Monthly Archives: October 2021

All Saints – October 31st 2021 – Rev Alison Way

Revelation 21;1-6, John 11:32-44

In the name of the living God, father, son and holy spirit Amen

From the earliest times to the present day the church has recognise as part of its foundations – the heroes of our faith the saints whose lives have excited others to holiness and following the Christian way for their lives. Initially this feast All Saints was celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, which kind of makes sense – as there is a link between the disciples receiving the holy spirit and the saints living in the power of the spirit. However, this commemoration moved in around the 8th century to its current date – 1st November. A pope dedicated a chapel to All Saints in St Peter’s Rome on 1 November and within a century, this day was observed as All Saints day across Britain and Ireland. Now in the church year – All Saints marks the beginning of the run up to the end of the church year as we ramp up into the time between All Saints and Advent. We explore the themes of remembering and kingdom and Christ as King, before we start again and return to the beginning of the church year on Advent Sunday.

I recently heard a great illustration of the Christian understanding of time which used ribbon.  We tend to view time as linear as a progression from one year to the next through our lives. (This is depicted by the the ribbon laid flat and stretched out). But from the perspective of God time is a much wider concept and God’s work is not just restricted to our linear understanding of time and more circular or cyclical. So if we arrange the ribbon with the beginning near the end this makes a better illustration. In the church’s understanding of time as we move through the church year we have times like we are entering now. If the ribbon is arranged in a circle where the end is near the beginning and the beginning is near the end – it is closer to the understanding we need!

Both of our readings today also tune into a more mysterious understanding and one not limited by a linear understanding of time. They tap into the ethereal understanding we need to have our God, which is not just our linear progression through time but one pointing to majesty and kingdom

The first reading is a marvellous bit of scripture from the book of Revelation. Where John is describing what I have always thought of as our eternal destination and final resting place, describing life with God in eternity – what eternal life might be like. It is picture language and needs us to tune in our imaginations. He describes this as a holy city – where God is with his people and his people with God. Where death has passed along with the difficult things of this life. Where mourning, crying and pain will be no more.

This is quite a common choice as a funeral reading as it gives us hope and reassurance that loved ones who have died are fully with God and loved and cherished and safe. It  gives us grounds for hope for ourselves too. John describes the alpha and the omega – the beginning and the end. The alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the greek alphabet – mirroring the beginning and the end statements!

The phrase also mirrors much philosophical thought of Jesus times. In the 1st century as well as an understanding of the temporal a Greek source from 350BC abit before this passage was written – It said Zeus is the beginning, Zeus is the middle, all things are fulfilled by Zeus. Likewise Plato is thought to have said “God … holds the beginning and the middle and the end of all things which exist. Hippocrates, refers to the beginning and end as a kind of unbroken circle “The beginning of everything is one and the end of everything is one and the end and the beginning are the same.” Then the stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius said the soul that “knows the beginning and the end”. The knows in that statements is using the term Logos (which is what we translate as the Word or meaning) that penetrates the universe. Beginning and end, I know who created heaven and earth / for all things are from him, he knows what is from the beginning to the end. All of this was important to Greek society – to establish cosmic sovereignty and lordship for God. It is interesting to reflect on this as our thoughts turn to the sovereignty and lordship of God as we move into this time of endings and the kingdom and Jesus as king in the church year.

Today’s second reading is equally interesting, the time interpretation here is more down to earth as we encounter Martha – practical as always concerned that if they open the tomb of Lazarus the stench will be unbearable. Her brother had been dead for 4 days, but this time is not an obstacle to Jesus who prays to the Father and cries for Lazarus to come out. And indeed Lazarus comes, bound in strips of cloth and his face wrapped in a cloth. I heard a talk by Timothy Radcliffe (Roman catholic Cistercian  monk) about the need to unbind Lazarus and let him go, which are the final words of Jesus we heard. Again time is not an obstacle to Jesus work here. In our rational age there is a tendency to ponder on the hows and whys of this story – which will get us nowhere fast and not take a step back and inspiration from the stuff of God being mysterious and other worldly.

