Monthly Archives: November 2021

Advent Sunday – Penny Ashton – 28th November 2021

Advent Sunday – 1 Thessalonians 3:  9-end, Luke 21: 25-36

The Advent course that we have been following this year has the title ‘So what are you waiting for?’.  I wish that more of you had decided to join this, but realise that having the course on line – a decision reached with regret due to the high infection rates – may have put people off.  I feel that the title is particularly appropriate for the season of Advent though, which is a time of waiting, although at times we don’t seem too sure what – or who – we are waiting for.  In another parish, a friend of mine used to be increasingly annoyed with the vicar, who as he built up the crib scene for the children, which I think he did over a few weeks used the phrase ‘waiting for Jesus’.  She felt that the children would become confused as the older ones would remember that we were waiting for Jesus last year too, until he came at Christmas, and now we were doing it all over again.  It must seem confusing to a child, particularly as they are frequently very literal minded.

So – what are we waiting for?  The western world is most definitely waiting for Christmas as your newspaper and television will not let you forget.  I notice that the radio stations too are debating when it is appropriate to begin to play Christmas music.  The consensus seems to be as soon as it is December, so be warned – it starts on Wednesday!  Our readings for today – and for the rest of the season however seem to be looking much further ahead.

The many differences in tone between the two readings chosen for today makes you wonder why they were chosen for the same day.  Paul speaks of the joy it brings him when he remembers the Thessalonian church, and how he often thanks God for them, and prays that they will be upheld and strengthened in their faith but he ends by praying that they will be ready when Christ returns, which is perhaps the main theme of Advent.

Jesus is warning the disciples – and us – of the alarming things that are to happen before his kingdom on this earth is finally and fully established.  The reading today starts in the middle of the events that he is warning of, which begins in v8 of Luke 21, and much of it sounds like a description of the state of the world today.   Many people believe that we are living now in the end times, and there have been lots of occasions when the time of Jesus return has been narrowed down to a date, and people have sold all they possess and headed for a place they believe to be appropriate to meet him.  So far this has not happened – or at least not in the literal sense that they were expecting.  I am sure you have seen pictures depicting Jesus descending on a sort of celestial elevator made of fluffy white cloud – somehow, I don’t think he was intending that description to be taken too literally.  The fact is, we are in the same situation now as the people of Israel were before Jesus’ birth.  We have hints in the prophesies, just as they had in the Old Testament, but very little that we can pin down with any accuracy.  Perhaps that is why we have to have faith!

Before we look at the warnings that Jesus gives in the gospel reading, it is worth remembering that what He is telling us is that things will get worse before they get better, but that the dreadful things that are to come will only be temporary.  In fact, the more I learn about history, the more I realise that He could have been describing almost any time between then and now.  He has given us three fairly clear instructions about how we are too live through it all in this reading though.

Jesus first instruction to us, when we see these dreadful things that he has been talking about start to happen is not to do what my first instinct would be and find the nearest dark corner to curl up in and hide, but to stand tall and hold your head up.  In this life we have nothing to fear, because, as St Paul tells us in Colossians chapter 3, we must set our minds on things that are above because we have died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.  There may be times in this life when things get nasty and uncomfortable, but if we can think in terms of eternity, we have nothing to fear.  And so we can, as Jesus tells us, stand tall, and whatever is coming, we can look it in the eye.  As Jesus has said – it will not last for ever, but eternity with Him will.

Our second instruction is to be on our guard.  We are told that we will not know the time that all this will happen, and that many people will get it wrong and cause panic and alarm by getting it wrong.  In many of the parables Jesus likens the coming of the kingdom to things that are unexpected – like a thief in the night.  Our job is to be wary, and where God has called us to do something, to make that our main focus.  There is a story about St Francis of Assisi who was hoeing a row of beans when he was asked what he would do if he knew that this would be his last day on earth.  His reply was that he would finish hoeing his beans.  Sometimes we can feel that the place where God has put us and the task that he has given us can be a bit mundane.  The hymn ‘Teach me my God and King’ by George Herbert has some interesting and at times odd seeming words, but the overall meaning is clear – that when we perform anything in God’s service, that task becomes sacred.  In this time of Covid I have often thought how we have suddenly realised how important to our hospitals and care homes are the people who do the cleaning.  It has never been a high-status job, but they are the people contributing vastly towards keeping us all safe.

