‘I want to enter the world of the ninth chapter of John’s gospel, a seven-scene drama of healing, controversy and reversal, and see how it turns our ideas about disability, faith and knowledge inside out.’
A sermon from Revd Dr Sam Wells given on the Twentieth Sunday After Trinity.
Readings: John 9.1-41
A question and answer session which followed Revd Dr Sam Wells talk on Monday 21 September, as part of St Martin’s Autumn Lecture Series – The Curse and the Promise: Religion and Violence.
A talk from Revd Dr Sam Wells given on Monday 21 September, as part of the St Martin’s Autumn Lecture Series – The Curse and the Promise: Religion and Violence.
Please note that this recording cuts off part of the opening argument, which can be read in full below –
‘Peace is not a past state to which we expect, and feel entitled, to return, but is instead an aspiration towards which we invite God to lead us and at which we never expect fully to arrive’
A sermon from Revd Dr Sam Wells given on The Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity. Readings for this service: Mark 7: 24-37
A sermon from Revd Dr Sam Wells given on The Eleventh Sunday After Trinity. Readings for this service: Proverbs 9.1-6; Ephesians 5.15-20; John 6.51-58
A sermon from Revd Dr Sam Wells given at Evensong on The Fifth Sunday After Trininty. Readings for the service: Numbers 13: 25-33; Matthew 10: 5-16
A sermon from Revd Dr Sam Wells given on The Fifth Sunday After Trininty. Readings for the service: 2 Corinthians 12: 2-10
A sermon from Revd Dr Sam Wells given at the Memorial Service for Geoffrey Brown. Readings for this service Genesis 12.1-4a; 1 Peter 2.4-5, 9-10; Matthew 5.2b-12
A sermon from Revd Dr Sam Wells given on The Third Sunday After Trinity. Readings for the service: Job 38.1-11:2 Corinthians 6.1-13: Mark 4.35-end
Our Issues of our Time series continued on 14 June on themes and challenges of the day.
Our Issues of our Time series continued on 17 May on themes and challenges of the day.
A sermon from Revd Dr Sam Wells on the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
Readings for this sermon: John 17: 6-19
‘The stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’
A sermon by Revd Dr Sam Wells given on the Fourth Sunday of Easter.
“If Christ is risen Christianity suddenly makes sense. Christmas is God’s desire to be with us: Easter is God’s promise to be with us always. Good Friday is God’s declaration that no sacrifice, not even putting the inner relationships of the Trinity in jeopardy, is too great to thing to deter God’s will to be with us; Easter is God’s demonstration that neither sin nor death can finally separate us.”
A sermon by Revd Dr Sam Wells on Easter Sunday.
Readings from this service: 1 Corinthians 15.12-22, John 20.11-18
A sermon by Revd Dr Sam Wells on the Third Sunday of Lent.
Readings from this service: Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16; Romans 4.13-end; Mark 8.31-end
“Our forebears at St Martin’s have made it possible to do something really special here – something few communities get a chance to do, something that can inspire the beleaguered church and turn the heads of a sceptical world, a holy experiment that lives the kingdom in community and blends gestures of beauty with sustainable love.”
Revd Dr Sam Wells delivers a sermon on Giving Sunday.
Readings from this service: Deut 25, Acts 4, Matt 6
A sermon from the Rev Dr Sam Wells on the Third Sunday of Epiphany in which he examines the four verbs Mark uses to describe what Jesus is about.
Readings from this service: Mark 1: 14-20
A sermon by Revd Sam Wells examining Revelation on the Epiphany.
Revd Sam Wells delivers a sermon that examines the true meaning of Christmas and offers a richer notion of what is explained in the Old Testament.
“Would you like to meet Jesus? Of course we say we love Jesus, walk with Jesus, follow Jesus, believe in Jesus, but actually to meet Jesus, that’s another matter. ”
“We live in an age that isn’t quite sure what it thinks about heroes.”
