank you to all these people. We may not know
them by name, but we say thank you to them and we commend
them to God.
And as we do so, we recall the sacrifice Jesus made once
and for all. The sacrifice he made of himself hanging
upon the cross, falsely accused, where he died and was
buried. Then that glorious moment of resurrection, showing
that there is hope. How he showed up with disciples on
various resurrection appearances, cooking breakfast on the
beach, breaking bread in the upper room, walking alongside
them on the road.
If we have no hope, we are lost. Jesus is our hope and our
light. As we go into the second lockdown, we hold on to
that resurrection light and hope.
They shall grow not old
as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
we will remember them.
We will remember them.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:26 pm.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020:

All Saints Sunday 2020

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit, Amen.

One of the things we’ve been doing for a few months now is
a family quiz via Zoom, like an on-line video where you
can see and hear everyone on the call. on a Friday
evening. Fridays used to be full of Rainbows, Brownies,
Guides & Rangers and Choir practice. Lockdown Fridays
became a time of ‘what do we now?’ And the family quiz was
born, a time for our family members in York, Stone,
Telford, Lawley, Wolverhampton to ‘meet’ virtually for a
few hours and test our knowledge (it’s very clear within
the family who is the ultimate founder of all knowledge.)
One of our quiz rounds was, ‘Saint or not?’ We were given
names and had to say if that person was indeed a saint.
Saint Marina? Yes! St Serena? Yes! We learned there is a
Saint Barbara (patron saint of miners and firefighters,
among others;) St Foillan (patron saint of dentists;) St
Jerome (patron saint of librarians). There’s St Lucy,
patron saint of authors; St Milo who is the saint of pig
keepers. To name but a few!

Often when we think of saints, we think of their virtue
and holiness and picture them in stained glass windows, or
plaster/ alabaster statues. Think of our cathedral at
Lichfield; that great Western front is covered with
statues of saints with more to find inside, let alone
those depicted in the beautiful stained glass windows and
Do we ever stop to consider that these people were
ordinary men and women living out their lives in ordinary
ways? Saints were people like us. No one is born a saint.
They became saints through the way they lived their lives.
Do we ever stop to think that we ourselves are called to
be saints?
In these dark days of restrictions and lockdowns and the
news full of Covid-19 related matters, it’s easy to focus
on all the negative news, all the stuff we don’t want to
hear because it’s becoming too hard and challenging to
bear. But listen out. I’ve heard local interviews where
some kindly neighbour has helped others with their
shopping, or simply checked up on others. “He’s a saint!”
declared a neighbour, or “She’s so helpful I don’t know
what I’d do without her, she’s a saint.”
I don’t think they use the word ‘saint’ lightly.
So what is a saint? Not just an image in a stained glass
window, not a carving in a church or cathedral, or an
A saint is someone who lives their lives for the benefit
of others, often without realising it.
Today’s Gospel reading is perhaps a manifesto of how we
are called to live our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.
I don’t think Jesus intended them to be a set of high
standards to make us aim higher, to raise our game. The
Beatitudes (for that’s what they are called, this list of
‘blessed are the ... peacemakers, the merciful, the poor
in spirit and so on) are there to challenge us, to dare us
to do more, be more with our lives. And these words of
Jesus turned things upside down, because they are the
values of the new world, the Kingdom of God.
Today’s Gospel dares us to make a difference. To be the
change needed to improve the lives and situation for those
around us. Today’s Gospel, in short, calls us to live the
lives of a saint.
For we know saints were people like us. They walked our
paths, struggled with doubt, with temptation, with fear.
They fell. Got up, tried again. In other words, they do –
they did – what today’s Gospel calls us to do.
So on All Saints Sunday we celebrate us too, for the
promise of God’s new upside down world is in every single
one of us, for we are all called to be saints.
However dark it is – and it feels pretty grim at the
moment doesn’t it, with the prospect of another national
lockdown looming – we have a message to share, a message
of light and hope and love. Each new day offers us a
chance to reflect some of God’s love as we go about our
daily lives.
If we are self-isolating, we can still contact people by
phone or online.
If we meet people through work, we can smile and try to
lighten their day.
We are called to be patient and faithful, to live by the
light of Jesus Christ.
We are all called to be saints.
Now if that makes you feel uncomfortable, good! It
certainly makes me feel edgy. Unworthy, if you like. But
we are called to be what we can be, to do whatever we can,
and to do that well. We are not called to be people we
aren’t – if that makes sense. We are called to be who we
are and to be true to ourselves. And like the seed in the
parable of the sower, we do not know what a difference we
may make to people’s lives. We leave that up to God.
We are people of hope, people with a story to tell. We are
people of prayer, of action, of love. And together we make
a difference.
Look at the footballer Marcus Rashford. He may be famous,
an incredible footballer, but he has never forgotten his
roots. His campaign for children to be fed during the
school holidays has gained so much momentum and publicity.
And no matter what football team you support – or don’t –
he is to be admired for his passion and care for others,
especially at this tough time for so many families when
jobs are on the line and incomes greatly reduced. He gets
it, because he experienced it himself. He uses that
experience to make a difference to others.
That’s what we are called to do, in our own way, in our
own lived-in experiences. We’re called to make a
difference to others.
We’re called to be a saint.
Holy and merciful God, write the values of the Beatitudes
into our hearts and lives; and help us, with all your
saints and angels, to seek your face and happily walk in
your way. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:01 am.

Sunday, 18 October 2020:

Thoughts for the week 11.10.20

Trinity 18 (Proper 23)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Today’s Gospel sounds harsh, doesn’t it, with murders and
punishment. There is good news as well; of God never
giving up on us, everyone being included. But you may be
relieved to hear that actually I’m going to preach about
Psalm 23, which is the psalm set for today – that’s why
we’ve included it on the reading sheet.
I bet we all know this psalm so well. We may be singing it
in our heads as a hymn, or as from the Psalter, or perhaps
an anthem. This is one of the most well- known psalms, so
you may wonder why I’ve chosen to focus on this today,
rather than perhaps our Gospel reading.
Well, I’m mindful that after today’s service we have our
Annual Parochial Church Meeting – our APCM. I’m also aware
– who can’t be? – of potential announcements of further
measures of lockdown during this pandemic. In my mind I’m
also thinking of World Mental Health day, which was
yesterday 10th October, and how this year more than ever
we need to look out for others and be aware that they may
not be ok. And with the independent report released this
week on abuse within the Church of England, there’s a need
for us to face the fact that yes, over the years the
Church as an institution has not done enough to protect
So it seems a gift that Psalm 23 is today’s psalm, for
here is a psalm that’s so well -known we can perhaps
concentrate on the message it brings, focus on the current
crisis of the pandemic, and try to look at it through a
new lens.
Have you ever watched how sheep are rounded up? I’ve seen
on Countryfile how the shepherd and his/her dog care for
the sheep and round them up to move them to new grazing
pastures. It’s fascinating to watch, and when the
shepherds are interviewed their care and compassion for
the animals in their charge speaks volumes. Without the
shepherd’s care, the sheep are easy prey for animals and
to danger. In the psalmist’s time, this danger would have
been tenfold; wild animals would abound in the hills.
We recognise the imagery, I’m sure. There are green
pastures for grazing, still waters for drinking and
restoration, the right paths are there to move to fresh
fields. God provides, God nurtures, God feeds, God
Psalm 23 follows psalm 22 – of course it does! And I think
both psalms are meant to be read together. We usually
hear psalm 22 sung by the choir as we strip the sanctuary
on Maundy Thursday. Psalm 22 says, ‘My God, My God, why
have you forsaken me? Why do you not hear me?’ I wonder
how many people have thought that over the years if
they’ve been historically abused within the church. Or how
many people are thinking that, with further restrictions
about the pandemic. I’ve lost count how many conversations
I’ve had when people have asked, “How can God allow the
pandemic to happen?” Or how many people are feeling so
lonely and desperate that they can’t see any way out.
Psalm 23 provides an answer, if we can but see it. It says
how God can give peace in the midst of conflict. In a
world where God is often scorned or used as an
exclamation, the Shepherd calls us to follow Him.
Following Him won’t be easy and may divide us from others.
He cares, He provides.
Our culture is want, want, want! But we will have all we
need. And our souls can be restored if we rest beside
green pastures.
I wonder, what is the equivalent of the green pastures for
you? Where do you go, physically or perhaps in your mind,
when you recognise you need space and time out? A walk to
the canal, or to a local park? Or perhaps in your mind to
a favourite beach or coastline or viewpoint. It’s
important to have somewhere to go even if we have to
imagine ourselves there. It helps our mental well- being.
It reminds us of good times. It gives us hope.
If we come to church to be restored, Psalm 23 offers us
the chance to remind ourselves of God’s gifts to us. God
remains with us even when times are hard. How often might
you have said, “I really don’t know how we got through
that!” when you’ve had a particularly tough time. And then
you look back, and realisation dawns that God carried you
through, like the well know Footprints poem. Goodness and
mercy will follow us – God has our back! And whatever
happens, we are invited to the table, to the feast where
we receive the overflowing abundance of God’s love.
Our world is changed forever. Covid-19 has left nothing
the same. Children taught in class or year bubbles.
Wearing masks. Forever washing our hands, applying hand
gel, not getting close to people. No physical contact. I
watched the news on Friday night and texted someone, ‘this
is so depressing!’ More and more statistics. It gets to
the point when I don’t want to watch the news, or hear any
more conspiracy theories, or hear what we can or cannot
do. What I want, what I need, are words of hope. I want
to be reminded that the Lord is my Shepherd. I want to be
reassured that, in the words of the mystic Julian of
Norwich, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and
all manner of things shall be well.’
And our time here at Oxley is changed, too. A fresh start.
Chance to look back and see what we’ve done well, and
where we can improve. Chance to air and share ideas. Some
stability. For us all, and certainly for me, a fresh
challenge as we work together to further God’s Kingdom
here in this place, in this parish, in our lives.
In all our readings today, there is an over-riding theme
of God as the giver, and how people respond. With Psalm
23, we have the most wonderful reminders that God
nurtures, God provides, God sustains, God protects. Try
praying the psalm two or three times each day, taking each
line slowly. Allow the words to seep into you. Allow
their freshness to touch you.
The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:18 pm.

Sunday, 20 September 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity XV Matthew 20:1-16
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen

Think of the times you may have queued at the supermarket
till, waiting to be served. You carefully load all your
shopping onto the belt, and wait for what seems an age for
the person in front of you to be served. They’re taking
their time, slowly packing everything away, and then
fumble for their purse or wallet. It seems to take
eternity for the customer to proffer their money or card,
and for either the card to be processed or change given to
the customer – who then has to wheel the trolley away,
full of shopping. In the meantime, you look at your watch,
maybe have a little sigh. Someone comes behind you and
begins to put their shopping on the conveyor belt behind
your shopping. Then comes the ‘bing bong’ supermarket
tannoy system. A disembodied voice announces that the till
next to yours is to open. Quick as a flash, the person
behind you gathers their shopping back into the trolley
and is there at the next till before you can say ‘sprint
finish.’ And you’re sure you can see a smug expression on
their face as they walk past you with their shopping all
checked through, while you are still stuck in the slowest
queue in the world with the slowest cashier.
I bet we can all identify with that.
So in today’s Gospel we can perhaps feel some sympathy for
those workers who have grafted all day under a hot sun and
who see other workers join them throughout the day, only
for those who have worked the least amount of time to be
paid not only first but who collect a full day’s pay.
Where’s the fairness in that?

There are several ways of looking at today’s Gospel
passage. Think of the landowner’s question: “Are you
envious because I am generous?” This employer has been
perhaps the busiest person in the story. He’s been out
five times to find workers. And he makes sure that all
his employees are paid a day’s pay so that they can earn
enough to support their families. Where were they all day,
the last few workers who were possibly the sort of people
some didn’t want to mix with? Why were they not seen
earlier on in the day? They are described as ‘idlers’ but
I think that means unemployed. What we do know is that
they wanted to work.
We can of course make comparisons with today’s society.
We know of the existence of sweat shops in third world
countries – sadly, there are probably some in our country
today. People on zero hours contracts who don’t know from
one day to the next if they will earn enough to support
themselves and their families. Or migrant workers who find
themselves involved in modern day slavery. People who were
on furlough during lockdown and who are now made
redundant. And we have some people earning thousands and
thousands of pounds and others scraping a living on less
than the living wage.
Where’s the fairness in that?
Yes, those labourers who were employed early in the day
have worked hard in the heat - but equally those hired
towards the end of the day have had to endure the heat
together with the knowledge that they were probably going
to return home with very little if anything to keep them
And I wonder if, before they moaned about fairness or
otherwise, those workers who had been chosen earlier in
the day were secretly pleased to see more people join them
during the day. Chance to ease off a little, perhaps, an
opportunity to work a little less hard because now the
landowner would see more results from employing more
They took home the money due to them. The money agreed
when they were hired.
The labourers employed towards the end of the day had to
rely on the landowner paying them something – they had no
idea what he might give them. They still had this sense of
insecurity. And at the very end of the day there would be
a shared sense of insecurity held by all the labourers,
who tomorrow will have to wait to see if they are hired
for another day’s work.
The landowner is gracious – and yes many read this parable
as an allegory for God’s graciousness.
Do we look at others and envy their good fortune?
Do we look at others and wonder why God chooses to reward
others and wonder when our time will come?
Do we stop, and remember all that God has given us?
God looks out for all of us. Not just us here in church.
He looks out for those who find it hard to come to church.
He looks out for those who are aware of an ache, a gap in
their lives and who just can’t work out what that longing
might be. He looks out for the workers, the homeless, the
marginalised. He looks out for us whether or not we are
aware of His care.
God watches out for us and is gracious to us.
Can we be grateful for His love and guidance? Can we
emulate graciousness in our own lives? When we are up
against it, no matter how right we are, can we give way
with a good grace?
For Jesus, the Kingdom is offered to all. It’s not ours to
hug to ourselves. The Kingdom is for everyone who wants to
do better, who is sorry for wrong- doing. This is the
heart of Matthew’s Gospel. There are no grades of being a
Christian and a disciple of Christ. We are all in this
together, all on an equal footing before God. Perhaps we
should imagine God out there in the market place, looking
for people to join in His work, repeatedly looking out for
those who are on the edges, who want to be part of His
Kingdom but who are unsure how.
“Are you envious because I am generous?” Think of your own
gifts and limitations, and at those of people we are close
to, people around us. Do we rejoice at the gifts and
talents given to others? God’s love is poured out upon us
like a fountain, or a waterfall if the imagery works for
you – everyone is invited to be drenched with this living
water and love. This love is for sharing. Pray that we
here in Oxley can share that love with others, and that we
can pull ourselves back when we are tempted to ask,
“where’s the fairness in that?”

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:51 pm.

Sunday, 6 September 2020:

Thoughts for the week

St Gregory the Great/Trinity XIII 6.9.20
It feels right today to think of Gregory the Great, whose
feast day it was on Thursday. Partly because it allows us
to look more closely at the life of St Gregory and to ask
ourselves what, in the light of today’s Bible readings,
his message might be to us today. Also because, of course,
it helps us to keep our friends from St Gregory’s firmly
in our minds and in our prayers at this difficult time.

Gregory was born in Rome into troubled times in the year
540. For the times, he was well educated, and worked for
the Roman government. Later he converted to monastic life,
and it is said he experienced a lifelong conflict between
his personal desire for the contemplative life, and a
public duty to serve others.
He established a monastery dedicated to St Andrew, and
founded six further monasteries. He was elected Pope,
somewhat unwillingly, in the year 590.
It was Gregory who sent St Augustine to Kent in 597 to
bring Roman Christianity to a country whose Celtic
Christians did not recognise the supremacy of Rome and
where paganism still flourished. We have a lot to thank
him for.
Gregory wrote extensively during a time of dispute between
the state and the church, and became a famous preacher.
His true holiness was in his humility, and he called
himself a “servant of the servants of God.” He placed high
importance on the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and
his thoughts on salvation, defined the Medieval Church.
He lived what he preached, working tirelessly to serve the
women and men in his care. He challenged bishops and
priests to live the Gospel virtues faithfully and humbly,
and thousands came to hear him preach. Gregory died in
March 604, and was canonised – made a saint - immediately.

