Sunday 1st May 2022

Heart Religion

In Acts 2:37-47 we find an account of life among the early followers of that has inspired the church across the generations. One word in this passage really jumps out from the original Greek: koinos. This means ‘common or shared’, but also ‘profane, dirty, unclean or unwashed’, on the basis that what is common or ordinary has been stripped of its specialness and made unholy. Elsewhere in the New Testament, this word is used negatively for things that are impure; but here, it is positive: property was held ‘in common’ and distributed for the needs of the community. Koinos was also the root for the word koinonia, referring to the fellowship or communion shared over prayer and the breaking of bread.

The community life expressed by koinonia is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. That which is holy is made profane by becoming embodied in the ordinary stuff of life – just as God became embroiled with the daily struggle of human living in the life of Jesus. Conversely, that which is profane is made holy by God’s involvement in every part of life.

In worshipping God, we declare what it is that we ultimately value. But it is in our everyday choices – such as where we buy our food and energy, who we spend our time with – that we demonstrate what we really value most highly. Koinos, those common things of our life together, reveals where our heart lies. This is what John Wesley meant when he encouraged Methodists towards ‘Heart Religion’.

James Garnett

Sunday 3rd April 2022

Living in Connexion

How an institution is organised says a lot about what it stands for.

The early Methodist Societies aligned themselves with one or other of the leaders in 18th Century evangelism – they were ‘in connexion’ with John Wesley or ‘in connexion with the Countess of Huntingdon’ or George Whitefield or Howell Harris. Through these leaders, the members of the Societies were ‘in connexion’ with one another.

In 1784, John Wesley nominated 100 ministers to be members of the ‘Yearly Conference of the People called Methodist’, which took over from him the role of governance for the Societies. Wesley himself presided over the conference until his death in 1791, whereupon it was decided that a President would be elected only for one year at a time. When lay people were admitted to the Conference in 1878, a lay Vice-President was also elected, and the two now serve in partnership.

Methodists continue to be in connexion with each other through the annual Conference. Each District sends representatives to the Conference, shaping the decisions that it makes, which in turn shape the life of churches in each District. The President and Vice-President remain important symbols of this mutual accountability, and of our connexion with Methodists nationally and internationally.

This year’s President, Rev Sonia Hicks, will be preaching at our Easter morning service. The theme for Sonia’s presidency is ‘A Place for All’, reflecting her passion for an inclusive church. Her visit will mark the beginning of the 150th anniversary year of our building in Crown Terrace. Sonia will help to connect us with our past, with our future and with Methodists from around the world.

James Garnett

Sunday 27th March 2022

What does it take for us to see ourselves clearly?

In Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, it was hitting rock bottom when the son had squandered his resources and resorted to eating the food he was giving to pigs. And often, for us, it is the shock and despair that comes from war, relationship breakdown, loss of a job that can make us take stock of our priorities and question what we had previously valued.

Yet we do not have to wait until disaster strikes. Many professions have adopted models of reflective practice, that encourage people in the workplace to develop self-awareness in what they do. This promotes critical awareness of past actions and decisions in order to inform and improve future performance. Reflective self-awareness underpins continual learning so that mistakes are not repeated and potential disasters avoided.

The ancient Christian practice of penitence is a reflective practice for living. The purpose of examining our lives in the light of God’s love is not to foster a burden of guilt at our failings, but rather to support our learning as we seek to live more closely the Way of Christ. Becoming more self- aware about what we value and about how closely we live according to what we value helps us in good times as well as bad. Developing the habit of seeing ourselves clearly brings us closer to God.

James Garnett

Sunday 20th March 2022

Living with the horizon of death

Living with the horizon of death changes our attitude to life. We notice things we would otherwise ignore. Our priorities change. Our sense of purpose becomes clearer.

We see this with the war in Ukraine. Our overdependence on Russian fossil fuels and complicity in the misappropriation of funds has suddenly become visible and problematic. Living for our own convenience is no longer our top priority. Solidarity against violence done to both the Ukrainian and Russian people has provided a renewed purpose in life for many.

In our personal lives too, severe ill health or the death of a loved-one can lead us to reappraise our lives. Again, we see things differently, adjust our priorities and reflect on our purpose. The nearness of death sharpens our sense of what it means to be alive.

The practise of our Christian faith keeps the horizon of death constantly before us as we remember the life, death and resurrection of Christ. We find this horizon too in the teachings of Jesus – in this week’s Gospel reading for example (Luke 13:1-9).

Death is a part of life – not an inconvenient afterthought. The time to comprehend it and prepare for the impact it has on our lives and those of others is not when it happens, but week by week as we meet to worship the God of Life. For remembering death changes how we live.

