Tag Archives: Community

Compost for the vegetable patch

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

Matthew 5:13

Developed from a sermon preached at Felpham Methodist Church, West Sussex, on 5th February for their Vision Sunday. The full audio recording of the sermon is available below.

Audio recording

Compost for the vegetable patch

When we moved into our home, the garden was a mess. the bushes and weeds hadn’t been pruned regularly, and so it had all become rather overgrown. but one day, as we cut back some of the overgrown bushes, I was delighted to find a compost bin.

That compost bin now sits proudly on the corner of the vegetable patch, and in it we collect the grass cuttings, vegetable peelings and the occasional mouldy orange – and over time the worms do their thing and it all becomes compost, which has helped to boost the soil and grow great plants and crops on our veggie patch.

In the last weeks, all the autumn’s offerings have meant the compost bin has been overflowing, and I recently had to dig out some from out of the bottom to make space for more to be added.

Compost is great for the garden, but only when it is used. My compost will never serve its purpose if I leave it in the compost bin. it needs working into the soil to fulfil its purpose.

Jesus’ words ‘you are the salt of the earth’ in Matthew 5 are often understood as calling us, as salt, to flavour the earth, the world, will God’s goodness. But sometimes this can also lead to seeing the world as other than ‘us’, and something to not be directly engaged in, for fear of being tarnished by an unsalted world.

But, while the idea of being people who bring the flavour of God to the world can be a helpful metaphor – I find another interpretaiton equally helpful, if not more so.

Because in Jesus day, I don’t think they had table salt as we do today. So the word we read as ‘salt’ might have meant something slightly different to Jesus first hearers.

In the dead sea area of Palestine, minerals we now know as phosphate were plentiful, and used to fertilize the ground and were spread and dug into the land.

So when we read Jesus saying you are the salt of the earth, could Jesus actually have been saying you are the minerals of the soil? The compost for the vegetable patch?

In many ways I find that a comfort and encouragement. That might seem odd… why would I find encouragement in being told I am a mouldy orange or pile of potato peelings?

But for me, I find that an encouragement because it reminds me that despite my own self-doubt, my imperfections, my brokenness, my humanity, my own feelings that I can never live up to what God wants for me – God says you have great potential.

Even in the mess of my life,
there is goodness and fruitfulness to be discovered.

Jesus doesn’t want perfect human specimens, stored up in a salt cellar of equally human specimens, looking out on the world.

Jesus wants us to be real. Human.
Jesus wants us, calls us, loves us, warts and all…
And invites us to be salt of the earth,
the mineral for the soil,
potato skins, banana peels and grass cuttings – compost for the veggie patch, with great worth, purpose, potential and goodness.

So Jesus invites us to get out and live on the earth, dug into the soil of the world. Getting stuck in and living as people of God.

Home? There is room for refugees

When I was at Theological College I remember a visiting speaker asking us to share with the group where our home was. I naturally responded saying it was here at Queens – because for that 2 year period Queens was home…

But immediately I was asked – “no I mean where is your actual home…”, and I pushed back… “this is my actual home…”

Having moved around a lot as a child, and now training for itinerant ministry – despite the instability it offers, I’ve got quite used to home being a movable place – that where my family is is home.

The Nativity story is also one of changing home. Mary and Joseph leave their home town of Nazareth, and find a borrowed room in Bethlehem – and then they have tio move on again – and end up in Egypt.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. 
“Get up,” he said,
“take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.
Stay there until I tell you,
for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Matthew 2:13

I wonder how Mary & Joseph felt at that time. They’d got earthly responsbility for God’s son – indeed to them Jesus was their son – and yet so much danger surrounds them.

This year I’ve come to question the line in Once in Royal David’s City ‘And through all His wondrous childhood’ (verse 3). Was Jesus childhood years, living as a refugee, an alien in a foreign land, wonderous? Is it wonderous to live in fear? To have to flee for your life?

Jesus experienced persecution from those who clung desperately to power from an early age. And so too, today, there are people in our world who spread hate against others – including for refugees – simply so that they can cling to their power.

May 2023 be a year when we turn hate into love and hostility into peace – and make room for refugees who from terror and devastation flee.

There is Room – for God

A Grandparent was staying with one of their children, who were having building work done on the house.

They when into a bedroom to find their grandchild jumping up and down in a playpen, crying, reaching up their arms longingly saying, saying “Out! Please! Out!”

But they knew that their grandchild had been put in the playpen to keep them safe while builders were moving equipment around in the house. 

