Rogation days, were at one time an occasion of prayer and fasting instituted by the Church to appease God's anger at man's transgressions, to ask protection in calamities, and to obtain a good and bountiful harvest. The Rogation Days are usually around the 5th Sunday of Easter (this year it is 17th May). Rogation came at that time of year when the dawn chorus and beautiful sunrises recall the Resurrection, and, looking about, we cannot escape the beauty of creation in a world of spring bursting with divine Love. There is a freshness in the air, a newness in the sunlight, an awaking of beauty in places one would never seek
The advent of Spring is the surest promise of life after death, of resurrection even though all seems dead and the world is caught in the withered hands of winter, life will win through. Corvid virus has had us in its icy grip and many have died and many have been dreadfully ill. However through all of this there has been a sense of community, a sense of people working together and loving one another. We need to applaud those who selflessly worked in our hospitals, in the care homes, in the homes of those who need support. Even though the virus caused the death of carers and medics alike the rest carried on, their sense of duty and care pushing them forward. We also need to applaud our police and ambulance workers and firemen who have carried on regardless. In fact so many shop workers who turned up for work knowing they were exposing themselves to the possibility of infection. Don’t forget also our government who have tried to do the right thing and shepherd the country through unprecedented times. And finally those volunteers in all our communities who have taken responsibility in looking after their neighbours.
This world disaster has, on the whole, brought out the best in people and I want to applaud that. When this is all over are we going to carry on caring in these significant ways or will we forget? I have felt the connectedness of the community over the past weeks.
The future is still uncertain we have a way to go but as we travel from Spring into summer remember this time, how we all pulled together, worked for one another, appreciated one another and keep that in mind for when all is well once more.
Keep well, keep safe you are all in my prayers David
On 3rd March 2006 the Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared on Michael Parkinson’s TV programme and, when pressed, said that he believed that in the end God would judge him for his actions. According to the media the whole nation raised its hands in horror! TV newscasters reported on the great danger that the nation would be in if the Prime Minister made decisions according to Christian principles, and on the offence that his words would give to those of other faiths. After about 12 hours of this when the sky didn’t fall in and another world war didn’t start, it all quietened down although there were still those op-posed to God or the Prime Minister, or both, who distorted the remark that he had made. It all goes to show what a mess our society is in about religion in general, and Christianity in particular.
It seems as if we are being persuaded that it’s not quite the thing to be a Christian – if you are you had better keep quiet about it. It might be just alright to admit to it at Christmas with the baby and the angels and the shepherds – but now we are approaching Holy Week which is about a cross and nails and blood and death – followed by an incredible miracle of a crucified man rising from death and about a promise of eternal life to all people. Society isn’t com-fortable with those who recognise or celebrate that – it’s much safer to think that Easter is about bonnets and bunnies and eggs; and possibly hot cross buns, although there are those who would prefer the buns without the cross.
“We don’t do God!” said Alistair Campbell in an effort to stop the Prime Minis-ter talking about his faith. In a so-called multi-cultural society it is assumed that a kind of neutrality is obtained by not mentioning God at all – by present-ing a world without God: but that is atheism. Atheism is not neutral ground. It is an extreme position – every bit as extreme as a particular religious stance – indeed the great religions of the world have more in common with each other than they do with atheism.
During the early days of the Church in the Roman Empire, Christians were said to be “enemies of the human race”. They met in secret – so people didn’t know what they did or what they believed; ignorance led to fear, and fear led to hatred and persecution. We haven’t got to that stage now, thank God, but the recent event has shown that there are those who fear Christians who act on their beliefs. The risen Christ commanded us to proclaim the gospel to the world. We need to take that command quite literally. We need to show the world that Christians are “lovers of the human race”, that we are not opposed to happiness and laughter, that we are not opposed to all the discoveries that sci-ence has made about God’s world, and that our belief is reasonable.
I wish you all a very Holy Week and a very joyful Easter
What is local ministry?
Local Ministry is the name given to a new way of recognising and encouraging the importance of leadership within the life of each church and congregation. In this diocese they are to be called Local Ministers. In the new, emerging model of ministry that is developing it is envisioned that each church will be led by one or more Local Ministers. Local Ministers are the ‘go to’ people in a particular local congregation who, supported by the vicar, provide leadership and oversee the mission and pastoral care in each church. The detailed nature of their role will vary from place and place and should reflect the nature of both the church and it's community. Local Ministers are ‘ever present’ people who provide leadership and care, particularly in situations where the rector, (That’s me) has over-sight of several churches or congregations.