In a way and I concur with Timothy Radcliffe over this belief is more difficult in our secular society – God needs to be mysterious – so that we need to make a choice. It cannot be all logic and reason! That stuff is dry and sterile! In 1 Corinthians 13 we remember we see in a mirror darkly but then we shall see face to face – what the Revelation passage was about. I also think that those words of Jesus said as Lazarus is having difficulty moving from the tomb due to his bounding – something that sometimes need to be said to us. Unbind him and let him go

Jesus says this to enable Lazarus to walk free and walk once more in what we describe as the land of the living. I don’t suppose Lazarus got hung up on what happened (the whys and wherefores) but was just thankful! Our God of love is in the transformation business but cannot work in us unless we are willing participants. Open to his guiding and leadership and less hung up on the logical and rational, and the lures of science and reason.

I am going to end these reflections with one of those stories to help us think – there is a real twist in the tale of this one! It is from The Wounded Healer, By Henri Nouwen and retells a tale from ancient India.

Four royal brothers decided each to master a special ability. Time went by, and the brothers met to reveal what they had learned. “I have mastered a science,” said the first, “by which I can take but a bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes with it.” “I,” said the second, “know how to grow that creature’s skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones.” The third said, “I am able to create its limbs if I have the flesh, the skin, and the hair.” “And I,” concluded the fourth, “know how to give life to that creature if its form is complete.”

Thereupon the brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate their specialties. As fate would have it, the bone they found was a lion’s. One added flesh to the bone, the second grew hide and hair, the third completed it with matching limbs, and the fourth gave the lion life. Shaking its mane, the ferocious beast arose and jumped on his creators. He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.

We too have the capacity to create what can devour us. Logic and rationality and even inappropriate goals and dreams not of God’s will for us can consume us. Pre-occupation with things and stuff can certainly turn us from God’s path too. Let’s recapture some awe, wonder and the mystery of God this day. We need to seek first God’s kingdom in all that we are and his righteousness for there is the heavenly city of eternal life with God.    The alpha and omega – the beginning and the end. Amen

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995

Henri Nouwen’s – the wounded healer

Greek Philosophy from © ROOTS for Churches Ltd ( 2002-2021. Reproduced with permission.

Bible Sunday – 24th October – Penny Ashton

Bible Sunday – 2 Timothy 3: 14-4: 5 and John 5: 36b – end

Some years ago, there was an attempt in Wincanton to set up a Lions club.  You can get an idea of just how long ago this was by the fact that our then curate Steve Tancock was a member!  One of the fund raisers that we attempted was book sales on Saturday mornings in the hall at the back of the Bear Inn.  We quickly learned that when you hold a book sale, you nearly always go home with more books than you started with, and you end up with a heavy heart taking quite a number of these to the tip.  Even more sadly, the book that most often ends up in a skip is King James Bibles.  Nobody these days want to buy a second-hand bible, especially if it is written in the language used 400 years ago and in tiny print.  People who buy Bibles nowadays buy something more like the one that I received for my birthday this year with beautiful illustrations and space for journaling   which I have not been able to bring myself to use yet, or one with bright colours and fun stories to read to children.

And yet there are many children and adults. whose knowledge of the bible is almost non-existent.  Where did we go wrong?  2 Timothy is a good book to read from on Bible Sunday, partly because it contains that wonderful verse in chapter 3 v 16 – ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, but also because earlier in the book Paul reminds Timothy of what he has learned and from whom he learned it.  There is very much a lesson for us here, as in chapter 1Paul says – ‘I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.’ (2 Timothy 1: v 5)  Timothy then had received a solid grounding in the scriptures – the part of our bible that we would call the law and the prophets,  from his Jewish mother and grandmother.  The teaching about Jesus he received at the same time as they did from Paul himself whom they would have met on his first or second journey – ‘Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us’ (2 Timothy 1 v13).

This is obviously a family that is close to Paul’s heart.  Last week on St Luke’s day we heard from this same letter Paul asking Timothy to come to him in prison, and he added some very personal requests – to bring the cloak that he had left behind and his books, and especially the parchments.  Paul is very aware that he may not have much longer to live, and at a time like that you want the people around you that you most love.

Paul’s letters to Timothy contain a lot of advice that is still useful to us today – he is supporting a young church leader, and in many respects, what was sensible in the middle east in the first century, is still sensible now, although it is obvious from some passages how much times have changed.  In our reading today, he points out that Timothy has been given a good start, by his family, and partly also from having accompanied Paul on his travels and no doubt heard him teach frequently, and joined in discussions with him and others.

