Editorial – May 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby David Bent; Team Rector

I doubt that there has been a time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 or the nuclear stand-off between Thatcher, Reagan and the USSR in the 1980s when St Paul’s instructions to Timothy have been more relevant to us. St Paul wrote, “I urge that petitions, prayers, requests, and  thanksgivings be offered to God for all people; for kings and all others who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceful life with all reverence toward God and with proper conduct.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

The list of troubled areas and tensions around the world seems to grow each day. They include Syria and the involvement of America and Russia, North Korea and the involvement of America and China, famine in Africa, terrorism in Europe and religious persecution, most recently reported in Egypt. Then there is the General Election in the UK and the following Brexit negotiations. All of this could strike fear in our hearts. Alternatively it could encourage us to put our faith in our sovereign God and to pray.

We shouldn’t actually be surprised at the situations around the world. When Jesus was asked by his disciples about his return and about the end of the world, he said this, “You are going to hear the noise of battles close by and the news of battles far away; but do not be troubled. Such things must happen, but they do not mean that the end has come.” (Matthew 24:6) Elsewhere Jesus encourages a very upbeat response to world events, “In this world you will have trouble, but cheer up! I have overcome the world”. (John 16:26)

The world has been living in the end times since Jesus ascended to heaven two thousand years ago. He will return one day. In the mean time we, the church, are called to tell others the Good News of Jesus here and around the world, and to pray, as Paul instructs, for all people and especially “for kings and all others who are in authority.”

How do we pray? There are many ways! We can simply hold individual leaders or situations before God. We could use Paul’s words, “that we may live a quiet and peaceful life with all reverence toward God and with proper conduct” or we could use words from the Old Testament such as, “Let justice flow like rivers and righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:24) or “What does the Lord require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

However we choose to, let us pray, and let us be of good cheer!

Editorial – April 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

Dear Friends,

Easter the most special time in the Christian calendar. It’s not all about eggs, though you would think it was looking around, especially in the shops. Have you spent any time recently just looking around you at the surroundings in the gardens? There are signs of spring unfolding in the new life and fresh growth, which reflects what we celebrate at Easter, though this is still not the real reason behind Easter.

I wonder how you will remind yourself about the uniqueness of this time and the real reason for Easter? How will you celebrate Jesus rising from the dead and continuing to live in our world today through you and me?

We have a huge responsibility to portray our faith, both through our words and through our actions. We need to publicly declare our faith; we cannot take it for granted that they will hear otherwise. Many around us will not know what Easter is about unless we tell them.

Easter is the time for Christians the world over to recharge their batteries and celebrate the wonder of the resurrection. Why not invite others to join with you in someway, perhaps invite them to come to Church with you on Easter Sunday, or buy an extra Easter Egg or a nice plant with plenty of buds to give away.

But Easter does not end on Easter Day; officially it goes on for six weeks until Pentecost (Whit Sunday), when God sent the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised. For the first followers of Jesus, Easter Sunday was only the beginning of a whole new life.

It’s the same for each one of us, as we are reminded of the new start we are given when we really mean we are sorry for the mistakes that we make in our daily lives and know that we are forgiven all because of God’s great sacrifice of giving his Son Jesus to die on the cross for us and to rise again. The children’s song reminds us it does not end there.

God’s not dead No he is alive
God’s not dead No he is alive
God’s not dead No he is alive
Can feel him in my feet
Can feel in my hands
Can feel him in my heart
Jesus is alive today Yes.

Editorial – March 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Rev. Philip Barringer, Pioneer Minister

Leviticus is probably one of the least read books in the bible, perhaps because it’s one of the most difficult. It’s endless lists of rules and regulations relating to the ritualistic, sacrificial life and worship of the Israelites, means it reads a bit like the combination of an Act of Parliament and a Health and Safety manual – not exactly a glowing recommendation!

Throughout, however, there are to be found the golden thread of God’s love, grace and mercy. These qualities, when woven into the fabric of our own lives and the corporate life of our churches and nation create attractive and alluring communities; places where people want to be and to belong. One example of this can be found in chapter 19 v9-10:

“When you reap the harvest of your land do not reap to the very
edges of your fields or gather the gleanings of your harvest…Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God”.

Written to a people who lived off the land, the idea of leaving a strip of crops around the edge of their fields for the foreigner and the poor to harvest, is a picture of generosity, hospitality and faith. Rather than seeking to maximise the return, it looks to provide out of the harvest that has been produced and does so in a way that allows the foreigner into their land and the needy to gather for themselves rather than receiving handouts.