In this benefice we are gradually introducing local ministers, these people need not be ordained. They will be the people who keep a look out over the parish to make sure parishioners are well and to let me know what is happening. They will be a part of the community and take some of the burden off the churchwar-den’s role. I would still be in charge but the Local Ministers will be my eyes and ears.
As for services these will carry on as normal and where the local minister is ordained they will take services but not all the services because I would want to keep in touch with you all. Our villages so far have had such people identified these are Rebecca Artiss in Monk Soham, Chrissie Smart in Bedfield and David Mulrenan in Tannington. Having a Local Minister does not mean the rector has no contact in the village, far from it, having a Local Minister means I will have a better idea as to where my energies will be put to best use.
I encourage you to use these people and give them your support.
David Burrell (rector)
Happy New Year!
The start of a new year is always a good time for taking stock of our lives and making plans, though this year we will all have to consider what changes Brexit may bring. As in all things, there will be winners and losers. I was reminded of this after the recent election when, the following day there were scenes of jubilation alongside scenes of dejection and sadness. This has ever been the case in elections, as in life in general, for some, a time to weep and for others a time to laugh (Ecclesiastes 3.4) and I daresay it will always be the case in this life. Jesus gives us hope through a very famous sermon, called ‘the sermon on the mount’ (Matthew 5). In essence, he says that he is going right the wrongs and make all things just and equal. The first few verses to me, are the most profound:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
In the period before Christmas – Advent, or ‘the coming’ we not only celebrate the coming of Jesus in his birth, but we look for the second coming when Jesus will return and bring about the Kingdom of heaven where there is no inequality just love, joy and harmony. Imagine a world where there is no need for elections or referendums, no politics and no-one jostles for first position without consideration of anyone else! As we approach this period of uncertainty pray for each other and if you are a winner, remember those who have not fared so well and ask yourself: ‘what can I do to level the playing field? What can I do to realise Jesus promise and bring the Kingdom of God nearer?
With my prayers and best wishes, Ron
September is sometimes thought of as the last gasp of summer and at the tail end of September comes Michaelmas Day. This is the feast of Saint Michael and all angels, celebrated on 29 September. St. Michael was the Angel who hurled Lucifer (the devil) down from Heaven for his treachery. Traditionally, it is the last day of the harvest season and is around this time that many Harvest Festivals are celebrated.
Michaelmas used to be the day on which the winter night curfew began. The curfew took the form of a tolling of the church bell, usually one strike for each of the days of the month and was generally rung at 9pm. The word curfew may derive from the French word couvre feu, meaning 'cover fire'. Curfew was the time when household fires were supposed to be doused and all good Christian folk tucked up in their beds. The bell was tolled every night, apart from Sunday, until Shrove Tuesday.
Michaelmas Day is also called Goose Day. Goose Fairs are still held in some English towns, but geese are no longer sold. A famous Michaelmas fair is the Nottingham Goose Fair which is now held on or around 3rd October. A Great custom in England was to dine on goose at Michaelmas. One reason for this was said to be that Queen Elizabeth I was eating goose when news of the defeat of the Armada was brought to her. In celebration she said that henceforth she would always eat goose on Michaelmas Day.
On the day after Michaelmas, every year agricultural labourers presented themselves, along with their tools, at the nearest market town. There they offered themselves for hire for the coming year. A fair followed the hiring’s and this was called a 'Mop Fair' where much riotous goings on occurred. This was so called because those offering themselves for hire would wear a symbol of their trade in their lapel and these were called mops.
Folklore in England holds that the devil stamps on bramble bushes or as they say in some areas, spits on them. Therefore one must not pick blackberries after Michaelmas.
The reason for this belief has ancient origins. It was said that the devil was kicked out of heaven on St Michael's Feast Day, but as he fell from the skies, he landed in a bramble bush! He cursed the fruit of that prickly plant, scorching them with his fiery breath, stamping on them, spitting on them and generally making them unsuitable for human consumption. Legend suggests he renews his curse annually on Michaelmas Day and therefore it is very unlucky to gather blackberries after that date.
