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A short homily for Lent 5 ” The ” Star Thrower”

Its been a long time since Ive blogged but here is a little homily I just discovered based on a story about a man and starfish.

I first put it together in 2003 when I had been incorrectly diagnosed with a major illness and faced surgery. Thankfully all was well  and no treatment was needed but I shall never forget how it felt to be told very bad news and I hope the experience made me better able to empathise with people I meet who have to face major treatment and uncertainty.

I will post the original version now although I did shorten is considerably for a Holy Communion homily this morning.

Hopefully more blogging soon!


 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;  as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”  In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;  and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,  having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.  About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in nderstanding.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food;  for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness.

This is the word of the Lord

Thanks be to God.


Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. {21} They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” {22} Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. {23} Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. {24} Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. {25} Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. {26} Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. {27} “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. {28} Father, glorify your name.”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” {29} The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” {30} Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. {31} Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. {32} And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” {33} He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Collect for Lent 5.

 Gracious Father

You gave up your Son

Out of love for the world;

Lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion

That we may know eternal peace

Through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,

Jesus Christ Our Lord.


SERMON: “The Star Thrower”

Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts that they be  of profit to us and acceptable to thee, our rock and our redeemer. Amen

There is a story in a book called the UNEXPECTED UNIVERSE about a man called the Star Thrower  and it goes like this: On a beautiful tropical beach occasionally the tide and the surf would be just right, and they would combine, and cause a lot of shellfish to be cast far up onto the beach.

Some of these shellfish were very beautiful, and so after they were cast up on the beach  professional collectors and sellers would descend on the beach and swoop up all the shells to take them home where they would boil them and clean out all the flesh of the animals inside them and then sell the shells to tourists.

Some of the shells were very valuable for they were very rare, and a lot of money could be made by a diligent collector. One morning, after the moon and the wind had been just right, and many shellfish had been tossed up on the beach, a man was seen at the far end of the beach all by himself, picking up starfish one by one and throwing them back into the sea.

Curious about what he was doing with the starfish while so many other people were busy collecting the shellfish someone went over to him and asked him if he too collected things on the beach. “Only like this”, he replied, “I collect only for the living” And throwing another starfish back into the sea he said – “See, one can help them…”

I think that this story has a lot to say to us about Jesus and about ourselves.

Jesus was rather like a starfish thrower. He spent  the  years of his public ministry moving about among all sorts of people – of all shapes and sizes and conditions.   Maybe we can compare ourselves to the stranded  starfish longing for the ocean from which we have been tossed. Instead of taking what he could from the ocean, instead of seeking to enhance  his own life, he paid attention to those in need  and He came to restore wholeness to those who lay helpless and stranded  upon the sea of life for whatever reason.

We have now entered Passiontide in the Church’s Year –  Palm Sunday will soon be with us  and we focus these days when  on Jesus’ great sacrificial work on the cross. His great self-giving in love – which Christians believe somehow restores lost humanity to the ocean of God’s love.

Jesus’ work was at great cost to himself. He never collected the securities of life we are so used to – money,  a place to live, a family, a secure future and retirement pension. As he said to a man who thought to follow him “ Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the  Son of  Man has no place to lay his head”.

Jesus renounced everything for the sake of bringing life to those around him – his family, his home, and finally his very life he lay down.  We can measure the cost of his love for us and the inner turmoil he had to face by recalling  what for me are the most powerful words of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before he died. He spent the whole night in prayer, but it still wasn’t over for him and he had to endure the physical agony of crucifixion and the emotional and spiritual agony of believing that God had deserted him.

Lying deep at the heart of the Christian faith is the conviction that Jesus did this so that others might live, so that others might know the blessings of God, so that others might be returned to the ocean of God’s love.

Some might say – this was a tremendous thing for Jesus to do for us – but we are not Jesus- we are not God – how can we be expected to give up everything to follow him?

How are we to respond to what he did for us? How can we be starfish throwers?

The power of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus, the joy and sorrow of Jesus, are all available to us – for the asking and for the wanting, if we follow him. If we are willing to walk as he did in the way of God.