James Garnett

Sunday 13th March 2022

Love beyond reason

Love is a complicated business. We can love someone and remain loyal to them even when we find some aspects of their character or behaviour repulsive. We can love them and remain loyal to them even when we disagree profoundly with them. We can love them and remain loyal to them even if they give us every reason not to by mistreating us. This is one reason why it can be very difficult to escape an abusive relationship. But it is also the way in which communities grow in depth and coherence – through bonds that go beyond anything that is functional or rational.

We see this love exemplified in Jesus’ attitude towards Jerusalem in Luke 13:31-35. His words express an anguished exasperation for the city which recall the words of the prophet Isaiah – condemning (Isaiah 3:8), mourning (40:2) and redeeming (52:9) the city and the people it represents. Jesus expresses a tenderness towards the city and offers it hope in the same breath as anticipating its role in his own death.

Love enables us to remain connected with people who live alongside us despite our differences. Love enables us to remain connected with the people who taught us while modifying our response to what we learned from them – just as Jerusalem and mount Zion on which it rests have remained symbols of God’s longed-for kingdom long after Christianity became a religion for people who weren’t Jewish.

Our calling is to know God in this personal way – not as something to understand or that fulfils a function in our lives. Our calling is also to relate to one another in this way, and to invite others into this complicated community of love.

James Garnett

Sunday 5th March 2022


There are many seasons of life that we might describe as times in the wilderness: times of illness – physical or mental, times of emotional strain – in bereavement, estrangement, unemployment, even retirement. These are all times of displacement, involving dislocation from what we have previously come to accept as normal life.

The displacement of the wilderness marks an interruption. Although it might feel like the ending of something, we really don’t know. Part of the wilderness experience is the uncertainty of where it will lead us and for how long. And as time goes by, it becomes more difficult to sustain the patterns of living and commitment which have characterised who we were in normal times. We are forced to examine closely what it is that we really value, what it is that really makes us who we are.

The season of Lent provides us with an archetype of the wilderness experience. Not only did Jesus experience this time of desolation, with all the privation and questioning that goes with it, but he emerged from it a different person. This time of displacement was also a time of new beginning out of which his public ministry emerged.

Lent is for us an annual reminder, both that the wilderness is part of life, and also that what we experience as an unwelcome interruption to normality can often be an impetus to new growth. However, the observation of Lent is also a spiritual practice that prepares us for the dis-locations of life by rehearsing the emotional response. Each year, we find ways of refocusing ourselves on what we really value over a sustained period of privation and reflection. Just as Easter trains us to recognise the transformative moments of life, Lent prepares us for the long haul of wilderness-living, out of which we trust that new life will eventually emerge.

James Garnett

Sunday 27th February 2022

Faith or no faith?

My parents did not have me baptised as a baby because they wanted me to make up my own mind about religion. (And they were rather surprised when I did choose to be baptised, aged 11.)

However, despite their intentions, they did not bring me up without faith, for that is an impossible task. We cannot live without faith - faith that our actions will have consequences, faith that other people are broadly the same sort of creatures that we are, faith that people who love us will care for us.

Much later in life, I came to recognise in the teachings of Christ and the traditions of the church much of the faith that I had learned from my parents. And I came to name those articles of faith I had been taught as manifestations of God.

The challenge facing this, and every generation of parents is not whether to teach their children faith, but rather, which faith will they teach. Which god will our children grow up to worship? The god of the nation state? The god of economics? The god of pleasure? What will they value above all else? Where will they place their faith?

James Garnett

Sunday 20th February 2022

Connected living

One of the most distinctive teachings of Jesus is that we should love our enemies and do good to those that hate us (Luke 6:27). How can this possibly make sense?

This attitude towards each other only makes sense if we recognise the relational nature of life. We each see the world from our own point of view, aware of our own interests and desires and seeking to pursue them. What is harder is to recognise that everyone else is like this too, and that there is no good reason why our own interests and desires should prevail over theirs.

Our 'enemies' are broadly those people whose interests and desires come into conflict with our own. How we react depends on what is important to us. We might try to impose, buy or argue the priority of what we want according to what we value most.

For Jesus, it was relationship that mattered most. His life and teaching embody the wisdom that we remain connected to and in relationship with people, regardless of whose desires and interests prevail. We might win an argument, but we have to live with the consequences of winning alongside the person who lost. Ultimately, it is the relationship that is most important - that is why we love our enemies.

For Christians, the relatedness of life is reflected in our idea of God as Trinity. Father, Son and Spirit are one God because they are connected by love. For Methodists in particular, this takes the form of living 'in connexion' with each other. Local churches, Circuits and Districts come together as the Connexion for our mutual support and direction.

James Garnett

Sunday 13th February 2022

What does success look like?

We recognise many symbols of success: houses and cars, jobs and families, education and sport. What success looks like depends on what we value as important in life.

In Luke 6:17-26 we read of Jesus healing people - people who would have been poor, hungry, unhappy and rejected as a result of their illnesses and infirmities. After changing their fortunes, he told them, 'Blessed are the poor, hungry, unhappy, rejected. Cursed are the rich, full, joyful and accepted.' What was he saying to these newly-restored people in this paradox?

