The Vicar’s posts
Now the clocks have gone forward, we begin this April enjoying the return of longer days and the hope of warmer evenings. Of course, for us as Christians this month offers for us the wonder of the Easter festival.
Not so long ago if you ever had the misfortune of going into hospital, you would be given a short form to fill in and one of the questions would have been; what religion are you? Many would have ticked the box C of E. This answer did not mean they had a faith it just meant that they weren’t Roman Catholic. A witty way of explaining what C of E means to people is that they attend church twice a year, Once on the C which stands for Christmas and once on the E which stands for Easter. But even that familiar connection is being lost. Easter is more about Chocolate eggs than the cross and Christmas more about Santa than the ’new born King’. So it is left to us! The day in day out faithful to continue the perpetual celebrations and thanksgiving for Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. Can I urge all of us to dive into this Easter with great gusto and support all our Sunday services, Holy week prayer times and Walk of Witness. Also we are singing in the precinct on Holy Saturday. Please invite all your family and friends to Easter Sunday Breakfast and worship.
Lets be encouraging to all we meet, and lets claim back the Easter for Jesus, and by the Lords Grace even a few of the twice a year C of E people.
This month, we have the wonderful opportunity to come together at our APCM, which is on the 24th March after the Morning service. To some, the APCM can seem to be just about electoral role, Churchwarden and PCC elections and all the litigious stuff! But the APCM is really about so much more. During this year, we have had some bleak moments, where it seemed as if we may never come out of the smog of human indifference and the oppressive spiritual forces of the evil one that have been working against the church. But amidst the smog, there have also been some wonderful moments when the gloom has lifted and God’s grace has shone through. So, after the worship on the 24th, you are warmly invited to get yourself a tea or coffee and settle down to listen to all the reports from the last year. Perhaps you have a longing to become a churchwarden or join the PCC; we are always looking for people to join the refreshments team; we need more welcomers, readers and intercessors. Of course, the reality is that while some reports will lift our spirits, others may make us outwardly sigh or inwardly groan: ‘c’est la vie,’ I cry! In all things, God will be remembered, thanked and praised. Because in the end “we are still here!” We have not gone quietly into the night; the doom-mongers have been proven wrong! Recently, I heard again some of Lord Tennyson’s great poem entitled ‘Ullysses’.
I am ashamed to say I did not come across it at school or in any great book of poems. It first stirred my soul in the wonderful drama-filled monologue given by Dame Judi Dench in the Bond film, ‘Skyfall’. In her own majestic way, with a stoic tone to her voice, she quotes from the last few lines of the poem, and I share them with you.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Stoicism in recent years seems to have become a much-maligned talent or dare I say ‘virtue’. But, in the face of moral decline where ‘acceptable and unacceptable’ are preferred to ‘right and wrong’, and Divine will is being usurped by human (Gnostic) post-millennial platitudal “yukky” ideas, the church MUST remain stoic and faithful to biblical truth. On the face of it, Time and Fate may well have weakened God’s place in the world, but God is still God and that will never change. Our calling over the next year is to keep on keeping on; sometimes it will feel like we are striving without success; sometimes we fail to find what we want or desire; sometimes we may wish to yield to what seems to be overwhelming powers working against us. I believe that the Lord is calling the church to have a desire to be people who – being ‘one in equal temper` and alive with ‘heroic hearts’ – can and will by God`s good grace, not only survive, but thrive.
Hope to still see you on the other side… of the APCM, that is!
As we come out of the cold reality that January has brought and begin the more gentle and shortest month of February, I wonder perhaps if we dare to start to think of spring and of course for us Christians Easter.
Of course February will not come without its challenges, each day we are faced with the uphill task of keeping body, mind and soul together. Recently, I enjoyed a week in the Lake District, and I hope by the time you read this I would have completed the trinity of the three highest mountain peaks in Britain. In my thirties I climbed Mt Snowden in Wales, in my forties I conquered Mt Ben Nevis in Scotland and without tempting ill fortune in my Fifties I would have succeeded in ascending Scafell Pike.