Jesus said – unless a kernel  of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produced many seeds. The man who loves his life in this world will lose it, but the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

It is so easy to be like those the author of Hebrews was writing about – while we ideally should be teachers and livers out of spiritual truth, we end up needing to go over and over basic Christian truths. And how desperately the world needs almost to relearn the basics of love and forgiveness and justice amongst peoples and nations.  Jesus knew the inner law of God – the law which states the more we seek for ourselves, the more attached we are to the life we have, the more we fail to see other peoples needs and understand them, the more we avoid the harder, more wholesome routes in life. The more unhappy and restless we can be – and nearer to a spiritual darkness.

Jesus knew that by caring for others, by putting the needs of others ahead of his own desires that many around him stranded in life would be found. But he also knew with a conviction that was unflinching that he would be raised up – not just on a cross of suffering but on a cross of glory as well.

Its easy in a world with so many conflicting values, so much violence and mistrust, to miss the beauty that there is, to miss the simple and genuine opportunities to reach out to others, to take time to spread kindness, to accept other people as they are.

There is a very real sense that in reaching out to others, in living a life which is focused on increasing the amount of love in the world, we lose our preoccupation with self and experience a living out of eternal love and life.  When we stop looking to see what we can get out of life – like the shellfish collectors – and focus what we can put in – like the starfish thrower – we are living out God’s law of love.

I like the idea of being a starfish thrower. I like to hope that much of what I do is motivated from a wish to put into life as much and hopefully more than I have taken out.

Perhaps not  suprisingly,  over the last few days I have been very self preoccupied as I await the results of tests which will determine whether and to what extent I may shortly need some stomach surgery. Its an anxious time for me and those close to me. I don’t take kindly to being potentially immobilised for several weeks – its not in my nature to have to stop and slow down to crawling point and rest.  I wonder though what God may be able to teach me through this journey? Not, by the way, that I think God has caused this problem, but that out of it there are many things for me to learn.

One thing that  seems  to be coming through loud and clear is that although we are called to follow the example of  Jesus’ self-giving, this must not be at the cost of our own health. How can we give if we do not properly look after ourselves?   I  think  there can be a danger in an over emphasis on Christian self-sacrifice so that  it becomes unhealthy.

Taking time out for ourselves, to eat properly, to get exercise, to have quality time with the people who matter to us, to take time out to be with God – in the garden, in a book, in church, in encounters with others is crucial.

I’ve  not been the best person at taking time out for myself. Now I am going to have to whether I like it or not. And I am going to have to trust other people to do things just as well as I think I can. Isn’t there something about letting go of just a little bit of pride and a feeling of being indispensable?

The again, I think I am going to have to learn better to take. Strange this – doesn’t it go against  Christian teaching – and the whole thing about self-sacrifice? I love the prayer of St Francis of Assisi – make me a channel of your peace.  All about self-giving and putting others before yourself.  But all of a sudden, I am seeing that taken too far we can end up burnt out and stranded like the starfish.

Its all about balance isn’t it? I think I am finding I need a more balanced life between giving and receiving , between putting self first and putting self last. And that if we pay sufficient attention to ourselves in a healthy and appropriate way, we are then so much better able to be starfish throwers rather than stressed and unhappy shell collectors.

I am very grateful for and will continue to appreciate all the help that many folk are offering. I hope very much in the next few months that lots of people will come forward to offer to try out various things church wise which they never have before – maybe read a lesson, lead intercessions, learn to ring bells, look out to visit someone who may be lonely, perhaps join in with a  local study course, be creative at a church fete/festival, simply be around the give invaluable assistance at events – and we have to admit it is always the case that financial giving remains crucial to all the positive work we have achieved with our buildings. I’m sure that God does love a cheerful giver!

Being a church starfish thrower – enriching the life of the church – I believe is our mission. But this must never be at the expense of our own  well-being. I’m sure that with careful thought and prayer both caring for  ourselves and caring for others go together hand in hand.

