THE CLERGY LETTER
A TIME TO HEAL
The healing ministry is one of the greatest opportunities the church has for sharing the Gospel. So said a Church of England report for the House of Bishops on the Healing Ministry. The report concluded that the Church of England should encourage an appropriate exercise of this ministry in congregations.
A Time to Heal points out that “many in our society realise there is a spiritual as well as physical and mental dimension to healthy living. ‘Wholeness’ is the in-word; it is what everyone longs for.”
The report stresses that nothing is predictable in the ministry of healing - except the assurance of God’s love and care, “Where physical healing does not take place, a healing on an emotional, psychological or spiritual level may be the primary need.”
The review concluded that the ministry of healing is a Gospel imperative, not an optional extra.
Through Sunday sermons and House Group during September we have been seeking to develop the ministry of healing at St. Peter’s. This will lead to us introducing a team of people who will be willing to pray for people after services – beginning, in October, with the 10.30am Services of Holy Communion. Further information about how this will work will be given on a Sunday, prior to services.
May God guide us as we develop this ministry in and through St. Peter’s.
A message from the Curate - Sept 2017
Q. Do you want to be healed?
For many of us the answer to my question is probably on the lines of ‘No’
Other typical answers might be:
‘I’m very well thank you, the Doctor is looking after me’
‘I’m not ill
‘I’m not that ill’
‘There’s nothing you can do to help me’
Many of us shy away from the idea of Christian healing and some of us are under the impression that ‘it’s a load of mumbo jumbo’. Maybe that’s because we think healing is all about a cure.
The Christian understanding of healing is not the same as a cure: it does not try to patch up, repair, recreate or revert something or someone to a former state. Christian healing is the whole work of Christ, in a person's body, mind and spirit, designed to bring that person to that wholeness which is God's will for us all. In the light of Christian faith, reconciliation and healing involve God's grace bringing about change, development and new ways of being, whether within the individual person or the wider society.
This month, we begin our focus on healing. In our preaching, we are exploring the healing power of God supported by our house group programme which will help us to be aware that Jesus is committed to us and can support us through all that we experience in life. In October we look to offer a Healing Ministry.
So I repeat my question ‘Do you want to be healed?’ Perhaps now the answer is ‘I’m not sure……’
I believe there is something inside each one of us that can be healed by Christ’s love but sometimes we just don’t know what it is.
I pray that this month we will each let Christ go deeper into our hearts and souls so that we grow into holiness and wholeness in his image.
Love Lesley x
From the Vicarage
Are you ready to take up
If we have a quick glance at the four gospels, they will show us that Jesus constantly – taught, exhorted, encouraged and inspired his disciples to pray. Prayer was the breath that he breathed, the driving force in his life and it was the secret of his astonishing ministry.
It was much the same for the Apostles. St. Paul says in his letters to the churches:
“In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy.”
“…we have not stopped praying for you.”
“We constantly thank God for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.”
In the same way prayer has always been the primary mark of the saints of God in every generation of the church – John Wesley spent 2 hours a day in prayer; George Whitfield went to bed each night at 10pm and got up at 4am to pray!
With such examples of the heroes of faith, it is hard for us not to feel crushing failures. In western society, in particular, we are rushed off our feet by activity and have lost the art of prayerful meditation. Perhaps then, the request the first disciples made to Jesus is highly relevant for us today “Lord teach us to pray…”.
Praying for others to know Jesus is one of the most powerful things we can do. Persistent prayer for others brings transformation to their lives.
Consistently praying for others takes discipline, so during the months of July & August I want to encourage you to join with me in taking up THE CHALLENGE.
The CHALLENGE is to think of 5 people who you would like to see coming closer to Jesus and growing in their faith and to pray for them every day. They may be friends, neighbours, colleagues at work, or even family members. If you’re not sure who to pray for, ask God to guide you as you choose. Once you have settled on 5 names, commit to praying for them regularly by praying the following:
Loving Father, in the face of Jesus Christ your light and glory have blazed forth. Send your Holy Spirit that I may share with my friends [here, name your friends] the life of your Son and your love for all. Strengthen me as a witness to that love as I pledge to pray for them, for your name’s sake. Amen
Are you ready to join me in taking up THE CHALLENGE?
A message from the Curate
‘Time to pause’
I’ve spoken to at least three people in Church recently who have shared with me how ‘time poor’ they feel. They tell me that prayer gets squeezed out or they just don’t know how to pray. This has caused me to reflect on how we use our time and how to encourage prayer.
Our use of time
Each week we have 168 hours deposited in our ‘time bank’ account. I invite you to assess your use of time? Draw up a pie chart and you can use colours (colouring books for grown-ups are the latest trend!) to denote time given to job, family, friends, leisure etc.
Now draw your ‘dream’ pie chart – how you would really like to spend your time? Compare the two. Can you make any changes? Be mindful of the Serenity Prayer….
‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’. (Reinhold/Niebuhr)
Alternatively, we can decide to slow down! A tough decision I think for many of us, but one I urge us to seriously consider. I have been reading a book called “The Power of Pause – becoming more by doing less” by Terry Hershey. It’s about slowing down. Hershey asks “Have you ever wanted to pause long enough to see the handprint of God in the clouds, or in the face of a stranger, or in the irritation of the chaotic, or in the touch of a friend, or in the ordinary events of the day?”
