In the book of Romans, Paul gives the Judeo-Christian church in Rome the encouragement to continue sharing the good news of Jesus.
for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10.13-15.
This short vignette of Paul’s masterpiece of theological apology about the person of Jesus and His importance to human kind is something quite wonderful. Hear again the sentence; “How can they believe in the one they have not heard”? This is and always should be, a very sobering and challenging sentence for the church to hear. To speak of Jesus and to share one’s faith either in a public or private setting is not for the faint hearted, but it is a calling placed on all the faithful, not just the clergy. Some may feel they do not have the right words to say, others may feel that by sharing their faith, what relationships they have may be damaged or even ruined. So how do we share our faith in Jesus Christ? Well, when it comes to mission and evangelizing and the building up of communities of faith, one of the church’s constant questions is a true chicken and egg enigma that has never been truly answered. The question isthis do ‘people belong and then believe, or do they believe and then belong’? Of course, as with all life’s mysteries, the answer is not straight forward.
We all might know people who believed and then belonged, and we might be aware of another who belonged and then believed. The challenge is the same for us as it was for Paul and the burgeoning Christian church in Rome. It is about getting alongside people and witnessing to them about the wonderfully surprising Love of the Father that we have experienced and know and long for them to have too.
In August we have a great opportunity to get alongside many families from our estate and community. Together with the ARK with are hosting a week long summer event in the church and hall. We have called it ‘Summer Sizzler, family stay and play week’. It starts on Monday 6th and willrun until Friday 10th . We will have a kid’s movie show on the Saturday and a service of celebration on the Sunday. As well as all the events happening, we shall be endeavouring to offer lunch every lunchtime to all who come.
WE NEED VOLUNTEERS to offer as much time as they can, so we can run the event. We need cooks, cleaners, stewards and dare I say it, evangelists etc. I will be putting up a roster in the lobby of the church so please put your name down to help and support this event.
‘Summer Sizzler’ is an opportunity to open our doors again and invite people in to experience the Christian faith in a fresh and surprising way. Among those who come will be people who believe,but for whatever reason they do not belong to a community of faith!!! Let’s love them into ours! Also, there will be people who already see themselves belonging to our community whether through the ARK, Church events or even those who simply hire the hall. They may not believe yet, but with events like ‘summer sizzler’ the potential for new believers to find faith is enormous.
Please, start praying NOW! Pray that the Lord will bless the ‘summer sizzler’ family week. Pray that we shall see fruit from our labours. Pray that we shall have all the staff we need to host the event. Pray that the Lord will surprise us and the people of Southway with a fresh out-pouring of His Spirit. Dear Sisters and Brothers ‘Pray without ceasing’.
Any questions about what tasks need covering, please ask Jenn or me.
Love in Christ
Within this month of June we have a special day within the church’s’ year. It is our gift day! On Saturday the 9th of June, we shall be holding a cream tea afternoon and inviting members of our church and parish to come and enjoy fellowship and hopefully donate monies to support the mission of the church financially.
Gift days are not a new thing, parishes have been doing them for many, many years, it offers an opportunity every person in the parish to come and show their appreciation to the church for all it does throughout the year.
We know that many people can or wish to come to church every Sunday, but due to the nature of being the established Parish church, parishioners within our boundary have the right to call on the church for Weddings, Baptisms and Funerals etc. And many do not give a second thought to the few who keep the church open for their use.
I remember doing a gift day at one of my previous churches. They would put up a Gazebo in the village with a little bit of bunting. I would be rolled out like the proverbial regimental goat and be expected to meet and greet all folks who stopped and gave as well as chase those who passed by on the other side. There were a few cakes for sale, homemade Jam and the occasional knick-knacks. I remember the look on the faces of those who thought it was just a stall, until it was explained to them the nature of reason us being there! Some gingerly gave a few pennies, others whose colour had drained from their faces as they realised that they have walk into a church giving world, even though the vicar was looking at them with puppy eyes, some managed to mumble something like, ‘sorry I have to go, I’ve left the oven in the dog’!
One of the best tricks was to have little babies around, that really upped the giving, nothing opens a purse or wallet faster than a vicar holding the small child of an unsuspecting mother or two.