All of which sounds lovely, but as we all know climbing steep terrains is not easy. If you are anything like me at the end of the climb everything hurts, feet are ringing, legs are cramping and the lungs fit to burst, but the euphoria of being at the top really help. To sit and take the ‘weight off’ whilst (weather permitting) enjoying the fruit of our labours by taking in the stunning 360-degree panoramic views makes it all worth it. That is of course until it comes to the descent, with the only solace being that at the bottom there is your bed to collapse on and into! But, only after soaking your feet.
I remember whilst climbing the steepest part of Snowden, that my energy was low and it would have been so very easy to have turned back, especially when right at my weakest point the little steam train went past with happy unstrained smiley faces looking at me, and I began to wonder if all the effort was worth it. On Snowden it is not a case of ‘do not look down’ it a case of ‘do not look at the train’.
Human ingenuity has, through engineering advancements always strived to make life easier and one of the ways in which we humans have benefited from the fight to make uphill things easier to climb is the almost taken for granted (until they break) wonder of the ‘escalator’ or in descriptive terms the ‘moving staircase’. What would we do without them, along with lifts they have they have allowed humans to design mountainous buildings with floors and levels that would never be reach if walking were the only way. Another wonder to behold is the moving floor that we mainly encounter in airports, it transports the user to another existence, the moment you step on you feel lighter and, and the effort to travel forward is removed as friction has less effect on you. It would be very forgivable to think, why can all life’s hills have an escalator to ease the traverse and wouldn’t it be great if the floor would help us float along quicker!
Of course, we all know that in all of our life’s journeys the inspirational big picture views from mountain tops are very few and far between. These views really can refresh the spirit and help us keep believing and trusting in something greater. The truth and reality is, that most of the time we only walk the lowlands where only our memories or imaginations can keep us believing that there is something more to life and a supernatural reason for our existence.
Two of the hidden wonders within which the supernatural grace of the ‘creator’ can be experienced, but rarely thanked, is in the wonder of gravity and friction. God the creator is never really celebrated in these two truths, because they are only ever spoke of in negative terms. Gravity and Friction are always look at as something the created is always trying to defeat.
As much as we would all like the ability to fly and soar above a the troubles of life, we can’t, for it is not God’s will. God the creator has designed creation to be experienced (in earthly terms) through gravity and friction, to seek to defy God’s gift of gravity on life’s climbs and reduce the holding back nature friction, (although understandable) is folly.
When I was out of breath and tired half way up scafell, did I wish for an escalator………Yes. Now, looking back, am I thankful I did not have one……Yes.
Gravity and friction an unseen blessing from God the creator, to his created order. Gravity keeps our feet on the ground and friction slows us down. All of our hardest climbs and treacherous descents are as God made them to be, and not as we humans wish them to be!
Whether we feel that life is just an uphill slog or that perhaps life seems to be only leading down to the mire. May God the Father show us His purpose in all our comings and goings and ups and downs. Amen
Christmas, Here we go again!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Christmas fervour that now hijacks October and November, can largely be laid at the feet of the Victorians. They, (the vogue people of the time) instituted a re-direction of Christmas as family holiday period that is sponsored by much generosity and moves away from a time of religious observance (i.e. Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’). I like many other people I have for many years struggled with the over materialisation of Christmas, and the seemingly viral affect it has on the normally frugal minded person. It seems the mind bending pressure on families to spend more is at an epidemic level. Normal, sentient people seem to turn into frivolous hunched over zombies, who trudge the streets losing the will to live as they hum Rudolph’s anthem with ever decreasing levels of tunefulness. Of course this opinion of mine lacks the Christmas excitement and could even be labelled, as a bit BAA Humbugish, so imagine my delight to have found a piece of satire written by the much heralded C. S. Lewis, that agrees with everything I have said.
C.S. Lewis (writing under a pseudonym ‘Jack’) captures the continuing secular and commercial destruction of the HOLYDAY, when in a wonderful short piece called Xmas and Christmas ‘A lost chapter of Herodutus’ He writes about an ancient people called the Niatirb’s, who at a certain time of year, ‘ when fog’s and rains abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas’. In his writing he covers wonderfully the madness of Exmas cards; ‘First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs.