“Finding a way to live, and especially coming to terms with a damaging accident or horrible setback, is about identifying some kind of a story that traces together a series of otherwise inexplicable circumstances… You could pretty well summarise the human quest as simply as this: searching for a story to live by, discovering one’s place in that story, and living into that place in the story.”
The Parable of the Wedding banquet and the three questions the Bible asks of us are the subjects of this Sermon from St Martin’s by Revd Dr Sam Wells.
What is a ‘just war’? Has one ever really happened? And under what circumstances might it happen in future? The vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields Revd Dr Sam Wells explores the context and theology behind various Christian responses to conflict.
This talk opened the St Martin-in-the-Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2014, ‘Living Without Enemies: Christian Responses to War and Violence’, and is introduced by chair of the St Martin’s Education Committee, Martin Haigh.
“I wonder, when you look back on your own life, what these words mean to you. I wonder if there’s a moment that for you has always been the focus of hurt, or bitterness, perhaps of anger, where someone acted cruelly, unkindly or thoughtlessly and changed the course of your life. I wonder if over a period of time, probably years, maybe decades, that there could after all have been a reason why that disappointment, failure, accident, damage, or injury happened… I wonder what it would mean to be able to say, ‘They meant it for evil; but God meant it for good.’”
In this sermon from St Martin’s on Genesis 50.15-21, Revd Dr Sam Wells asks what it means to look for God when dealing with regret, bitterness or hurt.
“There never has been a Christianity that’s not dependent on the stranger – particularly the stranger of a different faith tradition – for wisdom, example, revelatory moments or even its very survival. Interfaith dialogue is not convergence on a consensus. It’s the opportunity for Christians to receive unexpected gifts from strangers, as their forebears have done, so many times before them.”
“We also, in following Vera’s life, come to dwell on what one does with such a profound experience as the decades pass. Vera takes up other causes that to her share a trajectory with her pacifism – she protests for peace and nuclear disarmament and against colonialism and apartheid. Here lies a challenge to quantify how much the experience of the First World War was unique, and how much it was part of a larger struggle and what that struggle might mean today.”
In a sermon to mark the 100th anniversary of Britain joining the First World War, Revd Dr Sam Wells draws on Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth to explore what the First World War taught and failed to teach us about nation, humankind and God.
“I wonder if you’ve ever felt that everything was pointless. Maybe it was after a crushing disappointment, failure or betrayal, and you felt there was no hope, no trust, no love to be found; or perhaps you were just lying on your back staring into the wide blue sky and feeling how small you were, how big the universe is, how immeasurable is time, and how no single truth could hold it all together.
“If everything’s pointless, then why try to put any shape on your life? Why make one choice rather than another? Why strive for anything? What’s the point in being good?”
In this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields, Revd Dr Sam Wells reveals how we might answer that question by discovering the purpose of life in “God’s perpetual and limitless grace.”
“I’m guessing everyone here knows what it feels like to receive the sucker punch of disappointment – to feel utterly let down by a loved one, by God, by a trusted leader, by yourself, or by a combination of some or all of the above. You know the wordless grief, the attempt to tell a story, the anger at the person who shows concern, the resistance to the twisted knife of false hope.”
In this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields, Revd Dr Sam Wells looks at the Walk to Emmaus (Luke 24.13-35) and the “three ways Jesus is made known to us.”
“Passiontide is a story not so much about conventional notions of power such as military dictatorship, religious authority or terrorist violence, but about a power that is at the same time far greater and more intimate than any of them – God’s enduring love for the whole world, and Jesus’ intense love for us, his intimate friends.”
In this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields, Revd Dr Sam Wells offers a “guidebook for Holy Week” by exploring the three main players in the story of Holy Week – the Romans, the authorities, and the rebels – to show how the gospel offers the choice of “being a disciple or lapsing back into the crowd.”