A Servant of the Servants of God. Living his faith,
humbly, but not frightened to speak out. I wonder what
Gregory would make of the current world situation, and how
he would react to the global pandemic. I rather suspect
he would be at the forefront of those speaking out to
pledge safety and fairness for all; he would be speaking
out to ensure children do not go hungry, he would be
speaking to migrants and refugees.
Our Gospel today speaks of how we should resolve potential
conflict in private, and speak together in love, listening
to each other, caring for each other. Being attentive to
other’s needs and moods.
I think those were Gregory’s values, too. To stay humble,
to pray, to act as a light in our troubled world, to pose
questions which may be uncomfortable both for us to ask
and for others to hear and consider. Our vocation – like
Gregory’s – is to pray – to remain faithful to God in

He was an unwilling leader. A servant. God’s servant. We,
in our turn, are called to serve others, to be attentive
to them, and to allow ourselves to be served, too – as it
says in the hymn Brother Sister let me serve you, let me
be as Christ to you, pray that I may have the grace to let
you be my servant, too.

Gregory saw Jesus as a leader, but not as a tyrant
(remember this was Rome in the early hundreds and Rome was
a formidable power.) He appealed to the heart. Where is
God found? In the heart. A friend of mine said to me only
this week, “Anne, I’m trying so hard to hear God with my
heart not my head.”

Today, nearly fourteen hundred years later, we can hold
fast to Gregory’s beliefs and values. To listen to God
with our heart. To stay humble, to remain constant in
prayer, to speak out against injustice, to remain faithful
and reverent to the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament
of Holy Communion, the Eucharist, which we will share
together in a few minutes.

"Servant of the servants of God.” May we take that phrase
and mull it over in our hearts over the coming days and
weeks. How can you become a servant of the servants of
God? I wonder, what is that asking of us?
Pray. Stay humble. And aim to be a true servant of the
servants of God.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:27 pm.

Sunday, 30 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity XII

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
How quickly our Gospel story races on! Last week, Peter
was called the Rock, the rock on which the church is to be
built. This week, Peter is likened to Satan. What’s going
on here?
I wonder where this story took place. Perhaps on the road
from Caesarea Philippi, as Jesus and his disciples
travelled back to Galilee. Or, maybe in a corner of a
room. I can imagine the expressions on the disciples’
faces – incredulity, confusion. I can imagine Peter
stumbling back as Jesus rebukes him.

For today, we hear Jesus declaring what will happen once
he arrives in Jerusalem. I think we can understand Peter’s
reaction. He has just declared Jesus as the Messiah – of
course, he doesn’t want to think about the images Jesus
describes of torture, execution, and resurrection. Peter’s
human. He’s spending all his time with this man, has had a
flash of insight as to who Jesus is, and then is told that
they will head to Jerusalem and of the suffering Jesus
will undergo.
No wonder Peter says, “This can’t happen to you, Lord, God
forbid it!”

And I wonder how he felt when Jesus – cuttingly, but I
suspect with love – replies that Peter must not hold him
back, and likens him to Satan, the tempter. For Jesus’s
awareness of God’s plan means that he cannot deviate from
it. He chooses not to deviate from it. Peter is a
stumbling block if he projects his own desires, his own
wishes, onto Jesus.
How often do we do that? How often do we try to hold on to
what we know and what is safe, projecting our own desires
to be safe and secure in the knowledge that ‘this is how
it is, this is how it has to be’ without branching out
into the future and trusting God to hold us in our

For God goes before us. Jesus knew that. God goes before
us, after us, with us. I’m reminded of the Welsh poet R.S.
Thomas’s words in his poem Pilgrimages:
‘He is such a fast God, always before us, and leaving as
we arrive.’
For like Peter, as soon as we think we’ve ‘got it’ or
gained insight as to what God wants from us, God moves on
and we’re left thinking, “did that really happen? What
now, what next?”

It’s comforting that we are no different to Peter, getting
it so right at times and so wrong at others. God will
always be with us, but of course, we can say that in the
light of the resurrection. Peter wasn’t to know. He
didn’t understand. He focusses on his fear of loss,
forgetting that Jesus asks them to follow him. Nothing can
prepare the disciples for this. The questions that must
have raced through their minds. How can God possibly want
Jesus to go through all this? How can this possibly be
God’s plan?

For it is, of course, God’s plan, for God sees the whole,
not the part. St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For now
we see through a glass darkly.” We can’t possibly see the
whole picture. Only God can do that.
Our calling is to follow Jesus Christ – we would not be
here in church today if we had not heard that call. It can
be costly, following Jesus. Our Epistle gives us a list of
how we should live our lives as His followers. It’s not a
list of things to do to gain favour with God. It’s what we
should do if we truly love our neighbour, care for our
community, care for God’s creation. Spend some time this
week, if you can find five minutes, and re-read our
Epistle from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. It’s talking
about the Christian way of life but it doesn’t mean be
passive and let life go on around you. It means stick your
neck out if injustice happens, speak and act, offer
Christian love and go on doing it again, and again, and
again. And perhaps we have to practice these virtues as
they do not always come easily. A bit like if we want to
be the best at our chosen sport we have to keep practicing
and training – we are to keep going in the knowledge that
this what we are called to do. There will be temptations
along the way and we are to resist them, for this is God’s

Jesus shows he chooses God’s way although he knew it would
lead to crucifixion. He knew he would rise on the third
day. He knew death was not the end.

Peter does not ‘get it’ at this point, just as there are
times in our lives when we don’t get it, when we do not
understand why God might be calling us to do something. We
can take comfort in that. Peter does, though, ‘get it’ at
the end and understands it so much that he becomes the
bedrock of the new church.

So what are we to take from today’s Lectionary readings?

That Christian love in action can be costly, but we are to
listen for God’s word.
That, like Peter, we will mess up time and time again. God
knows that. He loves us anyway; he loves us
unconditionally. We are to keep trying.
We are to decide what’s really important in our lives.
Let go of the rest, and set our minds on divine things –
set our minds on Jesus. We are to deny ourselves, take up
our cross and follow Him.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:43 pm.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity XI
“Who do you say that I am?”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen

Every now and then we come into contact with someone who
makes a real impact on us. We recognise there is something
special about them. We may not be able to say what we mean
by that, but we recognise that this person has something
about them, some quality that makes them stand out from
the crowd.

Jesus must have been like that. It must have been amazing
to see him, watch him interact with the crowds, healing
people, speaking, teaching. I often wonder what it would
have been like to be part of the crowd watching, learning,
following. To see what went on, hear the noise of it all.
It must have been amazing.

For the disciples to hear Jesus say to them, “Who do
people say the Son of Man is?” might be a bit of an
unfair question – after all, they’ve given up everything
to follow this man! The question does however offer an
opportunity for them to name who crowds say Jesus is. The
names they give are prominent figures in the Jewish faith:
John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah or other prophets.
“But who do you say I am?” asks Jesus. Peter had spent a
lot of his time with Jesus, so it’s no surprise that he is
the spokesperson. “You are the Messiah, says Peter. “You
are the Son of the Living God.”

This was extraordinary. To say Jesus is the Messiah, was
extraordinary and it’s even more extraordinary when Peter
follows up with, “the Son of the Living God.” Here is the
transforming moment for Peter, that split second, the
flashpoint of insight when he recognises and is able to
name what Jesus represents.

Just as we think we’ve worked out what’s going on, the
goalposts seem to change. For it’s not enough to know that
Jesus is special. We have to name him as King.
And that’s the challenge for us. That’s the challenge in
our lives today, for if we name Jesus as our Lord and
King, our lives will never be the same again. Just as
noticing special qualities about people we meet changes
us, so naming Jesus as our King changes our lives forever.
We see the world through different lenses. We begin to
love more, to care more, to act more. We pray more. And
yes we will fall short of our own expectations but we hold
on to the fact that Jesus is Lord.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus questions the disciples when
they arrive at Caesarea Philippi. This was a city outside
Galilee. And the location matters, for this was a near a
prominent trade route. Nearby was a cave and a spring that
feeds into the River Jordan. Over the years, the cave and
spring had been dedicated to the Greek god Pan and to
other gods. Nearby was also a temple built by Herod the
Great. Here his son was in charge and the temple was the
administrative centre of his government. The location was
important. So when Jesus asks, “and you, who do you say I
am?” at Caesarea Philippi, the disciples – and the readers
of Matthew’s Gospel – would be fully aware of the
importance of this place. A place made sacred by other
religions, an important place for trade and a centre of
government. This is not only a question about who Jesus
is. It’s also all about loyalty and faithfulness to

Peter declares Jesus as the Messiah, the saviour. Jesus
gives Peter a new name and declares that he is the rock on
whom the church is built. Jesus isn’t going to build a
city or a building but will build a community of believers
who affirm him as King. Over the last two weeks, we’ve
thought about faith. Today’s Gospel takes us one step
further. “Be transformed so that you can discern the will
of God,” writes St Paul in our Epistle today.
“Who do you say that I am?” If we answer, “You are my Lord
and King,” we are to be prepared for life to take us on
unexpected paths.
What does Jesus mean to you?
Who do you say Jesus is?
And what difference will that make to your life?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:27 pm.

Sunday, 16 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary (The Assumption)
16/8/2020 (Year A)
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
A break this week from Jesus teaching, healing,
challenging, and resting. Today we think about the Virgin
Mary. An important feast day, I think, for it allows us
time to think about Mary outside the Christmas narrative.
Our Gospel reading is what we know as The Magnificat, the
song of Mary. She proclaims God’s greatness and says she
is blessed.
What would make you celebrate wildly? Perhaps someone
close to you has recovered from illness, or maybe the
prospect of a new job, which will lessen financial
worries. Maybe you’d celebrate Wolves winning a big match.
The chance to meet up with friends and family after months
of isolation? What is special to you that would make you
celebrate wildly with your friends and family?
For here we have a young girl celebrating the fact that
she is pregnant.
A young girl who said “Yes,” to God, and whose ‘yes’
changed countless lives forever. She recognised that
something momentous was about to happen. Why would Mary
think she was blessed? From our perspective we might
struggle to see that she is blessed. A young girl of 14 or
15, unmarried, pregnant, risking humiliation and shame. A
village girl, from a peasant family. A girl living under
Roman occupation and inhumane treatment. She will see her
child grow up facing rejection, torture, and crucifixion.
But for now, Mary together with her older cousin
Elizabeth, blesses God.
And the song she sings, well known to us, sings of the
dream of Israel, that all nations will be blessed, for God
to ‘rescue’ the world. Almost every line of the Magnificat
is a line from the Scriptures. Mary and Elizabeth know
that God will bless their children, and celebrate and sing
in joy what God will do through their sons.
So Mary praises God, echoing words Hannah said when Hannah
was pregnant with Samuel (we read about her in the first
book of Samuel.) She sings about God’s strength,
recognising that God’s work on earth happens here, now.
Her feast day (which we’ve transferred from yesterday)
coincided with the 75th anniversary of VJ day, the end of
the second World War. Jesus came to bring peace. Mary
told his followers “Do whatever he tells you.” Last week
we thought about how difficult forgiveness can be; today
we pray for peace in our own lives and in the world around
us, praying for the peace that Jesus can bring.
We celebrate that Mary’s ‘yes’ to God offers salvation and
peace to the whole world.
And for us here in church, an opportunity to pause and
reflect on the enormity of Mary’s ‘yes’ to God, as we
listen to a recording of The Magnificat.
Mary’s Song of Praise
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his
Surely, from now on all generations will call me
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:09 am.

Sunday, 16 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity IX
Jesus’s words to his disciples: “Take heart, it is I; do
not be afraid.”
Last week, our Gospel story was the Feeding of the Five
Thousand. We heard how we could read that story as a life
of Christian vocation, of love and faith in action.
Today’s Gospel speaks to us of faith. Actually, it speaks
to us of doubt and faith and fear and love all combined –
which may or may not describe your Christian faith! I
think it certainly describes mine!

Have you ever watched a young child being taught to swim?
Picture the scene. A swimming pool, lifeguards on view. A
small child wearing bright orange arm bands, holds on to a
parent’s hand. Gently, the trusted adult urges the child
into the water. The child is excited, but as water
splashes onto his face, the excitement turns to fear. He
clings to his Dad, tightly wrapping his arms around his
Dad’s neck. The swimming pool is out of his experience and
he can’t understand how he will float. Gently, the father
prises the child’s arms from around his neck and, holding
the child in the water, says, “Trust me. I won’t let you
sink. You can float.”

The Sea of Galilee is one of those seas where the weather
can change in the blink of an eye, with strong winds and
sudden storms. The fishermen amongst the disciples would
have known the dangers of fishing there. Not for them the
luxury of a weather forecast, although they would be very
much attuned to local weather conditions. Jesus sends the
disciples out in a boat into the middle of the lake, while
he takes some time out to go up the mountain to be with
God. Maybe this is Jesus’s self-care, finding it
exhausting to be with so many people.

As we read of Peter’s actions, I wonder what you first
thought. Idiot? Impetuous? What was he trying to prove?
I wonder, too, if perhaps Peter stands for each one of us.
A staunch defender of Jesus, each time we read about him
in whichever Gospel we look at, he seems to mess up.
Today is no exception. Brave, impetuous, but flawed and
foolish too.

As soon as Peter sees Jesus, he decides to brave the
waves. Is he testing his own faith? Showing off, perhaps?
Whatever the reason, things quickly go pear shaped. The
boat has been blown out to sea further than expected. The
wind will be against Peter. If you’ve ever walked along a
beach with the wind against you, you’ll know how you have
to fight for every step. Peter almost passes this
challenge until his ‘little faith’ got in the way.

Peter confirms his humanity in this story. Jesus confirms
his divinity. “It’s me,” Jesus says.

Peter had to rely totally on Jesus to stop him from
drowning. “Lord, save me!” he cried. Spontaneous,
heartfelt prayer. Prayer uttered from the very depths of
him. And the answer swiftly came,
“Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
I doubt we will be called to walk on water in the literal
sense. I rather suspect Matthew wants his readers to hear
this story in the context of their own lives.

Think of your own journey of faith. Struggles, perhaps,
with doubt. Wondering what will happen next, where the
future will take you. Recognising the glory of God’s
creation, a sense of ‘knowing’ God, finding thoughts
difficult to articulate. So many times, it can feel that
what we are asked to do, as Christians, can be almost
impossible. How can we have a regular prayer life when
we’re so busy? How can we possibly get on with what we are
called to do, when we are unsure of our own capabilities?

Today’s Gospel offers us the answer. “Take heart. I am
here. Don’t be afraid.”
Jesus’ powers were not magic, despite what Peter may have
originally thought. Here he is recognised as the Son of
God. And when we recognise that, and truly believe, our
boat is calmed, our inner storm stilled.

Is there any chance that we would get out of our boat and
walk towards Jesus?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:08 am.