April 6th 2003

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two services for Mothering Sunday in the Paxton Benefice

There will be two services in the Paxton Benefice this sunday, March 18th 2012.


At Little Paxton School there will be a 9.15am celebration for Mothering Sunday with the St James Church Community. The church is currently closed for refurbishment. The service will last c 45 minutes and there will be childrens activities.


At Holy Trinity Church, Great Paxton there will be a similar service at 10.45am again with childrens activities and some input from the local primary school children.

A free gift for all the ladies who come to either!

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two hymns for Mothering Sunday

Im just reaquainting myself with some material for Mothering Sunday and have come across a hymn called ” Our Father God in heaven” that can be sung to one of the tunes for ” O Jesus I have promised” ( such as Thornbury)

Im sorry I dont know who wrote the words. If someone recognises them could they let me know and I can acknowledge the author.

Mothering Sunday Hymn

Our Father God in heaven
On whom our world depends,
To you let praise be given
For families and friends;
For parents, sisters, brothers,
A home where love belongs,
But on this day for mothers
We bring our thankful songs.

What wealth of God’s bestowing
For all the world to share!
What strength of heart outgoing
To children everywhere!
Our deepest joys and sorrows
A mother’s path must trace,
And earth’s unknown tomorrows
Are held in her embrace.

How well we know the story
That tells of Jesus’ birth,
The Lord of heaven’s glory
become a child of earth;
A helpless infant sleeping,
yet King of realms above,
who finds in Mary’s keeping
the warmth of human love.

Our Father God in heaven,
To you we lift our prayer,
That every child be given
Such tenderness and care,
Where life is all for others,
Where love your love displays:
For God’s good gift of mothers
Let earth unite in praise!

The second hymn is by Rev Ally Barrett, Vicar of Buckden and the Offords near to St Neots. Ally amongst her many talents is a hymn writer and this hymn fits with tunes for All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Tune: All things bright and beautiful

All our blessings, all our joys
With thankful hearts we sing,
True, compassionate, loving God
Accept the praise we bring.

For parents and for children,
For husbands, wives, and friends,
For those whose care enfolds us
With love that never ends.

For fellowship and friendship
We both receive and give,
For those who’ve shared our journey
And taught us how to live.

For all who’ve shared our sorrow,
Walked with us in our pain,
Who’ve held our hand through darkness
And showed us light again.

The following definately isnt a hymn but it always makes me smile: an inscription on a grave stone.

ERE lies a poor woman who was always tired,

She lived in a house where help wasn’t hired:

Her last words on earth were: ‘Dear friends, I am going

To where there’s no cooking, or washing, or sewing,

For everything there is exact to my wishes,

For where they don’t eat there’s no washing of dishes.

I’ll be where loud anthems will always be ringing,

But having no voice  I’ll be spread of the singing

Don’t mourn for me now, don’t mourn for me never,

                                     I am going to do nothing for ever and ever.

And finally:


You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a mother who read to me.
— Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954)

“God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.” — Jewish proverb.

Simnel cake, a traditional delight on Mothering Sunday.

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Approaching God in Suffering. A sermon preached by Rev Scott Watts on March 11th at Great Staughton Church

On March 11th 2012 Rev Scott Watts preached the third in our series of Evensongs offered during Lent in St Neots Deanery.

Scott is lead chaplain at Hinchingbrooke Hospital and the service took place at St Andrews Church, Great Staughton.

St Neots Deanery Evensong

Great Staughton

11 March 2012


‘Approaching God in Suffering’


Isaiah 53: 1–5

Psalm 130

Luke 23: 26 & 32–43

First, let me say what a privilege it is to be here with you.  I come, of course, with greetings and love from the Chaplaincy Team at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.  My thanks to Annette for inviting me to preach and for helping me to remember, when I feel isolated at the hospital, that I am part of a big and loving family.  And, although she can’t be with us this evening, I also want to thank Judi, for allowing me to preach here.

As we explore together over the next few minutes the vexed issue of suffering and, more particularly, where God is to be found, or, indeed, if God is to be found, when we encounter suffering in our lives, or in the lives of those we love and care about, I want to begin with this quote from Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and author.

