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Candlemas - The Presentation of Christ.   This is one of the most beautiful and prophetic scenes in the New Testament Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for His Ceremony of Presentation - as their firstborn son and His Mother Mary’s purification: 40 plus days after the birth, (thus is distinct from the circumcision which is 8 days),   We can join the Holy Family early in the morning as they set out from Bethlehem to take the two hour walk up to Jerusalem. As they neared that great city, they would have caught sight of the newly rebuilt temple on the hill.  It was immense, covered with gold ornamentation and would have shone like the sun in the morning light. Once inside it would have been packed and noisy. They would have been lost in the crowd of priests, worshipers and traders! Incredibly they were suddenly picked out in the crowd and welcomed by a stranger who knew and received them like long lost relatives. It was the wonderful Simeon!  He was not a p
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 Can declining churches revive? Answer is YES! I once helped start a business networking breakfast for a local Chamber of Commerce. It was based around four vital principles. These were that breakfasts were to be held when people were available, include business networking, a good breakfast and a relevant talk - to help people develop their businesses. It was an immediate success. Soon 30+ people joined us for every breakfast. However, after a couple of years a new Chamber team took over. They limited the networking time and replaced the business talk with a Chamber update (Yawn!) Within months we were down to half a dozen. Happily, the earlier format was soon restored and the buzzing breakfast was back to normal – to the great benefit of the business community. This proved that all four principles were vital for a business breakfast to be successful. Miss one at your peril!  After over sixty years in the pews and latterly as a Lay Minister I would suggest the similar principles apply
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The identity of human beings – and all beings! We know for certain that we have identities. Descartes' often quoted phrase is “Cogito, ergo sum” (“I think therefore I am”). If we were to agree with him, we see independent thinking identities all around us - in our pets, in wild animals and the fish of the sea - in fact, in all living life forms. Every ant in an ant’s nest, every bee in a beehive appears to have independent identities. Furthermore, when these identities cease to animate their bodies, they die – just as our bodies die when ‘we’ leave them. For more than fifty years University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies documented more than 2300 case histories suggesting that our human identities, or our souls, pre-existed their birth and survived death (search ‘Virginia University reincarnation’). We know for certain that human prodigies have always existed. We think of Mozart who played the harpsichord and was composing music at five. Around two billion people or a
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Parable of the Sower -  Matthew 13:1-9 This has to be one of the most important parables in the whole of the New Testament.  Interestingly I find that it applies to each one of us in different ways at different times! Our Lord is the Sower and the Seed -  His message.  How do we receive it? How do we receive it?  Do we ignore it or welcome it and allow it to grow and multiply in our lives? We start off thinking that we are surely receiving seed – the word of God. However perhaps sometimes we are more like the priest in parable of the priest and the sinner . You will remember that the priest was at the front of the temple because he thought he was a pious man and gave half his income to the poor. We think we are doing OK. However perhaps we should be more like the sinner at the back and acknowledge our failings – our inability to receive the Lord's seed Some seed fell on the path and the birds ate it.  The seed on the path represents people who hear the message, but it is immediatel
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Unbelievable truths associated with Easter and Holy week - and Jesus's ministry One of my favourite BBC 4 programmes is the amusing quiz game Unbelievable Truths. In it contestants deliver a short talk on a subject – but containing a string of falsehoods and fantastic untruths. The winner is the one who includes up to five unbelievable truths - which of course sound like lies.  For instance, it is said that Donavan swapped an Andy Warhol painting for a sofa – which was true! (The painting is now worth £850,000) I always think Holy Week would make and excellent subject for a programme - provided the participants were all atheists or unbelievers In short you couldn’t make up all the unbelievable but necessary truths associated with both Holy Week or indeed the whole of Our Lords Ministry ·        Who would have believed Our Lord’s detailed prophesy of His own death and resurrection ·        Who would have believed that he raised Lazarus after being in his tomb for 4 days. However, it
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 Christmas  - where is the proof and what is the importance?   We have a little pond at the end of our garden. It is our view into another utterly different world – a water breathing and virtually gravity free one. Beings there can just fly up and down whenever they want. The roof of their world is the silver surface of the water. At certain angles they can see us - and we can see them. Our world must be as unbelievable to them as their world is to us. Both are real. They live below that silver ceiling and we live above it. This does not mean that their reality is any less real than ours. We have a silver ceiling of our own. Above us is a spiritual world   Death is our silver ceiling - We know for certain that human beings have spiritual identities which survive death. There is a vast body of literature and testimony from people who have had near death experiences and to have been revived after apparently fatal accidents – often on the operating tables. We know that while they we
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Non- Violence? Can we grow out of War? Is the  Bible contradictory?  I like to corroborate religious teaching scientifically or against other religions or historically before excepting it. The Bible appears to contain several major contractions? However, this is often only because some passages elate specifically times in history and so to the needs of different spiritual cultures. Ecclesiastics was probably written around 180 BC. However the New Testament however was created 2 Centuries later and was essentially ‘the upgrade’ a new Covenant   Ecclesiastes 3 ….. There is a time for everything, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time for war and a time for peace   However Our Lords Beatitude ….. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Delivered 200 years later   The New Testament is full of non-violence. Our Lord told us to ‘turn the other cheek’ (Matthew 5:38-40), to ‘walk the extra mile’ (Matthew 5:41) with our enemies and are reminded tha
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The Beatitudes - Fortunate are the Blessed  The Beatitudes not only help us to get to heaven but the help us avoid hell on earth. This talk is therefore in two halves – and driven by exegesis. What is exegesis. Exegesis is simply the analysis of text and every often of translation In many ways I prefer the Fortunate instead of Blessed  Fortunate are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Fortunate are the peacemakers, - who build bridges Let us start with avoiding hell on earth. We all know people who simply live in a firestorm. Where ever they go they object or complain or rub people up the wrong way. They simply are not blessed or are not fortunate enough to make theirs and other people’s lives anything but joyless Once upon a time in 1998 in there was a proud and successful landlord and an awkward belligerent customer who drank a whole bottle of wine and then discovered that it was not the one that she had ordered – so refused to pay for it! She was not merciful -  conflict res
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Lazarus and the Rich Man with reference to Queen Elizabeth II        So why did Lazarus do so well and the rich man do so badly in our Lords parable? Life is surely a sacred opportunity for spiritual development. If we ignore its spiritual opportunities and just indulge in sinful pleasures, we waste it and must face the consequences. We have to discover that is we live our lives driven by the seven deadly sins there will be consequences. ‘Riches’ give us that opportunity to make these mistakes However, the poor man Lazarus would have had little opportunity: to be proud – because he had nothing or to be greedy - because he had little food or to be lustful - because there would have no opportunity or to be angry - because he had no one to tirade over So the poor man had few wicked choices – and went to Heaven The rich man however would have every opportunity to be proud, to be greedy, to be lustful, to be wrathful at his many employees, and be as lazy as liked. He had every opportunity t