Fast forward to the book of Ruth, we see this in practice and the result is a compelling love story that produces a dynasty of kings and a lineage of blessing that reaches its climax in the person of Jesus, the ultimate expression of God’s love, mercy and grace. Ruth and Boaz are great, great grandparents of King David and are named in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:5).

In the age of Brexit and Trump, immigration and controlling access to our borders is one of the hot topics. This passage speaks a timely reminder of our godly responsibility not to neglect the needy and the foreigner but to make provision for them in ways that uphold their dignity.

In a world that is constantly looking to get more from less, this passage challenges us to live counter-culturally and leave sufficient capacity for others – not to cram life so full that there is no space or time, but to leave space around the edges in which others can dwell and flourish; not to spend all we have on ourselves, but to be generous with what God has blessed us with, so that, within the borders of our lives and influence, others can find a place of safety, refuge and sustenance and thereby experience the love, grace and mercy of God.

Lent is a time when people often give things up, this year rather than giving up chocolate or cakes why not give up something that makes space around the edges of your life that allows others to come in and be blessed.

 

Editorial – Feb 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby David Bent, Team Rector

Why do we all find it so difficult to say ‘Sorry’? Maybe it’s because so much of our identity is tied up in us needing to be right in order to be accepted. Or maybe it’s because we fear punishment for our mistakes. But we all do things wrong, or fail to do things right. And yet saying sorry can be such a liberating experience as we are finally able to stop pretending to ourselves and to others that things are what they’re not and then, maybe, to start addressing the real issues behind our mistakes; the fears and insecurities which we try so hard to hide.

Saying sorry for the things we have done wrong is one thing, but what about saying sorry for things we haven’t actually done ourselves? As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation: the Christian movement that restored the centrality of the scriptures to the Christian church and with it the centrality of salvation through faith in Jesus, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are expressing remorse for the atrocities that accompanied the reformation, the brutal executions of Catholics in the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Is there value in the apologies of people who were not involved, 500 years after the event?

A similar question has been asked much closer to home, about the ’Battle of Orgreave’ in June 1984. Is there anything to be gained by raking over the past rather than letting sleeping dogs lie? Many activists think there is; the Government thinks otherwise.

Debates and arguments will continue, while life goes on in both the Catholic and Protestant churches as well as at Waverley, the former home of the Orgreave pit. But we should not underestimate the strength of the spiritual chains that hold us to the past. At the heart of the Christian faith is forgiveness and reconciliation, first between us and God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and then between us and our fellow men and women. Forgiveness breaks the chains and brings freedom, But forgiveness must be preceded by ’Sorry’ if we are to all find true freedom.

It was by working out this theology in practice in South Africa, that the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ made enormous strides to bring healing to a country torn apart by apartheid. Interestingly, while South Africa had a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, Orgreave has a ‘Truth and Justice Campaign’. I wonder how significant are the different names?

The journey to true freedom has to start with acknowledging the truth. It continues as we say sorry for our involvement, or the involvement of those we represent. It is then that we discover God’s forgiveness, find
reconciliation and discover the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Editorial – Jan 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

The New Year 2017 has just begun. Well, to be honest it’s only the 14th December 2016 as I write this but, as normal, some things need to be planned in advance.

We all look forward to various things that are going to happen, and some of these will need thought and planning. I wonder what you are thinking about and planning at the beginning of this New Year? Perhaps you have a big birthday coming up, or a special anniversary, or a holiday that you have planned.

Maybe there is nothing special on the horizon at the minute, but one thing is certain, time will not stop and before we know it will be 2018!

As Christians we have the assurance that God has a plan for our lives, and that he wants the very best for us. I wonder if in 2016 we failed to recognise his presence, or neglected to acknowledge his plans for us? Perhaps we left things undone that needed to be sorted out with Him. If so, this new year might be a good time to start again.

This is the season of new beginnings, as we say good bye to the old and welcome in the new. New Year’s resolutions may be made.
Personally it’s not something that I do as, sadly, I don’t manage to keep the ones that I make. If change needs to be made, it comes at any time of the year when my mind is made up and determined.

So, however you tackle change in your life in 2017, be open to God and to yourself about how you are going to do it; God waits for us to talk to him. And be aware of God’s presence with you in 2017 as he works out his plans and purposes for your life.

I keep going back to God’s words from Jeremiah (29:11)

I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Happy New Year to you all!