“What is Christianity, really? Wouldn’t it be nice if we just had a short document that reminded us from time to time, when we lost sight of the big picture? Well we have one. It’s called John chapter 11.”
In this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields, Revd Dr Sam Wells explores how John Chapter 11 explains pretty much everything we need to know about Christianity.
“Still holding my uncle’s scrap of paper, after a lot of searching the streets of Haifa, a lot of stopping for directions, and a lot of following the helpful finger of shopkeepers pointing just a couple more alleyways west or south, I stood before the dwelling where my grandparents had lived. And I was open-mouthed. I was astonished because I suddenly realised I’d been there before.”
Calling to mind his experience of searching for his grandparents’ house in Haifa, Revd Dr Sam Wells reflects upon Genesis 12.1-4 and the relationship between Christianity and Judaism in this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields.
“Why do we find it so hard to keep a secret? We find it hard because we’re intoxicated by the pleasure of divulging fascinating information, seeing the awe and laughter and shock and surprise on people’s faces, and receiving the acclaim that comes from being regarded as a person of knowledge, excitement, and intrigue. Breaking a secret comes about when we value the unstable esteem of our audience more highly than we treasure the well-being of our confidante.”
In this sermon for Ash Wednesday, Revd Dr Sam Wells draws together Pascal’s Wager and the words of Matthew 6:1-6,16-18 to claim that ”to live your life in the light and expectation of the eternal life that’s given to us through Christ’s resurrection, you’ve got to be able to keep a secret.”
“Half way through the gospel story the disciples know Jesus does plenty of amazing and wonderful things and says many beautiful and true things, but they still assume he’s basically the same as them. But then a couple of them go up on a mountain with him and it’s like the veil slips and they’re invited in to a whole other world. All the time they thought there was just a downstairs and then suddenly, exhilaratingly, they see there’s an upstairs too, and Jesus is completely at home in it, even when the Father’s voice thunders from above.”
In this sermon from St Martin’s, Revd Dr Sam Wells suggests that the disciples vision of the Transfiguration can shape the way we pray, to be “caught up in the life of the Trinity, the mystery of salvation, the unfolding of God’s heart, [and] the beauty of holiness.”
The Gospel reading was Matthew 17.1-9.
“… Isn’t the most important education that which equips us to repair the breach, to be agents of community that are able to be present, restore relationships, encourage, inspire, empower, reconcile, and bring to bear all the positive resonances of that word ‘again’? Wouldn’t that be the greatest achievement of Tenison’s and St Martin’s High School, that they be known far and wide as communities that raised up people who would be called ‘repairers of the breach’?”
In this sermon for Education Sunday, in which St Martin-in-the-Fields celebrated its 300+ year association with Archbishop Tenison’s and St Martin-in-the-Fields High Schools, Revd Dr Sam Wells makes a plea for an education which creates people who “know how to make such bridges, and have the courage to walk with people across them.”
The reading was Isaiah 58: 8-12.
“But one day he’ll face this vital and unavoidable question. In the end, life isn’t about potential – it’s about realisation. It’s not about accumulating power and choice: it’s about what you do with your power, and how you live with the choices you’ve made. One day we each have to stop thinking about who we’re going to be and face up to who we are.”
In this sermon for a service of Baptism and Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Revd Dr Sam Wells takes the first question given to Jesus in John’s gospel to ask us how we will turn our knowledge and experience of life into wisdom and realisation: to ask us, ‘where are you staying?’
In this special set of reflections for Epiphany, Revd Dr Sam Wells considers three key locations in the story of Christ’s birth: Egypt, the place of escape; Bethlehem, the place of mystery, possibility and even danger; and Nazareth, the place of nurture. For each, Revd Wells asks what role these places may play in your lives and offers a short prayer.
Recorded in the service of Epiphany Carols, held at St Martin-in-the-Fields on the evening of Sunday 5 January 2014.