The quote is taken from his book, ‘Night’, a personal memoir of the Holocaust, and here he’s recounting witnessing the hanging of three people – two adults and a child.  As he and the other prisoners are forced to watch, Wiesel writes:

“I heard [a man behind me] asking: “For    God’s sake, where is God?” And from within me, I             heard a voice answer: “Where is He? This is        where – hanging here from this gallows.””[1]

Let’s pray… Heavenly Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and so give each one of us a glimpse of the glory of the Living Word, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For Elie Wiesel, who had witnessed more atrocities at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, than we can ever imagine, the quote that I just read marked the beginning of the end of his faith.

As one who has never had to witness such an horrendous example of man’s inhumanity to man, I read something different in his words.  I agree with the answer that Wiesel gave.  Where was God in that suffering?  He was right there, hanging on the gallows with those two men and that angel-faced, as Wiesel described him, boy.

But, unlike Wiesel, I don’t accept that God was dying.  He certainly isn’t dead.

In our own recent history, we, too, might have some questions for God.  Where was God in the Trenches of the Great War?  Where was He in the devastation that Hiroshima and Nagasaki became?  Where was God when the six young soldiers were blown up in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan on Wednesday?  Where is God to be found around the person dying of HIV/Aids and with the children that they’ll leave behind when they die?  Where is God in the suffering of the patient dying slowly, yet with so much dignity, of cancer, or Motor Neurone Disease?  Where was God with the young man who died in the hospital recently, as his wife and six-month old child looked on?

To begin to find the answers to questions like the ones I’ve just vocalised, but that, if we’re honest, most of us have thought, or even asked, at points in our lives when we, too, have encountered suffering, we must turn for a while to the three readings that we listened to a few minutes ago.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us, in chapter 53, that God, in and through his beloved, Jesus Christ, not only understands suffering, but knows it personally.

Isaiah was foretelling that when God took on human form, when he became like one of us, in every way – except sin – he became a ‘man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity’.  He was to be ‘despised and rejected’, despite suffering for us, despite healing us, in the most holistic understanding of that word.  He is one who knows what sickness and disease and suffering is all about because He has carried them – and does carry them – and will carry them – for us.

The pen picture that Isaiah paints here is not of a God who sits aloof and distant in the heavens, but one who, in any and every situation, is right there with us.  That, surely, is what the Incarnation is fundamentally all about – God with us.  Always.  Forever.  No matter what.

We see this illustrated perfectly in Luke’s account of the crucifixion.  No throne of splendour for King Jesus.  No royal robes.  No jewel-encrusted crown.  The crowds witnessing this event weren’t crying out ‘Vivat!’  Having successfully called for His crucifixion, they were now mocking Him: “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Messiah of God, His chosen one!”

For this King, his earthly throne is a cross – a place of torture and suffering; his robes, his own flesh; and his crown, one of thorns.  As Isaiah foretold, ‘a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmities’.  And, yet, in all of that, a God who, in the words of Tom Wright, the former Bishop of Durham, ‘promises a place of honour and bliss to one who requests it.’[2]

This is all the more amazing when we understand the Greek: the word ‘scoffed’ in verse 35 really means sneering, or ‘turning up their noses at Him’; and the rather sanitized ‘deriding Him’ of verse 39, better translates as ‘blasphemed’ or ‘abused’ Him.

Psalm 130 was, of course, written many thousands of years before the crucifixion, and yet for us, exploring where God is to be found in suffering, it brings together Isaiah’s and Luke’s themes.

It is a stark reminder, one, perhaps, that we’d rather not hear, that it is all part of the human condition to know suffering.  The opening words set the scene, ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord…’

What do those few words tell us?   They tell us that there will be times in our own lives when we will find ourselves in the depths – of sickness: physical, mental, emotional or spiritual; the depths of despair, of separation or divorce, of unemployment, of homelessness, of financial austerity, or grief and bereavement and so much more.