I would like to try to rekindle this village\community ‘Gift Day’ exercise at our church, at the moment it is a little hidden. Its time for us to BE BOLD!, and re-enliven this annual festival day. Its too late for this year, but we can start planning for next year. Just imagine with all the new contacts we are building within our community what we could accomplish. I see the day being a chance for us as a church and community to sell ourselves. To have an ‘open day’ to share with the estate all that we do. I really feel that we can build a greater relationship with all those who are currently strangers to us, and we to them.
As we endeavour to reach out, rejection is always a reality, mockery a possibility and God forbid abuse levelled at us, but, the wonder of new friendships being made, and for us as Christians faith being discovered makes everything worthwhile.
This year though, it is down to us and those we touch at the present. I want to encourage to think beyond the usual amount of money that you give to the church, we need a cash infusion to help us pay our bills this year. Please help! We need to find £3000 to stop the annual losses. Just think 24 people giving £100 that is gift aided will give us £3000. I do not ask, what I am not willing to do, therefore I pledge to give a £100 on the gift day. One other has agreed to pledge the same amount. That leaves only 22 more needed! Add that to any other donations we will make are target. I believe that we are on the cusp of something quite wonderful happening here in Southway and we as the Church, along with the ARK and are going to be front and centre of this revival.
Relationships of all kinds are often given the title of ‘marriage’, two parts becoming one. In the marriage vows my favourite promise is to the ‘love and cherish’. Let’s give this estate the opportunity to love and cherish us as we seek to ‘with the help of God’ love and cherish them.
Remember. Even the greatest of relationships starts with one stranger noticing or being introduced to another.
Love in Christ. Iain
One of my favourite quotes is “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” I am not sure who first quoted this proverbial saying but I thank God for it. The quote has and still does cause me to take a breath before I take on board anything, anyone says. It never fails to amaze me how quickly people today jump to take offence on behalf of other people, even though they have not heard the whole story and even quicker to pass on bad news, when they have not seen with their own eyes the cause of the bad news for themselves.
Social media is the perfect breeding ground for these half -witted people to give opinion on matters they know very little about. The world is full of ignorant people whose lives are so dreary that they seek inspiration and purpose by offering inane comments that have no depth of knowledge, truth or reason.
When I hear people say, “I think this”, “or that”, In my heart I almost every time ask the question of the person giving the opinion. Have you really sat and thought at length about the topic or is your ‘opinion just based on hearsay and a quick glance.
As I get older and wiser HA! I am convinced that through the internet and the free and the often biased information explosion people are thinking less and assuming more. If a person’s beliefs could be seen in a hard copy form, we would find that what people ‘think’ they believe is nothing more that a collection of out cuttings that have been gathered together and stuck randomly into a scrapbook to create a collage of perceived values and ideas.
When the collage of perceived truth is investigated, it unravels very quickly, because it is made up of nothing less than convenient truths that make the life of the collator easier and free from expectation and challenge.
It will come as no surprise to us that Jesus himself had to deal with the half-wits of his generation, they heckled from back rows and barked at the moon. It could be argued that Jesus had it much easier than us today for the social media revolution was not around in his day. That may well be true, but he faced shallow, thoughtless and corruptible people just as we do.
This Month we have the wonderful celebration of Pentecost. Jesus in the gospel of John tells us that when the Advocate (Spirit) comes he will lead us into all truth. This truth in the Spirit must be sought after and there is a cost to that seeking, the cost is self -reflection and consideration. When coming to an opinion about something the priceless skill of consideration cannot be overvalued.
Jesus said “He (the Spirit) will speak only what he hears, and that he will tell you what is yet to come”. John 16.
The Father inspires the Spirit with heavenly wisdom and that heavenly wisdom when given time and consideration can be understood and shared accurately on Earth.
I know this because I have and continue to consider what it means when I say Jesus is my Saviour. Jesus is mine and He can be yours for the Spirit takes from what is His (Jesus) and makes it known to us.
May God grant us strength that when we are quick to give opinion, we might have the maturity to take a breath, consider and reflect our response. Avoiding the type of kind evil which makes our blood boil. The evil experienced in the apathetic thoughtlessness of others who wound through malice, negligence and deliberate fault.
The Cross as a symbol never leaves the Christian, but, on Good Friday the Christians of this world have the awesome sight of Christ on the cross thrust back to the fore front of their minds.