Thursday, 6 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity VIII
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my
heart, be acceptable in your sight Oh Lord our strength
and our redeemer. Amen.
Think back to a time when you were really sad. Perhaps
you went somewhere to be by yourself for a few hours. You
wanted to hide away, to be quiet. Perhaps you wanted to
pray. You craved some time out, some time for yourself,
so that people did not surround you.
Jesus was no different to us.
He withdrew to a deserted place to be by himself – he went
out in a boat to a deserted spot by himself.
He had just heard the news of the death of John the
Baptist. He needed time to process this, to grieve, to
understand what this may mean for his own ministry.
He withdrew to a deserted place to be by himself.
And what happens? The crowd finds out where he is, and
follow him.
You’d think Jesus would have had enough. Tell them to go
away, maybe. Tell them he needs some downtime.
But no. What does he feel?
We read that he was full of compassion for the crowd, and
he cured the sick. The disciples tried to tell him to
send the crowds away so that they (the crowds) could have
chance to buy food for their supper.
No need, said Jesus.
And they were fed from five loaves and two fish. A huge
crowd of 5000 people, fed with food left over to fill
twelve baskets.
What implications does today’s Gospel have on our lives?
Well, firstly I think it’s important for us all to take
some time out to rest awhile. I realise I’m the world’s
worst at this – clergy are meant to have 6 Sundays off
each year and so far I’ve been here all the time! But
there are times when we really do need to rest. To take
stock, to relax, to give thanks for what has been and what
is yet to come – but to really relax in the present is
hard. As was the case for thousands of other people, our
family holiday this year was cancelled – we had planned to
go to Porthmadog in June. But we can take some time out
(she says preaching to herself) to unwind and recharge the
batteries. When Jesus wanted to speak with God, we note
that he took time out – and so should we. We need to take
some time for ourselves, to tend to our own emotions, to
our inner self. To pay attention to God’s call on our
lives in the midst of the business and demands made upon
us .
Jesus was out there trying to come to terms with John’s
death. He wanted time and space to be alone. The crowd
had other ideas. And Jesus heard God – he must have done,
otherwise he could have stayed out in the boat. I wonder
what he heard God say. “Come on Jesus, go and do what
you’re meant to do. Heal the sick; feed the hungry. Go
on. I’m with you.”
Secondly, what strikes me as the important message in
today’s miracle story is the compassion Jesus felt when he
saw the crowd. He didn’t feel annoyed, or angry. He felt
compassion. And Jesus’s compassion overruled his sorrow.
Think what Jesus said to his disciples. “They need not go
away. You give them something to eat.” You. In other
words, he tells the disciples to get on with the task of
feeding everyone. Maybe there’s a message there for us.
Don’t keep expecting others to get on and do God’s work.
Perhaps we have to take a deep breath and get on with it
ourselves. It’s up to us.
God often seems to work in this way. We can worry all we
like and we can long for God’s word to tell us exactly
what we should do – then we find ourselves in a situation,
which is in itself the answer. Get on with things, says
God. You do it. And we answer back, “I can’t! I’m not good
enough… or I don’t have time… or others can do it much
better than me!” And we can sense God’s smile. If we offer
what we can, God will take care of the rest.
So – to return to the Gospel – the small boy offers all he
has. God takes care of the rest, and everyone eats their
fill. Jesus thanks God, blesses the food, breaks bread,
and offers it round. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing in
a few minutes’ time at the Eucharist.
We blunder around with our ideas or our thoughts, and God
takes hold of them and gives them back to us. This is
Christian vocation. Our thoughts lead us to things we had
never previously had in our minds. Jesus takes our
talent, our skills, our loaves and fishes, our energy,
whatever we can offer. He blesses it, and gives it back.
Watch what happens to it when we begin to believe in
ourselves, to feel compassion, and love for others.
This week we took 3 big bags of donations to the Well
foodbank. Sadly, their need is in even greater demand
following lockdown, furlough, redundancies. Currently they
have enough volunteers, but we can play our part by
donating what we can to help others. This is compassion;
this is love in action. This is part of loving others.
Today’s Gospel is a story about a miracle. It’s a bit like
last week’s story of the mustard seed. But it’s also a
story of love and compassion. After teaching about the
kingdom of Heaven (which we’ve thought about over the last
three weeks) Jesus shows the crowd and the disciples what
the Kingdom looks like in practical living. He makes it
real, through his teaching, healing, and feeding. We too
are called to attend to the physical and spiritual needs
of others.
And we are called to attend to our own spiritual needs,
perhaps through receiving Holy Communion, through times of
private prayer, through taking time out. This week John
and I had a day on a gloriously deserted beach on
Anglesey, only a day but it felt a real holiday. Time out
to be out in the fresh sea air and to marvel at the
beautiful scenery around us. Time to thank God (as I
paddled along the shoreline) for all His goodness.
I wonder, what lies on your mind? How is God expecting you
to take responsibility?
And what are you doing to pay attention to God in your own
life? - Are you finding that deserted place to rest

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:24 pm.

Thursday, 6 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity VII
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Small children, we all know, can be very resilient. The
small children I know seem to have adapted to the pandemic
and to restrictions remarkably well. Thankfully, they’ve
been able to get out to explore local surroundings.
They’ve been allowed to get muddy, to play in the rain.
They’ve watched as spring flowers grew and spring turned
into summer. In their own way, they knew why life had
changed – why brothers and sisters were not at school, why
they might not be in nursery or preschool, why their own
surroundings and routine might have changed. One 4 year
old knew exactly why we were in lockdown. “It’s because of
coronavirus,” he said. He continued, “Although I haven’t
seen him yet!”
From his perspective, trying to understand about lockdown,
he understood the virus to be a person or thing.
The pandemic has been a challenging time. Something so
small that we cannot see with the naked eye grows briskly
as a destructive force. For the last five months it has
consumed media attention, it has been the main focus
worldwide, it has affected all our lives.
Today’s Gospel offers us a counter image to the
destructive force. The Kingdom of Heaven comes from things
we cannot see. This Kingdom also grows at a rapid rate.
It is worthy of all our attention, all our resources.
Now that Matthew’s got going on the parables, it seems he
just can’t stop! Each builds on the other, and although
they may read as a list of similes, let’s have a think
about their meaning.
The parable of the mustard seed – here, Jesus tells us
that something as tiny as a mustard seed, something so
microscopic, can become great.
The yeast – shows hidden growth, transformation.
Treasure – it may be hidden, but it is infinitely
The parable of the pearl - the merchant searches and gives
up all he has.
The fisher’s net – the catch is full.
The images pile up and we need to think about them, try to
tease out what Jesus is saying. Jane Williams in her
reflections says that these parables offer up two words –
unpredictability and excitement. Small things, that not
many people know about, that swell and take over the
world. Things so beautiful and valuable that you discover
by accident and can’t live without.
The mustard seed and the yeast are everyday miracles,
things that we all know about, and yet we still marvel at
how yeast can transform bread and make it rise. Mustard
seeds are so tiny they are almost microscopic.

Have we ever stopped to think that the Kingdom of Heaven
might be like the yeast, or like a mustard seed? We
imagine, don’t we, that the Kingdom of Heaven must be
huge. God’s Kingdom must be spectacular, not something so
tiny that it’s hardly seen, something working away
tirelessly until you can’t miss it.
The surprise in these parables is not what the yeast or
the mustard seed do, for we are aware of what they do. No,
the surprise is in things we may not be so familiar with,
that they also may grow. Big things come from small
The treasure and the pearl parables feed our imagination.
We can dream about finding treasure, but the odd thing
about the people who find the treasure and the pearl is
what they do with it. They appreciate the beauty of what
they find; something so beautiful that they sell what they
can to keep hold of this beauty. They don’t sell to get
richer; they sell to appreciate the new found beauty.
The woman baking bread, the sower sowing the seed, the
merchant seeking his fortune and the fisherman are no
different to people the world over today.
In our ordinary tasks we are invited to see the Kingdom
all around us in our day to day lives.
I wonder, what do we expect to see?
And where do we expect to find it?
Do we have different values through trying to live our
lives as Christians?
We know that understanding emerges over time. We know that
we can suddenly see things in a different way, see things
with fresh eyes as the saying goes.

In our Old Testament reading, Solomon realises that
wisdom is priceless. In Hebrew Scriptures, wisdom is
understood as a divine presence. Solomon has worked it
out. He cannot act in his own strength alone, he needs the
hand of God to guide him. And Paul’s words, from our New
Testament reading, are comforting and familiar to many of
us. He tells us (for the letter could well be written to
us today) that God has not abandoned us. God works on our
behalf – has worked on our behalf, and will do so in the
future. As we read Paul’s letter we are drawn into the
‘brothers and sisters’ comment; we are included. Paul
looks at how God’s love is in action whether or not we are
aware of it. When we try to pray but can find no words,
Paul says the Holy Spirit guides us. Indeed, I’ve found
during lockdown that being still in the garden can be
prayer; doing a repetitive task such as ironing can lead
into prayer. If we allow ourselves to be still, God will
know the intentions of our hearts. Nothing can separate us
from God, says Paul.
Do we believe that knowing God in Christ Jesus is the
greatest treasure we can have in this world and the next?
What word would you use to describe the kingdom of heaven?
Over the coming week, perhaps you can spend some time
thinking about God’s Kingdom, what it means to you, and
how it can be shared.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:15 pm.

Saturday, 25 July 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity VI
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen

From our acclamation at the beginning of today’s service:
“You are the temple of the living God,
And the Spirit of God dwells in you.
The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.
This is none other than the house of God,
And this is the gateway of heaven.”
During lockdown, it’s been said over and over again that
the church is not the building, it’s the people. And of
course, that’s right. We have all in our own way been
ministering to others during lockdown, and will continue
to do so, for that’s how and who we are. I know some of
you will be thinking, “I haven’t done anything!” But that
text you sent to someone, or that call you made just at
the right time? That’s ministering to others. Your work as
a key worker, which has probably been very difficult at
times throughout the last few months – that’s ministering
to others. Shopping for others, caring for them, checking
up on them? Ministering to others. That’s ‘being’ the

I wonder how you feel now that we are back in church. If
you have made the decision not to return just yet, I
wonder how you feel about actually returning through these
For our church building looks different with so many
chairs removed. Our Sunday Eucharist service has a
different feel to it, it’s a said Mass with some music
played by Paul on the organ. It’s easy to spot what is
missing – singing, servers, the choir, sitting closer
together – all the things that help to make us who we are
here in Oxley, and things that help us to find God in our
So why do we come to church?
People attend church for all sorts of reasons. They come
here for services of baptism, or for a blessing. They come
to attend a funeral or to remember someone they loved.
People come to church for weddings, for private prayer, or
to find a listening ear. Mostly, though, people come into
church to encounter God, to find something of the beauty
and glory of God. They come to find peace.
What brings you to church this morning?
I rather suspect there will be many different reasons.
Maybe you’ve come because for some reason you feel you
should be here, although you may not be able to explain
why. Maybe you’ve come because you have missed seeing
everyone. Perhaps you are here because somehow in some way
you feel closer to God when you are in church. Could it be
because you feel you need to receive the Sacrament, the
Body of Christ? Maybe you’ve come because you want to see
how it feels and what church looks like. Maybe you have
absolutely no idea why are here but found yourself here
Whatever the reason, that is the right reason for you.
There is no right or wrong answer – it wasn’t a trick
question! Whatever your reason for being here, you
recognise that this is none other than the house of God,
and the gateway to heaven.
For here we receive nourishment in Word and Sacrament to
help us in our everyday lives.
Here we are fed with God’s word.
Here we receive the Body of Christ to nourish and sustain
us for the week ahead.
I know that church is not the only place where we pray.
During lockdown we’ve realised prayer happens everywhere;
in the kitchen, the dining room, the bedroom, the garden,
wherever we are we know that God hears our prayer. There
is something special, however, in being in a ‘prayed in’
place and that’s what this House of God is. It’s a prayed
in place, prayed in for 60 years. Some of us will have
longed to be back here with everyone, worshipping God.
Here we encounter God in the Sacrament. Here we find the
peace that only Christ can offer, through God’s grace.
Our Old Testament reading from Isaiah speaks of the
timelessness of God. This is our God, into whose hands we
can confidently entrust our future, because He knows it
already. This is the God on whom we can depend in our
times of greatest anxiety, because He is changeless.
‘There is no other rock; I know not one.’ These words were
God’s words of comfort to the Judean exiles six centuries
BC. And today they offer comfort to the countless number
of people suffering physical and emotional disruption –
Covid 19 pandemic, racism, violence, climate change.
‘There is no other rock; I know not one.’
The parable in today’s Gospel gives us the message of
patience. Patience to allow crops to grow before wading in
to remove the weeds. Patience as we slowly begin to
rebuild our lives although the pandemic is still here –
the virus has not gone away. And we need that patience,
for this time is a gift. There might be an urge to return
to how we were pre Covid 19, but the gift of time offers
a chance to think about what works and what might be
changed. There is help as we wait – for we are offered
heavenly food. And here in Oxley we wait patiently to see
what happens next in our situation in a joint benefice,
amidst the sad closure of St Gregory’s, as together with
all our Christian family we wait for the harvest time.
As we seek to find God and to encounter Him in this place,
I’m reminded of a comment written by Margaret Silf in her
book ‘Taste and See.’ She writes about how we can try to
seek what God is like, about how His kingdom is, and how
He is asking us to be, and to join in. Returning to church
might feel daunting for some, joyful for others. However
it feels, think of this analogy: think of a jigsaw.
Picture yourself holding a piece of the jigsaw in your
hand. Without the whole, your piece has no meaning.
Without your piece, the meaning can never be whole.

It is so good to be here today, to be with you and
celebrating Holy Communion as we re-enter our beloved
church building.
You are the temple of the living God,
And the Spirit of God dwells in you.
The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.
This is none other than the house of God,
And this is the gateway of heaven.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:44 pm.

Monday, 13 July 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity V
I’m not much of a gardener. In the past, our garden has
been a football pitch;
it’s only the last couple of years that John and I have
had opportunity to
reclaim the garden and to begin to enjoy it. There is no
doubt that the garden
has been a blessing especially during the initial stages
of lockdown. Plants are
thriving through no help from ourselves, I hasten to add,
other than watering
them in dry periods. Our prized gooseberry bush, which
came originally from
my Nanny’s garden, has delivered plump, juicy berries,
which we duly passed
on to Mum and Dad. (I don’t like gooseberries but am very
attached to the
gooseberry bush!) The vibrant colours of the lavender and
the rose petals and
the glory of plants unnamed have been spectacular. (I
warned you I’m not a
gardener.) The bright colours have attracted all kinds of
bees and we have seen
dragonflies, butterflies, moths, even watched wasps
attracted to the colours
and pollen in the garden.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about how seeds may grow.
Now, I presume that
seeds grow better if planted in rich soil, nurtured,
protected by the rich
compost. So if the ground is trodden down, as it was on
the football pitch that
was our garden until a couple of years ago, any seeds
planted there will not be
able to develop in soil. They will simply stay on top of
the earth where the
birds will peck at them. And seeds sown on rocky soil (ie
where the soil began
to cover paving slabs in our garden) will not grow as
their roots cannot develop
properly. Seeds sown among thorns will not grow either -
ask Josh, who has
been generous in giving of his time to ensure our church
grounds are kept in as
good a condition as we can manage at the moment. He will
tell you how
quickly the thorns or invasive weeds will grow! But seeds
grown in cultivated
soil can thrive if they are nurtured.
Jesus explains his parable and we can see where he is
going with this. Jesus
gently talks with his listeners and takes time to explain.
I bet most of us
recognise ourselves in this parable. How difficult it has
been in recent weeks
and months to stay strong when we’re not being fed
spiritually by Holy
Communion and when we have been unable to support each
other face to
face. This parable reminded me to try to pay attention to
the soil of our lives.
So how can we do this? How can we try not to give up at
the first obstacle, or
how can we stay patient, positive and firm in our faith?
Jesus knows our

strengths and weaknesses. Whatever we do, it is enough if
we do it in loving
service of the One to whom we owe our very being. We
should not compare
ourselves to others but I bet many of us do! Whatever we
do for Christ, it is
As lockdown eases and life returns around us, what seed
represents you at the
Can you see a way to change from being a seed on the path,
or on the
trampled ground?
How can we help ourselves to be the good soil, to nurture
God’s word and to
spend time with Him? God’s word takes root, develops and
comes to maturity
within each one of us, if we allow it.
And finally, how can we help and encourage others to
cultivate good soil too?
I turn now to today’s Psalm, Psalm 65 that is on the
reading sheet. You may
recognise it as a psalm of thanksgiving and in past years,
we’ve said or sung this
especially at Harvest time. The theologian Walter
Brueggemann would
describe this as a ‘psalm of re-orientation’ following
challenging times as the
people of God came together to praise God. It strikes me
that it’s the perfect
psalm after the challenges of lockdown. Whether we’ve been
a key worker,
working flat out over recent months, or whether we have
been furloughed or
shielding at home, there is a feeling of re-ordering in
our lives. The last few
months have been difficult in different ways for different
people. We can give
thanks to God for bringing us thus far, thanking Him as
our lives begin to
reshape to the new challenges around us.
It seems an appropriate psalm as we prepare to reopen our
Church building for
public worship and to meet together to praise and pray.
Alas, we will not be
able to ‘shout for joy’ as the psalmist says, but we can
do so in the quiet of our
own hearts. However we choose to respond to Christ, we
know that God walks
this way with us.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:25 pm.