Editorial – Dec 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby David Bent, Team Rector

With political uncertainty at home and abroad, with hostile forces occupying foreign lands and with a growing gulf between the rich and the poor, the world of today has similarities with the world at the time of Jesus’ birth, two thousand years ago.

At that time Israel was occupied by forces of the Roman Empire who demanded taxes and who ruled through their puppet King, Herod The Great. Herod was an insecure tyrant. He indulged in vast building projects to satisfy his own ego. He ordered the deaths of many baby boys and had his favourite wife and three of his sons murdered, all because he was afraid they posed a threat to his power.

It was into this world that God did the unexpected, Jesus was born. A tiny light shining in the darkness. A vulnerable baby who would be both Prince of Peace and King of kings. A child refugee who would grow into a man whose teachings would become the foundation of world cultures. A man who would die on a cross for our salvation.

And so today. With uncertainty here over Brexit, and in America over their next government, with civil war in Syria, mass migration and political unrest across the Middle East and with the global threat of terrorism, there are similarities. But the security of the world does not depend on the relationship between NATO and the USA or on the political aspirations of Russia or China, but on the will of God, the work of the peacemakers and the prayers of God’s people. Nor does the future of our economy depend on trade with Europe, America or the emerging economies, it depends on God’s abundance and God’s provision.

At a time when Leicester win the Premier League, Britain votes to leave Europe and America elects Trump as its next president, it seems that the unpredictable becomes the predictable and that life has become much less certain. And it is in this uncertain world that God is still doing the unexpected. Jesus is being born anew in hearts and lives around the world, a light shining in the darkness, the promise of hope and peace.

The Christian faith reminds us that God is still sovereign, that he is still working out his purposes, and that we have Good News to tell to a waiting world until the day when Jesus returns. And what better time is there to tell this Good News than at Christmas when, in spite of all the commercialism and secularism, we are still celebrating the birth of the Son of God? Let us use every opportunity we have at this time to tell out again the Good News of Christmas, the birth of the Saviour of the world.

Editorial – Nov 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Helen Bent, Associate Vicar

As I write, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first grandchild and Rachel and Nick are about to become parents for the first time. I have already taken great pleasure in knitting items for the new baby and I am excited at the prospect of meeting this precious little one in person.

In the Old Testament, the home and family were of great importance. Having received the Ten Commandments, Moses instructed the Israelites to pass them on. “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronomy 6: 7-8) We give Children’s Bibles to our baptism families to encourage them to read scripture to their children. And now we have T-shirts printed with Bible verses or plastic W.W.J.D.– What would Jesus do? bracelets. Whatever method we use, it is vitally important to teach our children and grandchildren the basics of the faith, which have been carefully handed down from one generation to the next.

In the New Testament we read about Timothy, his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice, and the “sincere faith” that had been handed down to Timothy through the witness and care of these two godly women. It thrills me when I look around the church Sunday by Sunday and see three or four generations of the same family worshipping together.

In this coming month, our children will learn about ‘gunpowder, treason and plot’, and families will enjoy bonfires and firework displays together. Our children will find out something about war and remember fallen and wounded servicemen and women. Some children will experience the Act of Remembrance at a war memorial for the first time, perhaps planting a small wooden cross adorned with a poppy beside the council wreaths.

Throughout the Bible, the Israelites were encouraged to remember the God of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In their festival of Passover, they recalled their deliverance from Egypt and their escape through the Red Sea. They passed on stories of the mighty acts of God and important patterns of worship and prayer to each new generation.

Remembering is important, because history repeats itself, for good or for ill. As parents and grandparents, we too have a responsibility for the next generations. In this Remembrance-tide, let us encourage our children to remember, not only the treachery of Guy Fawkes and the horror of World Wars, but also significant stories of faith, and God’s mighty deeds today.

Editorial – Oct 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

This is the time of year when many Churches will be celebrating Harvest. Growing up in a country village, it was always a very special time for me when nearly everyone came together to say those two little words THANK YOU, especially for all the locally produced food that people had grown in their gardens. The theme of creation was very much at the fore.

What do those words mean? The dictionary says THANK YOU is a conventional expression of gratitude. As Christians at Harvest, we come to say THANK YOU to God for providing all that he does for us. Over the years harvest has come to express THANK YOU for everything that we are provided with to live on this earth.