I don’t know what the congregation at the church in Ephesus looked like under Timothy’s leadership.  I do know that it took courage to be a Christian there, as it was very unpopular in the town to certain parts of society – in particular those who made money from the tourist trade as, just as a cathedral city is to us nowadays, so Ephesus was to the followers of Artemis or Diana as she was also called in the ancient world.  Her temple was listed as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and had made the town rich.  Small wonder then that they were not happy when Paul first arrived preaching about another God and performing miracles, and I doubt if the regular worshipping church under the leadership of Timothy was any more popular.  I do know, however, what most churches in this country look like and much as I love you all, I have to say that we are not a sight guaranteed to excite young people.  I think you would probably agree with me!

Is the answer then to return to the word of God?  In the letter to the Hebrews, it is described as being active and sharper than any two-edged sword.  Alison warned us last week that while the recorded version with David Suchet is beautiful to listen to, it can also be soporific.  How can we get people excited again?  The Bible Society tell me that this year they have produced the whole Bible in 66 languages being read by 707 million people.  6 language groups received the whole Bible in their own language for the first time in the last year.  Five of these were African languages and one was in American Sign language, which I have to admit confuses me as I did not realise that sign language could also be printed and read.  These people are overjoyed that at last they can read scripture in their day-to-day language.  But in this country, bibles are being sent to the tip.

Could the answer be in Jesus teaching that we heard in our gospel reading?  Jesus says ‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.’  Our bibles are a valuable, a precious, a life-giving resource, but like the two-edged sword that they are likened to, they need to be used properly.  They point to Jesus, and that surely is what we should be doing – in our lives, our worship and our use of the bible.

This Sunday is the last Sunday after Trinity, but the last Sunday of the church’s year comes in four weeks’ time with the Festival of Christ the King.  We used to say that all roads lead to Rome – surely all our words should and must, as our Sundays do, lead to Jesus.

Trinity 19 – 10th October – Ken Masters

A Sermon by The Revd Ken Masters on 10 October 2021

for Trinity 19, year B, proper 23 at Pen Selwood

Readings: Hebrews 214-18; Luke 222-40

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

As we get older, reading more obituaries and attending more funerals, the question posed by the Gospel may enter our minds more often.  ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’  A question possibly sharpened by the Pandemic.

Jesus’ answer to the man in the Gospel was to remind him of the Commandments.  “But I’ve kept all those,” he replied.  We may say much the same or have sincerely repented.  In my mind, though, there are still many memories of less major sins, plus innumerable moments of weakness, foolishness and embarrassing faux-pas.  I wonder if we have such clear consciences as the man in the Gospel – if indeed he had?

Anyway, Jesus then – as the Gospel says – ‘looking at him, loved him’, but tells him to sell all he has, give to the poor, and follow him.  Direct and radical – Jesus thoroughly shocked the man.  What would Jesus say to us now?  In our different time and different circumstances, what would he call us to do?  Most of us have many possessions – I for one have accumulated a great clutter – and we also have dependents and responsibilities.  To a greater or lesser extent, we are locked into our social and financial framework.  I don’t think we’d get exactly the same call.  So, we have to look again at

Jesus’ words to determine what his call may be to us today.

But before we get to that, let’s think of 4 aspects of a wider picture.  As the Media reported: the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury and other world faith leaders have called on the ‘richer nations to solve the climate crisis’ – and wealthier families and individuals to do more to cut emissions and provide more climate funding.  With the Coronavirus Virus, the world will not be safe until people of all nations have been vaccinated – which means that the richer nations give more help to the poorer.  Last Wednesday the Government withdrew the £20 uplift to Universal Credit.  Then there’s the sudden surge in energy costs, along with shortages brought about by transport and logistic problems, and the likelihood of rising prices.  So, the poorer people of Britain are going to be more and more hard pressed.  Food Banks together with local and national charities are appealing for support to help those in increasing need.  All this alongside the ever-present prompting not to forget the even more basic needs in other parts of the world.  All aspects of the wider picture.

Looking at Jesus’ words: he acknowledged the needs of the poor – as he later highlighted in his Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, connecting help to the needy, with serving Him.  But in talking with the man in the Gospel his main emphasis was on what the man needed to do to inherit eternal life.  What, then, of Jesus’ call to us to enter eternal life?  In essence it seems to be a call to simplicity of life, material generosity and loving commitment.  And we each have to take this to heart – to read and listen to Jesus’ words in the Gospel – and think about them – and pray about them – and act on them.