Saturday, 4 July 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity 4
I wonder, what are your favourite childhood memories? Or,
if you have worked with young children, what sort of
things have made you smile?
As an ex primary school teacher, one of the privileges I
had was working alongside all ages within a primary
school, from Reception (ages 4-5) up till Year 6 (ages 10-
11.) Reception age children learn through play. Within the
school nursery and Reception classrooms there were many
things to stimulate children’s imaginations. ‘Home
corners’ (I bet they’re not called that now!) encouraged
children to role play. I remember children playing in
shops, zoos, a circus, making plays with hand puppets;
they recreated their school world, ‘teaching’ their
friends and toys numbers and letter sounds. They made
sense of their world through stimulated play, guided by
nurturing adults.
A few years ago, the Brownies made bug hotels, which they
left around the church hall grounds. I remember
overhearing a conversation between two 8 year olds. “Let’s
make the hotel here, find more sticks!” said Brownie A.
“Yeah, and let’s make little beds for the insects, I’ve
found some feathers and flower petals!” enthusiastically
replied Brownie B.
So it’s fairly easy to picture the market place scene
Jesus talks about, where children recreate their world
around them, where in their culture they would have
experienced the wailing of mourners at funerals and the
joy of family life at weddings. I wonder why Jesus used
these examples when he taught his disciples and the
crowds. He spoke with those who had rejected John the
Baptist’s message, and with those who were quite frankly
confused by Jesus’s own message. And I wonder what Jesus
made of their lack of understanding. He speaks of
‘wisdom,’ which the Jews would have recognised through
their sacred writings. Wisdom was seen as the Law, part of
the creation spirit. Jesus – as ever – shocks. Wisdom
here, he says, is revealed to the children – in other
words to the ignored, to the lowly.
Jesus finishes by saying, “Come to me, and I will give you
rest. I will comfort you.” I wonder, of what were they
weary? He invites us all to come to Him. Are we weary of
everyday life, or of the inner battles we have within
ourselves? Weary of the battle of feeling never quite
accepted, or good enough? Whatever the burden, says Jesus,
lay it upon him. He could also have been referring to the
religious burdens of the time, the relentless rules that
seemed to turn people from God through their exclusivity.
Today’s Gospel speaks to our current time as we gently
ease out of lockdown as the impact of the pandemic
decreases. Covid 19 is still there, though. We mustn’t
become complacent, we still have to remain alert. This can
help us to think through our faith, too. We must try not
to become complacent, and think through how we can be
content and how we can rest with Jesus.
Of course, this doesn’t mean life will be simple or easy.
Probably the opposite if I’m honest, for to follow Jesus
means that we too are to speak up for justice, to speak
out when there is inequality, to recognise those in our
society who have no voice. True rest in Jesus is the
certainty that we work in his service, upheld in his love.
As we look to reopen church for public worship, I’m
mindful that this may seem a scary step. There will be
more news next week about how the building will look, how
we can safely receive Holy Communion and so on. Rest
assured we are working hard behind the scenes to try to
get all this right. We are well aware that some people are
still shielding. We are aware, too, how scary it can be
to go out and about if you are in the ‘vulnerable’
category – being in that category myself, I totally get
it. I’m also mindful that new habits can very quickly
become the norm. I’m delighted that so many of you have
been able to worship, albeit virtually, at Lichfield
Cathedral Sunday by Sunday during lockdown. And I know
from conversations with many of you that you’ve found it
an interesting experience to ‘attend’ church still in your
pyjamas, with your coffee and breakfast to hand! But I’d
like you to think also about how we receive Christ. We
take the Sacraments seriously. At the Eucharist we have
chance to come as we are before Christ. There is something
almost indescribable, beyond description happening here.
We come towards the altar just as we are, with
outstretched hands, humbly offering all of ourselves to
the One who sustains us, the One who gives us life. And we
receive Him in bread and in wine (although for now Holy
Communion has to be in one kind only.) “The Body of
Christ,” the priest says as the bread is placed into your
hands. In some way, Christ is present. The real presence
of Christ is felt as we offer ourselves around the altar.
We take, we bless, we break, we share, as the Body of
Jesus encourages us to accept his love, his welcome. By
doing so we share His love and welcome with others.
So for today and this week, a couple of questions to mull
Are we brave enough to let go of our burdens, and allow
ourselves to be carried by Christ?
If so, how do we allow ourselves to be fed spiritually?
Are we humble enough to walk this journey with Jesus?

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:34 pm.

Saturday, 4 July 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity 3
On the retreat before I was ordained deacon two years ago,
the retreat conductor used a particular prayer at the
beginning and end of each address. She gave five
addresses, based as you might expect on vocation. She
talked about telling the Story and telling our own story;
telling the story of a place; listening to and telling
difficult stories; thinking about other peoples’ stories;
and finally preach and live the story.
The prayer she used each time was the prayer set for the
post-communion prayer today. This prayer had a great
impact on me, and I was delighted when I saw it is today’s
prayer. One of my favourite post communion prayers, I
think it goes deeper each time I read it.
Post Communion prayer for Trinity 3

O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

I find this prayer particularly helpful when I can’t find
the words I need. Prayer isn’t always about words, and
this prayer gives me images which help me. Beauty is in
the eye of the beholder, goes the saying, and what I
perceive as beautiful might not appeal to someone else,
and vice versa. I’m pretty sure, however, that we all
experience in some way those moments that speak to us of
God. Those moments when a sunset might make you catch your
breath, or of a tiny child smiling at a trusted adult, or
of a beautiful sky at night – you will have your own
images, I’m sure. Two weeks ago, John and I sat in the
garden one evening to say Night Prayer. Just as we
finished, the sky clouded over and everywhere went still.
The whole atmosphere changed; we could sense how electric
and sultry it became. The evening sky grew dark and then
came release as a torrential downpour. And then came that
moment, that ‘beyond my imagining’ moment, of the most
glorious rainbow arching its way in the sky over the
housetops, the glorious sign of God’s promise to us all of
His faithfulness to us, his children.
The prayer also beseeches God to show us his glory as far
as we can grasp it. We see God everywhere. In creation, in
each other, in acts of loving kindness. Sometimes, though,
we may have that glimpse of something so powerful we have
no words with which to articulate our feelings, and so the
‘shield us from knowing more than we can bear’ is an
acknowledgment that all we are and all we have comes from
So, what’s this to do with today’s Gospel?
Simply this. We are instructed to go out as Disciples of
Christ to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. There
will be good times, and difficult times. Whether we are
still shielding at home, working from home, or whether we
have been working as a key worker throughout this
pandemic, or are now beginning to return to work, we are
still called to do God’s work. We are called to proclaim
God’s word in word and deed. I said two weeks ago that
what we do, matters. What we say, matters. Never more
has that been so, as lockdown restrictions ease and some
of us are given a sense of freedom. That comes with a
price – to be responsible we have to obey social
distancing rules, and be mindful of all the hygiene
And yes, we long to be together again as the Body of
Christ, to worship together and to receive the Sacrament
of Holy Communion. But the Church is not the building – we
are the Church. Jesus told his disciples to go and spread
the Word of God. And each time we pray, or speak of God or
our faith, or do an act of kindness, or work to the best
of our ability in whatever we do, or make that unexpected
telephone call, we are doing as those early disciples were
asked to do. I can’t pretend it’s easy – some days are
easier than others. Which brings me back to the post
communion prayer. If we truly believe we are God’s beloved
children, we have the freedom to acknowledge that we’re
not perfect, that we won’t always get things right, that
there are times when we think we ‘get it’ and times when
we can’t see God at work no matter how hard we try. This
prayer grounds us. If we let it.
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

As ever, you are in my prayers.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:33 pm.

Saturday, 20 June 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity 2
As a small girl, I can well remember saying to my Mum,
“It’s not fair!” when I wanted to be able to join the
choir in church. Back then, it was men/boys only in the
choir and in the sanctuary: male servers, male priest, a
choir of men and boys. “I know it’s not fair,” replied
Mum, and so I went off to join the Brownies, an
organisation just for girls. Well, I don’t remember my
brothers saying that wasn’t fair either! (Had they wanted
to, they could have joined the Scouting organisation.)
However, joining the Brownies was the best thing I could
ever have done, for there I found space to be me. I’ve
said many times that my faith in God and my lifetime
involvement in Girlguiding have formed me into who I am,
in to the person God intended me to be.
And in recent months, during lockdown, we have all been
aware of a sense of how unfair situations in life can be.
How can it be fair that some people were critically ill,
and others not; how can it be fair that some people lost
their jobs, how can it be fair that school pupils have
lost so much of their education. How can it be fair for
some places of work to re-open, and not others? And the
biggest question of all, how could God allow such a virus
to spread through the world?
My reply to that question – yes, it came up a lot in phone
conversations – was that God is with us throughout – but
more of that in a minute.
Manchester United player Marcus Rashford used his fame and
his huge following to campaign for children in lower
income families to have access to meals during the summer
holidays. The campaign was swift, gained huge momentum and
was successful in its conclusion. Vouchers will now be
made available to those families known to schools to be in
need. Marcus looks to be taking this a step further,
looking at how universal credit is applied and asking the
question, “is this fair?” Added to the fears over Covid 19
and the questions that arise from the Black Lives Matter
rallies, I cannot think of a better ambassador to help us
move to be a fairer, more just society. He remembers his
roots, his history, and is prepared to speak out.

In our Old Testament reading, there is a cry of outrage
against God, and our Epistle speaks of a new life in
Christ. In our Gospel reading, Jesus warns his disciples
that they will face tough times. He reassures the
disciples that God knows every hair on their heads, that
they are valued. They are loved.
And we are loved, loved by God, the God to whom we turn in
good times and bad, the God on whom we can rely, the God
who watches over us and who wants us to be part of his
Kingdom. God is involved in every aspect of our lives. And
I think it’s okay for us not to know the answers (I
certainly don’t) – but to rest in the belief that God’s
got this. Following Jesus is never going to be an easy
ride. We are called to speak out against injustice, to
serve others.
Whilst mulling over this week’s readings, I listened to
Classic FM and heard one of my favourite pieces of music,
Finlandia by Sibelius. I offer the words of the hymn, ‘Be
Still, My Soul, which we sing to the tune of Finlandia, as
a way of encouragement for the week ahead, with my love
and prayers as always.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still my soul; your best, your heavn’ly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake,
all now mysterious shall be clear at last.
Be still, my soul: the tempests still obey
His voice, who ruled them once on Galilee.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be for ever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
sorrow forgotten, love’s pure joy restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Katharina von Schlegel translated Jane L. Borthwick
CCLI 430363

Posted by Janet Taylor at 4:38 pm.

Thursday, 18 June 2020:

Thoughts for the week

Trinity 1
Arranging a pastoral visit in someone’s garden a couple of
days ago, I found myself thinking, “I hope it doesn’t
rain!” What else have I hoped for? Like many of you, I
hope that life can safely return to some kind of normality
soon. I hope Wolves can continue to win matches when the
Premier league continues to play their games behind closed
doors. I hope that the global pandemic will ease. I hope
that countries can work together for the good of all. I
hope that injustice and social unrest can be talked
through, learned from, and that we can be more
understanding of each other.
Hope is a strange word in a way. It can be used as a wish
list, looking ahead to what you think or know will happen.
Paul’s message of hope in today’s Epistle means far more
than any wish list. It expresses a deep hope in God:
absolute trust in Him to whom we owe our very being. This
is not confidence in our own ability, but confidence in
God’s strength, through faith.
In our Old Testament reading, the children of Israel
arrive at Mount Sinai. This marks the fulfilment of God’s
promise to Moses at the burning bush - you can read about
that in Exodus 3. Here we have the covenant made between
God and the children of Israel.
And our Gospel reading today reminds us of those early
disciples. Those ordinary people, who so often got things
wrong, who denied they knew Jesus, who doubted, who
betrayed Jesus. Ordinary men and women like you and me.
They made mistakes. They kept going. They kept trying.
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus teaching, healing, and
preaching. The disciples are called to do the same.
Jesus gives them their instructions to proclaim the Good
News of the Kingdom. We are called to do this by our
actions as well as our words. That text you send to
someone who is shielding might be the very thing he or she
needs to hear. The phone call you make might be the only
conversation someone has that day. Your smile might make
all the difference to a tired shop assistant. What we do,
matters. What we say, matters.
Every one of us is called to minister to others, to do as
those first disciples did. We are called to spread the
Good News. To speak about Jesus and His love. We are
called to continue Christ’s work here on earth. Speak out
against injustice; try to understand others’ points of
view, point the way to Christ.
One helpful way to pray when words are hard to come by and
time is precious, is to repeat a few words several times.
Earlier this week, someone sent me this mantra: ‘Be
joyful, keep the faith, do the little things.’ Is this
what Jesus was intimating? Rejoice in God’s promise, stay
firm in your faith, do what you can.
As I prayed through the Lectionary readings for today, a
prayer from the Ignatian tradition kept coming into my
head. I offer it to you now – many of you will know it –
together with the mantra ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, do
the little things.’
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.
As ever, you remain in my prayers. We are working hard to
be able to open church for private prayer; please hold
Janet and John in prayer as they check the risks involved
in opening our beloved building.
With love,

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:28 pm.

Sunday, 10 May 2020:

Dementia Action Week

As restrictions on our daily lives continue it offers us
opportunities to reflect. Our normal social activities
and methods of contact are put on hold and our chances to
celebrate, comfort and support one another restricted.
As we head into Dementia Action Week I ask that as a
church we continue with our support and prayers for those
Living with Dementia. It would be lovely if those of you
who can use your skills to knit twiddle muffs or an
activity blanket that we could either distribute to homes
in need in the local area or keep in church for those who
may need them. A twiddle muff has been proven effective
in minimising agitation and other behavioural symptoms
for those with Dementia. Please see the instructions
included, this could be adapted in anyway to suit

During the week I ask that you pray for those living with
Dementia, their carers, their loved ones and for all
those who dedicate time and intelligence in to Dementia
research. This time last year the BBC aired a programme
called ‘The Dementia Choir’ I may have already spoken
about this but it was incredible to watch, extremely
emotional, heart warming yet heart wrenching at the same
time. The confidence, support and joy the choir brought
to all was incredible. The programme proved how, sadly,
this disease can affect ANYONE.
During these unprecedented times I feel for those living
with dementia who are no longer able to have visits from
their loved ones, for the families who wonder if they
will be remembered when they are able to visit again, for
the dementia choir who bring so much joy to all and are
having to adapt and sing together via video call. We pay
for the strength carers need not only to work alongside
those with Dementia but also with the added pressures of
the current COVID-19 situation, the way they have adapted
to continue contact with family and friends and continue
to offer their support and stimulation to those in need.