They tell us that, even there, or, I would say, especially there, that we can, and should, cry out to God.  God isn’t simply the God of the good times – He is that, of course.  He rejoices when we rejoice.  But, far more importantly, He is the God and perfect Father and Mother who walks with us through the depths of all kinds of suffering and, when we weep, who weeps with us.

You see, the answer to each of the questions that we posed earlier, is the same: Where was God to be found in the trenches?  He was right there – in the mud, blood and gore.

Where was God to be found in the suffering caused by the nuclear weapons that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?  He was right there – amidst the ashes of human remains, amidst the flattened, charred landscape, that those places had become in a moment.  He was right there, holding the foreheads of those sick because of radiation poisoning.

Where was God to be found on Wednesday, when those six young soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device? God was right there with them in their Warrior armoured vehicle.

Where is God to be found in the person dying of HIV/Aids and with that person’s soon-to-be orphans?  He is right there in the fighting for breath, in the weeping for loss.

Where is God to be found in the suffering of the terminally ill patient in the hospital, or hospice or bedroom at home?  He is there in the midst of the chaos and devastation.  He is there in the acute, unbearable pain and brokenness.

Where is God to be found with the young man who died in hospital recently, as his wife and six-month old baby looked on?  He was tangibly present in the side room of that busy, noisy and chaotic ward – His presence felt and acknowledged by all those who visited, even those who professed no faith.

All of our readings remind us that hopelessness does not equate to abandonment by God.  The opposite, in fact, is true.  Our Father stands with arms outstretched, ready to comfort us and carry us through all suffering, if only we seek Him.

He was present, is present and will be present in those and every other example of suffering.  In the words of the Franciscan priest and theologian, Richard Rohr: ‘God is to be found in all things, even and most especially in the painful, tragic and sinful things – exactly where we do not want to look for God.’[3]

But it is there, in those situations, that we, as God’s people, are called, by virtue of our baptisms, to look for Him.

What people find, when they do that, when they seek God in suffering, is often surprise – surprise that God is there – not superficially present because of any religious hype or priestly incantations, but powerfully, majestically and tangibly there – the Word who became flesh and who made His dwelling with us.

Seek, and you, too, shall surely find Him.


[1] Wiesel, E, 1958 ‘Night’, (London: Penguin), 65

[2] Wright, NT, 2001 ‘Luke for Everyone’, (London: SPCK), 284

[3] Rohr, R, 1999 ‘Everything Belongs’, (USA: Crossroad Publishing Co), 177

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright, 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

March 15, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

” Approaching God through sport and leisure. A sermon preached by Helen Wright 4.3.2012 at Everton, St Neots.

On March 4th 2012 Helen Wright, who is the East of England ” More Than Gold” co-ordinator preached at St Mary’s Everton on the theme of ” Approaching God through Sport and Leisure”. Helen  has kindly allowed me to include her sermon on my blog for which I am very grateful.

Do take time to read Helen’s thoughts and perhaps explore for the first time the links between sport, leisure  and our life with God.

Approaching God through Sport and Leisure.

A Sermon given by Helen Wright at Everton Church, St Neots Deanery on Sunday March 4th  2012.


 Genesis 1 v 26 – 2 v 3

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Matt 11 v 28 – 30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


May my words be a blessing to all who hear them, Amen.

Thank you for this invitation and thereby prompting me to think rather differently about ‘sport’ and about ‘leisure’ that is my usual approach.

Being an active toddler, child, then sporting teenager led to an early working life as a PE teacher until recently when an arthritic knee and an interest in Personal Development for teenagers caused a change of direction.

The decision to pursue a teaching life came before the decision to follow Jesus Christ. I am so glad that my discipleship route was clearly to continue in and through my already chosen work and did not require a change to the mission field or ordination – yet!

I think it entirely possible to approach and to fins God through sport and leisure – though you might be hard-pressed to find scriptures specifically to back this up!

Try as I might I can find no reference to Synchronised swimming, Hockey or Rambling in either Old or New Testaments and the only reference to anything resembling a javelin – that is the spear thrown in anger by Saul at David – isn’t exactly positive is it?

