People Get Ready – An Advent Sermon

November 28th, 2016


People Get Ready

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. (Matthew 24.42-44)

As I reflected on the gospel passage for this week I kept on finding myself singing the song ‘People Get Ready’. It has been a real ‘earworm’ and in the end I decided that the only thing to do was to sing the song and then offer some Advent reflections on it.  Better than a recording of me singing it you can listen to the original version here.

People get ready, there’s a train a coming;
you don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming;
don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

People get ready for the train to Jordan;
it’s picking up passengers from coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board ’em;
there’s hope for all among those loved the most.

There ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner;
who would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner;
for there’s no hiding place against the Kingdom’s throne.

So, people get ready, there’s a train a coming;
you don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming;
don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.
You don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

‘People Get Ready!’ – this is the Advent message, the Advent cry.

This song by Curtis Mayfield and covered by many artists was first a hit in 1965 and became very popular especially with the Civil Rights movement in America.  The song has a strong gospel influence and the imagery of the train appears in several songs in this tradition and from the Spirituals.  The Underground Railroad was not an actual train but the name given to a network of escape routes and safe houses for slaves in the 19th century.  The stated destination of being bound for Jordan is a biblical reference to God’s people being led by Moses from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. So, get ready for freedom, get ready for liberation, get ready for salvation!  To get ready for a coming train (often in my experience) involves a lot of waiting and watching; this is not just an idle hanging around, but an expectant looking for something you know is going to come.  This is a call to Advent hope!

To go on this journey to freedom all you need is faith: to catch the sound of the train’s engines, to open the train’s doors so you can climb on board – all you need is faith.  We are saved by faith; not by our own believing but by God’s faithfulness – it is God’s steadfast love that keeps on calling to us and reaching out to us.  Advent is a time to hear afresh the call of God’s love and his longing to bring us back to himself. Advent is a time to get ready to receive the gift of God’s love and forgiveness.  It is not about what we do or what we have:  we don’t need any baggage, we don’t need any ticket – we can ‘just get on board’ because our salvation is God’s gift to us.  God’s grace, God’s gift of love, God’s forgiveness is for everyone – there is room for all among those who love the most. There is room for all who love and who want to be on board this train; that is important to remember as we come to the next verse…

Judgement is also a traditional Advent theme – one that often gets lost amongst the preparations for Christmas.  Advent means coming and it is not just the celebration of Christ’s first coming to us when he was born at Bethlehem; this is also about the second coming at the end of all things.  Then all the nations will be gathered before the judgement throne of Christ the King:  the song warns us that there’s no hiding place against the kingdom’s throne.  The warning is clear to the hopeless sinner; the person who would hurt the rest of humankind just to save themselves.  There will come a time when we have to stand before God’s judgement and so the Advent call is to repent, to turn from our self-centred ways and become centred on God’s will.  In this way, we believe that no sinner is truly hopeless before God, there is always hope because God judges us not only with infinite justice but with infinite mercy.  There is pity – there is mercy – for us and for all who turn back to God.  We may feel that our chances are indeed thin, and Jesus challenged his followers to enter by the narrow gate. But as the words of one of my favourite hymns say: there is a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.  We do not deserve it on our own merits but we are counted worthy by God because of all that Jesus has done for us.

So people get ready.It is Advent. Christ is coming.Wake up, watch, wait,Pay attention, look, listen…Keep faith, keep hope, keep on turning to God’s love and mercy…Get ready to get on board the train bound for God’s kingdom of freedom, justice, mercy and peace…And be thankful that it is coming and you are welcome to join the journey…You don’t need no ticket you just thank the Lord. Amen.

Brexit and the Kingdom of God – a sermon on 26th June 2016

June 26th, 2016

Brexit banner

Brexit and the Kingdom of God

Sermon for Fifth Sunday after Trinity

26th June 2016

Galatians 15.1,13-25; Luke 9.51-62


So we have voted for Brexit.  I won’t pretend that I am not deeply disappointed, even horrified, by the outcome of the referendum. Since becoming politically aware as a teenager I have been convinced of the idea that the European Union is the best way of preserving peace in Europe.  I am an internationalist and I believe that the greatest challenges the world faces at the moment can only be met if we recognize our interdependence and act together.  I and many of my friends have benefited from and enjoyed the opportunities that being part of the EU has offered, both for work and leisure.  However, I know that the voting figures nationally and for Birmingham, show that just over half the people of this country do not share that view. I am aware that whilst some of you will share my sadness at this decision, possibly an equal number will be pleased by it; so I am speaking personally and I am not criticising the way anyone here voted or the reasons why they voted that way. Read the rest of this entry »

90th Anniversary of St Francis Church

November 19th, 2015


St Francis Church Sketch showing planned Campanile resize

St Francis Church 90th Birthday!

This Weekend it is the 90th Birthday of St Francis Church (consecrated on 21st November 1925). You are warmly invited to join in the celebrations.

  • Saturday 21st November 3.00 – 5.00 p.m. Afternoon Tea and a visual presentation.
  • Sunday 22nd November 10.00 a.m. Dedication Festival Service.

The picture is the architect’s sketch of how the completed church was intended to look – the bell tower (or campanile) has not been built (yet!).

The Kingdom Kaleidoscope: A poetic response to Matthew 13.31-33; 44-52

July 27th, 2014


The Kingdom Kaleidoscope

By way of a sermon this morning I gave this poetic response to this morning’s Gospel reading from Matthew 13.31-33; 44-52 (the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 27th July 2014)


A cascade, a cascade

of word images tumbling one over another

Simile after simile –

the Kingdom of heaven is like this, is like that,

is like the other;

something completely other…

Jesus holds up a Kingdom kaleidoscope

for those who have eyes to see;

it is a heart-and-mind-changing vision

of the world turned upside down and

God-ways up.