Perhaps he was warning them to beware of what they valued in their new and healthy life among the mainstream of society. It is easier to value love and community when we are rejected and dependent than when we are self-sufficient and 'normal'.

Success in the kingdom of God is a manifestation of love. We might recognise this in a variety of forms, regardless of our status in terms of health, wealth and happiness.

James Garnett

Sunday 6th February 2022

Who do you follow?

Maybe you aspire to be like your parents, or a friend you particularly admire? Maybe there is a role model from history who has inspired you? We are invited to follow celebrities - from sport, business, film and elsewhere - as examples of who we can aspire to be. We can even ‘follow’ them on social media, gaining deeper insights into their lives (or at least what they choose to share of their lives) and becoming influenced by them in the choices we make.

We all follow others. As social animals, it is an important part of how we learn and of how we develop a mental image of who we are or who we would like to become. The first question we should be asking ourselves is not, 'Do you follow anyone?' but 'Who do you follow?'

In Luke 5:1-11 we read of Simon Peter, John and James deciding to leave all that they had previously followed (including John and James's father, Zebedee) in order to follow Jesus. The second question we need to ask ourselves is, 'What does it mean to follow Jesus rather than any of the other potential role models for our lives?

James Garnett

Sunday 30th January 2022

How do we respond to people with different ideas from our own?

If truth is what we value most highly, then we are likely to focus our attention on the ideas themselves. A commitment to truth will drive us to reject one or other of the incompatible ideas. If we believe ourselves to be right, then we may well reject the other person along with what they think.

If power is what we value most highly, then we might not be so interested in the content of the ideas as in what they represent. We might consider whether it is in our interests to align ourselves with the other person, regardless of whether or not we agree with what they say. Our concern will be to do with the most effective means of achieving our preferred ends.

The account of Jesus being rejected in his home town of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30) expresses how we are all prone to behave. If truth or power are what we value most, then when we disagree with a person's ideas we tend to reject them too. (Jesus' fellow townsfolk tried to throw him over a cliff.)

If love is what we ultimately value, however, then it is the person we care for most - not the ideas or what the ideas represent. We might pause to consider whether these ideas might have something in them, even though they differ from our own, just because this is a person we care about. Whether or not we decide to adjust our own thoughts, we will not attempt to throw the person off a cliff. We recognise that there is more to them than their ideas, and we love them for who they are - even if we still hope that they will change their mind.

James Garnett

Sunday 23rd January 2022

Good news for the poor?

This week, Oxfam published its annual report on inequality, with the finding that the world's 10 richest men doubled their wealth since the pandemic began. Like climate change, inequality is an indication that our global economic system is far from perfect. We are prompted, not only to imagine a future in which all people can be fulfilled and live in harmony with the whole of creation (which we call the Kingdom of God), but also to participate in the coming of this kingdom.

In the meantime, we are also reminded that no society or economic system in history has yet been perfect. When the prophet Isaiah proclaimed good news for the poor, release for the captives, sight for the blind – and when Jesus read these words in a Judean synagogue several hundred years later - the poor, the captive, the blind fell by the wayside in a system that favoured the rich and powerful just as today's (different) system does.

We are called to minister among those left by the wayside of our economy, not just because they need our help, but because in the process we learn from them about the sickness of the system of which we ourselves are a part. It is through forming relationships and getting to know each other's lives that we come to understand at first hand the imperfections of our way of life. And through this knowledge, we come to glimpse the perfection of God's kingdom and to grope our way towards it.

James Garnett

Sunday 15th January 2022

Every material thing also has spiritual significance as a symbol.

Symbols point beyond themselves. They can point to a variety of different, possibly conflicting things. They become significant in a social context - we can't unilaterally define a symbol. They mix value, meaning and complexity inextricably into the universe of physical objects.

Water, for example, is not simply a combination of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. It represents both the quenching of thirst and the suffocation of drowning; the cleansing of washing and the disappointment of a rained-off picnic. Wine is not simply fermented fruit juice. It represents both joyous celebration and the destruction of addiction.

We are perhaps the most complicated symbol of them all: not just a collection of cells, but selves who point beyond ourselves; acquiring meaning for others as we seek it in our own lives. In John 2:1-11 we read of Jesus transforming water to wine - with all the accumulated biblical significance that these two substances hold. How does this help us to understand transformation in our own lives, and the role that Christ plays in it?

James Garnett

Sunday 19th December 2021

We live between the future and the past.

It would be easy to think that the past has the greater influence on us. It is, after all, the realm of facts. We comprehend how things are on the basis of how they have come to be (history) or how they have always been (nature).