Lastly Jesus tells us to be alert.  This seems to be similar to being on our guard, but a guard who is not alert, who is not keeping a good watch, is a guard who can and may miss vital signs of possible danger.  Some years ago, I worked just outside Bristol on a large trading estate.  My shift used to start late and finish late which meant that I was nearly always parked at the very far end of the large car park, and by the time I left, I used to walk quite a way back to the car to go home.  I found it a great comfort in the winter months when it was cold and dark to know that the security men who were on duty would be following me on their CCTV screens to make sure that I was safely in my car, and that it had started properly to take me home.  It may have seemed a small task to them, but it meant a lot to me.  We must be alert not just to the things that are happening around us, but also to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who will help us to understand what it all means.

Advent, like Lent is a season of fasting and preparation for the festival and celebration that comes at the end.  In the same way, before Jesus returns to complete all that he has promised, things may have to get worse before getting better.  We have Paul’s belief to fall back on though, that our present sufferings are as nothing when compared with the joy that awaits us in the end.

Thanks be to God!

Christ the King – Rev Alison Way – 21st November 2021

Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37

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

Our gospel today is in the middle of the action after Jesus was arrested and hours before his crucifixion. He has already been interviewed by the chief priest Annas and transported bound to a further chief priest Caiaphas. Significant as Annas and Caiaphas are – they can do no more at this point, they are effectively powerless to do anything to Jesus much as they wanted to. They have to hand him over to where worldly power was held, in this instance to Pilate (the Roman Governor of the area).

Just before our reading starts – the chief priests had handed him over, they had remained outside Pilate’s headquarters. The chief priests had not really said clearly to Pilate what their problem was with Jesus either… Just ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ They had also acknowledged their powerlessness to do anything about it. ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’

Back inside the building we then get the rather strange conversation between Jesus and Pilate. The chief priest were not there even because they were afraid that just going into Pilate’s headquarters would make then unclean. Then they would be unable to partake in the Passover celebrations. Even at this most pivotal point – when they really needed to get Pilate to do what they wanted him to do, their purity mattered more to them than anything else. Can we see moments in ourselves when the priorities get out of balance like this? The power system at this time was crumbly and crumbling – that is not what Christ’s kingship and kingdom is all about!

So back to the conversation between Pilate and Jesus. I suspect this is one where Pilate did not understand the magnitude and gravity of what Jesus said. Pilate tried three times to find out who Jesus is – First by asking Are you the King of the Jews? And secondly by asking really directly ‘What have you done?’ And thirdly So you are a King? Jesus answers to each of these questions add layers of complexity.

To Are you the King of the Jews? Jesus counters with his own questions, wanting to know what is at the heart of Pilate’s question. Is he acting for himself or is he just doing other’s bidding? Jesus is clearly looking at where the power really resides.

The answer to the second question ‘What have you done?’ is all the more mysterious. Jesus saying he has a kingdom even if it is not from this world. This implies as we know is the case that Jesus is a King beyond our worldly understanding. He then makes a point about what his followers would be doing if they were from this world. He asserts they would be fighting his corner. As it is they have fallen away. Even Peter, who is nearby has just denied him three times. His followers are powerless to put up any defence at this point. Jesus is not a leader of an army, or the Messiah as the Jewish people of his day had wanted to overthrow the Romans. He is also effectively saying to Pilate – I am not a personal threat to peace and the stability of your governance! But I doubt Pilate understood that.

Understanding Jesus’ kingdom beyond and within us is important. It is beyond us because he is not limited to our linear worldly experience of life and time. It is within us, because we are living in his kingdom now because of the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts. Won for us by Jesus’ love for us, love that is cross-shaped.

To the third question So you are a King? Jesus is more direct. Saying he was born to be a King. Many of the carols we will hopefully be singing in a few weeks, herald his birth as the new born King.

He then says something very interesting about truth. First that he is to testify to the truth. This truth being that Jesus embodies the eternal kingdom of God, which, while experienced in the world, does not originate in it and is not bound by it either. The truth that Jesus testifies to transcends the confines of time and culture once and for all. This is in marked contrast to the cultural and political truth of the Roman Empire, represented in this scene by Pilate.

Our society is in a real mess with political truth and we do seem to have lost sight of the need for truth, truths and truthfulness. It can be very difficult to get to the truth in the way we go about things. As Christians our truth needs to be founded in Jesus and his saving love for us and we need to be particularly diligent as Jesus says in this passage, and listen to his voice carefully.

