Mark 1: 21-28

PRESCRIPT: This sermon was preached in the context of a Baptismal service; hence, references toward the end of the sermon to Baptismal vows.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am a great fan of the animated television series, South Park.  Now, I know South Park is a controversial program, sometimes for very good reasons; but when they are done well, shows like South Park – along with other shows like The Simpsons or Family Guy – actually have important things to say.  The extreme lives lived by their characters, the absurd situations by which they are confronted, and the often shocking tactics they utilise to resolve their conundrums, are often all-too-accurate reflections of underlying attitudes or processes that exist within “normal” society.  Quite often, shows like South Park are controversial precisely because they hit a nerve: we recognise ourselves or our cherished values in the grotesque distortions of satire; and, stung by the recognition, we respond by attacking the program.  We complain about bad language or depictions of violence, or allege disrespect for religious belief – anything, in fact, to avoid looking at the mirror being held up to our faces; anything to avoid looking at the reflection we know all-too-well. Continue reading “Mark 1: 21-28”

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God’s Philosophers by John Hannam: A Review

According to the polemicists of the New Atheist movement, the period between the fall of the Roman Empire in Europe and the dawn of the Renaissance was a howling wilderness of ignorance and superstition, ruled over by a Christian Church prepared to sacrifice the welfare of humanity for the sake of absolute power.  However, James Hannam – who graduated with a science degree from Oxford University, before completing a PhD. in the history of science from Cambridge – puts forward a very different view in God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science (London: Icon Books, 2009). Continue reading “God’s Philosophers by John Hannam: A Review”

John 1: 43-51

The American journalist Herbert Agar once said that a snob was someone who acted as though they had begotten their own ancestors.  In a similar vein, the poet Berton Braley declared that snobbery was the conceit of those who were unsure of their own position.   Both these aphorisms put their finger on the essence of snobbery: that it is an attempt to compensate for perceived or actual inadequacies by assuming airs and graces, usually in connection with the very issue about which the snob feels insecure.  Ultimately, the snob is the very acme of someone who has something to hide. Continue reading “John 1: 43-51”

Mark 1: 4-11

The Irish comedian Hal Roach once described Christmas as: “That magical time of year when all your money disappears.”  And when it comes to disappearances, the first thing that most people notice about the Gospel of Mark is that it doesn’t have a Nativity story.  No angels appearing to shepherds, no star, no wise men, no baby in the manger.  Just a proclamation at the start – “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” – a quote from Isaiah, a brief paragraph about John the Baptist, and then Jesus as an adult seemingly just turns up to be Baptised by John.  No magic, no mystery, no sense of occasion. Continue reading “Mark 1: 4-11”