Yet it is our anticipation of the future that directs our attention towards which facts matter. Our view of deforestation in the Amazon, for example, will depend on whether our principal concern is the loss of habitat, the loss of carbon capture, or the potential loss of livelihood from farming the land. Our commitment to a particular future influences the way we see the past and respond to the present.

There are times when the future has a more powerful, more tangible pull on us than others. In Advent, we join with Mary in anticipating the birth of her child - a time marked by changes in her body and accompanied by emotions of hope, apprehension, wonder, impatience. As we make our preparations for Christmas, we are perhaps more acutely aware of our mixed response to the call of the future because of the uncertainties introduced by the pandemic.

We need faith to embrace the future. That may be faith in our ability to predict and control the future, faith in our capacity to buy ourselves out of the consequences of our present, faith in the potential of love to adapt and to care for each other, whatever comes. Advent serves to remind us that, even at times when the gravitational pull of the future is weaker, it is still there. The job of nurturing the faith that will connect our present with the past and the future is one for the whole year round.

James Garnett

Sunday 12th December 2021

Being and doing

Which is more important - who we are or what we do? This is a question that divides philosophical ethics. Some promote the development of character and virtue. Others emphasise the importance of actions and their consequences. Christianity too has veered from one pole to the other over the centuries, playing out the tension between faith and works.

Yet, being and doing are inseparable. Humans cannot have one without the other. Who we are - our character - informs what we do; and what we do shapes who we become. We see this reflected in John the Baptist's diatribe against those who came to hear him in the wilderness: 'every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.' (Luke 3:9)

Bearing good fruit is important. But the fruit we bear will depend upon what sort of a tree we are. As we attend to our growth, let us both feed the tree and encourage the fruit. Let us pay attention to both being and doing.

James Garnett

Sunday 5th December 2021

Living with imperfection

We hear every day in the news about the imperfections of this world: individuals behaving badly, political representatives who are corrupt, institutions failing to operate as they should. How ought we to respond to this chasm between the world that we see and the perfection that we expect?

If what we value most in life is knowledge, then we can find out more about how things really are, we can hone our idea of how they should be, and we can act to bridge the gap between the two. But experience tells us that there will always be a gap. The more knowledge we have, the greater will be our frustration at life's imperfections, and the higher the pressure on those in a position to address them - especially public figures like politicians, judges, doctors, nurses, teachers.

If what we value most about life is love, however, then we have a way out of this rising tide of guilt and stress. Love tells us that the imperfections we see in others will also be found in ourselves. Love connects us, not only with those who suffer as a result of our flawed life together, but also with those whose faults we share. Love cares first for people, allowing them to change, to learn, to be transformed. Love forgives, helping us to live with and grow beyond the imperfections of the world, in the hope that we too will be forgiven.

James Garnett

Sunday 28th November 2021

Church services and boiler services

Every generation faces periods of turmoil when the established order of things becomes disrupted, as it has during the Pandemic. Each of our lives, too, bring times of crisis when what has been normal falls apart. At these times of personal and national upheaval we are forced to consider - and fall back on - what it is that we value most in life.

The time to examine what we value - to explore its implications and consolidate our faith in its worth - is not the time of uncertainty, turmoil and fear. We will be best prepared for these chaotic periods of life if we have already surveyed, probed and reinforced the foundations of our living. This is what we aim to do, week-by-week in church.

It is the difference between calling a heating engineer to service the boiler in the summer months when it is working and summoning the engineer only once the heating has broken down in the winter. Of course, heating will always break down at some point; but if it has been serviced regularly, the recovery is likely to be faster.

James Garnett

Sunday 21st November 2021

What is truth?

Is this unusually warm autumn a normal variation in weather patterns from year to year? Or is it an indication of an underlying, long-term warming in our climate?

Is a global economy driven by consumer spending the only way to secure our future? Or is this just a 21st century aberration in human relations?

Is left-handedness a deformity to be corrected? Or even a sign of wayward behaviour that needs to be brought under control? Or are some people just different?

Throughout our lives and across history we are called upon to discern between unchangeable reality and incidental phenomena which are accidents, coincidences or illusions that mask hidden truths. With the formal methodology of science and with the intuition of everyday life, through periods of consensus and times of instability, we constantly ask, with Pilate, ‘What is truth?’ (John 18:38) The actions we take, the choices we make, depend upon our answers.

The life, death and resurrection of Christ are testimony to the truth that love is fundamental to the way in which creation works. When we see evil in its various forms – theft, greed, exploitation, violence – some may be prompted doubt the reality of love. But our faith is that the eternal power of love brings redemption to all; and that any evidence to the contrary is a temporary departure from this fundamental truth.

James Garnett

Sunday 14th November 2021

Remembering the warp of love…

When we hear of human suffering on the news, we tend to distinguish between man-made and natural disasters. War is man-made; earthquakes natural; famines could be either, depending on their cause.