For the rest of the year some theologically wear a cross or Crucifix, the empty cross as an image reminds of our Lord’s Sacrifice, but, is an empty scene because Jesus has risen and is no longer on it. Others prefer the crucifix scene where Jesus is still affixed to the Cross, this image does not deny the Resurrection but does hold the wearer at the moment when the sky turned black and the Son of God died. The crucifix constantly points to the moment of sacrifice. Each have their value, but both have become, to some, a stumbling block and area of indifference, when it comes down to unity in the church. It will come as no surprise to you that the moment of crucifixion is recorded in all the Gospels, but there is a certain detail in the picture that is painted and that is the titilus or title. Each Gospel mentions that above Jesus on the cross was a notice that declared him as the King of the Jews. Each gospel writer puts it in a slightly differently; see Mk 15:26, Lk 23:38, Mt 27:37and Jn 19:19-20. I want to draw your attention to John’s account; he states the titilus was written is Aramaic (ancient Hebrew, the language of Jesus), Latin and Greek.
Many who wear the Crucifix will find on examination, the letters INRI (Iesus Nazarenus,Rex Iudaeorum) above the head of Jesus, this the Latin acronym of what was written it means “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”. The Greek acronym is INBI” Iesous o Nazoraios o Basileus ton Ioudaion” (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews) and in Hebrew; ‘yeshūa’ Natz’rat ūmeleḵ hayĕhūḏīm’, Jesus-Nazerne -King- Jews. It is important to remember that the three languages used would have covered every single need of explanation to all those who witnessed the murder of Jesus. Latin was the language of Rome, Aramaic (Hebrew) was the native tongue and Greek the language of the Mediterranean, the centre of wisdom and learning in the ancient world.
We in the Christian church, have many symbols that we take for granted and many are left in ignorance of the origins of the meaning. Whether you’re a ‘Jesus’ on or a ‘Jesus’ of the cross – wearing person, one thing matters, and that is through the suffering of Jesus, God’s will was done. The Image of the Cross needs to be a unifying one. Remember, Paul wrote. “the message (image/meaning) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”. 1 Cor 18.
To some the cross is just jewellery, some Silver or Gold and sometimes filled with precious gems, some are just costume bling, others can be humble plain and wooden. But let us never forget, the cross is a symbol of the brutal, but creative capabilities of what Humans can and want to do to one another. The purpose of crucifixion was to place fear in the hearts all who would witness it, its aim to stop all desire of rebellion by the oppressed. Yet, for us as Christians, the cross of our Lord is a symbol of the greatest oppressor being defeated. Jesus, pulled victory out of the mouth of defeat.
On Easter Sunday we shall sing this acclamation.
‘Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory’. And all God’s people said Amen.
Your, longing to be even more, humble servant
In the Lords prayer we ask the Lord not to ‘lead us into temptation, but to deliver us from evil’, but even recently the Roman Catholic church has made musings to change the words. They seem to think that after nearly two thousand years of following our Lord’s orders and praying as we should, the sentence above has been mistranslated and is misleading.
Just imagine the fall out in the Christian commercial world of religious knick-knaks and mementos. How many posters, cups, keyrings, tea towels and bookmarks would become inaccurate and worthless. The list of items on which you can find the Lord’s prayer printed, is seemingly endless. Some are well thought out and perhaps can offer some an aid to adoration, but some are just about money, wholly inappropriate and even blasphemous.
Quite regularly I receive brochures from several ‘Christian’/Church supply companies and they are choc- a-block full of pretty paraphernalia to entice the magpie eyed Christian to get out the debit card and shop on line to there heart’s content. I, myself, am not above temptation when it comes having one’s head turned. Recently, Ann-Marie and I found ourselves in what can only be described as a small supermarket sized souvenir shop in Medina, Malta, that was selling all sorts of low quality religious objet d’art. It was an Aladdin’s cave of Christian mementos, or should I say mementos with a Christian influence either in art or word. I bought a new key ring because it says Jesus on it. It did not cost much, but in truth I did not need ‘another’ key ring, yet after half an hour of saying ‘no’ to things and laughing at other ridiculous objects, the key ring got me on the way out.
