... Uniting like this is normal human behaviour, from the playground to the bartering-floor of the stock exchange. Groups of people get together to put things right with each other by putting someone else away. I’m keenly aware of this today, having heard that one of the influential people in my journey of faith, Janet Henderson, a woman of intelligence and integrity who was my personal tutor at theological college, has resigned as Dean of Llandaff Cathedral after just two months in post. The reason given in the newspapers is a dispute with the cathedral choir over fees for a TV appearance; but they also report an underlying cause - the opposition she received from some clergy who object to a woman being appointed. ‘I ask ... that they may be one’, prayed Jesus to his Father; unfortunately it seems that unity for the cathedral has come at the cost of another person’s vocation. ...
- from my talk today, John 17 - Unity - without a victim.
- the start of my Ascension Day talk, Up, posted a couple of days late.
Have you ever wondered why, when the time came for him to leave his people on earth to return to his Father in heaven, Jesus chose to go up?
He could have gone forwards, he could have gone backwards, he could have gone sideways, he could have gone downwards; but he chose to go up.
He could have gone forwards. Like Alice through the looking glass or the children entering Narnia through the wardrobe, Jesus could have stepped through a gap in space-time, his disciples watching the air in front of them ripple like liquid as Jesus stepped ahead into it and through it, and in the next instant when all was normal again, finding him gone.
He could have gone backwards, simply pulling away gently from the group of friends as they walked and talked together, until they realised he was not with them, and as they looked back, finding that he was not there.
He could have gone sideways, launching himself from the mountainside like a freefall parachutist, arms wide open in a gesture like the crucifixion but now floating, freely, gracefully away out of sight.
Or he could have gone downwards; down into Galilee’s waters, in an act recalling his baptism, this time the waters gently closing over his head as he surfaced no more.
But Jesus chose to go up. As we say in our creed, ‘he ascended into heaven’. The direction he chose is significant. Why go up? ....
Have you noticed how the story of God and humankind begins in a garden and ends in a city? Eden is our Paradise Lost - and the start of our separation from God; the new Jerusalem, the holy city coming down out of heaven, completes our reunion with God, it is the location of our everlasting union, in a place which is endlessly fruitful, endlessly generous, full of light, a place of blessing for each of its inhabitants.
And inbetween the broken promise of Eden and the light of the new Jerusalem - we journey each day in places which carry elements of both; places of promises made and promises broken, places of light and darkness, places we love and places we hate, places where we feel safe and secure and places where we feel vulnerable. As followers of Jesus Christ we believe that we are moving in the overall direction of the new Jerusalem, drawn by its light. But in everyday life we sometimes struggle to make our way. ...
from today's talk, Where we are placed on the way to the city.
Would you go on a picnic with Peter? Look at the food he he laid out on his picnic blanket: four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air..... Would you eat any of those?
- from yesterday's talks, Peter's funny picnic. The family service featured a 'real' picnic including camel pie, crocodile soup, tiger sandwich, and vulture vol-au-vent.
... Peter the betrayer was like a lamb who had gone astray, a rueful ruminant torn between his love for his Lord and his fear of powerful others. But some time later Peter the loved and protected follower of God found himself transformed into a healer, a worker of a miracle which brought back from death his sister in Christ, Tabitha.
The transformation came because Peter knew his master’s voice. And on that misty morning three days after the crucifixion, breathless, having run to see for himself the empty tomb where Jesus had laid, Peter recalled the words which Jesus had taught him: that the Son of Man would be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and after three days would rise again. [Luke 24.7] And each day and each night since, Peter’s head span with the wonder of knowing that Jesus was alive, had conquered death.
Because he had listened well to Jesus in the time he spent with him Peter knew his master’s voice - and in the reawakening which the resurrection wrought in his life Peter remembered that Jesus had once called him ‘the rock, on which I will build my church’ [Matthew 16.18]. And hearing and believing, Peter set about that work of building the community of believers together. ...
From my first sermon at Whitegate and Little Budworth. Knowing the master's voice, today.
... Resurrection People get the point of Jesus. The point that because he has overcome the forces of evil in the world, because he came back to life after taking all the world could throw at him, there is no death in Christ, only life - and that is our experience, those who embrace him and follow him.
Resurrection People have a zest for life: I’m thinking of the story on the front page of this week’s Okehampton Times - with its headline, ‘A charitable leap by George’:
A second world war veteran from Okehampton was among those to brave the drop in the Meldon Abseil last Sunday. George Heathman, 92, took on the 100ft abseil off Meldon Viaduct to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care... 
I spoke to George yesterday and know he’s unhappy that the newspaper got his age wrong - he’s only 91. But on the application form for the charity abseil he’d put his name down as ‘Twenty-plus’. Resurrection People are indefatigable.
Resurrection People never say die: I’m thinking of my friend Adrian, a vicar in rural North Wales, who last weekend opened the front door of his rectory to find that the snow outside was waist deep. He was due to host a wedding later that day. Afterwards he wrote, saying,
Yes! Alison and Michael got married! So we dug our way out of the Rectory (!) and Alison and Michael got married. A magnificent community effort - after a huge snowfall overnight and, in response to my email appeal, over 30 people of all ages turned up with snow shovels to remove the two foot of snow (and much bigger drifts) around the church and to start to clear the impassable road outside. The local farmers were all up to their necks, both in snow and lambs, so the local councillor's influence in providing a last minute snowplough received cheers, and the organist heroically managed to arrive by thumbing two lifts, one of which was on a fire engine! A heartening reminder of the love in human hearts and, as Alison said, 'there were people with shovels that I didn't even know!' 
Resurrection People stare death in the face and create life...
From my Easter Sunday sermon (my last in the Northmoor Team churches), We are Resurrection People.
A legacy of my time in Devon: I've today published Devon Sermons, a collection of my talks, sermons and poetry 2010 - 2013, 'a fertile time for my preaching', as I write in the introduction. Because of the keen interest of many listeners to what I was saying, not least the late, lovely Ron Hopkins 'who late in his life developed a keen desire to learn and understand what the Christian faith was all about' and to whom I've dedicated the book.
In over 200 pages Devon Sermons contains 35 sermons, talks and poetry. An opportunity for a new audience to read them for the first time, and for John's Devon congregations to revisit those words which challenged, inspired, confused or annoyed therm. With useful indexes and a full introduction.
Including ‘The temptations of Jesus and the horsemeat scandal’, and ‘In our village Jesus has no place’, among others which caught people’s imaginations. Also featured: John’s reflections on the year of Jubilee and the significance of the Olympics, and his school assembly poem, ‘Jesus - a funny sort of king’.
Angela Elkins kindly permitted me to use her approving comment: ‘These sermons are even better the second time around’.
... It may not be stretching our imaginations too much to suggest that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a carefully orchestrated one-off event - a flash mob, if you like; a deliberate provocation towards the Roman imperial power with all its military hardware designed to keep the Jewish people compliant, and the Roman imperial theology which upheld the emperor as not simply the ruler of Rome, but as the Son of God. Jesus adopted the donkey-king persona to mock the emperor’s pretensions and to playfully assert his own status as God’s Son, entering the holy city by the back door in a silly but pointed peasant procession, just as Pilate entered by the main gate. And the two processions into Jerusalem that day embodied the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus’ crucifixion’. ...
- from today's Palm Sunday talk, Jesus' crowd is a flash mob.