Yet, when Jesus talked of the birth-pangs of the new creation (Mark 13:1-8), he made no distinction of kind between wars, earthquakes and famine. Indeed, for the people caught up in such large-scale tragedies this may well be the reality. They can no more stop the war than they can still the earthquake. Both result in the uncontrollable loss of life and property.

Our separation of man-made and natural disasters is part of a larger picture in which we have come to regard nature as basically good and humanity as intrinsically unnatural. We see this rediscovery of original sin (often in secular form) in relation to climate change, for example.

Remembering the two World Wars of the last century also provides an opportunity to contemplate the horrors committed by humanity and our exploitation of technology to extend our in-born capacity to cause harm. Yet, this is also the occasion to remember sacrifices made, mercy shown, lives transformed for good. The tapestry of war contains the warp of love as well as the weft of destruction.

In Christ we seek to nurture that part of ourselves that works for good. And in Christ we find that mystery of love that can accept us for who we are while simultaneously enticing us towards a better version of ourselves. For only love can respond to the disaster of the cross with forgiveness and new life.

James Garnett

Sunday 7th November 2021

Visible and invisible

What we value does not just affect our moral decisions, it shapes our perception of the world we live in. We filter the information that reaches us through our senses, selecting what is of value to us and ignoring what is not. As a result, we construct our perception of the world based on what is important to us, for our wellbeing and for our vision of the future.

This week’s reading from Mark’s Gospel highlights the limits of our perception, because Jesus saw what others did not. Sitting, observing the crowd making donations to the Temple treasury in Jerusalem, he noticed the hard-up widow amongst the throng of people; and he noticed that the small offering that she made would have been a significant sacrifice for her. He also noticed the reverence with which religious authorities were treated, and the disparity between their status and their behaviour. (Mark 12:38-44)

Jesus saw what was invisible to others because he valued differently from others. He challenges us to question our perception of the world: to sit and watch, asking ourselves, what is it we are not seeing? What is invisible to us because we don’t think it important?

Our church community helps us in this. As we talk and compare experiences, we probe our own perceptions. Particularly as we meet with people whose lives have been very different from our own, we widen our view of the world. And as a community that places God at its centre, we seek to bring what we perceive into line with the ultimate value that we declare: Love as it is revealed to us in Christ.

James Garnett

Sunday 31st October 2021

How do you think of your 'self'? What is it that makes you 'you'?

Maybe it is the material body that you inhabit. Maybe the string of experiences you have encountered through your life. Maybe your identity within a particular culture. Maybe the story you tell about who you hope to become.

Throughout history and across religions, the accounts that humans have given of what happens to our 'self' after we die have been expressions of how we think of ourselves while living. Christianity was heavily influenced by Roman ideas of an immortal soul housed within our temporary, physical bodies. But, crucially, what has endured is the unity of the spiritual and the material. Christ was both fully God and fully human. He died, as humans do; but rose again. We look for the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.

The integration of the material and the spiritual in our 'self' is not just a matter for abstract theological speculation. It is fundamental to how we see our place in the world. If our true self resides in our spirit, then we have no reason to address the injustices of this world. On the other hand, if we reduce who we are to entirely material beings, we lose the capacity to imagine ourselves as different and better than we actually are.

The account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11) finishes with the words, 'Unbind him, and let him go'. The 'him' that was unbound was both body and soul. It is this union of the physical and the spiritual in our 'self' that enables us both to care deeply about the physical conditions of our existence whilst also being able to imagine them to be different - and hence to effect change.

James Garnett

Sunday 24th October 2021

What do we hope for?

What do we hope for? For ourselves, our family, our community? Often we hope for a better version of the present - for some deficiency to be remedied. More time, maybe; or more money. More people to join in what we are doing.

When Jesus asked Bartimaeus - a blind beggar in Jericho - 'What can I do for you?', Bartimaeus could have asked for money. A generous donation might have set him up for weeks. Instead, he had the vision to ask for something that would radically change his future: 'Let me see again.' (Mark 10:46-52)

This is the message of resurrection: the future does not have to be a continuation of the present. Faced with the stark reality of the cross, nobody anticipated the empty tomb. Faced with the injustice of slavery, few people in eighteenth century anticipated emancipation. Faced with the injustice of women being unable to vote, few people at the start of the twentieth century anticipated equal suffrage.

Like Bartimaeus, we are invited to envisage a future that is radically different from the present. And like him, we are invited to step towards God's future in faith.

James Garnett

Sunday 17th October 2021

Politics and faith

Whose interests are being served? This is the first question of politics. One of the great insights of twentieth-century thought is that this question needs to be asked even of apparently abstract truth. In Black History Month, we are reminded, for example, that what has long been regarded simply as 'history' turns out to be 'white history'. It tells the story of of the world in a way that reflects and adds legitimacy to the interests of the white former-colonists.

