Blogging and printing

St John’s Gospel finishes (ch.21v25): “Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”  John was clearly impressed by the comparative ease by which spoken language could be written down on papyrus (compared with parchment), and knowing so much about Jesus, and as an old man watching the Gospel spread across his known world, imagined huge libraries unable to contain all the stories that were unfolding about Jesus and his ever-growing number of disciples.

            John did not foresee the printing press.  I was fascinated enough by printing to be a founder member of my school printing society, and enjoyed setting up lead type, and printing on presses – the basic design of which had not changed for centuries.  As a curate, I was introduced by a neighbouring vicar to his offset printing press, and soon after arrival in Morden, persuaded the church council to buy me a second-hand offset press.  Despite the time it took to ink up and clean off, I produced quite a lot of material better and faster than the old parish duplicator, with typed skins could manage.  Then came duplicators that could scan the text, and the Tower Press moved into publishing in a small scale – with covers printed professionally and then assembled by hand before professional binding.  I still run scan-copiers, one for black ink, the other red. 

            St John did not foresee the coming of the internet.  Thankfully for the world, digital recording of text takes up a lot less room.  Inspired by Patrick Dixon’s Futureshock, my ambition over the next few months is to move as far as possible to a paperless office.  After nearly 40 years of ordained ministry (I was ordained deacon in Newcastle cathedral on Dec 20th 1970), I don’t want to leave mounds of paper for others to get rid of (and who knows, perhaps preserve a sheet or two for posterity?)

            But now comes the digitally-recorded blog, instantly accessible anywhere in the world, by anyone.  Forests can breathe again, literally.  Except, human minds – potentially all 6-7,000 million of them, can now be affected, or infected by what I write.  Now there’s a thought.  I promise to be careful.

            Meanwhile, a couple of steps back.  How to organize the door-to-door delivery of my Christmas colour brochure to the parish, which yesterday I sent (digitally) to my brother-in-law to print 15,000 paper copies?  Thankfully, putting that together is now over, at least until Easter.

Remembrance Sunday 2010

(Sermon on Sunday 14th)

For generations Armistice Day has traditionally been seen as a time to remember the millions who died in both World Wars.  But increasingly, thoughts are turning to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in more recent conflicts.  The youngest soldier to die in the current Afghanistan conflict is William Aldridge, he died less than two months after his 18th birthday, he is the youngest soldier to lose his life in Afghanistan. 

His primary school teacher Chloe Evans recalls a playground tearaway with a caring nature and a lopsided grin.  “His smile would begin at the corner of his mouth and then spread across the whole of his face,” she said.  “If ever another child was hurt in the playground, William would be the first to bring them to the teacher for help.  “Sometimes it was because he may have knocked them down accidentally himself – he used to dash around the playground.”

He was one of five soldiers from the 2nd Battalion the Rifles, who lost their lives on the same day when they were caught in a series of explosions while on foot patrol in Helmand Province.  Despite being injured in the first explosion, William continued to help his colleagues and assisted the field medics before the second device exploded, killing him and three others.  His mum said:  “William always saw himself as a defender – as a peacekeeper – even as a young child,” she said.  “There was nothing else that he wanted to do. He was absolutely focused and totally dedicated to doing the job he was doing.”  His name has now been inscribed on the war memorial in the village of Bredenbury in Herefordshire.

Rifleman Aldridge, in sacrificing his young life, is a great example of what St Paul means in Romans 5 v7: “It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person.  It might even be that someone might dare to die for a good person…”  But then, St Paul goes on: “But God has shown us how much he loves us – it was while we were still sinners, that Christ died for us.”  Living life that gives no time for God, that rejects the offer of a relationship with God – ignoring him and the way he wants us to live…

…while we were still sinners….  God comes in the person of Christ to die for our sin / rebellion.

Many of us know, not just Christians, that sin is that stuff in our lives that we know isn’t right.  At its heart is a refusal to accept the relationship that God offers – we reject the relationship God our creator offers us…  It’s as though we are at war with God – that we are his enemy.

We see it in the tensions of family life, especially among white British today.  We see it in the breakdown of the so-called multi-cultural society.  We see it in the breakdown of capitalism, as the banks bail themselves out with our money, more and more.