The Christian tradition is to honour Michael who caries his burning sword and defends the church against evil and promotes what is right. However you celebrate Michaelmas remember Michael prevailed over Satan, evil was overcome by good, love flourished over hate and joy replaced the agents of sorrow. Happy Michaelmas. David
Dear friends, August 2019 When attending a Holy Communion service, you will mostly see the priest wearing a distinctive garment unlike anything in modern-day fashion. Typically, it has some sort of embellishment or symbol on it, and comes in several different colours. What is it and why do priests still wear them? Since ancient times, whenever priests celebrated Holy Communion they would put on a large poncho-like garment called a casula (chasuble) that covered their ordinary clothing. This vestment developed from the ordinary Roman attire of a farmer, who wore the large poncho to protect him from the elements. It eventually became associated with Christians in the 3rd century. As the fashion trends shifted the chasuble ceased to be an ordinary garment but was still used by priests. By the 8th century the chasuble was reserved for clergy members and began to be ornamented in a way that reflected its sacred function. At first the chasuble was large and bulky, and required the help of other attendants at the liturgy to gather the many folds to better facilitate the movements of the priest. Over time it was cut down in shape, most extreme in the case of the “fiddleback” style chasuble during the last few centuries. The symbolism of the chasuble can be found expressed in the traditional prayer that a priest prays before putting it on. O Lord, who has said, “My yoke is sweet and my burden light,” grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace. The chasuble is seen as the “yoke of Christ” and reminds priests that they are “another Christ” in the celebration of Holy Communion and to “put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:24). Additionally, the chasuble symbolizes the “seamless garment” worn by Christ when he was led to his crucifixion. This further accentuates the connection between the priest, the Eucharist, and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. A common ornamentation of the chasuble is a large cross on the back or front of the vestment to further cement the symbolism. The color of this vestment is coordinated with the symbolic colour of the liturgical season or feast. Although ornate and sometimes very grand looking, the chasuble is seen as a dressing down of the priest. A humbling. Very far away from “dressing up!” For these reasons, the Church holds on to this ancient garment, reminding the priest (and the people) that the Eucharist is not an ordinary event, but one that is sacred and like nothing else on the face of the earth. I write this as one or two people in our congregations have asked about the wearing of the chasuble at our Holy Communion services. I hope the above information is of some help.
David Mulrenan, Assistant Curate
“You Christians think you are so good” don’t you?
“On the contrary,” I replied, “I think I am not good at all.”
“Yet you feel able to stand in front of your congregation and tell them where they go wrong; you are nothing but a hypocrite.”
“That would be true if that is what I did”, I retorted a little bit stung. “When was the last time you were in church?”
“What has that got to do with it?”
I could go on and on with this conversation but many people have all sorts of ideas about what Church is yet never darken its doors at all and would certainly never think of saying a prayer. Without prayer where is our hope, for hope is gift from God that is found and unwrapped in prayer. ‘For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.’
Sometimes people will stay away from Church because they feel unworthy and they will be held up to judgement if they were to come through the doors. But when you think of the nature of Jesus, his teachings and his promises, you can appreciate why the opposite is true, ‘we are not good enough, not to go’. Prayer however does not just happen in Church and it is important to remember it is the God of hope and love to whom we pray. If we pray earnestly then we find we are taken out of self-pity and self-hurt into hope. Through prayer we do not force God to give us his love, the love is given freely through prayer we accept it.
Christians then do not think they are better than others or holier but we do know we are loved for who we are by God who is better than others and is holy. He does not promise to make our lives wonderful and flawless but he does promise to be with us at all times in the highs and the lows. And it is this above all things that we go to church for. Because no matter who or what we are we know we are loved and we know you are loved too. David
Rogation days, were at one time an occasion for prayer and fasting, instituted by the Church to appease God's anger at man's transgressions. To ask protection in calamities, and to obtain a good and bountiful harvest. The Rogation Days were round about the sixth Sunday in Easter (this year it is 26th May). Rogation came at that time of year when the dawn chorus and beautiful sunrises recall the Resurrection, and, looking about, we cannot escape the beauty of creation in a world of spring bursting with divine Love. There is a freshness in the air, a newness in the sunlight, an awaking of beauty in places one would never seek it. There is an excitement peculiar to spring, as though, watching long enough and quietly enough, we might spy God's hand moving or glimpse His face. It is His personality that impresses upon us in the spring, sensed in the beauty and colour and design of the new blossoms and the activity and sound of a world suddenly come full to life. God is revealing himself to us and there is gladness and joy in knowing the God who created both daffodils and leopards.
Rogation days were an especially happy occasion for a family celebration. We can also take this time to have our own procession to pray for God's blessings on our crops. This is some-thing about which all must have a vital concern. Whether our food comes from our garden or the freezer at the supermarket, someone had to grow it; and before that God had to plant the mystery of life in the seed, or even the most skilful farmer could not make it yield.
The rogation walk is a good way of reconnecting to the natural world around us. We take the opportunity to thank God for his bounty to ask for his protective love in caring for our efforts and show our faith in giving God praise before the crops have even begun to grow.