The second question of politics is, 'Whose interests will prevail?' In his letter to the Philippians, St Paul urges his readers to look to each others' interests rather than their own. This serves as an antidote to self-interest, but it does not address the question of how competing interests among others are to be balanced. Neither does it offer much protection to individuals who are subject to abuse by others.

Paul's further urging to 'have the same mind that was in Christ' is more helpful. By asking, 'What is in Christ's interests?' we invite all parties to imagine not what is good for them, but what would be good for Christ.

Of course, we can only imagine what Christ would want from within the confines of our own interests. There are plenty of cases in which Christ's name has been co-opted to support the interests of the powerful. (White colonial history is full of examples.) Nevertheless, we cannot invoke the name of Christ without being invited once again to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.

James Garnett

Sunday 10th October 2021

Homo gratus?

What sort of creature are we?

When we describe ourselves as homo sapiens, we think of ourselves as being defined by our capacity for knowledge. This is what distinguishes us from other creatures - including previous forms of humanity, such as homo erectus (distinguished by the ability to walk upright).

We are also sometimes referred to as homo economicus. Specifically, this is a view taken by some economic theorists who work on the assumption that humans take consistently rational decisions based on their own self-interest. More generally, this might describe our human tendency to prioritise economic value in both our communal and individual lives. Maybe the rich man who was saddened by Jesus' instruction to sell all he had could be described as homo economicus? (Mark 10:17-31)

St Iraneaus, the second-century bishop of what is now Lyons, referred to humanity as homo gratus - creatures who gives thanks. What we are thankful for reveals what we desire; and our thankfulness recognises the possibility that our desires might not be fulfilled. In his letter to the Philippians, St Paul is thankful for his time in prison. Strange though this might seem, it reflects his desire to witness to Christ; and recognises that, had he not been imprisoned, he would have been unable to speak of Christ to the imperial guards.

Homo sapiens? Homo economicus? Homo gratus? Which would you rather become?

James Garnett

Sunday 3rd October 2021

On the inefficiency of efficiency

The doctrine of efficiency teaches us to set a goal and then achieve it with the minimum expenditure of resources. If we are going on a journey, for example, we will be clear about our destination and then find the shortest route, ensuring that we have sufficient food and fuel for the way.

Our desire for efficiency influences our attitudes towards anything that might frustrate our plans. Other road users become obstacles in our path. If we stop for provisions, the people who serve us become instruments for our progress - we have no interest in them beyond a speedy transaction. Neither are we interested in taking detours to explore scenery that would be a distraction from reaching our destination.

When Jesus sent his disciples out with no itinerary and no supplies, he was not interested in efficiency. He was interested in people. Their aim was not to visit as many places as they could in the shortest possible time, but to take an interest in people's lives along the way - as they would have to, in order to find offers of food and shelter.

It is in the quality of our relationships that we find the kingdom of God to be near. The doctrine of efficiency can lead us into a very inefficient way of finding our bearings.

James Garnett
Reflecting on Matthew 10:1-15

Sunday 26th September 2021

In the name of love…

Sometimes we act out of self-interest. Sometimes we act for an interest that is greater than ourselves. Maybe a group to which we gelong; or maybe a more abstract ideal such as the acquisition of power, wealth or knowledge.

Sometimes we act out of love; and what we call love comes in different forms. We might think of it as a feeling, or even as a physical passion that we struggle to control.

When we act out of a love that removes ourselves from the centre of our lives and recognises the mutuality of our relationship with others, we act in the name of Christ. Our life of faith seeks to build up this aspect of who we are, so that we act in this way more than sometimes.

'Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear my name will by no means lose the reward.' (Mark 9:41)

James Garnett

Sunday 19th September 2021

Who are the champions?

Who is the greatest, the most important, the highest in status? It depends on what we value.

If we value power, the strongest is the greatest; if we value wealth, the richest. If we value efficiency, it is the most productive; if family, then our closest of relatives will the greatest.

But what if we value love above all else? The greatest are those who are most dependent on love - children, dementia sufferers, refugees: those who cannot look after themselves and call on us to love unconditionally, to care without a guaranteed reward.

This is the peculiar reverse logic of love. The greatest are not those who love the most, but who call for the most love. For it is this mutual dependence that is characteristic of the love we find in Christ: love exists when we are first prepared to give it.

James Garnett

Sunday 12th September 2021

The wisdom of a sigh…

I remember reading a newspaper article sometime in the 1990s reporting research which suggested that sighing was the key to a happy marriage. (I was newly-married at the time.) The theory was that sighing is an outlet for the inevitable frustrations that arise when living with another human being, avoiding the potential repercussions from expressing our frustrations verbally. A quick search online has not been able to find and verify this research - although a different article presented evidence that sighing is not necessarily to be understood as an expression of negative emotion.