“The Christmas story’s about displaced people. It’s about an untimely pregnancy. It’s about a coercive government. It’s about homelessness. It’s about living in an occupied territory. It’s about refugees. It’s about socially-excluded shepherds. It’s about a murderous tyrant. It’s about genocide. We don’t really want to think about these things so we share in a conspiracy that says Christmas is a story about adults that’s really for children. There’s so much tinsel and wrapping around the Christmas story it’s hard to get into the heart of the story itself. Tonight I want to do that by telling you something slightly different. I want to tell you a children’s story that really for adults.”
In his Christmas Eve sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields, Revd Dr Sam Wells tells the story of Jesus who is standing besides us, ‘clasping our hand and never letting us go.’
Recorded in the 11.15pm Midnight Mass.
“The successful, comfortable, well-regarded existence is gone, and angry, devastated people are yelling, ‘You’ve ruined my life.’
“And that’s where the Christmas story begins.”
In the final Sunday sermon of Advent 2013, Revd Dr Sam Wells draws on stories from the Bible, church history and fiction to show how “it’s out of the ruins of our lives that we discover that a ruined life isn’t the end of our story with God: it’s the beginning.”
“It wasn’t a corralling of coalitions and a seizing of a timely moment with a dramatic gesture or calculated manouevre. It was done by encouraging and persuading and inspiring antagonists on all sides of the argument to be better people. And we honour Mandela today not by putting him on a pedestal and seeing him as a one-off but by imitating him in responding to our own and our world’s crises by seeking to be better people ourselves.”
Taking five key events in Nelson Mandela’s life where he “could have gone a different way”, Revd Dr Sam Wells shows how through Mandela’s example we can “see better how we are each called to be human beings too”.
On the death of Nelson Mandela Friday 6 December 2013
“Instead, Christians simply believe that the greatest power in the universe is God’s desire to be in relationship with us, a relationship we don’t earn so we call it joy, a relationship we can’t match so we call it love, a relationship that never ends so we call it glory, a relationship that costs God everything so we call it grace.”
God’s relationship with us and His revelation to Israel in exile are the subjects of Revd Dr Sam Wells’ sermon for Advent Sunday, recorded in the 6.30pm Advent Carols service.
“God could have remained aloof and beyond and outside our imagination and experience. But this is the central mystery, the heart of the wonder of grace. God loved us. We don’t know why: we know it wasn’t because we were beautiful, or worthy, or talented, or faithful. God just loved us.”
In this sermon for the Feast of Christ the King, Revd Dr Sam Wells adapts a story of a king and a maiden from Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments to show how God redefined kingship by coming to us in Christ, “for no other reason than that God loved us, and wanted our genuine, heartfelt, uncomplicated love in return.”
The Gospel reading for the day was Luke 23.33-43.
“But around the year 1515 that all changed. Luther realised that God’s righteousness isn’t an angry, judging, condemning curse. Instead it’s a glorious, effervescent, gracious gift. We aren’t good enough to stare God in the face; but we are given everything we need to be God’s companions anyway. All we must do is receive it.”
In this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields for Reformation Sunday, Revd Dr Sam Wells looks at the transformations that overcame the church during the Reformation and at Christian unity, saying to all Christians that it is ‘time to come home.’
In this Sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields for the Pearly Kings and Queens Association Harvest Festival, Revd Dr Sam Wells takes 1 Kings 17.8-24 to discuss God’s sometimes surprising responses to hunger and human suffering.
“If the resurrected Jesus is a real body, a body in the image of his earthly body, a body that interacts with the environment not just externally by moving about but by internally eating fish, then the earth cannot be just a ladder, a luxury or a limitation. It must be integral to our identity and our relationship with God.”
In this Sermon from St Martin’s for Harvest, Revd Dr Sam Wells makes a plea for us to care for the Earth, “the garden of God’s encounter with us.”
The Gospel reading was Luke 24.36b-48.