If you would like to come on a Rogation walk come to Laxfield 26th May, at 11am bring your wellies and we will Rogate together and possibly even end up with a picnic or something. Dogs are welcome. David
Many people hate to ask others for help. They have that "I can do it on my own" mentality. In life, when something is borken in the home, wives say, "call somone to fit it." Men say, "why when I can do it myslef" even though he doesn't know how to. In the workplace, some people have a ton fo work to do, but they refuse to ask their co-workers for help, often because they think that they are giving the impression that they can't cope.
Sometimes its because we don't want people to feel like a burden, sometimes we don't want to be turned down, sometimes we just want to control everything, some people hate anything that feels like a handout.
There is nothing wrong with seeking hlep, in fact, Scripture encourages it. Christians must ask God for help daily because we won't get far in life trying to live off our own strength.
When you find yourself in a situation, He wants you to ask for help. It's never meant for us to do God's will by ourselves. God is the one who guides us in the right path.
Believing that we can do everything often leads to failure. Trust in the Lord. Sometimes God helps us by doing things Himself and sometimes God helps us through other people. We must never be afraid to get wise counsel and help for big decisions from others.
Asking for hlep doesn't mean you're weak, but it means you are strong and wise. Being proud is a sin and that is why many people fail to ask for help even when they desperately need it. Continually ask the Lord for help and strength daily, realising it's impossible to live the Christian life without Him.
"refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helfpul" - Ric Ocasek.
The other side of that coin is knowing when someone is asking for help without coming right out with it. How often do you think you have missed the opportunity to help somebody because you weren't listening? They may find it just as difficult to ask for help as you do. Often wehn we ask God for help, He provides it through ordinary people, like you and me.
"Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it" Ziad K.
Next month becuase of Church Law i shall have to retire as Assistant Priest, but I'm not going to disappear forever. In the not too far distant future I hope to be able to resume my ministry, albeit as a retired Priest, if you'll have me. Please keep me in your prayers.
With my prayers and best wishes,
I hope you all had a very good Christmas which sadly has almost come to an end and the world seems empty and back to its old grey aspect again. It seems that, at Christmas time, colour comes into the world and there is brightness and joy that is missing for most of the rest of the year. Yes, there are high points like holidays and birthdays, but these are individual, Christmas is a time when a large proportion of the world seems to allow a change to come over them. It is strange how Christmas has become so important especially in a world where it is easier to hate your neighbour than love them. The problem is people are so quick to take umbrage so quick to stand on their own rights and forget the responsibility they have to the world at large. This is what causes wars, and suspicion between peoples who hold differing views and beliefs. There are religions and peoples in this world it seems that are looking for things to get upset about, and, once upset it seems bloodshed is the only way to appease them. Christmas is bigger than that, for Christians it has a very special and specific meaning but Christmas has grown to include something greater, it has become a festival for all, a time when those who would not darken the door of a church during the year will come and sing carols or at least enjoy hearing them on Classic fm. Christmas is the only time of year where everyone makes an effort to be nice. Even the First World War was halted by Christmas and for a while the hate that was mutual between the trenches melted away. Christmas above all things is an expression of love; love so great that even if you cannot believe in the story behind it like a cup running over it spills out and includes everyone. What makes Christmas for me is the celebration of midnight mass on Christmas Eve but I can remember as a little boy sitting up looking out of my bedroom window hoping beyond hope to see Father Christmas fly by. I never did see him but when I got up in the morning the evidence that he had been was plain to see, the empty whisky glass, the mince pies half eaten and the carrots taken, not to mention the presents under the tree. Christmas is a magical time of year and made more so by the decorations and tree lights. As Christians we believe that the love that was given at Christmas was God’s love and as such is unfathomable, far be it from me to say only Christians are included in that love. We are now at the beginning of a new year and a new decade - wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could simply keep a little, or a lot, of that Christmas love in our hearts throughout the year. Because I believe God so loved the world that he sent his only son into the world that through him all might be saved. A love so great is worth celebrating even when it’s not Christmas.
Don't forget the Quiz in December magazine David
Some weeks ago there was an item in the news about a priest who had abused a young child. A friend of mine asked me what I thought should happen to him. “He should be removed from the priesthood,” I said, “because the Church has to act responsibly about those to whom they entrust the pastoral care of others.” “Quite right,” he replied, “and God will send him to hell to burn for evermore.” He couldn’t have heard what I said, be-cause it is one thing to say that such a person should be removed from a position in which he can harm others and quite another to say that he should be expelled from the Church, forbidden its sacraments, denied its fellowship and consigned to everlasting punishment. As Christians we believe in a God who saves and forgives and rejoices at repentance. So although my friend and myself both claimed the name of Christian I couldn’t help feeling that we didn’t worship the same God.