In this week's Gospel reading (Mark 8:27-38), Jesus hears from his disciples the differing views that people are expressing about him. Some say he is the new Elijah; others identify him with John the Baptist or with one of the Prophets. When Peter (correctly for once) says, 'You are the Messiah', Jesus did not then tell the disciples to go out and put everyone right. He asked them to keep silence. Perhaps he sighed.

When surrounded by conflicting and strident voices it is hard to know how to react. Sometimes we must speak out, lest our inaction is taken for indifference. But at other times, perhaps silence is the more godly way.

As we sigh, we pray to discern God's voice through the breath of the Spirit.

James Garnett

Sunday 5th September 2021

Invitation and Violence

We desire many things. We can desire conflicting things (eg sweets and healthy teeth); and we can accept that different people desire different things.

When we value something, however, we not only desire it, but we believe that our desire is good. And because we believe it is a good desire to have, we expect other people to share our desire.

In God, we find what it is that we value ultimately. This is why we feel compelled to share our faith.

But this is not a uniquely Christian experience: the tragedy in Afghanistan might be seen as hubris for the god of democracy. The West attempted to share the ultimate value it accords to democracy; but our belief in the goodness of this desire has not been adopted by the Afghan people.

Community is grounded in an invitation to share what is of value. But to insist that others desire what we believe to be good amounts to violence.

James Garnett

Sunday 29th August 2021

Climate, the economy and love

The climate god is giving the god of the economy a run for his (her?) money. They are battling over what is to be of ultimate value to us. Can we continue to give priority to the economy? Or must we start to value the impact of our choices on the climate more highly? Might there be a way of appeasing both gods so that we do not have to sacrifice our standard of living?

Such is the narrative of climate change. But the message of the God of Love remains the same as ever. We should be valuing each other more highly than either the economy or the climate. It is not that the economy or the climate are unimportant; but that love is of ultimate importance - love as revealed in Christ (rather than by Hollywood).

Love reminds those who live on high ground that they are connected with those who live by the rising sea waters. It reminds wealthy consumers that they are connected with the impoverished mine- and factory-workers who produce consumables and carbon dioxide. It reminds people where food and water are plentiful that they are connected with refugees from war, drought and famine.

'Rend your heart and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.' Joel 2:13

James Garnett

Sunday 22nd August 2021

Learning to Live

Practice makes perfect. This is what I was told as a child learning to play the violin. Our son corrected me when he was learning sports coaching: practice makes permanent. He has a point. Practice will only make perfect if we are practising the right things. Otherwise, we become very competent at our mistakes. To avoid this, we need to develop reflective self-awareness (perhaps with the aid of a good coach).

This is one of the benefits of prayer. In prayer, we examine what we have done, as well as our hopes and our fears, in the light of what we value most - that is, God. We remove ourselves from the centre of our lives, enabling us to gain a perspective on what is godly and what is not.

This reflective aspect of prayer helps us to align our heart more closely with God, and to align our actions more closely with our heart. In recognising what is not godly in our lives, we are released from it, freeing us to bring our actions more closely into line with what we believe to be good. We can avoid practising our mistakes.

In life, as in sport and music, practice makes permanent.

James Garnett

Sunday 15th August 2021

The shape of love

When you think about love, what symbol comes to mind?

The growth of film has elevated the kiss to a symbol of love. Indeed, in recent years, inflation in the currency of on-screen love has made a mere kiss look rather inadequate.

Love needs a symbol because it cannot be seen and can barely be comprehended. How is it that one human can give themselves so thoroughly to another without exploitation? A film-maker has limited options and sex helps to sell films.

But Christianity offers an alternative symbol of love: the cross. Love did not die on the cross. And so it is that, even when death strikes as a tragedy in our lives, the cross remains a source of hope. We each participate in God's eternal life of love; and that love remains with us - even when someone who taught us much about what love means is no longer with us.

James Garnett

Saturday 7th August 2021


How we respond to the present depends crucially on what we expect in the future. This is why grief is so overwhelming: not only is the future we had expected to share with someone no more, but we feel as if our current experience of loss will continue forever.

Yet our experience of life also tells us that the future we project forward in our imagination very often does not come to pass. Other people do unexpected things. Events that are not within our control open up new possibilities. Sometimes, we even surprise ourselves.

Where do we put our faith when we are faced with these un-imagined futures? How do we know whether to embrace the unexpected or to ignore it as an aberration? What does it take to confound our expectations and lead us out of despair?

This is what it means to have faith in the risen Christ. It is the expectation that when life has brought us to despair, love will somehow transform our future - even if we cannot predict when or how.

James Garnett

Thursday 29th July 2021

Living with imperfection

Methodism emphasises the love of God rather than our sinfulness. Love comes first, going before us, waiting to be found if we but look.

And yet, there is no denying that our capacity to imagine perfection is greater than our ability to live it. In ourselves, in each other, in the wider world, we are aware of gaps between the goodness we hope for and the reality of our experiences.