And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival; guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the marketplace is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.’ Later on in the piece it talks about a few Niatirb’s that keep a separate festival called Crissmas and this festival happens on the same day as Exmass, but the Niatirb’s who keep Crissmas do the exact opposite of the Exmass followers. He writes: ‘But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.
Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)’
Later on in the chapter the priest who runs the temple is asked why the Niatirb’s who keep Crissmas do not change the day, so that Exmass would not disturb Crissmas with all the Exmass rush, his reply was “ It is, O stranger a racket” In our county today, many Britain’s think that Exmass and Crissmas are the same thing, they are not! I have a deep sense of foreboding about the financial fallout in January of all the Exmass over indulgence, so, I am praying for our compromised religious festival and the humans that get lost in the world’s temptations, as they misinterpret ‘Love one another’.
So, Lord we pray for the Exmass zombies, who being creatures of the night are lost in darkness, may they become Crissmas people who are found and live in the light, and may all of your creation have benevolent hearts that guide our gathering and spending of money. In Jesus Name Amen!
May the Lord grant to you a Blessed and Holy Christmas and New Year that is full of His hope.
I feel I cannot write this month without reflecting on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. It is extra special this year as Remembrance Sunday falls on the 11th, so the 2 minutes silence will be at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, just as it was 100 years ago.
This year’s Remembrance will be even more poignant in its content as there is no longer anybody left living who fought in any of the myriad of battles that fill out the pages in the awful biographical annual that is now fully past tense.
It is very often said that history is only ever recorded by the victors; well, that may be true when it comes to ancient trials of conflict, but it is not true of the ‘Great’ War of 1914-1918. We are thankful that there are many records from the war that offer precious insights into the political rumblings that eventually developed into national threats and sadly as history records devastating conflict, Conflict the like of which still makes the mind boggle and the heart sink. Each year when Remembrance comes around we are reminded of the huge number of human lives that were lost and affected on all sides of the conflict.
Whenever I hear and see any archive of our soldiers walking across No Man’s Land straight into the hail of German machine gun fire, I cannot help but reflect with great admiration how the men even had the courage to stand, let alone walk. Without wanting to sound disingenuous, it seems to me that sending these men over the top to be gunned down in what looks like nothing more than a human version of a turkey shoot, is absolute folly.
But, I also accept the fact that if the country with its allies had not stood up and faced the Kaisers rampaging horde, life would have been very different long before the 2nd WW became a reality.
I like the word ‘Folly’, and I find I use it a lot in my own life. I take it mean ‘an act of foolishness’ I question my decisions and ask myself “is what I am doing folly” Sometimes on reflection, the answer is yes and I reluctantly change; other times, making a leadership decision that seems like folly, which is driven by extreme madness is necessary to get things done.
As Christians, when we hear the words sacrifice and heroes our minds are natural moved to think of Jesus, and his great sacrifice for us. But, just as we may look back at the mass murder of the First World War and shake our heads at the folly of trench warfare with all its environmental horrors of hunger, cold, sickness and disease, so do many today look back at what God did for us in his Son as just another story of a wasted life, cut short by human indifference. The difference between the story of Jesus and the memories of the First World War is that through the Holy Spirit people are still live to share the wonder of Jesus Christ in real and relative ways. Thankfully for Christians the Sacrifice of Jesus is not just remembered posthumously, Jesus death, resurrection and ascension is celebrated, alive, vibrant and empowering.
In one my previous churches, I remember a plaque on the wall dedicated to a serviceman that died in 1916. Under his name it quoted scripture from the Gospel of Matthew 25.23 and it said “Well done good and faithful servant”. Now I do not know if this man had a faith or that his sacrifice on the battlefield brought him eternity with God and perhaps I will never know. It is estimated that anything up to 20million soldiers on both sides of the conflict died between the 28th July 1916 and the 11th November 1918, with millions more (both civilian and military) wounded. In realty I ask the question, can all be classed as “good and faithful servants”? The truth is only God knows the story behind every life and death, only God can announce who have been and who are and will be named as “good and faithful servants”.
The sacrifice of the ultimate “good and faithful servant ” Jesus Christ may seem folly to many, yet the image of His cross is still pictured on many remembrance posters, let us give thanks that a Christian symbol of hope is still helping us remember the cost of human folly.
Love in Christ Iain Ministers Musings
There are many things in life that can threaten our peace. and, for all of us, the experience of going through the uncomfortable and inevitable changes that any broken relationships bring can be the most unsettling of all. With any broken relationship, there is always ‘collateral damage’; some of that damage is brought about by the great sadness and grief for the relationship that has been lost, but the more dangerous and immediate damage is often caused by ‘it’s the end of the world’ apocalyptic reactions of families and communities who allow ‘panic’ and, dare I say a quiet form of hysteria to start to undermine their peace.
Our lives and communities can become so disturbed that we actually forget who we are and what holds us true to ourselves. We as a church are no different; when fractures happen, and people leave the church, ‘collateral damage’ is inevitable. But, amidst the turmoil, God can still be found pouring healing oil on stormy waters.
I believe with all my heart that this church is under a huge spiritual attack; Satan does not want us to be effective in Christ’s mission and is trying to damage the very fabric of the church, its people!
I want to encourage you all to do the opposite of our ‘run to the hills’ hero, Elijah, who was full of fret and panic, but , as Elijah learnt, we must take more refuge in the Lord. When we take refuge in the Lord our sense of perspective is restored. I am asking that we strive harder for unity, through us individually spending more time with the Lord.
Listening to my own advice, I actually made myself sit still for an extended listening time; my prayers were not of words but of silence. I spent one hour sat still and it was tough; thoughts of work, family, church, the world kept trying to break in and steal the peace that I was disciplining myself to find. At the end of a very long hour, I was aware of a lightness to my spirit that I hadn’t felt for quite a while.
I realise that one hour (for some) is a huge amount of time to allow oneself, and I hear the thoughts of some; ‘what I would give for an hour’s ‘me’ time’? Butwaiting on the Lord is important. I invite you to try and remember the last time you actually spent on hour waiting on the Lord.
You might think that sitting for an hour in silence is easy, it isn’t! It can take time to learn how to remove yourself from yourself, leave the temporal and enter into the ephemeral. One of the ways in which we as believers often describe the way the God communicates with us and with ‘all who have ears’, is through the medium of the ‘still small voice’.
This quote comes from God speaking to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-12.
“And He said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice,” KJV. Elijah has been running in fear of his life, due to Jezebel’s prophecy over him, but he had been strengthened enough to act on God’s word and on the mountain experienced a moment of closeness with God that most could only dream of, or quite possibly fear.
I am reminded of the beautiful hymn ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’, and especially the last verse:
‘Breathe through heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm; Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire, speak through the earth quake wind and fire, O still small voice of calm, oh still small voice of calm’.
If, when you read this, you find yourself thinking ‘Oh, that’s where the saying comes from!’ You are not alone; I have sung this hymn so many times and never put this amazing moment in the life of Elijah and the words of the hymn together. Elijah’s’ ‘heats of desire’ was fear, fear that was being escalated by the loud crying out of the un-Godly, trying to shake this faithful man from his grace filled perch. In today’s world, whether it be through ‘malice, negligence or just deliberate thought, there are many Jezebels that are prophesying negativity, fear and destruction; they are trying to disturb the peace of the faithful.
God sorted out Jezebel then, and God will sort out the Jezebels of today. It will be done in His time. We have to, through prayer and meditation, ‘prove all things and hold on to that which is good’ I Thessalonians 5.21. During this time of upset, as we seek a new organist and re-organise the children’s Sunday work. We, who like Elijah and all the prophets both ancient and modern have ears that are open and capable through dedication and meditation to listen and hear God’s voice speaking today and we must have courage to be still in faith, calm in prayer and faithful in love. The Jezebels want the Godly to be so frantic with fear and distracted by the clamour of this world that they forget to be still and know that He is God.
As we grieve the lost qualities of those who have left, may God speak through the heats of all our fears and calm us, so that the still small voice of the ages penetrates the created faithful of today. Amen
Love in Christ. Iain
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.