After just getting over the battle not to be swept along in the commercial Christmas rush, the Christian is once again faced with the threat of worldly distraction as St Valentine’s day appears from its annual mist. Whoever Valentine was, I doubt whether he would recognise himself in this festival that has been attributed to him. One of the sweetest explanations is that the notion of finding one’s true love at this time of year, may come from the time of Chaucer, for he wrote in the poem Parliament of Fowls, that it was at this time that birds began to choose their mates on Valentine’s day. However, if this celebration of all things LUURRVVE is remembered in your house, please remember that all the Cards, chocolates, and perhaps even a romantic weekend away are no substitute for the boring old day to day art of fidelity.
Maybe we as the Christian church, should search out and promote a Holy hero to all things dogged, determined and disciplined. The person would need to be real though, so that over time their story could not be given over to myth and rumour. A book of eyewitness accounts of the person not giving into temptation and defeating evil would be a good idea. Depending on when the person lived, within the same book there could be room to show how the life of this person has encouraged others to be loyal, loving and lifelong in their relationships.
I wonder, who could the Christian choose……..Any ideas?
As we enter the New Year, I wish to offer some musings on the ability of the Creator to bestow upon us the things we need, but not only in a one-dimensional paradigm but a three dimensional one.
You see, the Father in Heaven has, and is, and always will be able to pour upon us re-usable gifts. Yahweh is the perfect recycler, in as much as His gifts of the past will forever be the now, and the gifts of the future will only ever confirm the experiences of the past.
If what I have just written has left you shaking your head in disbelief, I wish to offer Scripture to support my hypothesis. We will soon be entering one of the shortest seasons in the Church’s year and that is Epiphany.
The mystical story of the magical men from the east who visited the Prince of peace and King of Kings, as scripture leads us to believe that they brought with them gifts of Gold, Frankincense and myrrh. The gifts have developed a supernatural narrative of their own. They each have been identified as signposts to the direction of Jesus’ life. Gold =King, Frankincense=priest and Myrrh his death and who am I to dampen Christendom’s theology of two millennia. But, as I mentioned before the gifts of the one who brought all life into being, whether they be through the Spirit or delivered by human hands, gifts of God effect the individual and the corporate nature of humanity.
In the gifts from the Kings we can see the potters plan wrapping itself around what we perceive to be our lives working themselves out. The gifts from the Kings are symbols of God’s will that go beyond one-dimensional reading and understanding.
For when was Jesus never a King, when was he never a priest and when was he never born to die. The earthly gold offered would always fall short of heavens diadem, the Frankincense of earth would never come close to invoking the atmosphere of heaven, and the earthly anointing properties of Myrrh, (the resin taken from the thorny tree genus Commiphora) could never perfume the human cadaver of Jesus as much the bouquet of the resurrection.
You may have though that you had the story of the Magi and the gifts well understood and owned, I hope that this short unpeeling of another layer of meaning will inspire us all to always look again at what we think we know and believe.
Once again this year I will offering an opportunity of some biblical study, on Thursday evenings in Lent (dates of Separate page) I will be inviting you to join me in looking at the mysterious and wonderful Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. If you have never read the book it is a wonderful ’ironic’ look at life seen through the eyes of one who is wrestling with the whole idea of how we as the created live with and under the authority of God.
This year as we learn more about each other may the Lord lead us into a greater knowledge of Himself, and may the great Amen empower the church in fellowship, faith and fruitfulness.
May you all have the New Year the Lord has plan
Jesus is for life, not just for Christmas
Of course the title to this letter is adapted from the famous Dog Trust slogan. ‘A dog is for life and not just for Christmas’. The Slogan itself is now 38 years old, but it still has a profound, simple, message that can keep even the most indulged of us sober enough in mind to guard us from being washed away in a ‘Festive’ urge to buy completely unrealistic, presents for those we love and have a desire to please.
This Christmas many will come to church and coo over the baby Jesus, they may even be a bit ‘moved’ by a sense of romanticism, but sadly that is as far as it goes. One reason is that Jesus meek and mild in a cradle is far seems to offer far more comfort than Jesus on the cross. Jesus for many is forever a static concept, he always has been, and probably will always be a one day old baby in a manger.