“I’m sorry my love, they said, you need to stay in.”

But the child kept crying. Their tears and outstretched arms reached deep into the grandparents heart. What could they do? The child needs to stay safe, but they were desperate to comfort them.

Finally – love found a way – the child couldn’t come out of the playpen – so they climbed in the play pen with them.

The Christmas story is one of a loving parent seeing those they love in need, and choosing to climb in with them.

God – chooses to become flesh – human, like us – and to be born as a vulnerable babe.

There was a time when God was seen as a more distant being, somewhat beyond our reach and understanding – and only interested in those who were descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That there wasn’t room for others.

But as God comes to live among us, God does the unthinkable, the unexpected, and shows that God is not above us or beyond us, or distant from us or even against us or only for a select few…

but shows God is with us and among us.
And loves all of us.

For Mary and Joseph, when they arrived in Bethlehem the usual places of hospitality were full – there was no room. But Mary and Joseph found room – they had to – Mary was about to pop! They made room for a baby, for some shepherds – and we think there would have been some animals around too. And later in the story – at the other end of the scale – magi come along too.

A right mix of beings – who all found room to come and meet the babe – who was the Son of God. And now, 2000 years later, that opportunity continues.

There is room for you in God’s story – because God in interested in everyone. God welcomes everyone. God makes room for you, me, us and all.

The story is told of a school preparing for their Christmas play. One of the focuses of the play was to reflect the radiance of Jesus. An electric bulb was hidden in the manger and all the stage lights would go off, except the one in the manger.

On the day of the performance the moment came, the lights went out.. and so did the one in the manger. There was a period of silence when a little shepherd loudly whispered – “Hey, you’ve turned of Jesus!”

As we discover There is room in God’s heart for you, for me, for us, for all, we are offered an opportunity to respond – invited to make room in our hearts for God…

In the festivities of the season,
Turkey shortages,
Delayed Christmas deliveries,
A new Christmas jumper,
That one last person on the Christmas gift list you just don’t know what to buy for
And working out who is going to have Aunty Marjorie for Christmas Day,
Let us not turn off Jesus.

Let us not forget the reason for this season.
Let us make room in our hearts and lives for the one who made room in the world to be with us, and say to us there is room for you, me, us and all.

Is there room for conversation about inclusion?

This week, as part of a series of blog posts engaging with the Methodist Church in Great Britain’s Advent & Christmas theme ‘There Is Room’, I posted a blog titled ‘There is Room for All Ages and Genders’.

The brief blog reflected on my own experince leading a school assembly last week, and through the charcter of Mary reflected on God’s calling to all people regardless of societal expectations around age and gender.

I confess to it being the blog post in the series that I was most anxious about – because there is so much debate and vitrol around gender in particular at the moment, in society and especially on social media. But I having been moved and challenged by my own experience during the assembly, this was a reflection I wanted to share.

As always, the post also linked to Twitter, and I’ve been surprised by some of the response… challenging my use of language in the blog, suggesting it was the most exclusive depiction of inclusion and blasphemy. Others challenged that to talk about age and gender was not inclusive because and lacked narrative about abuse, appearance and beauty.

I’m not perfect, no one is, and when it comes to the use of language, we are all at the mercy of writing something that means one thing to us but gets interpreted in different ways by others. We write from our perspectives, our experiences, our limited learning and understanding.

And I know as a white, heterosexual man I write from a place of privilege and power. I’m always conscious of that, and as a result, I know there are times in my past where I have dissuaded myself from engaging in this area. Knowing others have more experience, more knowledge, more right to speak into the debate.

But recently I’ve found myself feeling challenged afresh by God that in being relatively silent, I serve to enable the powerful, not empower the powerless. That I will facilitate the marginaliser, not stand alongside the marginalised. In not being explicit in speaking up – I abuse the place in which God has placed me.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at all that posting about inclusion of age and gender led to a backlash. But I think the idea that one short blog, from one voice, reflecting on my experience of one tiny part of scriptures story, should tackle every nook and cranny of inclusion, seems ridiculous.

Twitter isn’t always a healthy space – cramming what we want to say into 280 characters often drowns out the possibility of nuance and at times, friendliness.

Jesus was not afraid to challenge, but the gospel I read also shows Jesus’s character was one of compassion and grace. He taught his disciples, sometimes he rebuked them, but he also educated them.

This experience of choosing to speak out, while knowing I have less personal right to speak on it that others, leads me to ask – Is there room? Is there room for conversation? Is there room to help one another learn? Is there room to share together constructively, with compassion and grace, rather than shoot one another down?