Let prayer be our help, let prayer be our strength, let
prayer rise like a fountain of love.
May we come together in prayer for all those affected by

With love and prayers, Jenni Ellis Church Dementia

Posted by Josh Taylor at 7:32 pm.

Thursday, 30 April 2020:

60th Anniversary

Today (30th April 2020) is the 60th Anniversary of the
Consecration of the
Church of the Epiphany by the Bishop of Lichfield.

We had plans to celebrate this but for now all plans are on

But today we can still pray for the church family and the
parish including all the homes, schools and businesses
within it.

God bless
Posted by Janet Taylor at 3:13 pm.

Saturday, 25 April 2020:


We pray for all of those who work in our National Health
Service, care sectors and for key workers and for all
their families.

We also remember all of those who are struggling with
isolation. We pray for those who feel alone, vulnerable
and are overwhelmed by anxiety at this time.

God of love and hope,
you made the world and care for all creation,
but the world feels strange right now.
The news is full of stories about Coronavirus.
Some people are worried that they might get ill.
Others are anxious for their family and friends.
Be with them and help them to find peace.
We pray for the doctors and nurses and scientists,
and all who are working to discover the right medicines
to help those who are ill.
Thank you that even in these anxious times,
you are with us.
Help us to put our trust in you and keep us safe.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:34 pm.

Sunday, 19 April 2020:

Thoughts for the week

A couple of thoughts for today and this week.

Our Gospel reading from John chapter 20 reminds us that
Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to hold onto him, and that
he tells the disciples to touch him.
The reality of the Resurrection means that life will never
be the same as before. The disciples and Mary can no
longer hold on to the Jesus they once knew, nor can they
have the past back. They – and we – cannot possess Jesus.
We cannot hold him, but we are assured that he holds us.

After this pandemic – and there will be some sort of end –
life will not return back to normal, whatever ‘normal’
was. We may return to work, or to visiting people, back to
meetings and – with joy, I hope – back to worship
together, but none of us will be the same. We will all
have changed, and maybe we need to acknowledge that. We
need each other, we need our own space, and maybe we
should acknowledge our need of God, too. Whatever our
situation now, we know that he loves us, and holds us as
we move forwards.

From A Most Amazing Man by Nick Fawcett :
Meditation of Matthew
I feel sorry for Thomas,
For people talk of him in the same breath as doubt,
As if the two are synonymous,
Each belonging together.
OK, so he didn’t believe at first, I’ll grant you that,
But he wasn’t alone:
We all struggled at the beginning to accept it was really
him –
Our friend Jesus, returned to life
And standing there among us.
We’d seen him crucified, remember,
His body dragged from the cross and laid in a tomb,
Limp and lifeless.
And when we’d gathered together that first day of the
The doors were locked and bolted,
For we were scared stiff our enemies would come for us
As they’d come just days before for Jesus.
Would you have expected him to stroll in suddenly,
As if nothing had happened?
To appear out of the blue by your side,
Alive and well?
Of course not.
You’d have pinched yourself, as we did,
Rubbed your eyes in amazement
Convinced you were seeing things,
The light playing tricks with your eyes.
None of us believed completely
Until he showed us his hand and his side;
And we could see for ourselves it was true.
So don’t be too hard on Thomas…
Or on yourself.
For Jesus didn’t condemn him any more than the rest of us.
He asks for faith,
And he’ll help it to grow,
But he understands doubt,
And will help that to go.

Loving God,
When we find faith hard,
All kinds of questions forcing themselves into our mind,
All sorts of doubts arising, unbidden and refusing to be
Save us from hiding them away,
As if they are a guilty secret,
A weakness to be ashamed of;
And save us from pretending they aren’t there –
Sweeping them under the carpet
And struggling on with them unresolved.
Teach us to bring them honestly before you,
Seeking your guidance and insight,
So that we may understand more of you and your ways.
Nurture our belief,
And help us to deal with our unbelief,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:53 am.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020:

Stations of the Cross

This year as we can't physically follow the Stations of the Cross in church we have
brought them to you here with prayers that are relevant to the current global
situation. Please take a few moments with each station while reading the prayer.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:48 pm.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020:

Curate's Blog

What strange times we live in.
Half the population on ‘lockdown’ and only going out for
essential shopping or for some exercise. Children are at
home in the main, although schools and nurseries are open
for children who need care if parents are key workers.
Children at home brings its own problems; some schools
sending out packs of work to be completed, others try to
teach through the internet and virtual classrooms, others
direct pupils to use various websites and apps. This puts
pressure on parents and carers to recreate school at home
– an almost impossible scenario – so life at home may not
be as harmonious as many would have us believe. Then there
are the workers – those who have to work, although they
may feel at risk: doctors, nurses, all hospital staff,
pharmacists, pharmacy dispensers, shop assistants,
delivery drivers, shelf stackers, post office workers,
teachers and school staff, priests and ministers and so
The government advice is to stay safe, to stay at home if
possible, to keep a safe space between us if we do have to
venture out.

So half of the country is on ‘lock down’ and winding down,
learning how to use their time and how to stay in touch
with people when we can’t just pop out to have a chat.
Others are risking their own health by still working
because their occupation means that they are classed as a
key worker.

Nothing feels the same. Everything feels different.

So where is God in all this?
Part of me feels all over the place, missing routine,
meeting with people, popping in for a chat and a coffee –
that sort of thing. We’re missing our church services, our
fellowship, Holy Communion; in short, we are missing being
face to face with others. I’m getting used to Chapter
(local clergy) meetings over the internet by video links.
But we are still in Lent, when we remember Jesus was in
the wilderness, on his own, challenged.
Exactly as we are.
And God walks with us now as He always has and He always
will. “I am with you always,” said Jesus.
We may feel on our own; we may feel frightened and anxious
– normal feelings in the circumstances, I think. Try to
rest in God, whether you are a key worker or at home.
Trust in the God who cares for you. Trust in God who holds
And pray. And if all around you feels hopeless, try
lighting a candle and just stare at the flame. Remember
you are not on your own. You are always in God’s presence
and you are a beloved child of God.

With my love and prayers,

Posted by Janet Taylor at 5:43 pm.

Friday, 3 January 2020:

60 Years Anniversary

This year marks the 60 year anniversary of the Church of the
Epiphany being on it's current site and 50 years of our
church hall.

We will, hopefully, be having some events to celebrate this.

Starting off with our Feast of title on Monday 6th January
2020. There will be a Eucharist with Clive, Bishop of
Wolverhampton, presiding followed by refreshments in the

Keep checking back here for more information about events
later in the year.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:54 pm.

Friday, 25 October 2019:

Curate's Blog

I write this on my return from a curates’ study weekend at
Queen’s. It was good to have the
opportunity to live in community, to study, pray and
worship together. What made it a special
weekend is that the timetable allowed us the opportunity
to reflect, relax, to simply ‘be.’ Sometimes
we can be too busy to allow things to settle, to reflect.
And we were blessed with such beautiful weather! I sat
outside in the sun with my book, journal, and
water. Loads of things raced round my head – thoughts
about mission and ministry and apologetics,
my head felt as if it was like a spider’s web with so many
thoughts going off at tangents. Eventually,
thoughts must have flown out of my head. I was acutely
aware of the warmth of the sun’s rays on
my skin, aware of the bird song, the rustle of the
squirrels in the trees and in the fallen leaves on the
grass. The sky – had it ever been such a deep blue?
Gradually, almost imperceptibly, conscious
thought disappeared. Without realising it and certainly
not by design, I was aware of God.
Similarly, during a recent walk with John, over Cannock
Chase, I couldn’t help but notice the stunning
spiders’ webs in the trees and heather. We heard squirrels
chittering away to each other, and heard
their movements in the trees above us as they leapt from
tree to tree. We watched with amusement
as the squirrels darted around, delicately picking
blackberries off the bushes and sat nibbling them
with evident enjoyment. Again, I became aware of the
quiet. All my senses seemed to play as one –
aware of the breeze on my face, the sound of the birdsong,
the stunning colour of berries and the
leaves turning colour. I was aware of God. Yes, I gloried
in His creation not to worship the creation
but the Creator Himself.
I remembered that Jesus often went into the desert or the
hillside to pray. It was one way to escape
the crowds, but I wonder if it was also a way for him to
feel closer to his Father.
One of the ways I am keeping this season of Creationtide
is to follow a short morning prayer taken
from Eco Church Southwest. Today’s reflection feels
timely, so I quote:
There are lots of people who feel close to God in church,
and churches are designed to aid that
encounter. But for many people—most people, even—
they feel closer to God when they are outside,
walking the dog, or pottering in the garden, or climbing a
mountain, or out on the bike.
So often people feel afraid to admit this, even to
themselves, and so think that because they struggle
to engage with God in a church building then perhaps they
can’t engage with God at all—this is not
true. God is the same everywhere, but we are not.
Do you have a particular place where you feel closer to
(B. Stanley ‘Forest Church’, Mystic Christ Press 2013)
Something to think about.
Rev Anne
Posted by Janet Taylor at 1:11 pm.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019:

Curate's Blog

Time to look forward, and time to reflect

This time last year, I wrote about looking for God in the
unexpected – noticing God’s creation around
us, trying to slow down to allow God ‘s voice to be heard,
to notice and to be attentive to the world
around us.
I would still like to say that today, but in a slightly
different way.
We are now in a period of Interregnum, or Vacancy, as
Gennie has moved to take up a new post in
Scotland. The Church of England doesn’t seem to move
quickly; there are processes to go through in
appointing our next vicar and the wardens and PCC will be
actively involved in this process.
However, we could be without a parish priest for quite a
while. During the interregnum, however,
our life at Epiphany will continue and if we allow it, can
grow. What do I mean by that?
Well, I mean that we all have a part to play. Without
wishing to rehash my sermon about vocation,
we are all called to be who we are, with our various gifts
and talents. We can all look out for each
other – the wardens have already asked us to do that. Can
you help with flowers, or clean, or make
coffee? Can you offer to serve, or think about joining the
choir? Could you read a lesson, or the
intercessions? Do you have any ideas for the social
committee? Would you like to learn more about
what goes on behind the scenes, or to have a monthly Bible
study group?
All gifts and talents are from God. Yes, we nurture them
and practice, or rehearse, or learn, new
things to enhance our gifts, but remember our gifts are
God-given. So in worship we offer our very
selves to God. And if we are worshipping in that way, we
will grow.
We have chance to reflect on the past, and to change our
future. If we hold our focus on God, and
our witness to the community here in Oxley, and take time
to listen to God and to pray and be
together, we will grow. We will grow as a worshipping
community in love for each other, and we will
grow spiritually ourselves.
My prayer is that we will all find time and space to
reflect where we are as individuals, and to offer
our gifts and talents in whatever way we can to God.
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:30 pm.

Friday, 28 June 2019:

Summer Fayre

Thank you to everyone who supported our Summer Fayre.
We raised £850 and still have donations coming in.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:36 am.

Saturday, 1 June 2019:

Raffle prizes

Below are some of the prizes in our Grand Raffle which
will be held at our Summer Fayre on Saturday 15th June
2019 at 11am, the draw will take place at approx 1pm.
We would like to than everyone who has donated prizes; see
list below.

Top 3 prizes

£50 Experience day Voucher -

Cream tea for 2 - Halfpenny Green Wine Estate

£25 voucher - David Austin Roses

Some of the other prizes, not in order:

6 Half price tickets for the Panto - Grand Theatre

Selection of stationery - Oxley Stationers and Printers

7 day family pass - Nuffield Health

1 Month membership pass - Nuffield Health

2 Family passes - The Judge's Lodging

1 Bicycle helmet - Hatley's bike shop

6 Admission and race cards - Monmore Green Greyhound track

2 x 2 Brewery tour vouchers - Bank's Brewery

2 children's tickets - Dudley Zoo

2 Main meals - Gatehouse, Hungry Horse

1 Manicure voucher - Pure Beauty

Plus many more.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:28 pm.

Friday, 12 April 2019:

Curate's Blog

Curate’s blog
With Holy Week and Easter fast approaching, the APCM,
services to prepare, sermons to pray through and write, it
feels as if time is running away with me. We all get so
busy it’s good to take a few moments to reflect and to
take time to breathe.

I wonder if you stop for a moment to consider all that
goes on behind the scenes for our services. Hymns are
chosen, reading sheets prepared, notices emailed to
Michael to go on the weekly sheet, which is then produced
and printed off for our use. In church, bread and wine is
out ready, candles lit, lights switched on, microphone
switched on, fire exits opened, altar candles filled with
oil, the collection plate is in situ ready for our
offerings – the list goes on. Readers prepare to read,
intercessions are written, the altar is prepared and we’re
good to go. There’s more to it than that, though. Sermons
do not write themselves – they are thought through, prayed
over, as they are prepared. Our worship each Sunday
morning happens because so many folk know what they are
doing and are prepared, for which I – for one – say a huge
thank you.

Recently I’ve visited people, both for funerals and for
more general pastoral visits. I’ve attended a study day
at Shallowford, and a day course on upkeep of church
buildings, churchyards and fundraising. Support from my
fellow curates, as ever, is invaluable as we all minister
in different situations and we learn from each other. I’m
preparing for Holy Week, beginning to source liturgy and
to think through sermons. School assemblies form part of
my brief; having delivered an assembly on Lent, I’m now
preparing the Easter assembly for Rakegate Primary and
Gennie will be doing the same at Bushbury Lane Academy
and Long Knowle Primary. .

What is the driving force behind what we do? The big thing
for me is that we do all this not in our own strength, but
in God’s, as we minister in His name and to His glory. We
have such a lot to share, we should shout it from the

It’s so important to try not to be too busy to hear God’s
still, small voice. To that end, I’m reading a new book
entitled The Easter Stories by Trevor Dennis, and, with
Leanne, am reading a Margaret Silf book ‘O Taste and See’.
The latter gives insights as to how we can still ourselves
to find God around and within us. It certainly offers food
for thought.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:56 pm.

Thursday, 14 February 2019:

Curate's Blog

Curate’s blog
In church on the fourth Sunday of Epiphany, Gennie
suggested that we try to allow ourselves time to
think of things we are grateful for. It’s often easy to
think of what’s going wrong in our lives, or of
challenges and difficulties which we all face from time to
time. Being grateful for blessings received
and trying to be open and aware to the good things in our
lives is I think partly a state of mind. If I’m
really fed up, I will struggle to remember to be grateful
for things and will see only a huge ‘to-do’ list
which seems endless. So, I try very hard each day to find
something to be positive and grateful
about. Once I began to think like this, it’s hard to stop
at just one thing each day – but thinking of
one thing each day is a good place to begin.

Last week, I felt tired and under pressure to complete
assignments (yes, I still have essays to write)
together with all the other things I am expected to do. I
felt fairly grotty too, which didn’t help. One
afternoon I had to go out for an hour. As I climbed
wearily out of the car, I heard the most beautiful
song coming from branches above me. It was a very dreary
and dismal day, and it was easy to spot
the most beautiful little robin amongst the branches. He
sang so loudly and clearly and for five
minutes, I stayed still, watching and listening.

On one level, this is a story of a little robin singing.
On another, it spoke to me of God. It was a
blessing, a few minutes respite, and certainly something
to be grateful for. I needed to refocus and to
remember the bigger picture. One writer who writes about
thinking in this way is Margaret Silf. I’ve
mentioned her before, she writes about Ignation
spirituality and shows how we can focus on God in
our everyday lives. I find myself repeatedly drawn back
to her books and each time I learn a little
more about myself, and become a little more aware of God
at work in our lives. If you’d like to
borrow any of her books or find out a little more about
her or Ignation spirituality, have a word with

With Lent beginning on March 6 th , we have opportunities
to go deeper with God. Some of you will be
aware that we had ‘diocese mystery worshippers’ visit us
in October last year. They said how friendly
and welcoming we are as a church and congregation, but one
of the comments they made was that it
is very noisy before the Eucharist service. Is it worth
trying to be in church five or ten minutes earlier
than usual before our Sunday Eucharist, and using the time
for quiet prayer, as a Lentern discipline?