“But this was more subtle. It made me feel utterly powerless. It was a little epiphany. This is what in the jargon of our day we call becoming passionate about justice. What does one do in the face of this daily diminishment of human beings?”
In this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields, Revd Sam Wells weighs up three approaches to justice and building a world “where people are not oppressed, a world where people stand with one another in times of cruelty and hardship.”
“Do you say, ‘Oh no, please let’s be grown-ups, just stop fighting and let’s live in peace. Why can’t we all just get along?’? If you do, you’re not talking about the peace that Jesus is bringing. You’re talking about the peace that Jesus is not bringing, the peace his sword is coming to take away.”
Division and building a peace that is neither shallow nor superficial are the subjects of this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields, given by Revd Dr Sam Wells.
“But reading the Bible as God’s story also means realising that God is a character in this story. God is like a wealthy person, who has everything – more than enough. And yet God doesn’t create a fat cushion from contingency, God doesn’t invest in insulation, God doesn’t devise a scheme to ensure security. God in Christ stands at our mercy; God puts the life of the Trinity in our hands.”
In this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields, Revd Dr Sam Wells offers four readings of Luke 12.13-21 to show how reading the Bible can be “the terrifying and exhilarating and humiliating and thrilling risk of letting someone see your naked soul.”
“And when you shake dust don’t lament your limitations, but praise the God who made all things out of the dust of the earth, and in Christ made all things new, and still does. Shaking dust isn’t sadly washing your hands of failure, or angrily tossing aside a broken project. Shaking dust is a prayer that God will do a miracle by making beauty arise from ashes and making life come from the dust of the earth. That’s what God did on the day of creation. That’s what God does.”
Vicar of St Martin’s Revd Dr Sam Wells addresses rejection and failure in this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields, imploring us to watch God ‘making glory from the dust of the earth.’
“I wonder what that man’s witness means to you. Take away the global attention. Take away the glamour of a primal confrontation. Just focus on the tank, the symbol of unstoppable, inevitable suppression, and this fragile man walking towards it. He walked into the eye of the storm.”
Using the examples of Tiananmen Square, David Sole and Galatians 1:11-24, Revd Sam Wells challenges us to face the storm in our lives “in trust, in resolution, in hope. Because God’s walking toward the storm too – from the other side.”
“And there at Bethzatha Jesus sees the blind, the lame, and the paralysed. One of them catches his eye. Somehow Jesus realises this man has been there a long time (the gospel writer tells us it’s been 38 years). And then Jesus asks a question – a question that’s challenging, threatening, and infuriating. Jesus asks, ‘Do you want to be healed?”
In this reflection on John 5.1-9, Revd Dr Sam Wells explores how we may be ‘shielding ourselves from the grace Jesus is offering us.’
“I think Jesus is a whole lot more interested in cricket than in moralistic fables of people crossing rivers. Jesus is like that fielder, and we’re like that ball. We may be wild, miles high in the sky, out of control, going anywhere. But Jesus has his eye on us, makes the amazing long journey to reach us, incurring all sorts of injuries in the process. Yet he’s never going to drop that ball.”
In this week’s sermon, the Revd Dr Sam Wells reflects upon the words from John 10:
My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
“Let me read to you some words from today’s gospel. ‘Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.’ I want to suggest to you that John’s concern in summing up his gospel is precisely to address the two questions I’ve just mentioned. Is God all love? And, Is God all power?”
A sermon from Revd Dr Sam Wells for the Second Sunday of Easter.
“Bask for a moment in the Easter gift of everlasting life. Feel it slowly dismantle all your worst fears. Let it take your imagination beyond forever, let it set you free, let it give you indescribable joy.”
The Revd Sam Wells’ sermon for Easter Sunday, in which he declares that the central promises of Christianity – the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting – can liberate us from the panic about the past and the fear of the future, the two terrors of human life.