There’s a modern hymn which came to my mind.  It’s in the green hymn book [322], but I don’t know whether you sing it here.  It starts, ‘Love is his word, love is his way’ and has the Refrain, ‘Richer than gold is the love of my Lord: better than splendour and wealth.’  This seems to sum up part of what Jesus said to the young man in the Gospel and to his disciples.  Love is the way into the Kingdom of God – love of God and love of our neighbour – both of which have social, political, financial and lifestyle implications.  And if Love is a way into the Kingdom of God, it is a way into eternal life.

One of the verses of that hymn goes:

Love is his mark, love is his sign,

bread for our strength, wine for our joy,

‘This is my body, this is my blood.’

Love, only love is his sign.

We are reminded each time we receive Holy Communion that, in traditional words, the bread which is the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ is to ‘preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life’ – in modern usage, to ‘keep you in eternal life’.  This is not to suggest that Communion is a replacement for the challenge of Jesus’ words in the Gospel.  His call to us is to a greater simplicity of life.  To order our priorities to put His Kingdom first.  Above all, to learn and re-learn what it is to be generous – and especially to those in need.  And as we share in this Sacrament of His Love, this Sign of His Body and Blood, given for all – in this we receive His grace and His love, which are what we need to follow Him in eternal life – to the Glory of God.  Amen.

St Luke 17th October 2021 – Rev Alison Way

2 Timothy 4:5-17, Luke 10:1-9

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

Who do we think St Luke was? The definitive Anglican source of information – is this book called Exciting holiness. This version is dedicated to one of the brothers – Tristram – who helped compile it (who lived at Hilfield for much of his later life!) and who I knew. This book says that Luke was a dear friend of the apostle St Paul and is mentioned by him in three of his letters – Including the one we heard this morning.

In the second letter of Timothy it said 11Only Luke is with me. Where they are was in prison! Luke is alleged to have withstood this time and died many years later in Greece aged 84 (some think he was martyred too by being hung in an olive tree). Elsewhere St Paul describes Luke as the beloved physician. This Luke is also believed to be the same Luke as wrote 2 books of the New Testament – Luke’s gospel and then the Acts of the apostles. Luke’s story of the life of Christ which then goes on to explain how the early church grew in Acts. All this writing has a really imaginative and pictorial edge to it.

It starts further back than most with the bulk of the stories of the nativity, which we will be thinking about again very soon. The angel coming to Mary, the shepherds through to 40 days after the birth to the presentation in the temple. It goes right through to his death and resurrection. One of my favourite resurrection stories has 2 disciples walking on the road to Emmaus and who don’t recognise Jesus. They eventually do in breaking of bread. There are a number of things that are just in Luke’s gospel. Stories like the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son and the Rich Man and Lazarus. Even some of the bits of the Bible we are most capable of managing by heart are in Luke’s gospel, because of their use in our more traditional services (meaning the Benedictus, Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis).

Not only does Luke’s gospel go further back than most with the Acts of the apostles the writer goes further on than the other gospels too. In this book he concentrates on the events that immediately happened after Jesus resurrection and ascension. The sequel as we follow in it the works of Peter and how Paul came to prominence and how the church was established is unique. I am going to spend a little time now unpacking themes in these writings of Luke. The ideas of Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the apostles are a bit different from the others and in a few weeks time – on Advent Sunday – we will go into the church’s new year and the majority of our gospel readings will then centre around Luke – so this will be useful background. (Where as this year we have had a lot of Mark (and because its rather short also a lot of John!)). Some of us will remember I talked about what made Mark distinctive – lots of immediately and cut and thrust action – no hanging about. Luke is not like that at all and I would urge us all to read Luke and Acts in full in the next few weeks. Unlike Mark it will take a little longer than 90 minutes curled up in the arm chair with the good book on a wet afternoon or we can listen to David Suchet reading it on youtube



Or you can download a DAVID Suchet bible reading app to your phone!!!  The whole thing will take about 5 and half hours to hear!

There are five things that stand out in the books that Luke wrote too. Let’s think about these in turn

FIRSTLY Supernatural emphasis – angels and unusual happenings – the other worldliness of Jesus is emphasized. Lots of angels from the word go – Mary, encountering the shepherds etc. Luke makes much more of the mystery – much much more than Mark has been doing!!! For example in today’s reading it ends with quite a mysterious sentence

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

A way in to explain what that means is by saying the works of God are mysterious and deep but intimate and present.