The turbulence of this current phase in the pandemic is a case in point. Such is the complexity of the situation and the diversity of our circumstances, that our expectations are often met with disappointment and frustration. Sin.

Central to our faith in Christ is the human necessity of living with imperfection. In Christ we find sustenance for our vision of perfect love while releasing us from the effects of our shortcomings.

Rev Dr James Garnett

Sunday 13th June

Reflection by Professor Tom Greggs

Sunday 6th June

Reflection by Rev Dr James Garnett

Sunday 23rd May

Reflection on 'A heart strangely warmed'

Sunday 13th June


Sunday 6th June


Sunday 16th May

Reflection on membership

Sunday 18th April

Reflection on the 'Four Alls'

Sunday 11th April

Reflection on a Methodist Way of Life

Sunday 28th March

Palm Sunday Reflection

Sunday 7th March

Reflection on renewal

Sunday 28th February

Reflection on Mark 8: 31-38 Take up your cross and follow

Sunday 21st February

Reflection - learning, growth and transformation

Sunday 14th February

Reflection on Mark 1: 40-45 and Mark 9: 2-9 Recognising Jesus

Wednesday 10th February

Reflections - click for more

Sunday 7th February

Reflection on Mark 1: 29-39 The Touch of Jesus

Wednesday 3rd February

Reflections - click for more

Sunday 31st January

Reflection on Fellowship

Wednesday 27th January

Reflections - click for more

Sunday 24th January

Reflection on being invited

Wednesday 20th January

Reflections - click for more

Sunday 17th January

Reflection on Invitation

Wednesday 13th January

Reflections - click for more

Sunday 10th January

Hospitality: A Reflection on Hosts and Guests

Sunday 13th December

Reflection on Isaiah 61: 1-4,8-11 and John 1:6-8,19-31

Sunday 6th December

Reflection on Mark 1: 1-8

Sunday 29th November

Reflection on Mark 13: 24-37

Sunday 22nd November

Reflection on Matthew 25: 31-46

Sunday 1st November

All Saints Day: A Time for Remembering (A Reflection on Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)

Sunday 11th October 2020

Reflection - The Kingdom of God (Exodus 32: 1-14 and Matthew 22: 1-14)

Sunday 4th October 2020

Reflection - Justice and generosity in the vineyard (Matthew 21: 33-44)

Sunday 27th September 2020

Reflection - A call to work in the vineyard (Matthew 21: 23-32)

Sunday 20th September 2020

Reflection - Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20: 1-16)

Sunday 13th September 2020

Reflection on Exodus 14:19-31

Sunday 6th September 2020

Reflection - Belonging (Romans 13: 8-14)

Sunday 30th August 2020

Reflection on Change and John 1:1-14

Sunday 23rd August 2020

Reflections - God's rest

Sunday 16th August 2020

Reflection - Creatures on land

Sunday 9th August 2020

Reflection - Birds and Fish

Sunday 2nd August 2020

Reflection on Matthew 2: 1-6

Sunday 26th July 2020

Reflection on Matthew 14: 13-21

Sunday 19th July 2020

Reflection - Under the same sky

the first 8u7vt4 Sunday 12th July 2020

Reflection - The covenant with the day and with the night

Sunday 5th July 2020

Reflection - Build Back Better

Sunday 28th June 2020

Reflection on Ruth Chapter 4

Sunday 21st June 2020

Reflection on Ruth Chapter 3

Reflection - click for more

Sunday 14th June 2020

Reflection on Ruth Chapter 2

Sunday 7th June 2020

Reflection on Ruth Chapter 1

Discussion - click for more

Sunday 31st May 2020

Reflection on Pentecost

Sunday 24th May 2020

Season of Prayer Thy Kingdom Come: Reflection on Acts 1: 1-14

Discussion - click for more

Thursday 21st May 2020

Thy Kingdom Come

From Ascension Day (21st May) to Pentecost (31st May) Aberdeen Methodist Church will be joining in Thy Kingdom Come: a global wave of prayer. You are invited to join us in using this Prayer Journal each day.

Sunday 17th May 2020

Season of Prayer Focus on the language of prayer:
Reflections on Acts 17: 22-31

Discussion - click for more

Sunday 10th May 2020

Season of Prayer Focus on self: Reflection on John 14: 1-14

Discussion - click for more

Sunday 3rd May 2020

Season of Prayer Focus on Scripture: Reflections on Psalm 23

Discussion - click for more

Sunday 26th April 2020

Season of Prayer Focus on God: Reflections on Colossians 1: 1-14

Discussion - click for more

Sunday 19th April 2020

Season of Prayer: Reflections on Luke 24: 13-25

Discussion - click for more

Sunday 12th April 2020

Bible Study: Reflection on 'Amen'

Discussion - click for more

Sunday 5th April 2020

Bible Study: Reflection on John 12: 1-19

Sunday 29th March 2020

Bible Study: Reflection on John 11: 1-45