Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism

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Sermon for Remembrance Sunday

Here is the recording of my sermon for Remembrance Sunday, given in Hertford College Chapel, Oxford, on Sunday 10 November 2013. In the context of an Oxford college, I touch on a couple of philosophical issues about war, something I most probably would not do in a church. I find this subject difficult, and am still not sure I put this in the best way I could.


Whoever would call their brother ‘raca’?


Today, the Fourth Sunday before Lent, we continued reading the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s Gospel in church. The chunk of gospel appointed for today was Matthew 5.21-37, a fairly hefty chunk of moral instruction covering murder, anger, name calling, adultery, divorce, oaths and promises. I didn’t preach a very good sermon, getting far too bogged down in a process-like interpretation of collective responsibility for ethics and the liberation of understanding that sin is a normal part of ‘fallen’ human existence, albeit non-essential (for Christ was without sin).

Apart from my missing the mark, I noticed that the original Greek text of Matthew 5.22 includes the non-Greek word raca (ρακα, raka, or ραχα, racha). This is one of the handful of Aramaic words and phrases that litter the New Testament, and the gospels in particular, where the Greek text merely transliterates the Aramaic in to Greek letters as best it can (fitting Aramaic into Greek letters is an awkward fit at the best of times). When we translate the Bible into English we then have a choice of leaving the translated Aramaic in, as we do for Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, or translating it into English too. Where there is a Greek gloss with the phrase, as there is for Eloi, Eloi, it doesn’t matter that we’ve left this foreign language there: it comes with a translation. However, for the word raca in Matthew 5.22, we are given no translation help. Some translators leave it in, some ‘translate’ it to English.

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Christingle makes you tingle



I wanted to come up with something a bit different for tomorrow afternoon’s Christingle service. I finally vetoed interactivity, and thought I’d stand up the front with my oversize Christingle and give them this poem. It’s meant to be a little amusing, but also a little challenging. Let me know if you’d like to use it.

Christingle is a funny word
Is it Christmas gone a bit odd?
Or does it make you tingle?
Christingle is a funny word

Christingle is a funny thing
Is it animal, vegetable, mineral?
If you saw it in the wild
Wherever that might be
Would you know one, if you saw one?
Christingle is a funny thing

Christingle is these bits and bobs
Christingle is an orange orange
Christingle is a ribbon red
Christingle is a light lit
Christingle is four sticky sticks of sticky stuff
Christingle is these bits and bobs Continue reading

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My kingdom is not of this world

Christus Rex

Christus Rex

This coming Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. I’m going to give a 3-minute wonder at the BCP communion (on Jeremiah 23.5–8 & John 6.5–14). In an emergency, I may have to preach at the parish eucharist also (on Daniel 7.9–10, 13–14; Revelation 1.4b–8 & John 18.33b–37), which is most definitely Christ the King.

I expect many sermons will fail to get across what ‘Christ is king’ means. In Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary, which draws to a close this coming week, we have John’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate (or is Jesus putting Pilate on trial?). The key phrase in understanding Jesus as king here is his words, “My kingdom is not of this world” (ἡ βασίλεια ἡ ἐμὴ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, hē basileia hē emē ouk estin ek tou kosmou toutou). Again there is the danger of misunderstanding the line to think he is talking about heaven. That interpretation completely disarms and voids the words of any meaning. It is basically putting on Jesus’ lips the idea that he doesn’t care about earthly life and all that matters is ‘pie in the sky when you die’. Continue reading

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Thoughts before Remembrance Sunday

I’ve just written my sermon for tomorrow morning, Remembrance Sunday, and I’d like to share with you some thoughts that moved and inspired me.

Leonard Wilson was Bishop of Singapore during the Second World War, he became a prisoner of war and was tortured. He was later Bishop of Birmingham. He recommended three thoughts for us all to carry in our hearts on Remembrance Sunday, and I commend them to you now.

  1. Thankfulness for our deliverance and the sacrifice of others.
  2. Penitence for human sin and evil.
  3. Dedication to work for peace and justice in the world.

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