For those who have ears to hear

these little stories

there is much to think about.

He throws them out, indiscriminately

scattering images before us

like a sower sowing seeds

trusting that some will land in our soil

and take root.


They are riddles,

teasing our ears with truths told

sideways and slant, sideways and slant:

stretching our imaginations;

confounding our reason;

expanding our horizons;

catching us by surprise

with unexpected meanings.


The Kingdom comes on earth as in heaven;

it is amongst and amidst

the everyday, ordinary tasks of our lives.

God’s work is to be glimpsed in our work –

so Jesus says:

in sowing, kneading, banking, trading, fishing,

even scribing…


The Kingdom is the seed of a weed:

tiny, hidden, sown-unknown and grown

along with the corn,

becoming something so much bigger

than seems probable.

Birds come to roost and rest and make

their nests in its branches…

in the middle of the farmer’s field a hungry flock

now making themselves at home

amongst the crops.


The Kingdom is a culture of yeast.

A woman mixes the leaven into the flour

where hidden away in the dough

it lives and works and slowly grows

It raises the whole loaf and gives its life

as the bread is baked and broken for the feast.


To discover the Kingdom is to find

hidden treasure and to experience

the joy of unexpected, unearned riches,

suddenly yours if

you will trade everything

to own the place the treasure hides.


It is just like finding a gemstone –

much-prized and precious, much-prized and precious;

you would sell everything, give all you have,

to be able to keep this Kingdom jewel.

And holding that pearl of great price

you would find yourself

in a beautiful poverty;

made utterly poor by the giving to receive.


This Kingdom is like a net:

weaving, wending and working

to gather everyone in – all are welcomed.

We are a mixed bunch;

we are good and we are bad

together caught by God’s Grace.

In God’s good time and in God’s gentle justice

all will be sorted, sieved and saved.


Do you understand? The teller of these tales asks.

Yes… our hesitant and hopeful reply.

Do you really understand?

Yes. Really? If so, then…


Be writers of the Kingdom

on the pages of your own lives;

Be tellers of truth stories

for those who are hungry for good news;

Be beggars showing other beggars

the way to the banquet’s open door;

Be livers of a Kingdom life

filled with old wisdom and fresh hope…

That others may see and hear and awakened be

to the eternal possibilities of new life.

Update on repair and redecoration work 4.2.14

February 4th, 2014

A short sermon for Candlemas 2014

February 2nd, 2014

candles banner image

Today is 2nd February; it is 40 days since Christmas Day and today we celebrate Candlemas – the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. When Jesus was 40 days old, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple to present him to the Lord as a rite of purification.

There watching and waiting and guided by the Holy Spirit were two prophets Anna and Simeon.  When they saw the 40 day old baby Jesus they praised God. Simeon said, “Now, master, you let your servant go in peace, my own eyes have the seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people. A light to bring light to the nations and glory for your people Israel.”  And Anna told everyone who was looking for God’s redemption that it was here and now.

Simeon and Anna see God’s salvation and redemption for the world in this 40 day old baby.  Jesus had not done anything yet – just be born, feed, cry and everything else that babies do. He had not yet taught about the kingdom, healed anyone or performed any miracles, he had not been baptized or transfigured, he has not been betrayed, suffered or died on the cross, he had not yet been resurrected. These actions and events are where we would usually say that we see God’s saving love revealed, but Simeon sees God’s salvation in this tiny baby. God is present in Jesus, in his being, in who he is simply as a human person.  In his person and being he is God present with us.

We catch our own glimpses of salvation in our lives. We don’t have a baby in front of us, but we do know the rest of the story. We have the words of the gospels, the grace of the sacraments and the fellowship of God’s people. How much more do we need?  There is a line in a prayer I love:  “Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given.”  This Candlemas, let us give thanks for God’s light with us and within us as a light for the world. And may we know that in that little light enough has already been given. Amen.

Progress report on repair and redecoration work 31-01-2014

January 31st, 2014

Progress Report on Repair and Redecoration Work

January 25th, 2014

Repair & Redecoration Work Starts at St Francis Church

January 16th, 2014



I am delighted to say that long planned and eagerly awaited repair and redecoration work has started at St Francis Church this week.

The work includes repairing the crack above and below the rose window at the West end, repair of of the sanctuary floor at the East end, repair to the damaged render on the walls and redecoration throughout.

The whole work will last between six to eight weeks and should be completed well in time for Easter.


This Is Church

October 29th, 2013


During November and December we are very fortunate to be able to host a photographic installation called “This Is Church”, which has been on display at St Martin’s in the Bull Ring over the summer this year. These thought-provoking images have proved very popular with visitors there and we hope that you will also want to encourage friends and family to make a special trip to see them, to reflect more deeply on what it means to be Church both here and abroad. Cheryl Homer (Arts Coordinator at St Martin’s Church) writes:

“‘Church’ is the word to describe people gathering around Jesus, yet, today, we tend to use the word to describe buildings.

The early church had no buildings. The churches existed wherever the Christians’ chose to meet.

Many people and congregations again, today, are meeting in different places and situations, some out abundant choice and preferences, others out of lack of choice and physical or political restrictions.

People don’t go to church, they are the church.  People worship through music, dance, creativity, silence, meditation, laughter, tears; they meet   inside, outside, in cities, in fields, in slums, prisons, palaces, in public and in private … God meets people where they are.

Through this series of photographs, collected from the UK and overseas, we want to explore the many ways ‘church’ happens; the ways in which people ‘gather around Jesus’”.

The photo shown is by Kieran Dodd / Tearfund and is used in the exhibition representing Uganda.