Just a thought.

Rev Anne
Posted by Janet Taylor at 4:27 pm.

Sunday, 16 December 2018:

Christmas poem

Christmas Poem

This has to be my favourite Christmas poem of all time.
The author was a Quaker who used to write a new poem each
year to send in Christmas cards to her friends. I love
the way that this poem plays with the ‘before’ (BC) and
turns it into AD (the year of our Lord.) The year of our
Lord. It strikes me afresh each Christmas that the year
Christ was born, everything, but everything, changed. It
was an ordinary event. The birth of a child born to a
young couple, an everyday occurrence. But it was no
ordinary baby, no ordinary birth, and we are invited to
walk ‘haphazard into starlight’ into the kingdom of
Plenty to think about!
Rev Anne

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
U.A. Fanthorpe

Rev Anne
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:03 pm.

Sunday, 21 October 2018:


This year the memories of the end of World War I may
appear more poignant. We remember the end
of World War I each year, but this year we will be
commemorating 100 years since the end of the
Great War. When we remember, what are we doing?
There is an argument as we remember the end of the war,
on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day
of the eleventh month, that we are glorifying war and all
the associated thoughts and ideas.
However, I think that it is important to
remember. Those soldiers were being disciples, doing
discipleship just as Jesus did. I suspect none of us
wants war and it is painful to remember that,
twenty years after WWI, WWII began. The important thing
is for us to remember ALL nationalities,
not just ‘our brave lads’. Each memory has another side
to it. For example, as we remember the
Dambusters from WWII, it is important to remember that,
for the Germans, it was a civilian disaster
as the valley was flooded. Ordinary people, people like
you and me, drawn into a war that they
probably did not want.
How can we achieve peace? Hope UK has 100 days of peace,
with prayers and readings from 4 th
August until 11 November – have a look at their website
for prayers for peace. Alternatively, light a
candle and stay in the quiet, remembering, and praying
for peace. All those who were involved in
WWI believed that they were fighting for peace. A
worldwide peace will never happen until nations
allow themselves to listen to other nations, to
understand where they are coming from, to
remember. Peace has to be built.
We can pray. We can remember, and in the two minutes
silence allow ourselves to go deeper into the
silence. We can pray for the armed forces of today and
for their families.
A prayer for Remembrance Sunday from the Church of
England website:
O Lord, our maker and our strength, from whose love in
Christ we can never be parted either by
death or defeat: May our remembrance this day deepen our
sorrow for the loss and wastes of war,
make us more grateful to those who courageously gave
their lives to defend this land and
commonwealth; and may all who bear the scars and memories
of conflicts, past and present, know
your healing love for the sake of Jesus Christ, the
Prince of Peace. Amen

Rev Anne
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:16 pm.

Monday, 10 September 2018:

Curate's Scribbles from Rev. Anne

Curate’s Scribbles

It’s been a whirlwind 6 months or so, with lectures,
residential weekends and assignments to complete, so it
was almost a relief to reach the middle of June and
submit all the assignments required. However, there was
no time to rest! My robes and clerical blouses had not
arrived, we were already receiving notification of the
next stage of our training as curates, John and I were
trying to arrange the caterers for the party for after my
ordination and the list goes on and on.
So in a way it was almost a relief to reach the end of
June and to go on our pre-ordination retreat. Firstly,
the 18 curates to be ordained Deacon at Lichfield
Cathedral had to go to a rehearsal at the Cathedral,
wearing our cassocks, on Thursday 28th June. Following
this, we all went to Shallowford House near Stone for our
retreat. Of course, Shallowford now feels very well
known to me, but I was struck afresh by its prayerful
Our retreat was conducted by a residential canon,
Georgina, from Worcester Cathedral and the theme was
‘Telling the Story.’ Over the weekend we had five
addresses from Georgina, plus a Eucharist. We had
silence and plenty of time to walk around and to read. I
read a book by Paula Gooder, ‘Phoebe’ which I will write
about at a later date; it was perfect reading and I
thoroughly recommend it. On Saturday Bishop Michael came
to hear us swear our oaths in the Chapel, wearing our
cassocks – a solemn moment – and to give us his charge.
That afternoon ten of the ordinands departed for the
Cathedral ready for their ordination service that
Thank you to everyone who prayed for us and who came
along to the Cathedral to support me. July 1st was a day
that will live long in my memory. I think I cried through
much of the service. It felt very profound that, on that
Sunday morning, the ordinands were all women. The choir
was amazing, I loved the Elgar anthem which felt as if it
washed over us during Communion. The sun shone, the music
was sublime, and the preacher preached about Wolves! What
was not to like? The service was meaningful and very
Thank you, too, to everyone who was able to come back to
the church hall at Oxley and celebrate with us. It was
wonderful to see Fr Colin, who left Oxley 30 years ago,
joining us along with previous curates, priests and
interim ministers – Pat, Roberta and Keith, who came to
celebrate with us.
So, what now? Time to rest? Well, given that the new
Curates had a meeting at Shallowford two days later, not
really! We have been given our curate handbooks and have
dates for residential weekends and for training days and
evenings. I know already that in the new year I have to
hand in a 5000 word essay based on our parish … so the
academic work continues for the next three years. The
big difference of course is that I can ‘do’ things. It
was a privilege to baptise Cameron in our morning
Eucharist on Sunday 8th July, and again to baptise little
Rachel Sharon Louise on Sunday 29th July. Please pray
for them and for their families and Godparents/Sponsors
in their new beginnings as Christians.
There is much to learn, and I am grateful to Fr Michael
and Gennie for opportunities and time to reflect. I’m
excited about the new beginnings and am really looking
forward to my year as Deacon. Thank you to you all for
your support and encouragement; it is such a privilege to
be in this position.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:08 pm.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018:

Thank you

On Sunday we thanked John for his 20+ years as Church

A big thank you from us all, we really appreciate all you
have done and will still be doing.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:37 pm.

Friday, 27 April 2018:

Ordinand’s report April 2018

It feels strange to think that, after all this time, you
are reading my penultimate Ordinand’s report! How time
flies. We (as ordinands) are nearing the end of our
studies and time together. We have almost finished our
second module on Doctrine, and we are still working on
Christian Theology, Ritual and Pastoral Care, and
Preparing for Denominational Ministry.
Sadly, our 4th study/residential weekend at Queen’s was
cancelled due to the snow we experienced in March. I was
partly relieved at not having to travel but also partly
gutted. We have only one weekend left now, plus Easter
School. I was so looking forward to that particular
weekend as well, for we were looking at Baptism and
liturgy associated with that, as well as there being a
clerical clothing event in college so that we would have
the opportunity to try on clerical shirts, robes and so
on. Also, I’m keenly aware that my study time with some
of my friends is coming to an end and many of us felt
cheated out of time spent together!
I will be away at Queen’s for Easter School from 7th
April. We’ll be studying Psalms and also Baptism and
Funeral rites and so on. Our week will be crammed full
as we have the missed weekend to try to catch up on.
Looking ahead, and we are now very, very busy.
Assignment deadlines come thick and fast, made more
difficult now that Queen’s Library (one of the best
theological libraries in the country) is out of action
for much of the time due to 3 old Victorian pipes
bursting on that snowy weekend. In a way, it’s a good
job our residential weekend was cancelled or else we
would all have had to be evacuated. Ceilings came down,
obviously there was water damage to the student kitchens
and bedrooms on both accommodation floors of the Old
Building and there was damage to the library and student
common room. Thankfully only 78 books have had to be
sent to go in a freezer to dry out, but with health and
safety in force the library is open at reduced times.
Queen’s are doing their best to ensure that we all have
some access to books but it’s not the same as browsing
the shelves yourself!
In addition to the assignments, we have tutorials with
our personal tutors and meetings with bishops – I have
met with Bishop Clive, and have an appointment to see
Bishop Michael in Lichfield. Then there’s the ordering of
clergy robes and so on – it’s so complicated!
Thankfully, Diane has taken all the necessary
measurements and I will be able to order my cassock,
surplice and cassock-alb and my clergy shirts. My stoles
are already ordered – and I am very excited about these!
Many of my friends are from the Stafford/Shrewsbury/Stoke
areas and they will be ordained at the Cathedral on
Saturday 30th June. I will be ordained Deacon on Sunday
July 1st with my friends who will be serving curacies in
Lichfield or Wolverhampton. More details will be
available soon.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:41 pm.

Monday, 12 March 2018:

Ordinand's blog

Ordinands Notes Jan 2018
At the beginning of our 3rd year of training, back in
September, we were told that we should be prepared for
our 3rd year to race by. It certainly seems to be the
We have only 2 residential weekends left, plus Easter
School. Weekly lectures continue at Shallowford. Im
working hard on assignments and presentations/theological
reflections, actually I learn a lot from doing them but I
will be glad when theyre all done. My friends are
finding out where they will be stationed, in the case of
my Methodist friends, or where they will serve their
curacies in the case of the Anglicans. Im really
excited that some of my friends will be in Wolverhampton!
Obviously, as an OLM my curacy will be here in our
benefice; Ive met with Bishop Clive and have been
offered and accepted the curacy. I will be ordained
Deacon at Lichfield Cathedral on Sunday 1st July, with
the service beginning at 10am. Its a very exciting time
but also a bit scary. I really couldnt be doing any of
this without your prayers and support. Thank you.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:53 pm.

Sunday, 3 December 2017:

Advent,Christmas and Epiphany thoughts

Advent, Christmas and Epiphany thoughts

As I begin to write, it is 21st November. Christmas
lights will be switched on in the city centre tomorrow
night. Already as I drive around, I have seen Christmas
decorations in windows of peoples homes. Shops are
full of Christmas cards and the sound of Christmas carols
and songs are being played in many shops and
supermarkets. Websites and shops urge us to spend our
money on gifts, and finding the perfect gift is a
statement we often hear. What is this all about?
Advent begins on December 3rd this year. Advent, a time
of preparation and waiting. This year we could be
forgiven for feeling short- changed, as Advent 4 will
also be Christmas Eve. Advent offers us an opportunity to
get ready, not by rushing around (or not!) buying cards
and presents and trying to get organised wrapping gifts
and writing cards, but chance to prepare ourselves
spiritually. O come O come Emmanuel is one of the most
beautiful, haunting Advent hymns, urging us to wait, to
be prepared as we wait for the arrival of the Christ
Child. The hymn retells our faith story, where the
prophet Isaiah foretold the birth of Immanuel, which
means, literally translated, God with us.
Here is our perfect gift, this child, God made man. He
comes to us in the messiness of human life. He is born
in a stable, full of mess and noise, a far cry from our
traditional image of sweet little nativity plays which
will be seen in schools up and down the country. And
Christmas begins once again. Christmas, where Christ
comes to us as a baby. We marvel at this gift of the
Incarnate God, and we rejoice that Christ is here among
us. Yes, a helpless baby lying in a manger, but also God
in all His deity. Its a lot to get our heads round.
For we know the baby grows up to be the adult Jesus who
constantly challenges us, who calls us to follow him.
Christmas begins on December 25th; it does not end then!
We continue to reflect on Gods gift to us, the gift of
his Son, as we move towards Epiphany. Of course, this is
our feast of title, and we will celebrate on January 6th
with a full sung Eucharist. What are we celebrating? We
remember and retell the story of the wise men who
journeyed to visit the young child. It has two things for
us to think about; firstly, that the word epiphany
means revelation or sudden awakening. Those moments when
God breaks through into our lives are true epiphany
moments and we need to be awake to notice them.
Secondly, God reveals himself as the God of all, not only
the God of Israel and the Jews but the God of all.
May we all be blessed with moments to prepare ourselves
for the rebirth of the Christ-child into our lives, as we
continue to follow in His ways.
Anne Martin

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:12 pm.

Monday, 6 November 2017:



This year the Royal British Legion is asking everyone to
Rethink remembrance. Theyre asking us to recognise
the sacrifice made by thousands of people, past and
present, as serving members of the Armed Forces. The
poppy has become a symbol of remembrance in many
countries, but what does it mean to you?

Is it merely the symbol of yet another charity fund, or
is it a visual way you can recognise the sacrifice made
by many, who fought so that we can enjoy the democratic
freedoms we have? Is it a sign of hope, or a sign of
peace? What does it mean to you?

On Remembrance Sunday we will be thinking about these
questions when local Guiders talk about Remembrance and
offer thoughts and ideas during the service at 10:45am.

Remembrance Day is a day when we remember those who have
died fighting in wars. On the local news the other day I
saw that a primary school in Telford had attempted to
make the act of remembering more real for their pupils.
Each child painted a rock and on it wrote the name of a
soldier who had died in war. The rocks and stones were
hidden around their locality in the hope that many of
them will be returned to school, where the pupils will
build a rockery from the stones as a lasting tribute to
the fallen. One child said, We hope that all the rocks
will come back but we know that some wont. Thats what
happened to those who are fighting in wars; some will
come back home and others wont and it helps us to
remember them all.

It is so important to remember, to build up memories. We
will never know all who died during conflict, but God
does. We can pray for peace and try to enact that in our
lives. Our Christian faith is built on stories, stories
told around campfires by countless Israelites as they
remembered their shared story, before writing down their
shared history and traditions. This is our story. The
story telling continued in Jesus time and eventually was
written down. Why were they written? To ensure future
generations would hear and understand the shared history
and tradition and to come to faith.

Remembrance Sunday has become part of our culture and our
shared story. We are given space and time to come
together in communities and to rethink our story. We can
pray for peace, but we should never forget.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:56 pm.

Thursday, 10 August 2017:


Summer Days

Summertime and the living is easy. George Gershwins
words could be aptly applied to August, when many of us
take holiday. Its a month to focus on summertime: family
time and barbeques; the beach and ice cream; long days
with no school! It is time to wind down from the frenetic
pace of our normal routines.

However, while summer is a season, it is also a state of
mind. We all have periods in life, which are summer-like,
when life goes well. How can we walk by faith in the
summers or good times of our spiritual lives?
When we go through times of sickness, financial
pressure, difficult relationships and other problems, we
more easily focus on God. In a spiritual summer season,
we can subtly find ourselves enjoying the gifts without
acknowledging the Giver! The greatest danger in the
summertime season of life is to forget who is responsible
for the good life that we are enjoying.

Our normal routine revolves around clocks and calendars,
but we can easily get distracted when we break these
disciplined routines. In the spiritual summer seasons of
life, there is a temptation to miss out on our regular
times with God in Bible reading and prayer! Things that
make summer seasons enjoyable can also become big

How can we make the most of this summer season and keep
focused on God? We need to maintain a gratitude
attitude: thankful to God for all His blessings to us.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord
your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful
that you do not forget the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy
8:10/11). So, stay close and stay grateful to God in this
summer season of life!

Many thanks to Gennie for giving me the opportunity to
include this piece which I am sure will speak to many of
Carolyn (at St Gregorys)

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:54 am.

Monday, 19 June 2017:

Church of the Epiphany 2017 Annual Meeting Address.