So, as you heard read, I chose to take as a launch and reference point, for approaching God through sport and leisure, the idea of rest.

In a small, but in my opinion, significant booklet titled ‘Rhythm of Life’ by Don Egan we are recommended to think of rest in a very different way.

Egan points out that God rested after all His work, His final creative act having resulted in human beings, man and woman.

For Adam and Eve, in contrast, their first complete day of life was a day of rest – from which they proceeded to work and live.

This way of looking at that scripture reading may be quite new and revelatory of God’s intentions for us that I will take a further moment for consideration – Egan suggests that rest is to be seen differently. We work from rest not rest from work.

This perspective, this way of thinking has not quite revolutionised my life but I do have a perceptibly changed sense of life-rhythm. Having burnt out 8 years ago I have a changed perspective on how to work, rest and play!

From offering that thought about resting on the first day and working from rest I now turn to some thoughts about how we might use the rest time that we have, on our rest day and at other times of the week. I turn to my provided title and look at sport and leisure.

Is God interested in the way we rest? Take our leisure? Compete in sport? Yes He is!

The leader of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Mark Greene, likens life to a peach and not an orange. On the Institute’s ‘Toolbox’ course I heard Mark say that we need to perceive our lives as a whole ‘peach’ with a stone at the centre, not as a segmented, fragmented ‘orange’.

Jesus desire is to be at the centre of our lives and, with Him at the centre, we can then enjoy every aspect of our lives with His interest in and approval of every activity and each opportunity.

I can say with certainty that God intends every one of His created beings to be whole, though for some that may be lived out within disability and associated restrictions. Wholeness of spirit is available for every single person.

We all know that whoever we are we should be aware of physical fitness as far as we are able to achieve that. For many of us that is reached through active sport and leisure pursuits, some competitive and some recreational. The endorphin hormones released create the ‘feel-good’ factor afterwards.

Can sport and leisure pursuits lead us to worship and through that reveal more about God?

You may be of an age to remember the film Chariots of Fire, the story of Eric Liddell, Christian athlete and later missionary, who famously refused the opportunity to win a gold medal in the 100m race at the 1924 Olympic Games – because his race was on a Sunday.

Sport as worship of God is well encapsulated in the scene from the film Chariots of Fire, when Eric Liddell‘s thoughts as he runs are, ‘God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure.‘ More and more Christians have come to see sport, played with the right attitude, as something that can bring pleasure to God. It is a shame that the line was actually written by Colin Welland, and that there is no indicator that it was ever spoken by Eric Liddell.

The church has had an interesting relationship with sport and leisure over the centuries.

One of the earliest references to a Christian view of sport came in 1364 when the Synod of Ely forbade its clergy to play games, and some years later the Prior of Lilleshall, issuing moral guidance, urged parish priests not to cast stones or ‘axle’ trees and to banish games from their churchyards.

Later in the 18th century Rev Samuel Ashe an English clergyman clearly saw the need for interaction between church and sport. He used to spend his Sunday afternoons hiding in the trees by the local sports field. He would bide his time till the football came near him when he would catch the ball and pierce it with a pin1. He could then go home rejoicing that he had stopped his parishioners from sinning!

The Bishop of Manchester, in 1902 blamed the decline in Sunday observance on three things: ‘…carelessness and athleticism, and particularly on the invention of the bicycle!’

Puritan opposition to sport might be summarized under three points:

1 Sport was not the best use of time;

2 Sport often took place on Sunday;

3 Sport was often associated with drinking, gambling and bad company

However some of today’s Premier League Football Clubs began as clubs started by churches: Aston Villa, QPR, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Everton, possibly to keep lads off the streets and out of drinking premises, particularly on Sundays.

There has been, arguably, more Catholic thinking about sport than you would find in evangelical circles. Pope Pius X who was Pope 1903-14 declared: ‘Young people should perform physical exercises. Performed in moderation they will not only promote the health of the body, but also the salvation of the soul.’

Pope John Paul II once said, ‘Athletic activity can help every man and woman to recall that moment when God the Creator gave origin to the human person, the masterpiece of his creative work.’