SECONDLY Luke is a medical man and as a result we get more technical detail about illnesses and conditions and how Jesus healed people. This is why he is the patron saint of the medical profession and why as we remember we pray for healing and the caring professions as we will later. That sentence from today’s reading I read out to illustrate the first point also shows this attention to healing. In there was a cure the sick and wherever a healing is described in Luke we will get much more detail than we have become accustomed to in Mark for example.

THIRDLY – the approach to the Holy Spirit is more marked – Luke was written a bit later than Mark and by then they were trying to  explain the delay in Jesus’ return. This is about Jesus being at the centre of time, not the end of it. Luke describes time in three sections –

  • Israel, law and the prophets, the time of PROMISE

  • The fulfilment of ministry of Jesus, the time of Jesus at the CENTRE,

  • Ascension onwards – the time of the SPIRIT and how things are for us today

This is also wrapped up in that sentence I have already been alluding to. Again in the final phrase the Christian workers were asked to use The kingdom of God has come near to you. Showing the people we are in the realms of the spirit and an existence where we can live in the power of the spirit now. Not waiting but moving towards our eternal existence dwelling in the spirit with God

FOURTHLY in Luke’s gospel the wideness of the mission fulfilled by Jesus is central. God cares for all those who turn to him  – regardless of gender, social position or nationality – this fits with much of the 21st century ideas about inclusivity. He is also most obviously portraying Jesus as a suffering servant or ransom for the life of many. More so than any of the other  gospels. Again in that sentence there is reference to this

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you

This indicates the universal nature of Jesus requirements of his followers. There is no question of checking the food has been prepared appropriately to Jewish custom, which would have been very controversial to Jesus’ followers of Jewish descent. Early parts of the Acts of the apostles – challenged Peter to eat what was set before him and not what Jewish law required

AND FIFTHLY – There is an emphasis on care of the poor and outcasts – in lowliness is true greatness and Luke is most tough on the rich too! There is a clear emphasis on Jesus serving and our need to do likewise. Again in the eat what is set before you phrase – we get a sense that the disciples were not to discriminate based on the nature or wealth of the household. Actually in our life experiences, many of us as I have will have experienced that sense that sometimes those least able to give, lavishes us with the greatest hospitality!

It is interesting really that we can find echoes of the distinctive in Luke in 1 sentence of our gospel passage – which equates to just 2 verses! Luke’s ideas are very much at the heart of his writings and his emphases have done much to shape our understanding of the Christian faith today: – Luke with his angels and mystery, his medical detail, the way we understand the spirit, his message for everyone and particularly the poor and needy. All of this speaks to our hearts today – I look forward to our year with Luke as our guide starting on Nov 28th… and lets end by dwelling again on the verse we have illustrated his ideas with

Which Jesus said to the followers he sent ahead of him and to us today

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Amen.


The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995
Exciting Holiness – collec
ts and readings for the festivals and lesser festivals of the Church of England (2003)

Trinity 18 – Rev Alison Way

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12, Mark 10:2-16

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

I took rather a deep breath and prayed hard  after I had read the very difficult readings set for this Sunday, and in the end after much heart searching I found myself unable to avoid talking about the most challenging topic embedded within the second one! So today, I am going to talk about marriage and divorce. I have found this slightly difficult as someone who doesn’t have real life experience of either of them.  (This is always an issue when doing marriage prep too!) – Having never been married or divorced. I know for some of us this topic may well be very difficult, but I do hope these reflections will not make matters worse, will be helpful and at the very least thought provoking.

If we marry in the UK today, there is 33.3% chance that our marriage will end in divorce. The average length of a marriage which ends in divorce in the UK is just over 12 years.  The average age for men getting divorced is between 45-49 and women is 30 to 39.

A recent innovation on the small screen has been the programmes from different countries called ‘Married at first sight’. Complete strangers are matched by psychologists (and in the first series a much criticised vicar). They marry and then the series watches the fall out. This really doesn’t take marriage very seriously, as a mark of enduring life long love. It also shows the worst of some of the excesses of relationships today. (Those taking part clearly want the media spotlight to do this, which instantly skews it!).

Not taking marriage seriously was one of the things Jesus was encountering and wanted to address. Another example of relationship problems existing in this arena and one of the more painful sides of having celebrity status, is the media’s insatiable quest for insider information, particularly it seems when all is not well. For example – woe betide the celebrity who has relationship difficulties or needs to divorce and it plays out in court! The media interest in the recent breakdown of the celebrity marriages (Johnny Depp and Amber Heard) is a good example of the kind of frenzy that surrounds events such as these.