The second thing he says about the truth is Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. This can be difficult and challenging. Much of what Jesus taught us turns value systems and approaches upside down and inside out. The value of questioning ourselves – as to what would Jesus do – can be a very useful question in any given situation. It would often illicit an answer that is quite other but should always be loving, inspired by the loving heart of God for us. What has been done in Jesus, his kingship of us and his kingdom around us? Everything around us testifies to the truth of God and everyone who belongs and lives in that truth listens to God’s voice through the power of the spirit that lives in us. This goes on – no matter how much the world and society around us tries to distance itself. We are living definitively and definitely inhabiting God’s kingdom on earth.

The earth around us sings God’s praise. The love we experience in one another sings God’s praise. The inspiration in our hearts to be as God wants us to be, sings God’s praise and makes us a kingdom beyond this world and pointing to the next. The kingdom is still here, wholly and completely. We have so many other things that appear attractive today, which are just like the emperor’s new clothes. We seem to be in danger even in our lives of clouding out the real balance and the greatness of what we have in Jesus. We need to live in Jesus’ kingdom now.

We need to live in the kingdom with Jesus’ kingdom values and be honest where power for us resides. Power is not ours to choose to wield as we wish. We are NOT in control of this world or the next, but loved and cherished by the God of this kingdom who gave us so much in his son Jesus. We are here to live in his kingdom and to testify to the truth he brought us and to follow his guidance in our lives through listening to his voice.

Real power in the kingdom of God is entirely that which Jesus has brought us – which is not from this world; This Kingdom both transcends (goes over and above) and subverts our  earthly understanding of power. The coming of Jesus – the start of the story (which we will turn to again shortly) completely changed the power balance and the priorities for always and for ever.

My question for us in response to all of this, this morning, as we mark this feast of Christ the King revolves around power and where the real power lies in our lives. This really boils down to whether Christ is the King of our lives. Do we show in our lives the central role of truth speaking and truth hearing that his kingdom brings? Power can be very seductive and enticing and wrapped up in all kinds of fancy trappings that can make it look attractive, desirable and necessary even when it is leading us astray. As with all human existence we have choices on how we use the power we have to live for ourselves, or to live for God .

Today let’s take stock and where necessary take action and make sure Christ is the King of our lives and not anything else. That our priority is hearing and speaking the truth that Christ is King and living in his kingdom and not one of our own making. Amen

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995

Kingdom living © ROOTS for Churches Ltd ( 2002-2021. Reproduced with permission.

Remembrance Sunday – Rev Alison Way 14th November 2021

John 14:27, James 3, 17,18, 1 John 1.5
In the name of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Looking around a church on Remembrance Sunday, there is a sea of poppies –– obviously there are gatherings of poppies in strategic places at the front and round the font as well as poppies scattered across everyone gathered on their clothing. These are like the poppies that grew around the scarred lands used for battles in the Great War. These particularly inspired John McCrae in 1915– the first line of his famous poem – In Flanders fields the poppies blow. And particularly when the battles finally ceased and the land stopped being used that soil that had formed the trenches contained thousands of poppy seeds, all lying dormant. In these areas the poppies bloomed like never before.

One of the most famous bloom of poppies was around Ypres, a town in Flanders, Belgium. This was crucial to the Allied defence. There were three battles there, but it was the second, which was calamitous to the allies since it heralded the first use of chlorine gas in the conflict. This brought forth the poppies in greatest abundance. Even from the deepest of calamities, new life can and did grow in the poppies.

An American woman Moina Michael from Georgia, was the first person to wear a poppy in remembrance. In reply to McCrae’s poem, she wrote a poem entitled ‘We shall keep the faith’ which includes the lines: And now the Torch and Poppy Red – We wear in honor of our dead. She bought some poppies, wore one, and sold the others, raising money for ex-servicemen. Her colleague, French YMCA Secretary Madame Guerin, took up the idea and made artificial poppies for war orphans. It caught on.  In November 1921, Poppies were sold for the first time as the British legion was being born and in 1922 the poppies sold came from a factory founded by the British Legion – staffed by disabled ex-servicemen – to produce its own. This continues today and is now called the Poppy Factory.

Remembrance is important – We have been handing the baton of remembrance using poppies from one generation to the next since 1921 – 100 years to this November. Remembrance is about walking in the footsteps and through the stories of those who have gone before us. Standing shoulder to shoulder with them and living learning from their experience. It is important to keep passing the poppy baton on to our children and our children’s children. As we look at our poppies – lets explore the different facets of remembrance.

Let’s think first about the black centre – if we are wearing a poppy you may want to touch the parts of it as I write– so the black centre is a bit like a big full stop. Each full stop in a poppy marks a life lost, lost in conflict in service of their country.

