When my son was about five years old (he’s currently a very old seven) we spent an afternoon with a group of friends. The kids disappeared to play in the basement, and the parents gathered around in the kitchen to catch up. We snacked and told stories. There was lots of laughter. It was the kind of carefree, laughter-all-around gathering that I dearly love.
Once I finished working with this week’s gospel text, I went back into my files to see how many times I’ve managed to preach on it in my seven circuits through the lectionary. I found that I’ve missed it more often than not—no surprise there, as it falls at a convenient time of year for that. And when I have preached on it, the sermon has always been on one half of the text or the other—either on the scene in the Nazareth synagogue or on the sending of the disciples. I have never written a sermon that dealt with both stories.
“No religion” is now the single largest group in England and Wales, according to British Social Attitudes data. Consisting of nearly half of the population, this group is twice the size of those who identify as Anglicans and four times the size of the Catholic population. A similar pattern prevails across Europe. The decline of Catholics in Britain would be more severe were it not for Christian immigrants from Africa and Asia. The data show that the church is poor at making converts and at keeping cradle believers. The Anglican and Catholic churches lose at least ten members for every convert (Guardian, May 27).