Author Stuart Weir, of Christians in Sport, to whom I give credit for researching many of these pieces of information, declares that any theology of sport should recognise that sport is:

  • a gift from God
  • part of God‘s creation
  • an opportunity for worship
  • an opportunity to love one‘s neighbour
  • a testing ground
  • an opportunity for witness [to the love of God]
  • important but not all-important
  • not the source of our significance as people

Let’s now pick up his declaration that sport provides an opportunity to ‘love one’s neighbour’ and an ‘opportunity for witness [to the love of God]’

This is where I strongly suspect that the motivation for inviting me to this meeting comes from!

I was hanging on the edge of my seat around 12.10 on July 6th 2005 and jumped high when it was announced that London would be the host city for the 2012 Games!

Since January 2009 I have been working as a volunteer with More Than Gold, the umbrella organisation under which most Christian denominations and organisations are responding to the incredible opportunities provided, by the fast-approaching London 2012 Olympic Games, for loving our neighbours and witnessing to the love of God.

Looking forward to the Games or renting out your home for the six-week duration?

A waste of money or an enormous investment for the future of the country?

A summer of sport in our own back-yard – brilliant?

Love it or loathe it – the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are less than 150 days away.

If you love God, love your neighbours – whoever they are – and want ways to witness to God’s love for them then it is time to consider embracing the More Than Gold 3-fold strategy: offer hospitality, go out of your way to serve people and you may just find yourself with a chance to tell them about an incredible God who loves them to bits and wants to have relationship with them.

Ely Diocese has been very forward thinking in appointing your own Tim Hayward as Diocesan Olympic coordinator.

He is the person to whom you should direct your enquiries after I have gone, but just in the last few moments given to me let me share some of the ideas that More Than Gold has come up with for churches to use to encourage communities to grow:

A family fun afternoon

Watching the Opening Ceremony together on a big screen

Neighbourhood Bar-B-Q’s on so-called ‘super Saturday’, when 25 gold medals will be decided

A board-Games Olympics at your local elderly care-home

A sports quiz night

The Paralympics gives churches a chance and a reason to develop and improve their inclusivity and access provisions.

Does God want us to approach Him? Yes – His arms are open wide to each of us!

Does God mind if we approach Him in sport and leisure pursuits? Not at all – He created us with bodies that are at their most healthy with activity and exercise.

Can we use sport and leisure to help others who are not yet sure of God’s existence or love to find Him? Most certainly!

About 10% of this nation regularly attends church.

Dependent on the survey anything between 17% and 20% of this nation are members of health clubs or a sports team.

By developing relationships with those for who sport and leisure pursuits are important we can build a platform for conversations about He who is most important to us.

Try the More Than Gold Way.

I can, though, assure you that on September 10th 2012, the day after the Paralympic Closing Ceremony, all More Than Gold workers will be seeking

a good deal of rest, from which, eventually, we will seek the work that God has for us after that!

 May God bless all these thoughts and bring them back to you for Him to use appropriately in His service, Amen.

Check out the More Than Gold web-site:

March 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

St Perpetua and her companions


A short homily in honour of Perpetua and her companions,

Martyrs at Carthage.

7th March 202.

It is a while since I have turned my attention to the particular saint or martyr remembered in the CW lectionary at the Wednesday morning HC.

The collect for day is that written to honour Perpetua, Felicity and their companions and I thought it rather beautiful in its imagery.

Holy God, who gave great courage to Perpetua, Felicity and their companions;

Grant that we may be worthy to climb the ladder of sacrifice and be received into the garden of peace.

Through Jesus Christ your Son Our Lord

Who  is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

One God, now and forever.


A short  few words about the life of Perpetua will explain the imagery which the collect takes. It is thought Tertullian, the early Christian Father of The Church , wrote some the narrative of their martyrdom.

But it is also very likely that Perpetua herself wrote an account of her visions and sufferings before she died, not least how her desperate father tried to get her to renounce her faith.