  • Private William Deane is the youngest of the fallen from Wincanton in the first world war. Just 18 years old. From Tony Goddard’s “More than just names” – Both William’s parents died when he was young, so he and his brother Charles were brought up by his Auntie Mabel living in South Street. William lied about his age and joined up at just 17 in Yeovil in 1915. He died in Roeux Wood near Arras on 3rd May 1917 just 10 months after arriving in France.

  • In the second world war, David Morse was the youngest aged just 17. He grew up in the Rodber House Orphanage, in Shadwell Lane Wincanton, he joined the navy in the boy’s service in 1937 and died when the Royal Oak was torpedoed in Scarpa Flow on 13th October 1939.

  • More recently between 2008 and 2014, I lived and ministered in villages in Wiltshire (Broad Town, Clyffe Pypard, Hilmarton and Tockenham) round the back of now Royal Wootton Bassett and Lyneham where the air base then was. In total, 345 men and women were carried through the town in hearses as visitors came from all over the world to say goodbye.

This brought home to me in a new way the cost to many families today of conflict. Parents and grandparents who had lost children, children who had lost a much loved parent.  Friends and families now living on treasuring the memories of someone so dear. Let’s also use the full stop centre of our poppies to help us also to remember those who died in more recent conflicts and those living with that loss and grief today.

Let’s next think about the redness of the poppy’s petals – we may want to touch the petals now. The redness reminds us of danger, harm and hazard. In our mind’s eye let’s remember those still involved in conflict today. In a way the colour of the petals is also a visual reminder of the blood spilt.  Injuries sustained in and through conflict change the lives of those impacted for ever. Not just physical injuries but the scars caused by experiences – things like shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. Things after the first and second world war that the society of the day did not understand in the way we do today. Things that caused pain and stress in family and community life.  And in our present – Help us also to remember too those who have been injured in more recent conflicts and those living with significant challenges and disabilities today, and those who support them. Let’s also remember those members of the general population who are hurt in war too.

Next we turn to the stalk of the poppy – we may want to touch the stalk of our poppy now. The stalk reflects the peace in which we stand. Peace won for us by the actions of those who have gone before us, those known to us and those we never knew. Help us to learn from the past and do all that we can to make the world a better place to live in for the future. To always have hearts seeking reconciliation and peace.  As we heard in our reading Jesus said – Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Lets share that peace and do all we can to live in peace with our neighbours both near at hand and across our world. Let’s resolve afresh today to live as peace makers and peace bringers to those around us. In our pandemic days let us lean into the peace of God that passes all understanding.  Peace that Jesus spoke of and peace that Jesus has left with us through the power of the Holy Spirit and deep peace that we can share with others.

It is particularly important to share that peace in our acts of kindness and compassion for each other – let’s sow peace as people who make peace as the letter from James had it.  There is a song I learnt as a child we may know – which says Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!

Finally, if your poppy has a leaf, we may want to touch the leaf –  let’s use that to signify our walk together and our growth together as a community in this place – loving our neighbours and caring for those who are most vulnerable. Remembrance reminds us of the sacrifice and the selfless example of our forebears. Help us to learn from this the need above all to work together for the common good as they did.

Let us pray

God of life, from generation to generation you have held all creation in the palm of your hand.

As we cradle our Remembrance poppies: hold us close to your heart this day as we remember those who died in conflict, particularly those who lived before us in this place.

God of life, as we cradle our Remembrance poppies: may the persistence of your healing love continue its work in the lives of individuals and communities still living in the aftermath of conflict particularly our veterans, and all those who have lost loved ones or those living with the impact of life-changing injury. Surround and protect them with your life-giving Spirit.

God of life, as we cradle our Remembrance poppies  – We give thanks for all the organisations that support our service personnel, and their families and especially for the work of the Royal British legion in its 100th year. Grant us the strength to always work together for peace, for the common good and to share our peace through acts of kindness and compassion. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.



More than just names – the Wincanton Roll of Honour for the Great War and Second World War by Tony Goddard

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

Prayer adapted from

Third Sunday before Advent – Rev Alison Way – November 7th 2021

Hebrews 9:24-end and Mark 1:14-20

In the name of God, creator, redeemer and sustainer. Amen

We are a few verses from the start of Mark’s gospel and today’s reading begins with locating the action in time. It is in the period after John had been the voice in the wilderness, Jesus has been baptised,  spent forty days in the wilderness and then shortly after when John had been arrested. It was then and only then that Jesus began to proclaim the good news of God for himself.