Praying is easy
Find a bench or chair to sit on, preferably outside. There are no set rules or fancy words to say. Just be yourself. Talk to God or Jesus (which ever feels best to you). Tell Him how you feel; are you happy, sad, worried or thankful? You can speak quietly or in your thoughts.
Practice going to your bench or chair once a day just to stop… to take a break… to make what I call ‘uncluttered time’ …to waste time with God. I love the idea of ‘wasting time’ with God!
If you prefer to be active why not try what I call a spiritual fitness walk? Walk as fast as you can to a specific destination, with your focus only on your destination. On arrival, (catch your breath!) then return to the start by walking slowly. If it’s taken 10 minutes to get to the destination, it must take 30 minutes to return. This time you must notice things, paying attention to your senses.
You will be surprised! You will notice colours, sounds, smells, conversations, images that you usually miss. You’ll notice the little things; the little things that are missed when we are moving too fast. Give thanks to God for all you notice. I guarantee your soul will be uplifted!
‘My soul finds rest in God alone’ Psalm 62:1
Make time to pause……….do let me know how you get on
Love Lesley x
From the Vicarage
Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement, which invites Christians around the world to pray between Ascension and Pentecost for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. What started out as an invitation from the Archbishops’ of Canterbury and York in 2016 to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer.
The hope is that:
people will commit to pray with God’s world-wide family - as a church, individually or as a family;
churches will hold prayer events. (see the front cover of this Magazine);
people will be empowered through prayer by the Holy Spirit, finding new confidence to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.
Jesus said: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses …to the ends of the earth. When he had said this…he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight…Then they returned to Jerusalem … and were constantly devoting themselves to prayer…
And then in Acts 1 & 2 we read When the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place... All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit... and that day about three thousand persons were added."
Archbishop Justin Welby writes: “In praying 'Thy Kingdom Come' we all commit to playing our part in the renewal of the nations and the transformation of communities."
Why not join us at St. Peter’s as together we pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. The church is open from 9am to 5pm every day and the front page of this magazine gives times when we will be praying together in church.
Why not join us at Housegroup as together we look at “Praying the Psalms”, full details appear in this magazine.
A message from the Curate
How do we see Jesus? How do those who we work with, our neighbours or our non-Christian friends see Him? How good is our relationship with Jesus? How do others ‘see’ us?
Lots of questions!
I see these questions as key for us in helping others to either come to faith or to grow in faith. As we continue through Lent, I’m drawn to reflect on how others outside our church community view ‘us Christians’.
As Christians we should strive to reflect Jesus in ourselves, our behaviour, our attitudes and the way we live out our lives. Jesus is the perfect role model for us and our Superhero!
As disciples of Jesus, we are in a relationship with him. As with any healthy relationship, it needs to be kept ‘in credit’ and not taken for granted. All healthy relationships require good honest communication and lots of love. In our relationship with Jesus the same requirements are needed; communication (prayer) and love (praise and worship).
It takes a bit of discipline to follow Jesus; that’s where being a disciple comes in. What do we understand by the word ‘disciple?’ The word comes from the Latin discipulus (pupil) and discere (to learn). What is also interesting is that the word ‘discipline’ comes from the Latin disciplina (teaching) which is rooted in discipulus. Being a disciple is therefore about learning what we can, being disciplined and not being distracted or led off course.
It’s so very easy to be led off course in today’s society. There are countless distractions for our time and energy. We can get stale, get in a rut and just go through the motions. If this is the case it’s easy to see how we can be seen as old fashioned, boring and out of touch with the real world. If our faith is not dynamic and we are not in a living relationship with Jesus, then we are certainly not attractive to others!
As we approach Easter, I invite each one of us to take time to think and answer the following questions:
Is my relationship with Jesus a healthy one?
How good a disciple am I?
How much effort do I put into the relationship?
I also invite each one of us to take time and reflect on the following questions about our church family:
‘Are we attractive to others?’
‘Is there something about us that makes others want to be like us?’
‘Are we good role models for others?’
This month we will come to the end of Lent and we will celebrate Easter Day. It’s all about Jesus and as the saying goes, ‘Thank God for Jesus!’
Why not invest in your Jesus relationship a bit more this Easter- I look forward to seeing you at the services on offer.
Love Lesley x
From the Vicar…
TIME FOR LENT
This year lent begins on March 1st (As Wednesday). Someone said to me recently, “Oh, Lent, that’s the time, isn’t it, when you give up chocolate and other nice food”. It could be, but there’s also more to it than that. Lent is a season in the church calendar for us to take time to focus on Jesus and his journey to the cross and in the light of his life and death to examine our own spiritual lives.
“Giving things up” or fasting may well be part of our Lent discipline to aid us in thinking about Jesus’ sacrifice and suffering. Yet it is also important to “take on things”, perhaps increasing the time we spend in prayer or the time spent reading the Bible or perhaps giving time to be part of a Lent Course (Please see details of our forthcoming series of Lent House Groups).
Jesus has given his life for us on the cross. If we are to be His followers, His disciples, then this means living our lives in His service. Besides being honouring to Him, He calls us to reach out to others in this world. He is depending on us to share His love and hope.