As a concept Jesus is forever like a wonderful puppy. This puppy is ‘loved’ until its needs become a burden and then the Puppy is given away. This shallow response to Jesus, turns the nativity into a fairy tale that has a ‘star’ character who is passive in his authority and unchallenging in his being. The loving Saviour (baby) in the story longs to be picked up and cuddled, and many do. But, all too soon the novelty wears off, the sense of awe diminishes as the needs of the gift start to way on out time, and the baby Jesus is put down, walked away from and ignored. To the enlightened, Jesus is more than just a slogan or static concept that can be put down and forgotten about, He is Emmanuel (God with us). The story of the Christ child permeates and excites every day of the believers’ life.
I wonder, how many Christmas’ does time have left? How many more times will God put up with His son Jesus being cooed over then be forgotten about?
One day, the many, who annually come to the manger of Jesus at Christmas time, will have a shock. For when they look into the crib with their baby faces at the ready, they will find that he is no longer there……… He grew up, died and rose again!………….What then?
This month we begin the long and wonderful road toward the Christmas festival. November has some wonderful themed Sundays with Remembrance, Christ the King and All Saints.
As an unapologetic patriot and a nationalist, I hold the Remembrance Service dear to my heart and see it as a major festival in the Churches year.
The politically correct and unrealistic members of our society think that this service is nothing but a gratuitous celebration of war and death. It is nothing of the sort! It is deeply profound act of worship that recognises, celebrates and condemns the double mindedness of human nature. In our ever-changing world we must be thankful that the Christian faith plays a huge role in shaping content and the direction of the events.
I am not a great war historian, but the little bits of knowledge I have picked up has made me realise, that even as battles are remembered, and (where applicable) defeats are mourned and victories celebrated. The remarkable truth, is that how close all victories are to disaster and defeat. Wars, like life, are made up of a collection of important moments, that can shape the future, bring times of joy and success, whilst at the same time and perhaps unbeknown to us, we are so close to failure and heartache.
For us, as Christians, one of the ways we face success and failure, is trusting that God has our backs and that as long as we hold true to his word, seek the narrow path and resist sin, God will not abandon us and allow the arrows of devilish outrageous fortune to overwhelm us into giving up and accepting defeat.
One of the many wonders that can come from war is the poetry of the soldiers that fought in them. Indeed, our remembrance service will hear a poem read out, which was either penned or cherished by a congregant’s Father. The poem is dedicated to the soldiers of the 14th Army in Burma.
Poetry, like art, is very subjective thing. I myself am not a great poetry lover, but one cannot help but be moved by poetry written, whilst hell is going on around and human misery is the daily experience. One poem I truly love and am inspired by is Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’. Kipling knew much about heartache and loss in life, losing his wife to illness and son to the first world war. So the poem is not written from a stand point of subject imagining, it is written with experience and realism.
A while ago I penned a poem using Kipling’s ‘If’ as a a guide. The poem is written in the first person and it is my words expressing what I believe God is saying to us. I share it with you, with hope that it inspires, comforts and strengthens you, as we once again steel ourselves to remember, celebrate and condemn.
Love in Christ
If you know in your heart you’ve told the truth, yet ears that are deaf are all around, and titled people with selfish hearts surround you yet rage within you does not abound.
If spiritual depth is all you desire, and the load of life has not dowsed your fire. If you hear the call to go deeper, longer and higher, and that want is not proud but always aware that once life only knew despair and things were dire, your witness will save others from the mire.
If holy church seems so colourfully, yet so vain that the drab colours of natural poverty attract. If to you the living humble message of simple love is lost in the ether and seems hidden by the clouds of gain.
If you can accept the lifting up and expect the fall and welcome them both as moments that can free the soul, when songs of praise flow out from you, in good times and in bad, in your songs I will lift the sad.
If you can love the sinner yet hate the sin, and draw a line in heaven’s sand, and listen with forgiving ears to the world’s demands, some part of my love is showing you a better path, whether you weep or laugh.
If all you want is for all to know my deepest care and Holy glow, to share the warmth you now know and risk being shown a shoulder that is cold, when you’re truly are at ease with ‘I have been given so I must share’, a grace filled moment can open the mind’s eye of the inwardly blind to a cross once bared.
If the music of the world makes you dance out of step, and compromise hurts like a spear in the side. If you sense a great wrong in how love is being applied, then in you there is a hope, a kingdom and an eternal home, for you my creation, you, have a heart that is not unlike mine own.