I want to start with a big thank you. Ive lived here a
year now, even if its not quite a liturgical year. Its
been a good year and I want to thank all of you for your
support and welcome. Im only going to make some very
short individual thank yous, and that to the wardens,
Father Michael , Alan and ordinand Anne for their support
and work together. This church has good team work, and
there are lots of people who do many things, some seen
like the music or PCC but many more unseen, that Im
still finding out about. So a huge thank you to everyone.
Many of the highlights have actually been covered in
other reports.
My priorities throughout my ministry have always been
worship and then pastoral care. If we get these right,
then the rest will follow. Obviously it has been a year
also of working out how to be the Vicar of two parishes
but today I am just talking about here at Oxley.
I think the worship on the whole is good, and I guess I
would highlight for myself, the remembrance service and
Blue Christmas, the other Christmas services especially
our name feast and the turns afterwards. That was fun.
My most special thing though, occurs during our
celebration of Holy Communion, and although we started
distributing Communion with me sitting due to my
arthritis, it actually for me, has become very special.
There is that little bit more time so that I pray for
every person individually as I share the bread. It feels
very holy and pastoral,
and this leads me onto pastoral care.
Gradually as time goes by I am asked for more
involvement, and it takes time for you to trust me or
even believe that I am available, but I am. I do like to
visit people in hospital, or know when someones dying or
died, but I havent always known in time, or at all.
We might need to improve the communication a little.
I want to bring my chosen text in here.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord,
continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up
in him and established in the faith, just as you were
taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with
thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us that God will
open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the
mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I
may reveal it clearly, as I should.
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the
most of the time. Let your speech be gracious, seasoned
with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer
It has been a delight to worship here with people who
have received Christ,... abounding in thanksgiving; we
dont always remember that St Paul enjoins his folk to
pray and worship.
Having done a year, I might want us to play a little
more, enrich the liturgy a bit.

It is good to be in church of grown up Christians, and
the challenge is to continue to live our lives in him,
rooted and built up in him. We need to think about how we
grow, get fed as mature Christians. Many of you are
living the kingdom out in important work places, and are
we enabling you and your faith to be there? Are we
resourcing you?

I want to move on to the second part of my text, where it
talks about outsiders and opening a door for the
We have treasure here, and there have been couple of
things that have sprung up as opportunities, Bushbury
Lane school, coming regularly and wanting our
Maybe the science park will develop, and we do good
funerals and baptism, but maybe we need to think again
how to follow them up.

We dont get passing trade where people come and try
out the church much. In fact I can almost name the Sunday
s when there has been someone new.
Christmas, is one of the ideal times to reach out to new
people and the wardens and I have talked about this and
we thought that we want to keep our treasure of worship
and traditional worship but in addition, we are want to
run a Community Carol service this year, hopefully
with involvement from the schools, and community groups.
And really make a go of advertising well.
We are going to try and focus in that in the Autumn.
And we need to think a little more about our publicity
and signage.

Basically I see us developing, going in the same
direction, that we have been going in.
Rowan Williams used to say that trick to mission was to
look around and see what God was up to and join in. Maybe
we could be just a bit more focussed, more explicit about
being open.
One of treasures is our theology, a practice of welcome.
There is an organisation called Inclusive Church and I
think we fit with them very well. Ive put their belief
statement on the sheet with the text.
"We believe in inclusive Church - church which does not
discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power,
gender, mental health, physical ability, race or
sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves
all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is
scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel
afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of
the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and
long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ."
Weve already committed ourselves to looking at how to be
a dementia friendly church and we know we have some
more work to do on being more accessible.
There isnt a church in this city that actually says
explicitly, that it welcomes gay people, and Id like to
work towards that and being more open for all, on all the
We need to think about what barriers there are to people
knowing about us, coming in and trying us out or
participating more. When weve done that we can trust God
then to do the rest.
Particularly I want to also get us to begin to think
about the white working class, that live in our parish,
those that feel disenfranchised, thats also in
Inclusive Churchs statement at the beginning. I think
we could use some of their material. There is a local rep
and Id like to ask him to come and talk to us and see
what we can do.
I guess I want to go back to our text.
And ask you to think, where are you on this and where
are we as a church?
Are you, we, rooted and being built up, and if not what
would help,
do you need help with growing in prayer, have you got a
pastoral need for yourself or someone you know,
are we open to outsiders , and what can we do to
improve that.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord,
continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up
in him and established in the faith, just as you were
taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with
thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us that God will
open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the
mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I
may reveal it clearly, as I should.
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the
most of the time. Let your speech be gracious, seasoned
with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer
If you have any comments on this or anything else, then
please let me or the wardens know. !
All of this is so that we may continue to declare the
mystery of Christ in this place, making the most of our
Thank you.
Revd Gennie Evans

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:31 pm.

Friday, 21 April 2017:

Jesus knows us and loves us

This week in church we have the story of Jesus and the
Samaritan woman at the well, from chapter 4 of Johns
gospel. Maybe it was like this:

Noreen at the well

Narrator: Jesus came,
By himself,
to Jacobs well in the town Sychar.
He was tried and sat down about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw some water
And Jesus said to her,

Jesus: Can I have a drink of water?

Narrator: The woman answered,

Noreen: You are a Jew,
I am a Samaritan.
How can you ask me for a drink?

Jesus: If only you knew what God gives
And who was asking you for a drink,
You would ask him
And he would give you life giving water,
And you would never be thirsty again.

Noreen: Can I have some of that water?

Jesus: Go and call your husband and come back.

Noreen: I havent got a husband

Jesus: Youre right.
Youve had five
And the man you have now isnt your

Noreen: I see you are a prophet.
And I know that when the Messiah comes,
Hell tell us everything

Jesus: I am he.
I who am talking to you now.

Noreen: Well what could I say?

Harrys lying in his bed
Waiting for me to come back and make the
And Im standing gabbing on to some other man...
another man...
And hes a Jew...



I dont think Ive ever talked to a man
who understood me.
But this man did.

It was if
Everything Ive never been able to tell anyone...

I could tell him,
Even the things
I dont like admitting to myself...

And he knew, he understood. I could tell him everything
and he knew...he told me right back
He told me everything Ive ever done,

and it was all right.

It was like saying
the best prayer of my life
and having it answered there and then.

(From Present on earth by the Wild Geese Worship

Its a good story, it was hot, and Jesus was thirsty, so
he said
Would you give me a drink please?
Yes, and then he told her things about herself. She
didnt tell him, and he didnt have to guess. Jesus knew,
because he was God.
It was bit of a miracle, that Jesus knew everything about
her. She was amazed, and surprised.
Jesus knew all the good things about her, and also all
the bad things that shed done.
But he wanted to be her friend. And he loved her,
accepted her, knowing everything, good bad, secrets

The woman went and told everyone back in the village that
Jesus was the Christ, God, that he told her everything
that shed ever done, and wanted to be her friend, that
he came to help people.

It is the same today, whether youre young, old, black,
gay, straight, white, single, married, got a partner,
Jesus knows all about you, us,
and he says I want to be your friend, Come, drink my
water. Be my friend.

And we can. One of the ways we are Jesus friends is by
coming to church, and later sharing his bread and wine.

And we all need to remember that, that Jesus knows about
us, we dont have to be afraid, and he loves us.

Thank you Jesus that you know all about us, and love us
and want to be our friend.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:56 am.

Thursday, 9 March 2017:

From Rev Gennie

Its January as I write this, a new year, a time for
reflection. We have also been thinking about the

It is an odd word, and yet that word means a moment of
sudden and great revelation or realisation

Its like a moment of mystery, when suddenly things make
sense. And it used for the time when Jesus was made
manifest to the gentiles, the magi, the wisest people,
and there was a mystery. Following a star.

We have spent some time reflecting on what the story can
mean for us.
You may like to do the same.

The wise Magi set out to follow a star:
God is found in the moments of wonder that make us stop
and ponder the mystery.

What have been your own awakening moments of wonder
that have led you deeper into mystery?

The stars light was seen in the darkness:
In their darker moments they trusted that the light was
still to be found.

How have you experienced the dark?
Where/how did you recognise the light?

They asked questions when they were lost:
Continuing to try to make sense of where they were and
where they were being led, they looked for help.

What are the questions you live with?
Who are wisdom figures for you?
Who has helped you with your questions?

They traveled together:
We dont know how many of them, but we can imagine the
little community that they became as they traveled
together, sharing this experience.

Where do you experience community?
What does this add to your journeying?

They met King Herod on the way:
For his own reasons of power and control he tried to
deceive them.
We need to recognise the twisted value systems of our
world and not get caught up in them or be misled by them.
In what ways are you most often pulled off course?
They bowed down in adoration:
Falling on their knees they worshiped the King a moment
beyond intellectual understanding, and of recognition.
We can imagine that moment of knowing in the deep

Do you cultivate silence in your life so that there can
be moments of knowing and of recognition?

They offered their gifts:
To be in the presence demanded a response, an offering
of themselves and of their gifts.
Identify your own gifts. What are you offering of
yourself, your time and your material possessions?

In a dream they were shown the truth:
Because of the danger, they were warned to return by a
different way.
Revelation can come to us through our dreams.
Have you ever experienced this? How else do you
experience Gods revealing of the way to you?

For prayerful pondering:
So at the beginning of a new year, maybe spend some time
Name and give thanks for a moment of wonder.
Resolve to offer your gift this year in a
particular way.
Name some aspect of darkness and pray for light.
Name a companion on the journey and give thanks
for their support.

A blessed new year from Revd Gennie

Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:05 pm.

Monday, 5 December 2016:

From Rev Gennie

As I write this we are coming up to the last Sunday of
the churchs year, and the feast day of Christ the King.
And it is the day that Donald Trump has become President
of the USA. So I am thinking about what sort of king, or
the most powerful man in earth is going to be, and what
sort of King is Jesus.

In the reading set for the Christ the King Sunday, Luke
tells the profoundly moving story of three men dying on
crosses. One of them is angry, the second repentant and
aware, the third is Jesus, the firstborn of all
creation, but he is also dying on the cross.

And the repentant man recognizes the difference between
them, sees the sign above Jesus head, This is the King
of the Jews, and despite what his eyes see, just another
dying manhe makes a strange request of Jesus: Remember
me when you come into your kingdom.
But Jesus reply gives him much more, he says, Today you
will be with me in Paradise. He promises relief and
heaven. There is a glimpse of who Jesus is, offered at
this most hopeless of moments.

Jesus rarely revealed his divine authority. He chose the
way of justice, love, and humility in the short earthly
life that led him to the cross. But here and there we
find a few glimpses of the glory: the stories of his
birth hint at this with all the heavenly host, the
angels, proclaiming the glory of his birth.

And the writer of the Colossians writes years laterfor
in him all things in heaven and on earth were created. .
. It is a glory he had known beforehe, himself, is
before all things;

There is the sudden appearance of the Holy Spirit Jesus
Baptism and the words only the few heard, You are my
Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased (Mark

We also remember the transfiguration for the chosen three
disciples; where his shining glory was shown. We remember
the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with cloaks and leafy
branches spread before him to the accompaniment of
Hosannas; and, finally, this moment at the crucifixion
when he assures the penitent thief of a place in

The Sunday of Christ the King, and all through the
Christmas season we are faced with thinking about what
this means. We are given clues of what the scoffers think
of Jesus as king, at the cross saying Are you not the
Messiah, Save yourself and us. This is another
temptation for Jesus like the devil offered him in the
desert three years earlier.
Jesus is offered the chance to save himself, to avoid the
cross, and to save the criminals as well. He is tempted
to choose another vocation, to be a different sort of
king, perhaps a political figure. And yet Jesus remains

Jesus saves others, including us, by not saving himself.
He is committed to Gods plan, which has included
betrayal and death. Only in the powerlessness of the
cross can he demonstrate the authority over the universe,
that ultimately rescues criminals, scoffers, religious
leaders and us. Jesus defines what sort of king he is.

The Christian faith is not a power struggle, that follows
the rules of this world, of retaliation, competition,
greed and domination. Instead Jesus goes to the cross,
and beyond.

The dying thief, sees the truth, he acknowledges his
guilt, but he sees that Jesus will enter the kingly
realm, not by coming down from the cross, but by dying.
The thief shows extraordinary faith and insight and says
Jesus remember me, when you come into kingdom.

This is a confession of faith, and shows that he has
understood the gospel, that all the mocking, trials and
crucifixion are needed to go through to the resurrection.
Jesus loved his killers. The love of Jesus, his
forgiveness, shows that there is another way.
It shows that love is stronger than evil, love is
stronger than death. That love undoes these powers of sin
and death.

Most people are aware that they fail, that they get
things wrong, that they are estranged from God, and
themselves, that they will die. And yet we can have more.
We can pray this prayer for ourselves, Jesus, remember
me We can pray this prayer knowing that he does,
knowing that he is the Lord, that he has overcome
violence, sin and death, and that he knows and loves us.

And we can let that love into our lives. Do we accept
Jesus as our king? We need to keep doing so. He will not
force himself on you, that is not his way. He may be the
Lord who holds the universe together, but the cross shows
he forces nothing, but shows love.

If we want to be part of his kingdom, we need to just
ask, we all need to receive his forgiveness, and let him
wash the dirt away, receive the life, the eternal life.
The kingdom of God, is about seeking the lost, offering
salvation to those who call out to him and making friends
of enemies. And we share in it.

We may want to also pray that our church and all
Christians can show this love, that we can be accepting
of those who have been criminals.
We can pray for reconciliation, a different sort of power
in the world.
But it begins with us.
Let us pray that we will not only ask Jesus to remember
us, but that we will remember him.

And Jesus reply, when we call out to him?
You will be with me in paradise.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:04 am.

Sunday, 23 October 2016:

Ordinand's blog

With the dark nights and cooler weather looming, we know
that we are coming towards the autumn. Liturgically we
are approaching the end of the Churchs year. As I write
we are about to celebrate our Harvest Festival. This
year we have linked it to Creationtide, when we are able
to think about Gods creation and also to think about
environmental issues. The Youth Group were able to focus
on this when they visited the Reflections garden at
Beaudesert on their retreat camp. So were about to
celebrate Creation tide and Harvest, but we must look
For many people the end of October and beginning of
November means Remembrance. Everyone knows the secular
festival of Halloween but not everyone knows that it
stems from a holy day. We celebrate All Saints Day on
November 1st and All Souls on November 2nd. The root
word of Halloween is hallow which means holy, and
een is an abbreviation for evening. So it refers to
the evening before All Saints Day when we honour the
saintly people of the past. More than a thousand years
ago in Ireland and Britain, a common custom of Christians
was to come together on the eve of the feast of All
Hallows Day to ask for God's blessing and protection from
evil in the world. Often, they would dress in costumes of
saints or evil spirits and act out the battle between
good and evil around bonfires. That's the source of the
modern observance of Halloween.
Churches often hold Remembrance services on Remembrance
Sunday. We will hold our act of remembrance during our
10:45 service as we think about issues of war and peace,
and loss. May we also remember those who are on active
service in our armed forces today, and their families.
With images of war-torn Syria filling our TV screens and
the footage from the world wars, we could be forgiven for
wondering where is God in all this? War is made by
people, not God. God is there in the suffering and in
the silences, God is there in the aid convoys and the
medical expertise. God is there through the prayers of
countless people. God is there.
Through our words and actions, can we show people that
God is here with us all today in Oxley?


Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:39 pm.

Monday, 8 August 2016:

Anne's article

Come away to a deserted placeand rest awhile. We find
these words in Mark chapter 6. At this time of year I
suspect many of us are turning our thoughts towards
holidays or time away from the norm.
Not everyone will have the luxury of a complete break
during the summer, I know, but what I think we can take
from Mark 6 verses 30-31 is that we all do need to have
some sort of down time. Whatever we call it - a
holiday, a mini-break, a day out, or even a couple of
hours spent in the garden, we need some time away from
the normality of everyday life.
We know from reading the Bible that Jesus went away - or
tried to get away - for time alone with God before key
moments in his ministry. He recognised that it was
important to make time for himself, for time for him to
be with God and for him to try to recharge his batteries.
We may be away on holiday or we may not, but we can try
to use sensibly what time we can have to relax. Maybe
try to tune in with nature around you - actually listen
to the tunes the birds sing, or watch the ducks or
seagulls inflight. Notice how the breeze rustles the
grass or the leaves on the trees, or how it causes waves
to ripple. Feel the breeze on your face. Take time to
smell the fresh, earthy smell after the rain. In short,
take time.
This isnt easy to do, I know, but in so doing we can
become more in tune with creation and with our Creator
God. When I had a tough month full of assignment
deadlines and with sermons to prepare on placement, I
found that there were times when I simply had to move
away from the computer or from my books and notes. A
short walk which took perhaps 20 minutes was enough to
refresh me. I noticed the dandelions growing in the
cracks in the pavement, I heard the birdsong around me;
in fact those 20 minutes revived me. I was aware of
Gods presence in our world.
May we all become more aware and in our own way reflect
Gods presence to those around us.
(Im an ordinand at Oxley)

Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:34 pm.