I wonder how you are going to spend Lent this year. Before we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at Easter, let us take time to ponder the cost of His love poured out for us and respond with an ever-growing strength of love to Him. May we all grow this Lent in deeper devotion, discipline and daily discipleship.
Jesus said “If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8: 31-32) and ‘This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15: 8).
Every blessing to you all during this season of Lent
A message from the Curate
It’s that time of year again….. by now we will have watched all the 2016 Reviews on the television, read all about 2016 in the newspapers and been inundated with information about being healthy and looking after ourselves.
I am a firm believer in ‘Total Wellbeing’ which recognizes the links between physical, nutritional, mental, emotional and spiritual health. It’s easy to understand how times of emotional stress can impact on nutritional health (comfort eating or not eating) and also easy to see how poor nutritional health impacts on physical health (whether it be the poor who lack food or top athletes who can win or lose a race by their nutritional programme).
I’m no top athlete but have enjoyed fitness all my life. I can vouch that it really ‘does what it says on the tin’ in that it leads to more energy, a good feeling of wellbeing and also on a practical level, makes everyday activities easier as joints get loosened and muscles become stronger. Regular activity improves mood and can play a significant part in recovery from depression and coping with life’s ups and downs, as it increases Serotonin levels, the body’s natural Prozac!
A healthy spiritual life can impact very positively on all the other areas. When we meet with Jesus, we are assured of His love. We can ‘plug into the Power of the Spirit’ through our daily prayers which gives us courage, confidence, guidance and strength to act. We worship a God of Love who we know never fails us. I pray that in 2017 we help others come to know that truth by sharing His life changing Love.
Life today is so busy and folk can be under pressure. For many, daily life has become one of ‘clock watching’, schedules, meeting deadlines, with little time left for thought, reflection or prayer. There needs to be a lovely balance between all these areas of health to achieve ‘Total Wellbeing’.
As we start this New Year, I pray we will all work together on our ‘Total Wellbeing’. By all means let’s review our diets and activity levels but most of all, let’s review our spiritual life. Do we spend enough time with God? Are we open to hear God speaking to us? Are we ready to become more than a ‘churchgoer’? Are we ready to worship and serve God through the power of prayer and witness, to become an even healthier church and to really transform our community?
Happy New Year
Love Lesley x
From the Vicar……
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Up to £25,000
for the Christmas you’ve always wanted.
What’s your idea of the perfect Christmas?
A fun-filled party where everyone finds their dream present under the tree?
A shiny new ribbon-wrapped car parked outside on Christmas morning?
Escaping the winter chill for a sun drenched beach in the Caribbean?
Well hold on to your party hat, because this Christmas you could have up to £25,000 to make it happen!
With rates from just 8.9%APR for loans of £15,000 and over and fixed monthly repayments, you could even afford to pay off those outstanding loans and credit cards and start the New Year in control of your finances.
No I haven’t gone mad! These are the words of an advert I received recently. But the truth is that Christmas is not about taking out a loan, rather it is about receiving the greatest gift ever given, receiving God’s Son Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
The message of the angels on the hillside to the shepherds 2000 years ago was ‘I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people. Today a Saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord’.
Great joy for all in a world with so much evil and suffering may seem to be too good to be true, but the good tidings are that Jesus came to save us from our sin, and to drive back evil.
It is up to us now!
God wants us to accept the Christmas gift of Jesus, and to make Him Lord and Saviour of our lives.
Then and only then will we have THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.
Every blessing to you all
It’s that time of year when we see flocks of geese flying over in their search for warmer climes. I never fail to be moved by them flying overhead and I feel a deep sense of awe and wonder at the sight. This was profound when Jon and I were recently out walking on the canal near where we live. The geese flew so low past us that we could hear and feel the movement of air and sense the power of their wings as they pressed on towards their destination.
It prompted me to look up some geese facts which I have applied to our mission as a Church and as individual Christians...….
When geese fly together, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it. Consequently, by flying together in a v-formation, scientists estimate that the whole flock can fly about 70% farther with the same amount of energy than if each goose flew alone. Geese have discovered that they can reach their destination more quickly and with less energy expended when they fly together in formation.
We can reach out further and achieve more as we serve God if we all work together as a team of disciples; we become a healthy church that will transform our community.
Geese rotate leadership. The goose flying in the front of the formation has to expend the most energy because it is the first to break up the flow of air that provides the additional lift for all of the geese who follow behind the leader. Consequently, when the lead goose gets tired, it drops out of the front position and moves to the rear of the formation, where the resistance is lightest, and another goose moves to the leadership position. This rotation of position happens many times in the course of the long journey to warmer climates.
We can all take on a leadership role for a while because of a particular expertise or experience. In our church family, everyone has the opportunity to serve as a leader as well as a follower. We mustn’t leave all the work to one or two people. We should realise our gifts and skills and use them for God’s glory.
Geese honk at each other. They frequently make loud honking sounds as they fly together. Scientists speculate that this honking is their way of communicating with each other during their long flight.
It is important for us to talk regularly with each other but more so with God in prayer. We need to pray with greater depth and urgency for the Kingdom of God to come. Constant communication with God is important to sustain us through the ups and downs of our earthly life journey and to allow Him to guide us on our way.
Geese help each other. Scientists discovered that when one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose. They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or dies.
We work best when we do more than just work together; we must care for the wellbeing of each other and our neighbours through prayer and practical help, showing God’s love in action.
Finally, I want to draw your attention to the striking sculpture by Jonathan Clarke at Ely Cathedral. It’s called The Way of Life and it reminds us that life is far from straight forward, with many twists and turns. As we approach the darker, winter months may it also remind us that Christ travels with us from darkness to the light of the cross and like the geese, we travel together; we are one of His flock.
Love Lesley x
From the Vicar…
You will probably already be aware from the Joint Statement issued on Pentecost Sunday, which was also included with the June Parish Magazine, that St. Peter’s Church and Wilpshire Methodist Church have been talking about how we can work together more effectively and about the possibility of establishing a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP).
Following a joint meeting of the church councils from the 2 churches, in July, it has been decided to have separate meetings of each congregation to talk about this further, to listen to concerns and to try to begin to answer questions. These meetings will happen in both churches on the same day, Sunday 23rd October 2016. At. St. Peter’s we will have a shortened Service at 10.30am, followed by a Church Meeting. All members of the Church Family are invited/encouraged to attend, so that you can be informed and so that we can hear from as many people as possible.
It needs to make it clear, at this point, that no decision has yet been made, but that together we are seeking God’s will for the future.
From the Curate ………
Thoughts and reflection on Autumn ~ September 2016
It may just be September but Autumn will follow soon enough. I thought I would invite us to reflect on Autumn. What picture does this create in your mind?
It’s a season of sensational change. We watch as the trees give us a dazzling display of colour before their leaves wither and finally fall; crops are harvested and fields replanted. Before the days of household freezers, it was a time to turn to the surplus produce and either store it carefully bottle/pickle it.
The physical changes in nature that occur at this time lead me to reflect there are times of a spiritual autumn for us all. Don’t confuse this with the ‘autumn of our lives’ but rather a spiritual season of autumn which could actually occur in the spring or summer!
Let me explain….
Harvesting- it’s a joy to see the farmers harvesting and also to celebrate the Harvest Festival in church, but do we ever think of our spiritual harvest? In places of work these days there is great emphasis placed on measuring the impact of what we do. Do we as Christians ever give thought to the positive impact we might have on the people in our lives? Are we aware of the people we may have influenced for the good, the people we have helped to find their way into a relationship with Jesus Christ? I’m not suggesting any of us get ‘puffed up’ with pride, but I think we could all sometimes pause and benefit from recognising the good in ourselves and acknowledging God’s work of grace in our lives.
Falling leaves: Relinquishing- As the leaves fall in nature’s autumn, so we can perhaps see stages in our lives where things we have enjoyed and done well come to an end. Sometimes this is a welcome change, as we make room for something new. However sometimes the thought of relinquishing something that may be precious to us causes us anxiety and we dread it. It can be difficult to see the positives in the change.
Falling leaves: Reinvesting- Our spiritual autumn is a time to not only enjoy the harvest but to put our wealth of experience and knowledge to good use. Nothing should be wasted. I invite us to think how might we empower others and be a source of encouragement for them as they grow into the people God wants them to be.
Love Lesley x
From The Vicar…
On Sunday 15th May a Statement was read out in St. Peter's Church and Wilpshire Methodist Church, regarding discussions that are being held between the two churches about working & worshipping more closely. A copy of this Statement is included with this edition of the magazine and is available from both churches.
No decisions about this have been made, except that the Church Councils from both churches are meeting together on Tuesday 12th July, to discuss this further. We would welcome your comments about this (preferably in writing) as soon as possible and by 8th July at the latest. We would also ask you to pray for this meeting as together we seek God's will for the future.
After a great deal of prayer, reflection and consultation our diocese has developed a shared vision ‘Healthy Churches Transforming Communities’ which will be our primary focus taking us to 2026 and the 100th Anniversary of the Diocese of Blackburn.
During May and June we will be running the Vision 2026 Study Course at St. Peter’s, which contains 5 sessions, each focusing on a different aspect of the vision.
Bishop Julian writes “The course has been produced to assist local churches in applying Vision 2026 to their local setting. I very much hope that through this course each church will be able to discover a local response to the vision. Through a process of discussion and discernment I pray that you will be able to identify practical steps that you are able to take to help create ‘Healthy Churches Transforming Communities’.”
Please can I encourage you to put the following dates in your diary now and also to make attending a priority.
Wednesday May 11th & 18th
Wednesday June 8th, 15th & 29th
The meetings will be held in Salesbury School from 7.30pm to 9.00pm
Rooted in Faith
Bare branches now alive with the shoots of bright fresh leaves. Graceful wintery silhouettes clothed in new green finery. Towering tall I find trees a great source of beauty and inspiration.
It is amazing that a regal oak can grow from a tiny acorn and a majestic horse chestnut from a small brown conker. Recently I have been thinking about the part of the tree which we don’t see, their roots. These mighty stabilising structures keep the tree from toppling. Great roots must anchor the tallest tree in the world, a 379.7foot (115.7m) redwood in North California which reaches taller than a 35 story sky-scraper.
Roots also take up water and minerals necessary for the growth and well being of the tree. A mature oak may consume 200 gallons (910ltrs) of water a day. The roots need to delve deep to find enough water when the season is dry. In our spiritual lives too, we need strong deep roots to keep us flourishing through difficult times. As Jeremiah the prophet says: “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes: its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit”. Jeremiah 17: 7-8.
We need good roots to provide ready refreshment when times are harder, as we draw on God’s word and drink in the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to stay firm in trust and confidence in God, no matter what the circumstances.
We can nourish our roots through prayer: by reading God’s word regularly; learning and storing His promises in our hearts; by pondering God’s words, truth and power; by discussing and sharing with others the hope our Lord gives us.
As we see the trees around us growing and bearing fruit, may we also blossom in our faith, with rejoicing in all the blessings God pours on us daily, giving glory to God in whom we trust.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness”. Colossians 2: 6-7
YOURS, FROM ONLY…
It’s everywhere we look. Wherever that are advertisements we see that infuriating little phrase “from only…”. The price for the smallest, meanest item in the range, the cheapest unit that is capable of standing alone, is used as the eye catching lead for the campaign.
We know that we shall have to pay more in the end, whether it’s for a holiday, when we want it – rather than at low season, or those ‘optional extras’ that no one would realistically do without. And we get annoyed because the advertiser is simply trying to mislead us.
What a contrast to the way God deals with His people!
God’s ‘product’ carries an all-inclusive price: it’s free. Redemption, forgiveness for our sins, a new life free from the slavery that comes from dependence on drugs, money, sex etc., there are no extras that we could possibly imagine that are not already included in what God has offered us through the sacrifice of His Son.
How do we, as potential salespeople, present our portfolio? Are we up front about the comprehensive benefits and the unusually low price? Do we find it so difficult to believe it ourselves that, when it comes to passing on the Good News, we tarnish it with the ways of the world we know so well, and make it subject to all kinds of conditions?
Let us make sure that, when we are talking about our faith, we don’t ask of anyone something that Jesus didn’t require of us. And if we’re in any kind of doubt about that, we should look at what St. Paul has to say in his letter to the Galatians (Chapter 5, verses 1-12)
Love is in the air! Yes, it’s that time of year again. The month of February is brightened by the celebration of Valentines Day! You can’t escape it. The shops are full of cards, flowers and various heart shaped goodies!
It does us good to be reminded of love - real love – The love of God. The love that God wants us to show to our fellow human beings.
In St. John’s 1st letter we read “we love because God first loved us” (Chapter 4, verse 19).
Human love is a response to diving live. It is God’s love for us that wakens in us the desire to love him as he loves us and to love our fellow human beings as he loves them.
The love of God and the love of our fellow human beings are indissolubly connected. C.H Dodd puts it this way, “The energy of loves discharges itself along lines which form a triangle, whose points are God, self and neighbour”. If God loves us we are bound to love each other for our purpose is to show the love of God in lour lives. John, is his letter, is blunt. If we claim to love God but hate our brother or sisters then we are liars. The only way to prove that we love God is to love those whom God loves. The only way to prove that God is inn our hearts is constantly to show our love for one another in and through our lives.
In God’s love
Giving & Getting
Well that’s what it often feels like.
December can become a month above all others filled with sorting out who’s going to give what to who. Now I don’t want you to jump from that to a lament about the commercialization of Christmas – there’ll be plenty of those elsewhere and many of them thoughtfully stated. No, I want to ask about what we really want.
As a child I didn’t find it helpful when my mother said that what she really wanted for Christmas was just for me and my sister to be good. It didn’t help me get any closer to working out what to get her, and it was often said with a pointed reference to some recent incident. And yet, even then, I realized that there was something true in this request. It wasn’t just an expression of the stresses and strains of parenthood as the 25th came closer.
The answer we get back when we ask ‘what would you like for Christmas’ may well vary with the timing of the question. Choose one moment and the answer may be, ‘I’d like all of the wars to stop’ or ‘I’d really like it if we had more time to sit and talk’.
Is it possible to make time to stop and think about all these requests? Is there an alternative to treating them all as an exasperated expression, which only delays the real answer? What would it be like if we took these things seriously?
What we really want find expression in prayer. We pray about peace for war torn places, we ask for health for those who face trials, and we bring before God our need for friendship and fellowship. God keeps listening. He takes our thoughts seriously. He knows what we really deep-down want. What he wants is to hear us come to him with our needs.
All of which makes it really odd that sometimes at Christmas we find ourselves too busy to worship. Even when we have made it to a service, we can find our mind has strayed off in some other direction. Our busyness has invaded this time too and threatens to destroy the opportunity that lies before us.
What do we really want to give? Well, of course, we want to give the gifts that we’ve found and we want to have them accepted in the spirit in which they are given. In fact, knowing that the spirit in which they are given has been appreciated may matter more than anything about the gift itself. In truth, that is true about the gifts we receive as well, we want don’t want a gift that has been given grudgingly, we want one that is an expression of love.
Making sure that our giving is shaped by love, goodness and peace brings us back to worship. We need to be ready to come before the One who is the source of love, goodness and peace that in some way we might let something of him be reflected in all the rest.
Let us make sure that this Christmas all our giving and getting catches that reflection, because at the heart of our Christmas the central place has been given to the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray, And Keep On Praying
In the Old Testament, in the First Book of Samuel, Chapter 1, we read the story of Hannah. More than anything else in life, Hannah wanted a son. As they years passed she wrestled with disappointment and despair. ‘She (Hannah) was deeply distressed cried bitterly as she prayed to the Lord’ verse 10. However Hannah, did two things that worked, and I commend them to you:
- Instead of turning away from God, she turned to Him. Instead of praying less, she prayed more. She knew that God could answer her prayer. She may not have been completely happy with God’s timing, but she never doubted His goodness. Sadly often when we are going through difficult times we are often tempted to avoid God’s presence. That is a mistake, because He is the one we need the most! Yes, it is hard to pray when our hearts are breaking. But unless we’ve prayed with a broken heart and a deep sense of our need, we’ve never really poured out our hearts before God, or learned what the Bible truly means by prayer.
- In her prayer Hannah didn’t just think about what she wanted, she also thought about what God wanted. ‘Almighty God, look at me your servant. See my trouble and remember me! Don’t forget me! If you give me a son, I promise that I will dedicate him to you for his whole life…’ verse 11. Shortly after that Samuel was conceived. When we are willing to make a promise to God that He can hold us to, then we are getting serious about prayer. And that is when God will get serious about our prayer as well!
So ‘pour out your heart before Him’.
During my quiet times in July & August I have been spending time reading the Book of Jonah, from the Old Testament.
Jonah was told by God to go and do something that he didn’t want to do – to go to the city of Nineveh and tell the people to turn away from their wickedness and to turn back to God – and so Jonah ran away from God. Jonah’s refusal to obey God and his attempt to run away led him into all sorts of difficulties. These culminated in a huge storm whilst he was on board ship which eventually led to Jonah being thrown overboard, ending up being swallowed by a great fish from where he prayed to God.
Interestingly as we consider Jonah’s prayer from inside the whale, it is not a prayer for deliverance, but one of thanksgiving. Jonah’s heart overflows with gratitude for the spectacular way in which he has been saved from certain drowning. Some people my criticize Jonah for crying out in prayer only when he was in trouble, but such is the mercy and goodness of God that He listens to prayers in such circumstances. Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Polish-born Jewish-American author, wrote this: ‘Whenever I am in trouble I pray. And since I’m always in trouble I pray a lot. Even when you see me eat and drink, while I do this, I pray.’ It is sad, however, if prayer is limited only to times of trouble. A little boy was asked by his vicar if he prayed every day. ‘No,’ responded the boy, ‘cos there are some days when I don’t need anything.’
Let us be clear, the main purpose of prayer in not petition (asking for things), but communion – simply talking to God and deepening our relationship with Him. Jonah had not been doing this for some time, but now things have changed. He talks with God from inside the fish and is once again on speaking terms with the Almighty. Clearly, at this moment, Jonah doesn’t have much earthly comfort but there is no comfort like the comfort of a restored relationship with God.
Over the coming months I invite you, in addition to your own personal prayer times, to join us as we come together in prayer at St. Peter’s and as part of the Diocese of Blackburn. Listed below are details of various prayer times at St. Peter’s and around the Diocese at which everyone is welcome.
Come and join us as together we deepen our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Join us in the E100 BIBLE READING CHALLENGE
What is the E100 Bible Reading Challenge?
The E100 Bible Reading Challenge is based around 100 carefully selected Bible readings (50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New Testament) designed to give participants a good understanding of the overall Bible story from Genesis to Revelation. The ‘E’ stands for Essential and each of the Essential 100 are usually one or two chapters in length and can be easily read in 10 minutes.
How does it work?
This is a programme that is very flexible and we will be following an agreed plan, based on us achieving 5 readings per week, at home.
At the start of each week of readings the sermons, at the 8am & 10.30am Services, will provide an overview of the section that we will be covering during the week. Home Groups will be meeting during the week, see below, and will be following up on the same material.
What resources are available?
Scripture Union has published a book to go along with the programme. This includes
a one page introduction to each set of five readings,
notes on each of the selected readings to help our understanding
prayer pointers for each reading.
The books, which cost £5, are being made available to you free of charge, although a donation towards this cost would be welcome. There is also a book designed for children, which costs £9.99. Both of the books are available from church or please phone the Vicarage on 248072.
When do we begin?
The E100 Bible Reading Challenge will be launched at the Family & Parade Service on Sunday 13th September. A full programme will appear in the September magazine. The programme will build in a break for Christmas, enabling us to catch up if we let it slip.
Homegroups: venues & times
Tuesday at 7.30pm Various venues
Thursday at 2.00pm The Vicarage
Please complete the slip to indicate how you are going to get involved in the E100 Bible Reading Challenge, and return to church. We will make sure that you receive the programme details and the appropriate book.
The Greatest Substitute
The 2014/2015 football season has finally drawn to a close! As it did my thoughts went back to the 1970s & 80s when I would visit a popular fish and chip shop not far from where I grew up. I would occasionally stand in the queue with David Fairclough, a striker for Liverpool Football Club. David Fairclough made his debut for Liverpool on 1 November 1975 in a 1–0 league win over Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park. As the season progressed, Fairclough scored seven crucial goals in just 14 appearances to land Liverpool the League championship – nine of these appearances were as substitute. His most famous Liverpool goal came at Anfield as a substitute in a crucial European Cup quarter final against the French side St Etienne. When he scored ITV commentator Gerald Sinstadt famously bellowed: "Supersub strikes again!" After that, David Fairclough became know simply as ‘Super-sub’.
Playing and wining by the rules laid down by the Football Association provides a great sense of achievement for the players and is a cause of celebration among supporters. The thought occurred to me that in the games of life, we’ve always struggled (and still do) to live by the rules of the life-giver – Almighty God. So God, after sending a numbers of representatives (prophets etc.) to try to correct our style of play, finally decided to send – a vicar! In brief, vicar means substitute, substitute for the bishop who has care of a diocese and who for practical reasons needs to delegate that care to his substitutes, his vicars!
God’s vicar was his Son – our substitute. He had been the only one who ever fully lived by the rules of the life-giver. He was the only one whose style of play pleased God.
Easter focused our minds on the wonderful truth that Jesus Christ, who has died for the wrong style of play in all of us (‘sin’ in God’s vocabulary) was given back his life by the life giver, because it was our style of play and not his that deserved death. This risen Jesus now challenges/invites us to follow a new and different style of play – HIS! At the cross, God gave Jesus the red card due to his association with you and me, but on that 1st Easter morning, God’s whistle brought him back on the pitch!
At Pentecost we, with Christians everywhere, rejoiced in the sending by God of his Spirit, whose presence in our lives enables players who once got it horribly wrong (and sometimes still do) to live with Christ alongside us, within us, all around us.
What a goal!
During May we celebrate the birthday of the church. Pentecost Sunday is on May 24th and marks the coming into being of the church through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is as important as Christmas and Easter and yet it gets overlooked by most people.
Pentecost is a great day and one as Christians we should fully celebrate. Following the momentous appearances of the resurrected Jesus and his ascension the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the disciples as they meet in the upper room. This moment changes their lives from within and they gain confidence to speak about Jesus in a wonderful way.
For many years the Anglican Church kept the Holy Spirit at a respectful distance. More recently it has recognized this as a gift from God for the building of His Church and has begun to embrace it once again. St. Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit and how they are given by God to build up His Church, so we miss much if we ignore them.
For me the Fruit of the Spirit, which St. Paul speaks about in Galatians 5: 22-23, is most exciting. The characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control are wonderful. If we allow the Holy Spirit to enter our lives we are told that this is the type of character we will become. In other words we will become Christ-like. How great would that be!
I believe that a church full of people showing these fruit growing in our lives will be a wonderful place. It will be a place full of God’s loving care for the community, as we respond to peoples needs and tell them of the love of God in Christ Jesus.
For a moment think of the opposites – hate, cynicism, anger, irritation, selfishness, wickedness, dishonesty, aggression, violence. Do they sound rather familiar in the world of today? They did in St. Paul’s day as well.
I believe that many people are looking for the antidote to the ways of the world and through the power of the Holy Spirit of God the church has access to that antidote. Welcome the Holy Spirit into your life and allow the Fruit of the Spirit to germinate and grow in you. It will do a world of good to you and a load of good to the world.
Our sure & certain hope
During the season of Lent I have been spending time learning from the two letters Paul wrote to the young church in Thessalonica. One of the points that caught my attention was Paul’s teaching about life after death. In the first letter in particular Paul answered their questions about what happened to those who died before the return of the Lord.
When we explore these matters further it is the death and resurrection of Jesus that must be right at the centre of all of our thinking. As I write we are approaching Holy Week, when we take time to remember all that led up to the death of Jesus on the cross. Easter Sunday triumphantly proclaims that on the third day the Father raised Jesus from the dead. It is his risen life that is the source of our hope; it is his risen life that gives shape to our hope.
The church’s worship through Holy Week is designed to help us grow in our faith and understanding about these matters. At the celebration of Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday we mark the Last Supper and the beginning of the passion. On Good Friday, we watch at the cross, ending with the death of Jesus.
Following the week through makes Saturday stand out. Nothing happens on Saturday. Emphasising that Jesus was, in every sense, dead.
That may seem a strange way of putting it. In what possible sense might he have been still alive? Well, none at all. However, I sense at times that people have difficulty taking that fully on board. We jump so quickly to the resurrection that the phrase about ‘Christ dying for our sins’ is repeated without the astonishment that should always accompany it.
And if we haven’t given serious thought to what it meant for Jesus to die – if we’ve always thought that somehow it was different for him – then we may run the risk of missing out on the way his resurrection is the starting point for our own hope of resurrection life. He died our death that we might live his life.
Properly speaking it is only as we have been through Good Friday and Holy Saturday that we find ourselves ready for Easter Sunday. We can only celebrate the resurrection once we come to terms with Jesus’ death and burial. But having done that, the wonder and excitement of Easter grows and grows. We celebrate the defeat of death itself, we rejoice in the triumph of God’s good purposes, we look forward to a glorious future in fellowship with him. In all of this we find ourselves exploring more and more the riches of God.
Through the Easter season, as you read the scriptures, let your imagination be fed by the readings. Meditate on the resurrection appearances to the disciples and feed on this picture of resurrection life. The one who died, who was buried, who was raised on the third day, comes and walks with his disciples bodily. What does the fact of his bodily appearances promise for your future?
God bless you all this Easter
I wonder what your reaction is to change?
In reality some of us enjoy new experiences and adapting to other people’s way of doing things. While others dislike change preferring to stick to that which is familiar.
Christian customs and ways of doing things vary greatly: styles of worship, hymns, liturgy and so on. You’ve only got to look around the churches in and around Blackburn to see how true that is.
St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:28 “There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female, for we are all one person in Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ has died for us all and in doing so has outlawed discrimination of every sort – racial, social, gender and so on.
Christians are one family! Jesus himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that we would all be one in Him. So that the world might believe that the Father has sent Him and as a result would themselves be drawn into the Kingdom of God.
That doesn’t mean to say that all cultures should be the same. Neither does it mean that all our worship should be the same. But what it does mean is that we should accept one another and learn to worship and work with one another.
Revelation 7:9 tells us that one day we will all be part of one vast crowd worshipping together in eternity. So we might as well start getting used to it now.
Throughout human history, even before that, God’s concern has been for all people – not just for the Jews, not just for Christians, but for all people.
The clues are there in the Bible, from the beginning to the end. In n Isaiah 40:5 we read “Then will the glory of the Lord be revealed and all mankind together will see it”. The truth is that all people will see the glory of God – but sadly not all with receive him. Nevertheless God’s longing is for all people to turn to Him & be saved.
God’s grace is for all people and not just for a few. Paul writes in Colossians 1:6 “The gospel is bearing fruit and making new growth the new world over”. This is happening today, thousand upon thousands of people are being added to the church worldwide every single day. The gospel, the Good News, is spreading and being received throughout the world and therefore the prophecies of Isaiah 40 to 55 are being fulfilled – in our lifetime. I find that incredibly exciting.
This gospel, this good news of Jesus Christ is the reason for us to live holy lives, in the service of God.
Paul writes to the church in Colossae (1:9-10) “we ask God that you may receive from him full insight into His will and spiritual understanding, so that your manner of life may be worthy of the Lord and entirely pleasing to him. We pray that you may bear fruit in active goodness of every kind, and grow in knowledge of God.”
God looks on our hearts and our worship means nothing at all if its purpose is to please us, if it is about ‘what I like’. God looks on our hearts and our worship means nothing at all, unless our aim is to please Him.
Paul points us to the hope that we have as forgiven people, people who have made a new start in Christ. We look forward to the time when God’s people, from north, south, east & west, will all share together in God’s Kingdom.
But there are Christians from other traditions right here on our very doorstep. We need to learn and share with and from each other, our insights and strengths, so as to build & develop the Kingdom of God here in Salesbury.
Let’s grasp the opportunities that present themselves in the months & years that lie ahead and celebrate with joy Jesus Christ, the hope for the whole world.
We live in a world that is caught up in great change and many people say that we are living in the post-Christian era. For the first sixteen centuries after Christ the objective truths of The Bible played a major part in shaping the world. The Bible’s influence was powerful and persuasive. Then in the eighteenth century there arose a movement of intellectual thought in Europe that rejected external authority and lauded personal subjective judgement. The Enlightenment as it was called, celebrated intellectual individualism and sought to banish any idea of living by faith in God.
Recently I heard a television commentator say: ‘Jesus Christ is now a spent force in the life of humanity.’ When I heard that my mind was drawn to the events surrounding the arrest and trial of Jesus, from Matthew 26. In verse 58 we read ‘Peter…entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.’ Or as another version puts it: ‘Then Peter slipped in and mingled with the servants watching to see how things would turn out.’ When Peter entered the courtyard of the high priest’s house and sat down with the guards to see what would happen to Jesus, Peter thought that he was witnessing the end. It certainly was the end – the end of the beginning. Although Jesus was about to have his life ended on a cross, He would come back and stamp His personality on the centuries.
I believe that the coming years will bring in a spiritual renaissance. You and I must be part of it.
God bless you
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the truest human being the world has ever seen. Whatever you imagine a true person to be, Jesus is it! A true human being would stand up for the poor, heal the sick, fight for justice, stand up to the bully, forgive his enemies, give people a glimpse of God. A true person would be full of peace, love and understanding. That is a picture of Jesus.
Christmas is the time to celebrate that truth came down to earth. The way Jesus lived and the things he taught are so down to earth and in touch with our world.
This Christmas will be tough for many people. Things perhaps we have taken for granted, many will not be able to afford. On the face of it some may feel that this will be a miserable Christmas. BUT the true Christmas based on the true Jesus is not in the end about all the material things. It is about opening the gifts of God that money can’t buy – love and peace. If you feel that your heart is half empty ask God to fill it with his love. If you feel your soul is restless ask God to breathe his peace into you. These are the real Christmas gifts. Money can’t buy you a Christmas full of love and peace. They are the presents that which only you can unwrap.
Well, go on! Unwrap them.
I wish you a Christmas of love, peace and understanding.