I wonder if it is the only time in the year that we focus on saying THANK YOU to God? These two small words can mean so much to anyone who receives them. I really do feel encouraged when folk say THANK YOU to me even though I don’t always feel that it needs to be said. Perhaps we should do it more often!

So, this month I would like to encourage us all to think about what we can say THANK YOU for, it might help first to make a list of all the things that are provided for us day by day, week by week and then think of the people behind those things; I know the list will be very long. Then make an effort to say THANK YOU for as many of them as you can. And don’t forget to say THANK YOU to God a little more often.

Dear heavenly Father, I want to thank You so, for always being with me wherever I may go.

For being my true lamp, my life, my way, my light, for the tender mercy You send me day or night.

For giving me refuge, under Your mighty wings, for the stillness I have in the storms life brings.

For being my Rock, the anchor of my trust, for always being loving, gracious, kind and just.

Dear heavenly Father, every day is a ‘Thank You’ day, and I’m so very thankful for all You send my way.

Editorial Sept 2016

by David Bent; Team Rector

Recent terrorist attacks in France designed, by their nature, to strike fear into the hearts of ordinary people, have shocked the world, both by their randomness, as on the streets of Nice, and by their specific targeting, as in the church in St Etienne. Our hearts go out to all the those who have been hurt or bereaved as we struggle to imagine what they are going through, and how they can recover from such events. We pray that they find peace and comfort from God in these times and hope for the future.

Living in fear is not just a response to terrorism though, it can also be a response to illness; when every ache and pain, lump and bump is potentially cancer, or to disaster; when every phone call after 10.00 pm is potentially bad news. Fear is a weapon being used by terrorists to try to undermine society. But fear need not be our response, as we have seen on the streets of France, with the banners proclaiming ‘Not Afraid’ and the people still going about their normal lives.

There have been many reasons to fear throughout history, whether it is fear of war, persecution, famine, plague or flood. But as Christians we should not be living in fear, for there are also countless reasons not to be afraid. Fear has never prevented Christians sharing their faith. One of the most common phrases used by God in the bible is ‘Fear not’. ‘Fear not’ he says, ‘for I am with you’, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you’, ‘Fear not, for I bring you good news’, ‘Fear not, I will do great things’, ‘Fear not, for I will not forsake you.’
There will be troubles and problems in life; we would be foolish to expect anything different. But we are not called to live in fear but to live in hope. Jesus died to overcome the power of sin, of sickness and of death, and we live in the certain hope that God is working out his purposes, both in this life and in the life to come.

Fear must be worse if we live as if this life is all that there is and that ultimately we are on our own. But if we believe that this life is only a shadow of the glories to come, and that we are not on our own but are part of a great fellowship of believers throughout history who will one day be united with Jesus in heaven, then surely we can live in hope and not fear.

If we live as a people of hope, then we can start to share that hope with those of our fellow travellers who are living in fear. We can also pray for our world and for our communities as King David encouraged his people: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you prosper. May there be peace inside your walls and safety in your palaces.” (Psalm 122:6-7).

Editorial – Aug 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Revd. Philip Barringer – Pioneer Minister

This month Rio will host the games of the 31st Olympiad, and more than 10,500 athletes from over 200 nations will compete for 306 sets of medals across 28 different sports.

It barely seems possible that four years have passed since Olympic fever engulfed us as London hosted the games and team GB accumulated 185 medals including 63 gold in the Olympics and Paralympics.

A wave of positive feeling swept across the country and thousands turned out for a triumphal open top bus procession through the streets of London.

Triumphal processions have a long history. In the days of the Roman Empire, generals who had successfully completed a foreign campaign were often awarded a ‘Triumph’, in which they would process their troops through the streets of Rome and display the spoils of war, including those who had been taken captive, as a demonstration of the victory they had won.

This image is picked up in 2 Corinthians as Paul writes “…thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.” 2 Cor:2v14.

In Jesus’ triumphal procession, however, it is not those that have been captured that are paraded, but those who have been released. On the cross Jesus’ won the ultimate victory, defeating all that can separate us from God, even death itself. That victory sets us free to live fully and completely as we are meant to be, and we are invited to join the parade. We are a demonstration of that victory, and join the celebration, spreading a wave of good news to all parts of the world. We get to ride the open top bus! But unlike an Olympic procession or a Roman Triumph, it’s not about what we have won, but has been won on our behalf.

As you watch the Olympics and bask in the reflected glory of what hopefully will be another great medal haul by Team GB, may it serve as a reminder to join Paul in giving thanks to God “who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

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