I leave you witha short quote from John Wesley, which has guided me through many moments of diverse opinion in my early years of ministry.

“Be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion…
love each other, despite holding differing opinions.”

John Wesley, 44 Sermons

There is Room for all ages and genders

I was leading a school assembly last week. It’s the first time I’ve visited the school and I was excited to have been invited to lead a Christmas themed assembly for Key Stage 2 (age 7-11). Thought slightly less excited to get a call the night before to say that Ofstead would be around!)

We retold the Christmas story, with some help from a few of our many nativity sets, including my new inflatable one pictured below!

As we began the story in Nazareth with Mary, I was struck that some of those in the room were age 11, and therefore probably not far off the age Mary may well have been when the angel appeared to her – probably in what we’d now call her early teens. 

I then think of my eldest daughter, aged 8, and a friends daughter now aged 12, and can’t imagine the idea of them having children yet! To us today, in our 21st Century, Western society, the Christmas story is indeed one of unexpected turns and subversive moves of God. 

But yet – despite Mary’s youth, God trust her and gives her the crucial task of both bearing the child – and nurturing them after they were born. it is part of the subversive nature of the Christmas story that by coming as a vulnerable babe, God must call on a woman – not a man – to bring the Son of God to birth. We do ourselves a disservice if we neglect to remember that despite the fact scripture talks about a lot of men – there are also stories in scripture of God calling and working through non-men too! mary, Ruth, Rahab, Deborah, Rebekah, Lydia, Susanna, Esther…   

The Advent & Christmas story is filled with stories of God working in and through people that others would overlook, despite gender, age, race, ethnicity… yet in human society we are somewhat obsessed with these labels and categories… always needing to put people into binary boxes, male or Female, Brexiter or Remainer, Black or White…

But the just as God moves against the tide of human society in calling a young woman to bear the Christ-child – so too I believe God does not see the labels and categories we create. God sees people as people, made in God’s image – all loved and valued.

Let us not overlook others because of who they are or how they identify, and let us not be governed by humanly created labels and categories – because in God’s story, there is room for all. 

Prepare the way – There is Room for difference

In my first year of secondary school, there was a woodland behind the school, and in the woodland lived ‘Knocker’. Knocker got the nickname because, as the story goes, he hid in the woods and knocked on the trees to scare people away.

He was different, lived differently, and was shunned, gossiped about and avoided. but looking back, I have no idea what sort of person he actually was. All I knew about him was based on the bias I’d unconsciously built up through stories others had told, regardless of what the truth actually is.

John the Baptist is one who may well have stimulated similar reactions.


John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 

Matthew 3:4

The point Matthew is making is that John the Baptist was different. In his lifestyle. In his appearance. And in his message.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

Matt 3:2-3

For 400 years – the period between the Old and New testaments, there had been a perceived silence from God. No prophets, no message. Then from the wilderness comes – the literal wilderness John lived in, and the metaphorical wilderness of this silence, comes a voice saying:


“Prepare the Way!
The Promised One is coming.
Something is about to happen. To change. To transform.
Are you ready?


John the Baptist, in his difference and diversity, is a trailer for the God who is about to do something different. Radical. Revolutionary. To come and dwell with us, as Immanuel, a baby who changes everything.

In doing something different God doesn’t thrown the past out with the bathwater, but takes the story into a new chapter, where prophecy is fulfilled, when the promises of God are made known differently, where the message of love and grace is repacked and transformed – into a living, walking, breathing human being.

In Christ, God did something different.
And still today, God is at work, moving among us many ways.
Known and unknown.
Expected and unexpected.
Making Room for diversity and difference.
Because in God’s story,
When God reigns,
There is room – for difference.

God makes room for you. For me. For us. for all.
Those like us,
Those different to us.

Those like John the Baptist. Those like ‘knocker’ who are different to us, seem strange, unpredictable or unusual.

So In our story,
Will we let God reign?
Will we prepare the way to make room for the difference of God?
The difference of one another?
The transformation that comes from embracing the radical and unexpected of God and God’s kingdom.
Will we make room for difference?


Seeking justice

An Adaption of a sermon preached at Covenant Services in September 2022 at Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate Methodist Churches.

For my first career I was manager of a Christian Bookshop and Resource Centre in Cornwall. Beyond the selling of books and resources, it was also a space of welcome, care and hospitality. We had a small sofa and coffee table in the shop, offering a place to rest, a free cuppa and, if desired, a listening ear and prayer.

It was a simple, yet incredibly fruitful, ministry. Many people would almost stumble across us, or be drawn in without really knowing where they were or why they had come in. But before long conversation came forth; God was at work.

Through that ministry I heard stories personal stories about many things, including problems and challenges people were facing. Relationship struggles; mental health worries; money concerns; unsuccessful job hunting… the list goes on.

The young man who’s benefits had been cancelled without a reason why…

The woman who had an unexpected bill leaving them without enough for food for the month…

The young female with minor learning difficulties having their social care support hours cut by half due to budget cuts…

It opened my eyes to the inequality that was on my doorstep. An inequality I knew was there but was only now beginning to really know. I was coming to see the world and life from perspectives other than my own.

But at the same time, hearing these stories about inequality, and seeing the pain, struggle, confusion and suffering there were causing, felt somewhat overwhelming. So many different issues, so many people falling through the cracks.

I would often be thinking as I walked home each day about those I had encountered. How can I help these individuals? What support can I signpost them to? Where is the system going wrong? How can I help change the system?

It is through the experience of this ministry that God opened my heart to discover God’s own heart for justice.

‘With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:6-8

Micah is speaking to the leadership and people of both Northern Israel and Southern Judah. Both have been living and being led in a way which was against the covenant with God.

Micah accuses them of rebellion against God, of hypocrisy, talking about God and observing the ritual temple practices, but in ways which were empty, meaningless and was built upon corruption, theft and greed.

This is now what god calls for – this does not honour God’s covenant with them. Ritual means nothing without virtue.
For what does God require?
To Act Justly.
To love Mercy.
To Walk Humbly with God.
That is what is good.

The Methodist Covenant Service has travelled in one shape or form with Methodism for most of its existence, an annual practice bult into our denominational DNA which celebrates the faithfulness of God to us and invites us to publicly reaffirm our commitment to partner with God in mission and ministry.

That wherever we are, wherever God places us,
Whatever circumstances we face,
We might serve God.
That we will be about God – not ourselves.

Methodism also has justice in our DNA. A denomination that was birthed out of a deep desire to ensure discipleship was taken seriously, and made accessible to all people. Much of Methodism’s historical heartlands are in mining communities, communities on the margins, to which this movement successfully brought a gospel of hope and relevance to them and their lives.

John Wesley, one of the lynchpins of Methodism’s beginnings, saw seeking justice in society as a central aspect of what it means to follow Jesus. To work for Justice by both responding to needs that appear before us, and campaigning for change.

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

Attributed to John Wesley.

May we hear God’s challenge, as individuals and as communities, to serve God as we can, as and where he calls. To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. To share the good news, and actively work for justice in our communities.

To do all the good we can,
By all the means we can,
In all the ways we can,
In all the places we can,
at all the times we can,
To all the people we can,
As long as we ever can.

Dazzled by Jesus: a reflection through the eyes of Peter

Read: Luke 9:28-36

I saw Jesus. I knew it was him, but he looked different: his face a ball of white light, his clothes so dazzlingly white that it hurt my eyes to look at them and I shielded them with my arm (dreams can seem so real sometimes).

Then I saw the other figures, two of them, and they were talking to him. It seems strange, but I knew straight away who they were: Moses and Elijah. They were all in white, all three of them enveloped in this amazing light, brighter than the sun.

And they were talking with Jesus, like they knew him already, like it was something they did everyday. But it was more than that: Jesus was at the centre of the three; he was the greatest of them. I thought a lot about that later: imagine it, the Jesus we’d walked with, eaten with, spent so much time with: greater than the greatest of our prophets.

And suddenly I realized I wasn’t dreaming, that this was real. It felt like somehow I’d slipped into another world. And I was terrified. Typically for me, I started gabbling, blurting out anything that came into my head, trying to make the situation seem normal: some nonsense about building shelters for them, James told me afterwards.

Then it got scarier: we were caught up in the cloud, James and John and I. My heart was pounding so hard in my chest I thought it was going to burst and I was quaking all over. If I was going to die, to be struck down because I was unworthy to be in the presence of God himself, I wanted it to happen quickly. And painlessly.

Instead we heard a voice: it seemed all around us, loud and booming, yet it also spoke quietly as a whisper into our ears: ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ I fell at Jesus’ feet and when I got up, the cloud had gone and we were alone with him.

He didn’t give us any explanation: just told us not to say anything to the others, to anyone, until he was raised from the dead. We didn’t understand what he meant then – it only made sense a long time afterwards.