Saturday, 2 July 2016:


As I write this message it is the feast of Pentecost. I
want to talk for a moment about natural power. Wild fires
like in Canada or hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes,
volcanic eruptions and tsunami waves, they all
fascinate us. There are lots of TV programmes on them.
Their destructive force seems to come out of nowhere to
wreak havoc upon man and nature. Television gives many
people the chance to watch their devastation from a safe
distance, so that they mean only fantastic images in the
minds eye.
It is very different for those who undergo one
first hand. I know people who have been in the Caribbean
when theres been a hurricane, or the volcano on
Montserrat. Suddenly, theres a new respect for the
immense power residing in nature, real and dangerous.
It is a power that before the catastrophe had no
meaning or existence, so hidden and remote did it remain
from the predictable routine of daily life. Such an
experience changes lives. In an instant the world is
turned upside down by the tremendous release of energy
through water, air, fire, and earth. An unrecognizable
landscape and devastated communities are left in its
wake. And it can take years for people to recover.
Science helps us to understand the systems behind
this release of energy. But the world continues to be
caught by surprise by its many manifestations. We are
continually reminded of our fragile existence within
There is another power, a creative power of an
altogether different sort and size that informs our
faith. It is this power that changes lives at Pentecost.
It is the power behind creation and it is the power that
was received by a small, insignificant, and
unsophisticated group of men and women, gathered in
Jerusalem waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.
The horizons of their world were limited to the
countryside of Galilee and Palestine until the Spirit
opened their hearts and minds to a greater world beyond.
Nothing could have prepared them for the magnitude of
their enlightenment, as they responded to this world-
shattering experience of the supernatural creative spirit
of God.
To stand in its path was to catch fire with divine love.
In an instant their world was turned inside out by a
tremendous rush of creative power released into their
hearts and minds, souls and bodies, manifesting as flames
about their heads.
This inrush of creative energy, that brings
together, unifies, heals, more powerfully than natural
powers tear apart, this power poured itself out among
them. Their eyes and hearts were opened to a completely
different category of experience, unknown to the world.
They saw a new world, through new eyes. The differences
of culture and language that separated one from another
crumbled before this unifying power. Suddenly each could
speak and hear, with the same understanding, the stories
of Gods deeds of power.
As the power of nature, opens us up to the enormity of
its scale and its ability to destroy, -so too the power
of the Spirit opens our hearts to a new relation among
people, a new intimacy with God.
Man-made bridges crumble before natural disasters; But
the Spirit builds bridges beyond time and space, between
slave and free, man and woman, Jew and Gentile.
It is this power, the power of the Spirit of God,
that changes lives at Pentecost. This is the supernatural
power that sustains creation, that raised Jesus from the
dead, that reunites what has been torn apart, reconciles
the alienated. The spirit of Pentecost rushes into the
world as if out of nowhere, and breathes life into the
midst of death. This is Pentecost, the outpouring of
Gods spirit upon the disciples, then and now.
God opened the way and taught their hearts, and
now other languages, other voices, other experiences, are
no longer foreign to our own. All are one in Gods love
through the power of his reconciling spirit. For Gods
power has been received and has shown the coming together
of creation, which exceeds beyond our capacity to
comprehend, and beyond the power of nature and man to
Suddenly the systems of oppression and sin that
bind and imprison seem insignificant compared to the
marvellous freedom the spirit of God breathes into us,
his fragile beloved children.
And we can have this, we can be filled, again and
again. Today. We say quietly Come Holy Spirit into us.
And then filled with the power of God, we are made
capable of sharing Gods mercy, Gods compassion, Gods
forgiveness to the blind world.
Today we are reminded of the creative energy of
God, which overwhelms the destructive powers of man and
nature so that we too might learn to see the Spirit as it
rushes through our own world, reconciling, reuniting all
of creation through us, within us, for us.
The spirit leads us into a new life, of love,
where slaves are made children, sinners forgiven, old
wounds from abuse are healed, there are visions and
dreams that speak of a reality that does not conform to a
dark and bloodied by the violence of our blindness.
How? We pray, we call on God, and as Peter tells
us, Call on the Lords name and be saved, God has
provided access to the Spirit, through the sacraments of
bread and wine, and holy oil, and just simply calling on
his name.
So look here in this church and around and about
Oxley for people going quietly about Gods work, creating
order out of chaos, offering compassion to the suffering
and hope to the desperate.
This is God at work, in spectacular and
unspectacular, quiet loving ways. The Holy Spirit of God,
here. In ordinary and extraordinary ways, at the scene
of natural disasters and the more unnatural ones like
wars and oppression, and in our ordinary struggles of
this life, the Spirit of God flows in to heal and mend,
to recreate anew.
This is Pentecost. So we pray, Come Holy Spirit,
come fill our hearts with your power, and your love. Come
Holy Spirit.

This is Pentecost.


Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:10 pm.

Saturday, 16 April 2016:

Gennie's first article

Magazine article
Greetings. Happy Easter.
This is my first magazine article for the parishes of
Oxley, the Epiphany and Wednesfield, St Gregory the
Great. I am writing this, in a study that feels decidedly
unsettled, with boxes all around as I prepare to move
vicarages. And the rest of the house is full of more.
Moving is an unsettling process and probably a little
unsettling for the parishes too, but maybe a little
information as way of introduction will help.
I am 54 and I grew up in Wolverhampton and went to school
in Oxley and Wednesfield before going to Manchester to
study Biology and Microbiology.
I had grown in faith from being a teenager and in my
twenties I deepened my experience of church tradition to
include a real commitment to social justice in all forms.
So yes I was involved in the peace movement and went to
Greenham Common. My early jobs included youth projects,
working in a refuge for abused women, and other community
projects. I was drawn to work in mental health and
throughout my spiritual journey I have found something of
God in the hard places. My ministry has always been in
inner urban areas. I discovered prayer and was fortunate
to be guided well.
Despite loving my youth or social work I also found I
wanted to be able to integrate talking about the eternal
and I entered religious life in London and was a novice
for two years. I loved the prayer but in the end it
seemed that I should really be a parish priest. I trained
at St Michaels Llandaff, Cardiff and had a curacy in two
newly joined together parishes in Moss Side in
Yes, at times this was on the edge, but I learned my
trade as a priest before going to the Pleck in Walsall
for the last 8 years. I have loved being a vicar there,
but am also really excited about coming to Wolverhampton.
What else to write about me, I have three cats, I love
the outdoors and used to be a rock climber and
mountaineer. I now struggle with arthritis and have
adapted some of the sports to non weight bearing ones. I
sometime use an electric bike or float down rivers in a
kayak. I like watching the birds and painting, music
As I prepare to come to my new life I am minded of the
joke that is often told that if you want to give God a
good laugh, then tell him your plans. And I think there
is an element of truth in that.
I cant remember who taught me many years ago, that the
the secret to mission (the real buzz word in church
circles these days) is to look for what God is doing in a
place and join in.
I do not have plans yet, unless we count planning to look
and listen.
I know that God has been and is at work and I really look
forward to finding how and where I can join in, in Oxley
and Wednesfield.

God Bless, Gennie

March 3rd 2016

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:39 pm.

Sunday, 14 February 2016:

Rev Keith's last blog

A Farewell from Rev Keith Duckett, Interim Minister at
St. Gregorys, Wednesfield & Church of the Epiphany,
It seems strange to be saying goodbye already, but nine
and a half months have gone quickly and it is time to
move on! I hope it is in fact au revoir more than
goodbye and I will still be living in Wednesfield, so
hope to see you in the future. Above all, I want to say
thankyou to Bishop Clive, Archdeacon Sue and your
Parish Wardens for giving me the opportunity to minister
with you, and a thankyou to the church members who have
welcomed and supported me. It has been a time of
rejuvenation of my spirituality and ministry, for which I
will always be grateful.
I am moving on to be part-time chaplain based mainly at
Walsall Palliative Care Centre within Walsall Healthcare
NHS Trust, whilst carrying on with my Counselling
training at Staffordshire University for another year or
so. Walsall Healthcare chaplains share on-call duties
with New Cross Hospital chaplains across both Trusts, so
if you see me there in an official capacity youll know
why. As some of you know, Ive also been doing a few
hours as a Chaplain for Wellbeing with the Edgbaston
Wellbeing Hub and some GP Medical Centres in Birmingham.
Current arrangements will not be able to continue, but I
am hoping I may be able to continue this in some other
way in the future, or do some work for the Association of
Chaplains in General Practice.
I have been with you at a very significant time in the
life of your churches as the new United Benefice was
formed over the Summer. This new arrangement can be a
source of enrichment and fresh opportunities, but
probably also difficult challenges. This is likely to be
especially true for your new Vicar, Rev Gennie Evans; I
was going to say: so please support her; but I will
word that differently and say please SHOW HER your
support. It was great to have someone come to me after a
service the other day and thank me for something I said
in the sermon which helped them cope better with their
circumstances at home. We dont often get feedback, and I
can assure you that ministers are only human and it is
helpful to hear the positive stuff. Equally, we need to
hear the negatives, so I would urge you to find a way to
have a quiet, constructive conversation with your Vicar
or a Warden if there are things you are unhappy about in
the future.
There are likely to be tough times ahead for ministry and
mission in all churches, not just for us in Wolverhampton
and the Black Country, but nationally and globally too.
So it was lovely to have such a good turnout from both
churches at the service for the Feast of the Epiphany in
Oxley on the 6th January where I felt we were able to
remind ourselves of some of the essentials of our faith
and discipleship. Church life may at times lead to
disagreements about priorities and how to do things, but
I repeat one of the points I mentioned in the sermon on
that day: the theme and readings reminded me of Psalm
34:5 Look to God and be radiant. Lets keep getting
back to basics: feast the eyes of your soul upon God (in
scripture, sacrament, nature, fellowship, meditation,
icons, whatever is right for you) and you will reflect
Gods light in the world. Every time we sense a tension
rising amongst our congregation members, perhaps we could
turn back to this verse.
It has been suggested that we print an extract from a
meditation that I read out in my Sermon on Sunday 10th
January when we celebrated the Baptism of Christ, so here
it is, from John ODonohues book Benedictus. A Book of
Blessings (published in 2007 by Bantam Press). It is from
a Chapter entitled: To Retrieve the Lost Art of
Blessing and may God indeed bless all your futures
through all his words and mine. Amen!

Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:24 pm.

Saturday, 2 January 2016:

From Rev Keith - November

Rev Keith, Interim Minister writes:
I am writing this in the week following the atrocities in Paris and just after the announcement that you have a new Vicar, Rev Gennie Evans, who is currently at St. Johns in the Pleck, Walsall. The events in Paris make us wonder if beliefs and faith and ideologies are worth fighting for. To what extent should we try to impose our own views of right and wrong, good and bad, on others? Does it always end up in arguments, disagreements, falling out, even violence? The alternative extreme is to be always watering down our own views to please others, so that others do not get upset; or even to give up altogether, to back-off and leave it to others to fight over religion and politics.

Lets be honest, all of us generally think that we are right! Some of us deal with this by trying to manipulate the world, the church, our relatives, our colleagues, into our way of seeing things and doing things. Others deal with this by staying on the edge of community life or church life; some even think stuff what the world thinks; I am going off into my own private world, with people who are like me, to do my own thing. But is there another way?

It is a delight to know that you will have a new Vicar starting with you early next year, but there will inevitably be differences of opinion about how things should be done in the future. Not least the fact that you and Gennie will have to work out how best to share her time between the two parishes and the two congregations. Expectations will be many and varied. Gennie will bring her own gifts, ideas and priorities, which some of you will agree with or even love. Others will find change a bit difficult to handle (whether it is planned or unplanned, unintended or unforeseen). There will be exciting new developments and there will be misunderstandings and mistakes from all quarters.

Some of you may feel like objecting to certain things. Others will find a new lease of life, preferring the different approaches which may arise. Still others will be uncomfortable or unhappy, but will just quietly back off and vote with their feet. Is there another way? How do we learn to live and work together in a world full of numerous different points of view?

I am also sitting here pondering my sermon for the Feast of Christ the King this coming Sunday. And theres something in the Gospel reading which may be of help for us here. Im looking specifically at John chapter 18, verse 37. The version printed in my Lectionary book is this:
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. (NRSV)
As you know, I often look at different translations to get a different angle on things So have a look at this:
All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice. (Jerusalem Bible)
People who are interested in the truth listen to me. (Good as New Translation)
Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. (New International Version)
Here I get the sense of:
If you are seeking truth (wisdom), you will not be afraid to give me a fair hearing.
If you are secure in yourself, you will have courage to listen for further revelations of truth, no matter who is speaking.
If you are insecure and fearful of change, you will not be open to others.
As the First Letter of John says: Perfect love casts out fear. As St Paul says in Romans chapter 8: You have not received a spirit of fear but a spirit of adoption You are adopted because God loves you and so you do not need to fear. Instead, you can be a listener; always open to others feelings and points of view; not afraid to be challenged. I pray that we will all become a community of deeper listeners, setting an example to the world and each other that truth is discovered in the love of listening.
In John 18 verse 36, Jesus distances himself from the forms of power that colour most human institutions: domination, manipulation, violence, bullying my kingdom (my way of ruling) is not from this world We do things differently where I come from; I am here to encourage a community of listening, says Jesus. And so how about this translation of 1 John 17 to finish with:
Love comes to its perfection in us when we can face the Day of Judgement fearlessly, because even in this world we have become as he is. (New Jerusalem Bible)
Let us have no less an ambition than to become as he is, by the grace of God. Amen.

Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:30 am.

Friday, 2 October 2015:

From Rev. Keith

Rev Keith, Interim Minister for Epiphany, Oxley & St. Gregorys, Wednesfield, writes:
As I sit down to type this article, I am looking forward to a weekend away when we shall be going to Cardiff for two Rugby World Cup matches at the Millenium Stadium. (Yes, I got very lucky in the public draw for tickets!)
By the time you read this, youll know what happened. I wonder if it will include a serious injury or two? The Wales squad have already lost two key players to injury before the tournament has even started. Every now and again there are some really serious injuries in the world of rugby. Is it worth it? Well of course some of you will have no interest in rugby whatsoever, but imagine how those who enjoy watching or playing it might answer that question
Players who take part do so at their own risk. Seriously injured players probably make up a tiny proportion of the total number of players across the world at all age levels. (Someone google that for me.) But, still, is it worth it? Well, you can guess my answer. Even after having seen a recent TV documentary about the prevalence and long-term dangers of mild and hidden concussion in the sport, I still find myself looking forward to this weekend (but glad that it is other people playing like gladiators with me watching on from a safe distance!!).
How did I come to be thinking all this stuff about rugby? Well, I was wondering about how to suggest a little something at both Church Council meetings about the place of the offering of money within the liturgy on a Sunday morning. And I was reminded of the chapters in a little book that my wife used to structure a service when we were both training at Queens Theological College back in the late 90s. Its by Henri Nouwen, published in 1992, and its called Life of the Beloved. Spiritual Living in a Secular World. (Ive found our copy and intend to read it properly for the first time; if you like the sound of it, I notice you can currently get it for £2.34 on Amazon!) Some of the chapters were called:

Anyway, to pull all these threads together: here goes! You may recall that, at church on a Sunday morning, after the Offertory (when people collect and bring forward the bread, wine and money) and before the Eucharistic Prayer (the big long prayer where the priest stands behind the altar table), there is usually another little section. It