“What thrilled people about Jesus and mesmerizes us today is that he modeled a new way of being with one another and with God. The offer of forgiveness for the past and eternal life for the future took away the regret and the shame and the fear and the anxiety that overshadows so much of human life, and opened up an unknown and unprecedented freedom and grace and creativity and trust.”
The Revd Sam Wells examines Pilate’s Question to Jesus in John 18.33-38, “the most important question in the world at the most important moment in world history.”
“So when Jesus looks at the paralysed man, he’s looking at the paralysed people of Israel. And he’s saying, ‘Which is it? Is this like Egypt, a straitjacket you were put in by others? Or is it like Babylon, a prison you made for yourself?’ To put it another way, what have you come to me looking for – healing? Or forgiveness? Which is easier, to say you’re forgiven, or to say you’re healed?”
In this sermon for the festival of St Martin-in-the-Fields patron saint, the Revd Dr Sam Wells takes the story of Jesus healing the paralysed man from Mark 2: 1-12 to answer the questions, “Why are we here? What are we doing? And what is all this trying to achieve?”
“Harvest is a tremendously Church of England festival. It’s about hearty suppers, magnificently decorated churches, and familiar hymns. If my childhood memories don’t deceive me, it’s also about undrinkable cider, enormous marrows and inedible loaves. But in the end it all comes down to two words. Thank you.”
In this Harvest Festival Sermon from St Martin’s, the Revd Dr Sam Wells reflects on the power of ‘thank you’ to make you “a part of a bigger story, a story in which people are overwhelmed not by what they’ve suffered, but by what they’ve received.”
“Think about Esther, and then think about yourself… Think about yourself, what you uniquely have and what you uniquely lack. And then think about the context you’re in. Think about the ways you feel powerless. Think about the number of times you’ve said “What this country needs”, or “What St Martin’s needs”, or “What the Church needs”, or “What my family needs”, or “What the world needs.” Think about the number of times you’ve thought there was nothing or no one that could do anything about it.”
Using the story of the Book of Esther, the Revd Dr Sam Wells challenges us to think how God may have put us ‘right here, right now, for just such a time as this.’
“Our society celebrates nothing more than the overcoming of limitation – in sport, in science, in communications, in health… That’s what the dominant voices and images in our society think heaven is. But that’s not what Christianity fundamentally thinks heaven is. Christians don’t think the fundamental human problem is death, and they don’t think the most sacred moments in life are ones of overcoming limitation. There’s something more basic than death that Christians seek to overcome.”
“Listen to those resonant words, filtered through the lens of Calvary. Think back through your life and linger on a grievous moment that’s written on your soul. And now insert the name of the one you loved and lost into this story. Hear Jesus saying that name so precious to you, ‘My child, my child, my beloved child. Would that I had died instead of you. Oh my child, my beloved child.’ And feel the wonder that Jesus did die instead of us.”
The Revd Dr Sam Wells invites us to ‘enter the broken heart of God,’ in this sermon upon the story of David and Absalom (2 Samuel 18).
“Where are all these people coming from? And where are they really going? Where am I in all this surge and swell? And what does the order and stillness of what we do in this sacred place have to do with the urgency and chaos of what happens outside?”
In his first Sunday sermon as vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, the Revd Dr Sam Wells reflections on vocation, joy, and what it means to be a church.
“The reason the question seems to matter so much is that it echoes and reinforces the familiar distinction between ‘humanitarian’ aid that seeks the welfare of people’s bodies, and ‘evangelistic’ mission that seeks the salvation of their souls. It highlights and enhances the stereotype that evangelism is fundamentally heartless and humanitarianism is fundamentally godless. And because most of us like to make the world simple, we feel we have to choose one or the other.
“But there is no such distinction. The Bible knows no such stereotypes. Jesus makes no such choice.”
The choice between scarcity and abundance is the Revd Dr Sam Wells’ theme in this sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields.