Talks & Thoughts

LOVE comes from Jesus – not SIN

12 Dec 2021: Précis – a talk on the two themes coming down through Christian belief and how/why it is ‘love’ that comes from Jesus and not ‘sin’. At the gardening group session immediately after my last talk I carried out the threat of testing people on what they could remember. The answer could be summed up in this phrase: not a scooby 😂 For the sake of the Gardening Group 😀😀😀 what I said Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

What ‘Faith’ and ‘Belief’ meant for Jesus & for Paul

11 Jul 2021: Précis – a talk on what the Greek words translated inaccurately into Latin and then English as ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ actually meant and how it means that follow Jesus of Nazareth is a ‘doing’ activity rather than a ‘thinking’ activity. The last time I gave a talk at one of our services Trevor said he felt as though he ought to have been taking notes & he wanted to know whether I Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

Christmas 2018 – the sermon that never was

Christmas 2018: Précis – a thought on the true importance of Christmas. I’m going to start by being a killjoy so children might want to cover theirs ears – but no I’m not going to mention Santa :). One common theme I’ve heard from pulpits over the years is how the true spirit of Christmas has been corrupted by commercialism; which is funny because it’s actually the other way around. The Christian festival of Christmas Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
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Mary Magdalene was a victim of character assassination? – More

The Wikipedia entry on Mary Magdalene is accurate and uncontroversial and indeed Googling ‘Was Mary Magdalene a prostitute’ throws up numerous sites all telling the same thing: that Mary was probably a woman of higher status who supported Jesus in his ministry; that arguably she was as close as any disciple; that the myth of her being a prostitute was a conflation of her being named Mary, of Mary of Bethany washing Jesus’ feet and Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
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The Organised Church – a Necessary Evil? – More

Carrying on the theme of the source of those misguided ideas, which themselves led to evil acts, one can postulate that the germ of a change came when Constantine adopted Christianity as the state religion of the Roman empire. It has been suggested that the early church – that community of people who committed to the teachings of Jesus – was heavily based or influenced by women; and women tend as a rule to care Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
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The story of Jesus – Fact or Fiction? – More

Ignoring the fact of whether Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected after his death the evidence for his existence, his death and the movement which survived him is incontrovertible. One has to plead desperation and ignore the clear evidence which remains to deny his existence. Sixty years after Jesus’ death the Roman-Jewish writer Josephus makes reference to “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ” and also to the death of John the Baptist. The Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
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Making God’s dream come true – More

With a modern understanding of the world we believe that a creator God began a process 13.7 billion years ago with a big bang of all the chemicals needed to sustain life in some form, in the hope/belief of creating sentient life capable of love; and as one such species that makes sense of the idea of humans ‘being made in the image of God’. Therefore the God as revealed in the person of Jesus Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
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Love versus Souls & Sin: the Christians obsession with sin? – More

As Christians we believe that in Jesus of Nazareth we see everything we need to know about the nature of God – which is what we mean by the term ‘Son of God’. What we have in the Bible though is a series of books written by men to record their responses to God, to Jesus and to their individual situations; which as a body in turn charts an emerging faith – first of the Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
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What DOES the term ‘Son of God’ mean? And what is the Trinity? – More

The Trinity in its current state is a theory that developed 200 hundred years after the death of Jesus. In our creeds we actually have a snapshot in time of a theological debate which has been frozen for over 1800 years. To understand the Trinity as a concept however we have to go back to the Judaism into which Jesus was born and understand the environment in which Christianity developed. In the four accounts we Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
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What is Important: How You Behave or What You Believe? – More

Jesus spoke in Aramaic and his words were recorded in Greek. For 1500 years the only accepted translation in the West was in Latin and only as we come to the 16C do we start to see modern translations that go back to the original Hebrew & Greek words of the Old and New Testaments respectively. What we risk losing in the change from Aramaic to Greek and then to the particular language in which Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
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Why (Write This)? – More

Religion and the Christian faith in particular often seems locked into ‘cartoon’ thought patterns. Our pastors & priests (and the words different denominations use to denote ordained leadership derive from the same Greek word) are exposed to more advanced thought patterns during their training but then revert to set phrases & thoughts during their ministry: either for fear of disturbing people’s settled faith or because they don’t really believe it themselves. The odd exception – Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
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The Reason for Creation, the Universe, Everything is Love – More

The key point to get over in this section is an alternative perspective on what the point of creation is; first however, because Christian thought has become contaminated with the extremes of fundamentalist thinking in the eyes of the agnostic public who are not really sure what to believe, it may help to distinguish between fundamental truth and mechanism. The fundamental truth that all the great monotheistic religions share is that an entity/being we describe Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 1

What is important – how you behave or what you believe?

Jesus never asked his followers to believe WHAT he was. Instead he demanded that they follow his example and commit to the Kingdom of God. When you go back to the original Greek of the New testament you find that the words translated as ‘belief’ actually mean to have commitment and loyalty. Jesus didn’t ask his followers to follow a set of beliefs as to what HE was. Instead he preached a message about the Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 1

The Reason for Creation, the Universe, Everything is Love

We live in a modern world that no longer thinks of little gods in the sky. The only reason for creation that makes sense in the context of the modern world and of the love we see in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is that a God outside time began a process 13.7 billion years ago with a big bang and a mechanism called evolution in the hope/belief/knowledge that ‘in time’ sentient species – Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 1

What DOES the term the ‘Son of God’ mean? And what is the Trinity? 

The recognition of Jesus of Nazareth as ‘Son of God’ was an instinctive ‘all bracing’ and ‘whole hearted’ recognition by the people around him that he was to God as a son was to his father. After his death and resurrection Greek thinkers in particular started trying to work out a mechanism for his relationship with God. Defining God as Father, Son & Holy Spirit was just one of several models that attempted to explain Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 1

“God’s Plan for Us” or “God’s Dream”?

We like to use the phrase “God’s plan for us” without thinking through the consequences. If we are acting out God’s plan then we have no free will. Moreover if we model God as a parent we have to recognise that a good parent doesn’t have a plan for their child but rather has an aspiration – or dream. A parent’s dream is usually that their child has a fulfilled life; so in terms of Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 1

Making God’s dream come true

If we believe that Jesus lived & died to cement the centrality of Love in God’s reality, and if you accept that the point of creation is to produce loving species, then we have to recognise that it’s our job to make it happen. It’s our job to make a reality of God’s dream. It’s our job to make God’s dream come true. God as a father/mother wants us to be happy & fulfilled as Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 1

Live by letting every thing you do contribute to the Kingdom of God

How DO we make God’s dream come true? We could try by letting every little thing we do contribute to the kingdom of God. Ask yourself every minute if your actions are helping or hindering the Kingdom. Does running the shower for a few minutes to warm up whilst you go to the toilet help – wasting water and electricity? Does shouting at the driver who has just cut you up help? Does ignoring the Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 1

Love versus Souls & Sin – the Christians obsession with sin?

If we regard Jesus as cementing the place of ‘love’ in creation then anything – ANYTHING – which goes against love in wrong. It’s wrong if reported in the Old Testament of the Bible. It’s wrong in the history of the church through 2000 years and it’s wrong today. Love NOT sin or the saving of souls is the fundamental reality of the world. In fact ‘sin’ for the Jews of Jesus’ day mean failing Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 1

The Bible as the Word of God – NO!!!

We like to resort to the description of the bible as the Word of God too often in church, but it CANNOT be true. The phrase the Word of God has a lot more meaning than you realise – see the ‘More’ section on the Trinity (earlier) for that – but even taking the English translation of the words at face value it still cannot be true. There are too many places where, in the Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 2

The story of Jesus – Fact or Fiction?

There is far more evidence that a man called Jesus of Nazareth lived and died in Palestine – dying in 30 or 33AD – than there is of Julius Caesar coming to Britain 100 years before Rome annexed Britain. Caesar wrote the only report of his invasion himself. In contrast there are several independent accounts of the ministry of Jesus and of his enduring following by Roman writers such as Josephus as well by his Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 2

How COULD Jesus be both human AND divine?

The Council of Chalcedon in 451AD came up the philosophical fudge that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. The net result was to cut off parts of the early church that disagreed, but ask yourself whether it really matters? All we need is to accept that in the person of Jesus of Nazareth we see the nature of God. If you need more then think of Jesus of Nazareth being subsumed into the presence/being Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 2

What is the Point of Prayer?

Most Christians spend a lot of time in prayer and in many church services the prayers/intercessions can almost be another sermon; however, we need to remember Jesus’ words – “do not pray as the Pharisees do, on street corners” – and also realise that ‘more’ words cannot make a difference to God. So for some the question comes “what is the point of prayer”? No one actually knows. Jesus doesn’t say. There are many theories Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 2

Why Doubt is Healthy

Doubt can mean different things. Intellectual doubt leads us to question and gain a better understanding of something. Emotional doubt helps stop us being quite so definitive in our views and helps us to tolerate peoples of views we might not share. A healthy dollop of doubt might have stopped our brothers, sisters & forebears from causing quite as much damage/hurt/evil to their fellows in the name of God down the ages.

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 2

The Church – a Force for Good or Bad?

With the loving example of Jesus in front of us we have to admit that much of what the various churches did through history was unmitigated evil. We make ourselves ridiculous if we try to defend the massacre of Jewish & Muslim men, women & children when the 1stcrusade captured Jerusalem in 1099; or defend the burning of churches full of supposedly heretic Christian Cathars in southern France in the early 13C; both of which Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 2

Was It a Virgin Birth and Whether it Matters?

The prophecy of a virgin birth came about when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek between the 3C and 2C BC (known as the Septuagint). The Septuagint translated what modern, more authoritative version translate as “a young woman” in the critical passage in Isiah as “a virgin”. It doesn’t actually matter though. Neither of the prime eye witness gospels are interested in Jesus’ birth (Peter’s memories as recorded by Mark and the tradition of Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 2

Was Mary Magdalene a Victim of Character Assassination?

Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, the Eastern Orthodox tradition never recognised it and Pope Gregory the Great deliberately fudged unconnected incidents in the gospels and trashed her reputation to make a point about repentance. In savaging the reputation of a woman who was as close to Jesus as any of his male disciples for his own misguided message, however, you have to acknowledge this act was the result of underlying sexism at the very Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 2

Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

If Jesus wanted us to have loyalty to his ministry rather than believe in what he was then what we do out in the community around us matters far more than any medieval concept of worship. When people say “you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian” they are right; however most of us need SOME kind of discipline to keep you keyed into the Christian community. Perhaps THAT is the most Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Answers 2

The church as a pilot light in the community?

We think in modern terms, where an admirable leader doesn’t want worship but rather wants their ‘people’ to be happy & fulfilled; and this is very much in contrast to an Old Testament and Greek mythological view of God and gods where obeisance and worship were requisite. We ought therefore to wonder what the point of church services is; and if we question what the point of church services is then we next gravitate to Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

What Does the Trinity Mean

31 May 2015 Trinity Sunday: Précis – a talk putting the Trinity into a historical context and explaining what is important about it and what is not. Readings for the day: Isaiah 6: 1-8 Romans 8: 12-17 John 3: 1-17 Over the years I’ve heard of clergy mentioning the idea of preaching on the Trinity as a some sort of threat, penance or generally scary thought. So when I mentioned to Lynda that I’d like Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

Doubt & Questioning the Detail

15 Feb 2015: Précis – a talk on the importance of doubt and questioning the detail of what we read. When Jonathan and I discussed me preaching for this service, on what may be my last opportunity for a few months – before I go out to Mumbai (though that’s in the balance at the moment) – I noticed to my dismay that I had preached on a similar gospel reading in March last year. Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

Thought for the Cyclists’ Carol Service 2014

14 Dec 2014: Précis – a talk on what is actually important about the Christmas story. This first thing to say is that we’re not actually sure how much of what we know as the nativity story actually happened like that. Mark & John, weren’t interested in Jesus’ early life and the traditional nativity scene is a combination of Matthew & Luke with a bit of liberal imagination; but then the nativity story has never Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

Repentance thro The Kingdom of God

5 Oct 2014: Précis – a sermon about repenting by trying to bring about the Kingdom of God based on Matthew 21: 23-end Philipians 3: 4b-14 I want to pick up on two things this morning: first the phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ we heard in the gospel today – and that is unusual in Matthew where the phrase is usually ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ because he writing to Jews and they wouldn’t say the name of Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

Jesus Talks About The Kingdom of Heaven NOT Sin

12 Aug 2014: Précis – Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven and not about sin. When I argued on 29 May that the Kingdom of God/Heaven was the centre piece of Jesus’ message NOT ‘sin’ it was the culmination of a period of frustration growing over the last few years. As a sort of reality check I completed a process today of downloading the text of two of the gospels and abstracting just the Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

Shibboleths of Christian Belief

Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God? Do you believe in the Trinity? Do you have a personal relationship with God? All these questions have been set up to distinguish between the ‘sheep and the goats’ throughout Christian history. What however everyone misses when choosing one or all as your shibboleth, or when choosing any/all as your yes/no decision of whether someone is on the inside or the outside of Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

The Bible CAN’T be The Divinely Inspired Word Of God

3 Jun 2014: Précis – Jesus is the Word of God NOT the Bible. I often hear the description of the bible as the divinely inspired word of God; but it cannot be that if you think about it. It puts you in dangerous territory and here’s why. We Christians believe that in Jesus of Nazareth we have the nature of God revealed to humankind; but: * In treating the bible as the divinely inspired Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

God Is Working His/Her Purpose Out Thro The Church – Really???

3 June 2014: Précis – a thought questioning the oft quoted line of orthodox Christian thought. Why do we insist on claiming the God is working your purpose out thro the church? All the evidence is to the contrary. The history of the Christian church from the point it became the state religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine in 4C shows that we have kicked seven bells out of each other in the name Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

Making God’s Dream Come True

29 May 2014: Précis – a sermon probing at God’s dream for creation – based on Matthew 13: 31-32, 44-52 – The Kingdom of Heaven. If we look closely at the four gospels as stand alone narratives – and by that I mean NOT being read in the light of the theology of Paul not long after Jesus’ death and then the influential theology of Augustine 400 years later, both of which were products of Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

A New Model for Creation

2 March 2014: Précis – a sermon on thinking of God and his/her/its creation in a modern setting – based on the readings for 2 Feb 14 and 2 Mar 14 Malachi 3: 1-5 Hebrews 2:14-end Luke 2: 22-40 Matthew 17: 1-9 When I first looked at the first three readings I suddenly realised that there was a theme connecting them. Each, in their own way, show different communities and writers possibly trying to make Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago
Talks & Thoughts

The Origins of This Site

29 May 14: I’m starting this blog at the suggestion of a wise lady who happens to be my parish priest as an outlet for thoughts that have been 30 years in gestation and that currently have no formal outlet. Some of the posts will have been delivered as talks/sermons; some are potential talks and some are just a chance to air thoughts relating to the “God who is; and is as he is in Read more…

By Phil Simister, ago