500 years ago, most people in Europe believed that that the sun went round the earth.  It stands to reason.  We see it rise in the east and set in the west.  Of course the sun goes round the earth.  Of course I am at the centre of the universe, all relationship centre round me.  But then along came a Polish fellow called Copernicus.  “No”, he said “it’s the other way round, the earth goes round on itself every day, and once a year goes round the sun.”  “What an idiot” people thought.  “Can’t he see how it is?”  Galileo was born in Italy 20 years after Copernicus wrote his book in 1543, and took up his ideas, and was severely criticized by the church.

Understanding sin, and why Jesus died, is as basic as the Copernican revolution.  Either you think of yourself, human being think of themselves, as the centre of the universe with everything going round them, or they, you, recognise that God is the centre, and that you are created for relationship with him, that He is longing for relationship with you.

And… God is holy ….He cannot look upon human sin – but Romans 5 tells us that while we were still sinners …still at war with God…still his enemy ….he died for us. Why? …to give us an opportunity to become his friend, to enter into the relationship he has created us for.  It is a difficult thing to die for a friend …but..    God does it for his enemies.  The cross was all about sacrifice.  Jesus – who never sinned – takes our punishment, that we deserve.

That’s why – at important services like this one – when we are reminded about sacrifice of others for our freedom, Christians are full of extra thanks and praise – because such sacrifice reminds us of that extraordinary sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on our behalf.  When we can’t be bothered about God – we spend our days ignoring him – rejecting him – He offers to take our place – It is a difficult thing to die for a friend …but.. God does it for his enemies.  v.8  But God has shown us how much he loves us: it was while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I’m so grateful for soldiers that have died over the years to secure my freedom and the freedom of oppressed people’s around the globe.  We have all benefited from the death of soldiers who have died.  Some of you have fought alongside such people, and were yourself willing to make that same sacrifice.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

But, have you benefited from the death of the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice?  The cross – on which Jesus died… most certainly.  Forget such ideas that someone else was crucified in Jesus’ place (as must Muslims believe) or that Jesus swooned on the cross, survived the Roman spear-thrust into his side, came round in the grave, pushed the stone away and persuaded his disciples that he has died and risen again, before going off to Kashmir to die as an old man (which is what Ahmadiyya Muslims believe).  [In Morden, we have not only the national HQ of the Ahmadiyyas, but a majority Muslim Education Centre is being opened in the middle of town.  We also have many ex-Ghurka families moving in, and were privileged to have many represented in church on Remembrance Sunday]

Jesus rose again from the dead.  His cross brings eternal freedom, from the bondage, the prison of sin.  The sun does not go round the earth.  The earth goes round the sun.  Recognise that, and recognise that God wants you to enter into relationship with Him.  And if you have not already begun that relationship, in Christ, you can begin it, today.

We read verses from the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk:  1:5;  2:1-4, 13-14, 18-20.  The last verses spoke of idols.  The great idol of the West is of course, money.  The earlier part of chapter two of Habukkuk – see v5, is about the deceitfulness of money.  The philosophy that says, governments must stop the banks from collapsing, even at the cost of the poor, is as false as those who said the sun goes round the earth.  The sacrifice of Jesus is the means by which v14 of Habukkuk ch. 2 comes true:  “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord’s glory, as the waters cover the sea.”

Morden Park, two miles south of Wimbledon

19 years ago, the Morden Park & Playing Fields Association was formed, to ensure that the freehold of 80 acres of the Park (then owned by the expiring London County Council) passed to Merton Council (who owned, on behalf of the community, the other 100 acres).  The London Residuary Body, disposing of the old London County Council assets, wanted to give 80 acres of playing fields to the London Playing Fields Society (LPFS), but the association was able to activate a covenant to prevent that.  The LPFS were however given a 99-year lease

Various schemes were then proposed for the playing fields, one which the Association supported working with the LPFS, but Merton Council killed it off by wanting an income from it themselves.  Then a commercial scheme was proposed for a Golf driving range – which would have benefited both the council and the LPFS, but at the cost of losing a great natural amenity, this was seen off at planning application stage by the Association mobilising local opposition.

For the last seven years a community trust has been proposed, to run the playing fields for young people, as intended by the original benefactor, the last squire of Morden, Gilliat Hatfeild.  The Council however decided it still preferred to try for a commercial ‘let’, this time with Goals Soccer.  Again this was strongly opposed by the local community, and Goals Soccer withdrew, by this time the credit crunch no doubt helped to persuade them to pull out.

It looks like its time has now come (if ever);  a meeting Tuesday Nov 23rd will, I hope, decide to formally set up the trust.  Watch this space!