James, John and I didn’t talk about it much among ourselves. I think we were all trying to work out what it meant, but we couldn’t quite get there. I only knew that I’d had my confirmation: this man Jesus, my friend and teacher, he was the Christ, the Son of God: he’d come at last!


Follow Up: How do you see Jesus today?

Today’s thought for the day is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.

Standing against racism

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28 (NRSVA)

Weekly Reflections from Rev Dan, also published in Tues News 13/7/21.
Sign up for the weekly Tues News here.

Friends, 

“At the heart of the Methodist community is a deep sense of the place of welcome, hospitality and openness which demonstrates the nature of God’s grace and love for all.

Our church communities are called to be places where the transformational love of God is embodied and life in all its fullness is a gift which is offered to all people.

There are no distinctions based on race, gender, disability, age, wealth or sexuality, or any discrimination associated with this gift.”

Extract from the Strategy for Justice, Dignity and Solidarity, Methodist Conference 2021, p782. 

After some weeks of incredible football and an intense match last Sunday evening, where England played their hearts out against the team that were always tipped to win, to end up at a penalty shootout and come second in the tournament seemed to me to a pretty good result. Not only that, but even more importantly, the way the whole team have sought to live with integrity, solidarity and ownership of their decisions is an example we need to see more of. 

So it has been devastating to witness yet again the systemic racism that is present, and seemingly becoming more prevalent in society. To ‘blame’ England’s loss on a trio of gifted footballs because they are black is abhorrent and should have no place in our society, I hope you would agree. 

But how will we respond? How do you stand against racism in your living and daily activity in your community?

This morning I feel convicted to recognise that to do nothing, to ignore or let it pass by in the hope things will change, or that someone else might do something about it, is the collude with the racists themselves. To do nothing is to deny the truth that all people are made in the image of God. 

Rooted in Christ, we can have confidence that despite worldly opinions, the invitation to God’s table is for all. So let us stand up, speak up and live with confidence in justice, dignity and solidary for all God’s people. 

In peace and hope,Rev Dan 

My Soul is…

A reflection based on John 12:20-33.

Reflect: how does your experience of ‘feeling’ through the pandemic echo with or conflict with what you believe or know to be true of God?

Downloadable PDF

Full Text

In John 12, after being approached by Andrew, who has been approach by Phillip, who has been approach by Greeks wanting to come to the Passover festival (are you still with me!?), Jesus begins to talk about his coming death. Or at least, we know that he was talking about his coming death. The author of the gospel of John knew. The disciples, the Greeks, the crowd? Perhaps not so much.

In a moment which, in the text, takes us from a conversation with those around him to a conversation with his Father, Jesus says ‘Now my soul is troubled’. (John 12:27)

Though troubled is perhaps an understatement and under-interpretation of the truth of Jesus’ feeling here. A more literal interpretation of the Greek might be agitated, or more crudely, in shock, turmoil or distress.

Jesus wasn’t troubled in a trite and simplistic way. it wasn’t simply that the shopping delivery had arrived and they had swapped your beloved smokey bacon for your less favoured unsmoked.

Jesus was feeling turmoil and anguish in the depths of his soul because of what was looming on the very near horizon. He was soon to be glorified – which to the Author of the gospel, Jesus’ being glorified was the being ‘lifted up’ – the cross.

As Christians we talk of glory, often, as a good thing – ‘To God be the glory, great things he has done!’ goes the popular hymn. But Jesus was not feeling good – despite knowing what was to be gained through this moment.

Jesus has already talked about how useless a single grain is unless it falls into the earth and dies, to then come forth and bear much fruit. (John 12:24)

Jesus seems to know here, what needs to happen – but his feeling – his feeling was pain. His feeling was turmoil. His feeling was fear. His feeling was urging him to say to his Father ‘save me from this hour, this time that I know is at hand’ John 12:27.

In a moment of pain and fear, Jesus was honest with God about how he felt, despite what he knew was to come.

Friends, when was the last time you told God how you feel? How you really feel? Asked ‘where are you God?’ when you’re struggling to feel God with you, despite knowing that God is there?

Jesus’ experience shows us that it is ok to be feeling something that is contrary to what we know, or think we should be feeling. We can’t deny the truth. Can’t suppress the reality of our feeling – if we do, we start to be dishonest with God, and dishonest with ourselves.

Friends, be honest with God today, just as Jesus was, because through being honest with God about how we feel, we are honest with ourselves.