Mark gives us something Jesus was saying as he did this. The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. Let’s unpack those statements in turn and see what we can apply to our Christian lives from them.

Let’s start with the time is fulfilled. This is a fixed point in time, a decisive moment, we might use the language of a turning point. The verb used here has a sense of fulfilment or coming to pass. Instead of announcing an ending, Jesus is announcing the new beginning he is bringing that God is at work within us. What this says to us now, is there is always a new beginning with Jesus love for us, all achieved through this turning point and the life Jesus lived, the death he died, and the strength and power of his resurrection and subsequent ascension. This is also the point our passage from Hebrews is making – it was done once. New every morning is this love for us, new every morning.

The second phrase is and the kingdom of God has come near. Other translations of this have this as ‘The Kingdom of God has come into history’. These terms denote nearness rather than arrival. What this says to us now is that we live in the kingdom of God in our daily lives and that should influence how we approach each moment, and rule in our hearts and lives. We should be looking for signs and wonders in that kingdom and living the way God says is best for us. Our faith provides guidance in how to approach our lives. There shouldn’t be anything we do, it does not influence.

The third phrase is Repent, and believe the good news. The repent has echoes of the teachings of John the Baptist, but is definitely in the turn back, return to God with all of ourselves arena. There is much more at stake than changing our minds, regret or sorrow, but something more wholehearted about our need to change our ways. What this says to us is that repentance is not something to trifle with, but to be approached conscious of our deep need for God’s forgiveness and God’s love for us.

The final phrase and Believe the good news has echoes of the prophecies we will soon engage with as Christmas approaches once more. For example from Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains, are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ What this says to us is that this is about Jesus coming with the new rule of love into history. This side of his death and resurrection, the work is done, and fully accomplished for us. All we have to do is to choose to love Jesus in return and to love Jesus wholeheartedly.

For Mark, Jesus was both the one who proclaimed the good news, and the one through whom the good news was worked.

Having thought about all of that, and these heralding words of Jesus – and what that means for us and the faith in which we walk, and the kingdom in which we reside. It is interesting to see what Jesus does next. He goes to find some people to work with – ordinary people to be his followers, very ordinary just like us. He found the people we would encounter if we walked on the shores of the sea of Galilee in his day – the fishermen. He gathered the characters we know best from the gospels, Simon, Andrew, James and John.

Look at how he does this, he speaks to them, Andrew and Peter were fishing, and they immediately dropped their nets and followed. James and John were mending nets on the shore, and Jesus called them. They had the additional challenge of leaving their father and followed. In both cases there is an ‘immediately’ about it (we will remember Mark uses this word a lot!). There is no dither or delay, negotiation, or persuasion. This is something quite other. This is leaving behind without a moment’s hesitation. Leaving behind their former way of life and former ties even some strong family bonds. There are pointers to the way of discipleship at times being costly as we know it can be.

It is also not just to be followers. I will make you fish for people is what Jesus says to Simon and Andrew. This shows us that Jesus intended not only that these fishermen accompany him and witness what he does, but that they are to share his ministry, and eventually continue it. They are to learn on the job so to speak, and practice as they go.  There are several places in the gospels where Jesus picks to do things in twos, and this two sets of two brothers, highlights how much we too need to do things together and support one another. Being a follower was never meant to be passive and sitting at the side lines not taking part.

These four, who become Jesus’ inner circle, are very foundational in the kingdom Jesus brings. Four ordinary fishermen with open hearts. Probably not very qualified or the ideal candidates for what Jesus needed – but they were what he had. I take particular strength from Peter, who gets it wrong often and turns back! There is hope for all of us no matter how unlikely it may seem to us. God can use us to share the good news as only we can, and work within us and through us by the Holy Spirit. Look around we are who God has here to do this!

 We will do this best if Jesus’ story is to the fore in our hearts and lives. That we recognise we are living in God’s kingdom now and working for his kingdom of love, peace and hope. Looking for where God is at work and where God is at work in us and through us, and joining in.

Just as Jesus is saying to us The time, is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news. He is also saying ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’

Let us pray: Jesus, we follow you, we praise and adore you today, and for all time. We were called into your kingdom once, for all time.  You died to save us once, for all time. You brought us to God once, for all time, through your resurrection once, for all time. We are baptized in your name once, for all time. Jesus, we follow you, we praise and adore you today, and for all time. Amen.


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

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