Here’s a more personal example of the challenges of divorce and marriage. When I was 20, I went on holiday to the Canaries with an old school friend. It was to her, her final ‘fling’ before she got married the following year, where I was just about to do my last year at University. A week before we went, my friend’s mother rang me. She begged me to persuade my friend out of getting married so young. Her mother was convinced the marriage would be a disaster. As my friend was planning to marry someone 13 years older than her, and her mother did not like him one bit! In all good conscience, I couldn’t do what her mum had asked.

I wasn’t sure about the marriage plans, but my friend was very set on it. In the end about half way through the trip, I told my friend that her mother had rung and gave her an edited version of the conversation we had. I immediately wished I hadn’t said anything – My friend was even more determined to get married. I was left with the distinct impression that the wedding was possibly more about getting away from her dominating mother, than marrying her husband to be!

The following spring – I went to the wedding and the marriage lasted about 2 years. Her mother’s reservations as they say came home to roost big time. Some years later when my friend and I met up, and reflected on these events. She said – She wished she hadn’t married so young and that the need to escape her family had been the predominant driving force. She had known all along that her mother had not wanted her to marry, but that had made her even more determined to go ahead (irrespective of the reservations she also had but had been ignoring). It just goes to show, she said, how immature I was and how much I shouldn’t have done it. She now has a happy family life and is in a loving marriage relationship – and is older and wiser.

Issues in marriages and their repercussions in the surrounding families – Why we do the things we do, and how painful they can be are not a new thing. The fact that the Pharisees ask a question about divorce in our difficult gospel reading indicates this. They asked – Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? And this question is really a trick question, aimed at Jesus 2000 years ago. This shows that marriage breakdown and divorce were just as hot potatoes then as they can be now!

Jesus in our gospel is speaking against a very liberal approach to divorce which was prevalent in the Jewish society of his day. There was a real problem with men divorcing their wives very freely for say burning their dinner, not being pretty enough or because they had got tired of them. For a woman being divorced was the path to social isolation and servitude. Jesus is guiding the listening Pharisees back to the importance of marriage, the quality of lasting relationships and that marriage is not something to be trifled with on a whim. Jesus teaching seems to us rather harsh – but he is trying to get the Pharisees of his day to take their marriage commitment seriously as God intended

In the Christian Church, we believe in the importance of marriage in loving relationships, and marriage that is faithful to one other and marriage that is for keeps. In the wedding service we describe marriage as the foundation of family life, as enriching society and strengthening community. This is of course an idealised view and as with all idealized views – real life doesn’t always work out that way. Real life can be so much more messy and more difficult than this passage from Mark seems to allow for. No-one sets off in the early days of married life with the intent of making that marriage fail and this passage can leave us feeling very judged and unworthy. For many people the breakdown of a marriage is the most traumatic and painful thing they have ever experienced, and also in terms of family life, community and society marriage break up and divorce can be the only way to minimise the damage to all concerned. In extreme cases, for some getting divorced is the only way to ensure their safety and well being into the future. Much as our Church upholds marriage, it also has recognised in recent times that some marriages fail. Our Church embraces the human need in these circumstances, the pain and the power of God’s reconciling and healing spirit. When the need arises, it is now possible for a divorced person to marry again in church, at the discretion of the minister and in accordance with specific guidelines that are laid down by our bishops. I am happy to do this if these guidelines are met.

I think we have gone this way as our call is to love our neighbour, and to be witnesses to God’s love for them – and not to sit in judgement. I think this difficult passage in Mark is really about two things. Firstly it is a call to those in relationships or hoping to be to take them seriously and to enter into them for the right reasons and for keeps. My friend would be the first to say that her failed marriage was not for the right reasons – and that the experience is something she had really learnt from. The second thing this passage is about is that it is not a stick to beat ourselves with if we have been down the path of relationship breakdown. Particularly if we have owned our part in it, come to terms with it and sought God’s forgiveness and healing power and allowed God’s spirit to influence us in new relationships we have formed. I believe wholeheartedly that God is with us in everything that we do. When the going is good and when the going gets tough. And that as a Church we need to meet people practically with God’s love where they are and to show we are really Christian by our love. Letting all God’s children come to Jesus, to be embraced and receive the kingdom of God.


Copyright acknowledgement

Some material included in this service is copyright:  ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2020 –

Bible readings from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 –