Perpetua was 22 years old from a prosperous family, a new convert to Christianity and newly widowed with a baby. Her friend Felicity was expecting a child and was a slave woman. During the times of Christian persecution under the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus, the two women and some male friends were arrested for their faith and locked in a dungeon. It was forbidden under this Emperor to be a Jew of Christian.

Perpetua had a vision in which she saw a golden ladder, guarded by a fierce dragon, but she climbed it, stepping on the dragon’s head to do so. At the top, she found herself in a green meadow, with many white-robed figures, and in their midst a shepherd, who welcomed her and gave her a morsel of cheese from the sheep-milk. She awakened and understood that their martyrdom was certain.

From this vision we have the collect prayer using the imagery of climbing a ladder of sacrifice and of the vision of the blessed garden or meadow.

Perpetua’s father pleaded with her to recount her faith. But  we possibly have  her own words when Perpetua said : “”On that scaffold, whatever God wills shall happen. For know that we are not placed in our own power but in that of God.” And he departed from me in sorrow.

Perpetua had another vision, in which she saw herself fighting against a gladiator in the arena, and winning. She understood this to signify victory over the devil.

One of her companions in gaol, Saturnus also had a vision  which he records in his own words, in which he and the others, having died in the arena, are borne by angels into a beautiful garden, where they greet other martyrs who have gone before them, and are brought before the throne of God, surrounded by twenty-four elders.

Refusing to recant their faith Perpetua and her friends were all martyred in Carthage in 203.

Gardens feature many times in the bible – Garden of Eden, Paradise. The garden of Gethsemane, The Garden  where  Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and others on the morning of his resurrection.  Both the visions of Perpetua and Saturnus speak of the peace and rest to be found in a heavenly garden after their persecution.

With spring truly gaining ground, we are blest with a powerful reminder of the new life and hope which a garden can give us. I find working  and occasionally sitting in a garden is a excellent part of  my Lenten spiritual journey – I hope you find pleasure and renewed hope in yours or indeed any garden you may find yourself in this spring.

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Visiting Ely Cathedral

Let nothing disturb or dismay us, O God, for all things are passing and you alone are unchanging. Teach us that all things are wrought in patience and that those who possess you lack nothing and that our sufficiency is in you alone; and this for your own name’s sake. Amen.

St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)


This prayerful lady is to be found in Ely Cathedral in the north aisle amongst a collection of copies of ancient brasses. She is a wool lady and is beside her  wool man. This medieval figure is very serene so I’ve linked her with the prayer of St Teresa of Avila above.

It is always a treat to visit Ely Cathedral and on March 1st was accompanied by two friends from my previous parishes, Margaret and Rita.

Just as we arrived, Bishop Stephen was signing the letter which he has written to The Queen congratulating her on her forthcoming Diamond Jubilee.

Here is a photographer from the local paper getting a view of the event. It is hoped that lots of parish people across the Diocese will add their signatures to accompanying sheets so that HM may receive many good wishes from Ely and beyond.


Here is a view looking up into the Octagon. One of the saints ” doors” was open and someone waved down at us. I might have climbed Little Paxton’s tower up to the belfry, but the Octagon? No!! Click on the picture and you have a better view of the opening.

In the Lady Chapel is the modern statue of Mary by David Wynne ( 2000).

I have seen it many times, but not since a new wrought iron addition has been put in place and an altar frontal added in gold ” And the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us full of grace and truth”

I had promised my friends that the Quaker  Tapestry Exhibition would be on, but alas it was being dismantled before our eyes. Apparantly Dr Mary Archer opened the exhibition on 30th January 2012 and was not impressed with modern Mary.

She is reported to have commented that perhaps someone could embroider something for the ” multi-coloured” madonna to go over her. Obviously not a fan then of this expressive and exulting Mary. Much more exciting and real to my mind than the thousands of passive statues of our Lords mother.

Part of the magnificent south aisle, the mingling of sunlight and stained glass on the Norman stonework. One of the huge old heaters( now gas fired)  is on the left.

Thanks to Margaret and Rita for a lovely day out!

March 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment