THE CLERGY LETTER
From the Vicar
September has always felt to me like the start of a new year – as much as 1st January. Perhaps it is because I’ve been involved with schools for over 30 years! The summer holidays are over… the children are going back to school… while the weather is often glorious, there is often an edge of chill, especially as the darker evening draw in…
There is a sense of things ‘getting back to normal’. But often September is a time when new opportunities present themselves and fresh challenges begin.
It’s an exciting time – what will the next few months bring? It can also be a daunting time – I’ve got no idea what the next few months will bring – how will I cope? Will I have the wisdom and resilience to meet what lies ahead?
I am reminded of an Epistle reading we heard in church recently from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 17: “For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order of things has gone: a new order has already begun.” Knowing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour gives us a whole new perspective on life: we see things differently, we feel and think differently, we act differently towards other people. Whether life offers us an easy ride or the bumpiest of paths, or something in between, we can know the help of Christ at every step as we pray to see things as he sees them.
I recently found a quotation from the writings of Jean Varnier, the founder of the L’Arche, and international federation of communities spread over 37 countries, for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them. It seems to me that these are very wise words that may well help us as we take up the reins of life again after the summer – and seek to live each day well.
“Love doesn’t mean doing extraordinarily or heroic things. It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness. So, we will simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets.’
Happy New Year!
FROM the Vicarage…
One of the joys of summer is the explosion of green everywhere, even in cities. Dark green pine trees, soft green grass for picnics, tender green leaves that get darker through the summer.
Next time you’re out and about as a family, see how many different green things you can count, and maybe even collect a few things to take home and press inside a heavy book. Pressed leaves and flowers can make beautiful pictures. You can even use them to create home-made cards for birthdays and other celebrations.
Summer is a wonderful time for planting too. Try planting seeds or bulbs with your children or grandchildren to see how they can grow when they’re fed and watered. Amaryllis bulbs grow fast and have beautiful big flowers, which children will love. If you want to grow something to eat, why not try rocket, which can be harvested as soon as four weeks after planting?
Over the summer the main colour used at St. Peter’s will be green. During this time, Christians just get on with growing in our life with God, like the plants are doing. And like the plants, to grow, we need feeding spiritually. Praying is a great way to feed our growing faith.
Long summer days and nights can be a good time for prayers. Start with something as simple as saying thank you to God for something you’re really grateful for, or asking for God’s peace each night before you go to bed.
Below are three examples of simple prayers you could try:
Saying Thank You:
God the Father, who made us, we thank you.
God the Son, who saved us, we thank you.
God the Spirit, who holds us in love, we thank you.
God, who is everywhere, thank you for being you.
A prayer before bed:
God, who is like a mother hen watching over her chicks,
Keep me under your warm wings as I sleep.
Send me good dreams.
And help me wake up ready for another day.
A prayer for God’s help:
Father God, sometimes I am scared. Sometimes I am worried.
Sometimes I need help.
Sometimes people I love have problems.
Please be with me and help me,
Like shepherds caring for sheep.
A message from the Curate - June 2019
By now, many of you will know I am to move on from St Peter’s this month; my training as a Curate is almost complete. It’s timely to reflect on my walk with Christ to reach this point.
At times it seems like it’s been a long journey, yet at the same time it’s all gone very fast! My three years as a Curate, working with Revd. Martin has been a wonderful time of practical training in the duties and life of a priest. Prior to arriving here I had been an Ordinand, serving at St Peter’s, Darwen and All Saints Clayton-le-Moors. My training as an Ordinand was for three years, throughout which I worked full time. Training involved attending weekly tutorials; Saturdays training in Lancaster and three residential weekends each year. Prior to being accepted for training I had spent almost two years discerning God’s call, testing it and of course attending the national Bishops Advisory Panel interview. That’s eight years of my life yet it all seems like yesterday! That’s perhaps because it’s been one heck of a journey….one I never expected to make…. one my family have made with me….and one that fulfils me tremendously.
Those of you, who have got to know me well, will know how much I like to plan and be organised. If life had gone according to my plan, I would still be working full time, still very active in my ‘sending church’ All Saints, Clayton-le-Moors and certainly not be an ordained priest about to take up a first Incumbency! Things haven’t gone according to plan but whose plan are we referring to here…….? It’s God’s plan!! I often think of God manoeuvring us round on a giant chess board. Like in the game of chess, God has a strategy and He plans His moves a long way ahead! God has a wonderful way of working things out in His time and at His pace. He is the God of our past, present and future.
Thank you for walking with me during my time at St Peter’s. Thank you for your warm welcome, your prayers and friendship during my time here. As I leave I pray that you will all journey well with the Lord. I pray that you will all grow in your discipleship and prayer life. Pray…listen… and never be afraid to respond; you might not understand what or why God asks something of you but know God is faithful and wants the best for you. Trust Him.
My last services will be 8am and 10.30am on Sunday 16th June. Please do come along for our final worship together. My Institution as Vicar of St Anne’s, Fence-in-Pendle and St John’s Higham is at 7.30pm on Thursday 11th July. It would be fantastic to see you there too.
Love Lesley xx
FROM THE VICARAGE
Continue to Make Prayer a Priority
This time last year I wrote an article for the magazine calling on people to ‘Make
Prayer a Priority”.
This year during the period between Ascension Day and
Pentecost (30th May to 9th June) we are being called again by our Archbishops
to be part of the worldwide movement of PRAYER ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, and so
my simple call is for us all to ‘Continue to Make Prayer a Priority’. Details of
how you can get involved are on the front page of this magazine.
There’s never a bad time to take our cares to God. No matter where we are in our spiritual walk—
whether in a season of distressing hardship or joyful celebration— “in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving [we are to let our] requests be made known to God” (Philippians
Chapter 4 vese 6). Our heavenly Father is always ready, willing, and waiting for us to reach out to
Him, because not only does He listen, but He also wants to speak to us as well.
So let us continue to make prayer a priority in our lives!
FROM THE VICARAGE
The wonder of new life and growth continually fills me with amazement and awe.
Flowers, stems and leaves carefully springing form tiny seeds & bulbs buried in the soil
Huge, towering oak trees from small acorns
Blossom, leaves and fruit ladening previously bare branches
Tadpoles changing into frogs, fluffy chicks into ducks, caterpillars into beautiful butterflies
- Tiny human babies growing into six-foot tall adults.
New life and growth are fundamental for Christians too. Spiritually we are given new life when we put our faith in Jesus Christ: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 17).
We are then to keep changing and growing through the Holy Spirit working in us, so that we become more like Christ, more mature in faith, developing spiritual gifts and fruit, contributing to the building up of the church.
For years I have been challenged by some words on a bookmark that I was given:
“Who you are is God’s gift to you
Who you become is your gift to God.”
God does not want us to stay the same, but to keep growing; His light and beauty getting stronger within us.
As we see the wonder of creation around us, the rich varieties, shades, colours, shapes and textures, let us give thanks for:
The gift of life
The gift of each other
The gift of the Holy Spirit who renews and strengthens us
The new life we can have in Christ, because he died for us.
As we walk through this season of Lent, let us pray that we will go on being changed and becoming like Him:
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians Chapter 3 verse 11)
A message from the Curate
The beginning of a new year can be a funny old time! For some it is full of excitement for plans to come…for some it’s a bleak time where the thought of another year, going through the motions without a loved one just seems so hard…. for some the new year just seems a big anti-climax after all the busyness of Advent and Christmas…the bills are coming in and it’s getting cold!
And yet, we are filled with hope. We hope that this year will be somehow different and perhaps better than the last one. We hope that we can improve our lives for the better…maintain or improve our health…maintain or improve our finances….keep in touch and perhaps enjoy many more happy times with loved ones, friends and family.
As the days become quieter after the busyness of Christmas, we can find ourselves thinking about past times…reflecting on the good and bad bits of our lives. I encourage us to do this and to do it prayerfully. I want to encourage each one of us to look at the health of our relationships with each other. Are they in a good state or do they need some attention? We must also look at the health of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Are we a good disciple or have we lapsed a bit as the years roll by? I think we all might lapse…we all might stray a bit from the straight road…The Way, The Truth and The Life which is Jesus Christ. Life today, no matter what we think, is pressured. There are subtle pressures on us from the media…from our work colleagues…from our friends and families that cause us to get our priorities confused; that maybe cause us to put our relationship with God on the backburner for a while.
This New Year…this month…I urge us to wipe the slate clean, to make a fresh start in our discipleship with Jesus. Let us get our diaries and calendars out and mark dates when we will attend the Bible study group…join the essence group … commit to attend Thursday Morning Prayer once a month….or maybe to attend church every week…….
It’s time to welcome Jesus right back into the centre of our lives again because Jesus is our hope. He is waiting for each one of us
Love Lesley x
FROM the Vicarage……
O come all ye faithful
Christmas should be a time of hope, but all around there are worried faces. There seems to be a lot to be worried about.
Should we be spending this year?
Can we really afford it?
What about Brexit?
What will the New Year bring?
For some the times are really hard. For many the anxieties are strong and real.
If we were offered a quick fix we would wonder where the catch was. If we were hoping that someone would come up with a solution that would make everything alright again, we would also guess that it would be too good to be true. What we need at a time like this is a hope that will keep us going through a long haul, something that keeps us going when things are really tough.
The Christmas carol has got it right, talking in one breath about hopes and fears. That’s the sort of thing we can relate to. Fears that are real, but then hope too. The words come from the first verse of ‘O little town of Bethlehem’:
The hopes & fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
Then it goes on in the next verse:
For Christ is born of Mary
That’s what we will be celebrating this Christmas, and what we will be working out together as we go into 2019. Do join us this Christmas and let’s work alongside each other in 2019.
From the Vicarage
JESUS IS LORD
I don’t know about you – but I love London. One of my unfulfilled dreams is to have enough time, money and energy to explore all of its buildings, courts, history and traditions. Most visitors to London will make sure that they see such historic sites as Westminster Abbey, The Houses of Parliament; Buckingham Palace; St. Paul’s Cathedral; as well as the more modern London Eye.
I have to admit though that I am not a great lover of Westminster Abbey, seeing it much more as a museum than a place of worship. But, for me, St. Paul’s Cathedral is a different story for it is a place of splendour and worship.
Hidden away in one part of the Cathedral is a picture that tells a powerful story. It is the famous picture painted by Holman Hunt entitled ‘The Light of the World’. The writer John Ruskin – writing in The Times on 5th May 1854 described the picture like this:
“On the left-hand side of the picture is seen the door of the human soul. It is locked tight, its bars and nails are rusty, it is knotted and bound to its stanchions by creeping ivy – showing clearly that it has never been opened. A bat hovers over it. Its threshold is overgrown with brambles, nettles and fruitless corn. Jesus Christ approaches it in the night time.”
I wonder – what does this mean for you?
The reality is that today Jesus Christ, as Lord of His church, is coming to claim His rightful place. Sadly today, just as the picture of Christ ‘The Light of the World’ has been placed to one side of St. Paul’s Cathedral, so the person of Jesus Christ as Lord, has been pushed to one side by many people in His church at the present time.
In the book of Revelation, Chapter 3 verses 14-22, we read how God uses that same picture and passage of scripture: ‘The message of the risen Christ’, to convict one local church – the church at Laodicea – and to ask that Christ might have His church back. God uses the same message for the church today – He wants His church back.
Jesus Christ wants a church that acknowledges that He is the Resurrection and the Life. He wants a church that acknowledges – that He is Lord.
Today many churches are governed by the past and its traditions, others are controlled by people seeking position and power.
The confession of the early church had nothing to do with traditions or position. The confession of the early church is a simple affirmation ’Jesus is Lord’. As St. Paul put it when writing to the church at Philippi:
“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father.”
In truth this is one of the most important passages in the New Testament, for in it we read that the aim of God is a day when every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This was the simplest creed and profession of faith of the early church and perhaps we would do well to go back to it.
It is still true today. For if we can say ‘For me Jesus Christ is Lord’ then we are a Christian. For above everything else to be a Christian is to confess that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’. If we can say that then we mean that for us Jesus Christ is unique, and that we are prepared to give him the honour and obedience that we are prepared to give no one else. We may not always be able to put into words everything about our faith and what we believe, BUT as long as there is in our hearts wondering love and trusting obedience – we are a Christian. For in truth Christianity is in the heart and not the mind.
The New Testament records for us the works and ministry of Jesus. For it is His heart to bring God’s peace to all people. The work and ministry of Jesus culminate in His death and resurrection which proclaim more than anything else that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’.
The early church joined in that confession and the church down the years has maintained that witness. There is an urgent need for the church today to join in the same triumphal procession and proclaim and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Our greatest need at St. Peter’s and in this parish is to establish in practice and work out in detail what the Lordship of Christ means in our life together and in our worship.
Again and again the risen Christ speaks to Christians today and speaks to His church telling us ‘that He wants His church back’, for he longs to be restored to His rightful place in our lives and to His rightful place as Lord and Head of the church.
"WORK IN PROGRESS...."
A message from the Curate
You may (or may not!) notice my absence these coming two months………. I am away on a Placement as part of my Training. I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you what my training Includes.
Officially I am ‘Assistant Curate’ to Revd. Martin who, as Incumbent, holds the ‘Cure of Souls’ here at St Peter’s. All Assistant Curates complete three years of training before they are ‘signed off’ by the Bishop. This training comprises the practicalities of Priest craft and Parish ministry but some theoretical / academic study is involved. The holding of a BA or MA in Theology is encouraged and I am presently in my final year of studying for a BA in Theology. The practical training comprises all aspects of the duties of a parish priest, to equip us with the skills needed for the rewarding and at times challenging role of public ministry.
Blackburn Diocese supports Assistant Curates very well and we attend lots of Training Days as well as an annual Residential each year. Every year we study a topic e.g. mission, discipleship, leadership. My Placement is with the West Pendleside churches with Revd. Jonathan Carmyllie and will support my studies in leadership, enabling me to gain experience of ministry in a multi parish Benefice.
The Training for Assistant Curates is referred to as IME2 (Initial Ministerial Education) and is funded entirely by the Diocese. Setting this in context IME1 refers to the training received as an Ordinand, which is funded nationally by the Ministry Division. Training as an Ordinand can be done full time or part time at regional colleges and can take up to three years depending on the study route taken. I worked full time throughout IME1 and trained part time, taking three years to complete.
I have shared my journey with you, but each one of us has our own journey with God. Some of you will have noticed that I am no ‘spring chicken!’ You can do the maths; I was 57 when I started IME1. God doesn’t let our age become a barrier to doing His work and it’s not all about being ordained! God gives each one of us gifts that we can use to bring Him glory and Lay ministry is vitally important for God’s work. Trust God……..
‘For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29: 11)
God loves you and He will sustain you to do His work……
‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4: 11)
The caption states ‘work in progress’. I believe we are all ‘a work in progress’. See you in November.
Love Lesley x
From the Vicarage
The former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly famously said ‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much more important than that!’
As I write for the July/August Magazine the World Cup in Russia is about to begin. The World Cup is a truly global event watched by billions of people on television. This competition illustrates some key points about the Christian life. As St. Paul writes: ‘But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians Chapter 3: 13b & 14).
A prize to be won: The dream of every player in the competition is to be able to hold up The World Cup themselves. For us the prize is eternal life, God’s gift of a relationship with him for now and eternity through Jesus. But there is an important difference between football and the Christian faith. To win the World Cup you have to be good enough, while Christ’s love for us is undeserved and is not dependent on how well we’ve done or how good we are.
Training to be undertaken: If a team is going to win the World Cup, they have to train beforehand. Our training as Christians starts the moment we accept the gift of God’s life. On a daily basis, we should train ourselves to say no to the wrong things in our life. As we build up our godly muscles we are better able to choose to do what is right in God’s eyes. To enable us to do all this we need to engage in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, studying the Bible (both individually and with others) and being part of the church as we worship together week by week.
So as the World Cup takes place let me ask you, How is your training going?
A message from the Curate
When I last wrote I asked us to think of our own gospel story. The word ‘gospel’ is from the Old English word godspel and means ‘glad tidings announced by Jesus from God “good” and spel meaning “story, message”. Going further back, this originates from the Greek word euangelion meaning “reward for bringing good news” I also sought a response for us to share our stories with each other.
Some of us find this difficult…..we get embarrassed or think we have to use fancy or theological words and phrases……or maybe we think we don’t have a story that’s good enough!?
I put it to us……that we each have a story that is indeed good enough! A story of how God is at work in our lives. It may be recent…it may be a while ago but it is something to share. God is at work in all our lives. Sometimes we don’t realise it until after. Sometimes the story or word from someone else helps us to see it. Sometimes that word or story from someone else draws us and them closer to Jesus. This is our reward; we help grow God’s Kingdom
So I ask the question again ‘What is your gospel story? What is your good news about Jesus?’
I’d like to ask you this month, to write it down and put it in an envelope addressed for my attention. If I am not around, please leave your envelope with Martin or a Warden. You can remain anonymous if you like. It would be good to have them in before July and I will gather our stories and produce a booklet or display for us….it will be a source of inspiration and also prayer for us all as we journey together.
Here are some prompts to help you:
What was going on in your life at the time?
How did it feel at the time?
What difference did it make to you or others?
What did you learn about God?
If you just can’t write it down, please tell it to someone and ask if they will write it down for you.
It is important that we witness to our faith, not just by coming to church but by actually speaking openly about what it means to us to be a Christian and the difference knowing Jesus makes in our life. If we are to do this, we need to first recognise our own gospel story.
Love Lesley x
FROM the Vicarage……
Make Prayer a Priority
During the period between Ascension Day and Pentecost (10th to 20th May) we are being called by our Archbishops to be part of the worldwide movement of PRAYER ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, details of how you can get involved are on the front page of this magazine.
In his book Disciplines of a Godly Man, minister and writer R. Kent Hughes says: ‘Jay Sidlow Baxter once shared a page of his own personal diary with a group of church leaders who had inquired about the discipline of prayer. He began telling how…he entered the ministry determined he would be a real man of prayer. However, it wasn’t long before his increasing responsibilities, administrative duties, and the subtle subterfuge of pastoral life began to crowd prayer out. Moreover, he began to get used to it, making excuses for himself. Then one morning it all came to a head as he stood over his work-strew desk and looked at his watch. The voice of the Spirit was calling him to pray. At the same time another velvety voice was telling him to be practical and get his letters answered, and he ought to face the fact that he wasn’t one of the “spiritual sort” – only a few people could be like that. “That last remark,” says Baxter, “hurt like a dagger blade. I couldn’t bear to think that it was true.” He was horrified by his ability to rationalize away the very ground of his ministerial viability and power.’
We need to think about this and to understand that: minutes invested in prayer will give a greater return than hours spend in ceaseless activity. The New Testament apostles understood that. As the church grew bigger and they became busier, they made a life-changing decision: ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and…the word.’ (Acts Chapter 6 verse 4) As a result the church grew and multiplied.
So let us make prayer a priority in our lives!
A message from the Curate
What’s your favourite Gospel? What is your Gospel story?
I recall on my local Bishop’s Advisory Panel in September 2012, Bishop Geoff asked me which was my favourite Gospel and I had found it difficult to pinpoint one. All three Synoptics are similar yet different and John just is……...... different!! As an Ordinand, hours were spent looking at source criticism, who wrote what and when; why they wrote it; how accurate it is and what message did the writer want to convey about Jesus. More hours were spent investigating Jesus or as it is called ‘The Quest of the Historical Jesus’. Did you know there were three Quests; the third one started in the 1980’s? All this talk of Quests sounded to me like an Indiana Jones film!
Whilst it’s important to know this detail as a Priest, at the end of the day, for me and for many of us it’s about faith….that leap into the unknown….that step of uncertainty yet feeling and knowing deep inside that the Jesus I know…… the Jesus you know….. the Jesus we all know is the Jesus for us. Jesus meets us exactly where we need Him, exactly at the right place for each and every one of us. A particular Gospel will perhaps resonate with us but I think we could all write our own gospel; we each could tell our own story of the Jesus we know and love.
As we enjoy Easter week, please take time to think about your favourite Gospel, why it is so but also what your gospel story would be. It would be great to share our stories.
Love Lesley xx
From the Vicarage
Out of the comfort zone
What is a comfort zone?
The dictionary definition says:-
A situation where one feels safe or at ease.
A settled method of working that requires little effort and yields only barely acceptable results.
Two of our biggest fears are failure and criticism. We can overcome them, but they never go away, and they show up when we face our next challenge. It’s in accepting fear as part of life’s journey instead of running away from it, that we learn to conquer it. If we look back at the times in our lives when we’ve overcome fear, we realize that we have actually grown stronger through it.
When did you last step out of your comfort zone to do something for God? It’s not easy, believe me, but God says in Isaiah 41 v 10 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
How, then, can we fail, when we have God , the creator of the universe, on our side? We fail when we don’t put our trust in Him, and we try to do things in our own strength. Knowing we can’t do things in our own strength, we prefer to stay in our comfort zone, stagnating.
When the children of Israel encountered difficulties in the wilderness, they wanted to return to their old life of slavery in Egypt. The security of what they had known was less threatening to them than the challenges of the unknown. So the Lord said to them, not once, but twice, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid, for the Lord, your God, goes with you. He will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31 v6
It’s in taking action that we overcome our fears! When we challenge our fears, we master them. When we wrestle with our problems, they lose their grip on us.
Almost without exception, every man and woman in the Bible whom God called to do great things, felt inadequate, and told him so. And God’s response? “I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41 v 10
We are all at different stages on our journey of faith, and we all face opportunities or obstacles on that journey. Whatever we are facing today, we MUST keep God at the center, for with Him on our side, what we HAVE is always greater than what we LACK.
So may I encourage you, as you journey with Him, to STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE in faith, and do the work that God has called each one of us to – to witness for Him and share His love with all.
A message from the Curate
A question: ’What matters to you?’
I ask this and hope you will give it a fair bit of thought time. Why? Because this month, Wednesday 14th February is a significant date for two reasons…….
1. Wednesday 14th February is Ash Wednesday and Lent begins
2. Wednesday 14th February is Valentine’s Day
I wonder if either of the above has any greater significance or importance in our lives or if perhaps none hold any great meaning for us…..
Another question…’Who do you love?’
In our Communion service we hear the Summary of the Law read ‘The Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength’
Our answer to the question should be simple – ‘we love the Lord our God, for all that He has and continues to do for us…for His Grace in our lives’.
Our Lent focus is on Stewardship. Stewardship can be defined as ‘the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving’ but what does Stewardship look like in our lives today as Christians? Unfortunately, many Christians today only associate the idea of Stewardship with sermons they have heard about, church budgets and building programs. Whilst it is important to consider finances we must also consider how we manage our time, our possessions and our environment. Christian Stewardship and Christian giving work hand in hand. Generosity is one of the primary ways in which Christians evidence the fruit of the Spirit at work in their lives.
As Stewards of God we are managers of that which belongs to God, and we are under His constant authority as we administer His affairs. Faithful Stewardship means that we fully acknowledge we are not our own but belong to Christ, the Lord, who gave Himself for us. Most importantly Stewardship is our obedient witness to God’s sovereignty…and it’s what should motivate us as Disciples of Christ to move into action…it involves proclaiming the Gospel truth!
The ultimate question, then, is this: ‘Am I the lord of my life, or is Christ the Lord of my life?’ In essence, Stewardship expresses our total obedience to God and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
I look forward to seeing you on Ash Wednesday as we rightly acknowledge that it is God that matters to us; it is God whom we love…..the romantic Valentine’s Day meal can be eaten on another day!
Love Lesley x
IMMANUEL GOD WITH US
As we approach Christmas many of us can’t help thinking about the days after. All too often they can look rather bleak. All the effort that goes into making Christmas work seems suddenly to be hardly worth it.
Most of us manage to pull ourselves together, shake off the blue, and carry on with the preparations.
But what if we accepted that our celebrations are often much effort for too little return. Perhaps it could help us to take stock of the things that are important and make some changes. It make a real difference to Christmas if we could let the spiritual side have a bigger part in all that we do.
Our celebrations in church help us to put Christmas in focus. The spiritual heart of the season can be seen and we can go beyond a baby in a manger to touch on the mysteries of God’s love for us and for his world.
Come and help us mark this
Christmas with a new depth.
A message from the Curate
It’s that time of year again when our thoughts turn to remembrance and to those loved ones we have lost and no longer see. Bereavement is like a maze, with twists and turns that can drive us to despair. Will we ever feel ‘normal’ or ‘right’ again?
The word ‘bereaved’ is emotive and the Collins dictionary defines ‘bereave’ as ‘to foil by (of), to deprive (of) something or someone valued, esp. through death’ and the Chambers dictionary goes further by stating it is ‘to rob of anything valued; to deprive; to snatch away.’ Bereavement is clearly more than just ‘goodbye’. It’s an unwelcome loss of someone or something that is precious.
Bereavement is a mixture of triumph and tragedy, hope and despair, joy and sorrow. This difficult balance is best shown in the story of Jesus and his friend Lazarus who died. When Jesus arrived at the home of Lazarus, one of the dead man’s sisters, Martha reprimanded Jesus saying that if Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died. Jesus offers Martha words of hope that are used at the beginning of many funerals ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’ These are wonderful words of hope and assurance but we need to also note what Jesus did next…….. John 11: 35 ‘Jesus wept.’
Experts tell us that the grief which follows bereavement has various stages to it. We are told these are denial, shock, numbness, emptiness, anger, grief, depression and finally acceptance. We are also told that we progress through these stages in no specific order or time frame. Grief is a very personal and individual matter and like Jesus we too will weep.
The day to day business of coping with loss is such a personal matter and although everyone treads the same pathway to recovery, we experience it differently. No matter what stage you may be in grief or how long ago you lost that special person, please come to our annual Service of Comfort and Christian Hope at 6.30pm on 5th November. Come and light a candle and spend time remembering and giving thanks for the life of someone who touched yours with their love.
If you can’t make the service, do come forward when prayer is offered after Communion on a Sunday and please know that the church is open every day for you to come in.…to sit….to find solace. Jesus Christ, who understands your pain, stands at your side in Love.
Love Lesley x
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……
PLAN THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER…
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