That we live in a multi-cultural society and that in reality we all worship the same God have long been the politically correct things to say. For some years now there has been pressure in our schools to teach that all religions are the same sort of thing – all have holy people and holy books and holy places. Such a view, however, lacks integrity, because what the various faiths teach and believe about those people, books and places can be quite different. As opposed to political correctness, honesty compels us to say that we do not all worship the same God.
As Christians we do not worship a god who decrees that women accused of adultery should be executed, in public. We have Biblical authority for that (St John 8.1-11). We do not believe in a god who promises that suicide bombers who kill and injure their fellow human beings will be rewarded in heaven. We do not believe that we have to earn our own salvation by living many lives in different forms. We believe in God who loved us enough to become one of us in Jesus of Nazareth and who saves and forgives and restores.
That is not say that we may not recognize truth and goodness in whatever faith we find it. Nor is it to say that only those who come to Christ through the explicit doorway of the Christian faith will find life with God. That is the way God offers to us – and it is not for us to decree what door he may leave open for others. But we do believe that salvation was made possible for all because of what Jesus did in the time of his incarnation.
In the early days of the Christian faith the Roman Empire was a multi-cultural society with many gods – and if the Christians had agreed to worship the Emperor Christ would have been allowed as just one more god among the many. The Christians refused – and were persecuted – because for them Christ was the Only One. He must be that for us to-day – otherwise our faith will become just one more stream emptying itself into the sea of many faiths. David
Thinking about the opening of this letter and the need for us to be aware such things. Along with many other organisations,the Church of England is keen that as many people as possible have a basic awareness of Safeguarding. We would like to invite you to one of two meetings in the benefice either (tea and cake at 3.15pm 6th September in Bedfield Sports Centre,) or for (drinks and nibbles at 7pm on 12th Sept at Laxfield) Church.
April 1st is not only April Fool’s day but more importantly it is Easter Sunday. It is not a bad conjunction because all of us who follow Christ are subject to ridicule and taunts of foolish-ness. As Christians we all try our hardest to follow the way of love, to do unto others what we would have done to us. It is not easy and many would say we have been duped by su-perstition and story. So I will tell you a true story.
A college professor was visiting the Fiji Islands. Being agnostic, he critically remarked to an elderly chief, "You’re a great leader, but it’s a pity you’ve been taken in by those foreign missionaries. They only want to get rich through you. No one believes the Bible anymore. People are tired of the threadbare story of Christ dying on a cross for the sins of mankind. They know better now. I’m sorry you’ve been so foolish as to accept their story." The old chief’s eyes flashed as he answered, "See that great rock over there? On it we smashed the heads of our victims. Notice the furnace next to it? In that oven we formerly roasted the bodies of our enemies. If it hadn’t been for those good missionaries and the love of Jesus that changed us from cannibals into Christians, you’d never leave this place alive! You’d better thank the Lord for the Gospel; otherwise we’d already be feasting on you. If it weren’t for the Bible, you’d now be our supper!
It may seem foolish to some what Christians believe and in these ‘sophisticated’ times diffi-cult to justify but I’d rather be a fool than not try at all.
A man seeing Charles Wesley walking down the street stood in front of him and said “I never get out of the way of a fool!” Wesley looked at him, smiled and said, “but I do” with that he stepped aside and walked round the man. David Burrell
Fifty years ago it was considered to be quite improper for a woman who had given birth to be seen in public before she had been "Churched". It was almost as if the Old Testament idea that the act of bearing a child made a woman unclean still persisted. According to the Jewish law a mother was unclean for 40 days after the birth of a son and 80 days after the birth of a daughter. When that time was over she would come to the priest and offer a sacrifice of a lamb or two turtle doves or two young pigeons. So on the 40th day after Christmas the Church has observed the festival commonly called The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Christian faith, however, does not hold that the bearing of a child makes a woman unclean. In the new liturgy – Common Worship – the service of Churching has been replaced by The Service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child. It can be used as a private or public celebration of the birth or adoption of a child and it meets the needs of parents who see it as a preliminary to Baptism or who do not ask for Baptism, but who recognize that something has happened for which they wish to give thanks to God.
On 2nd February or the Sunday near to it the Church commemorates the events recorded in St Luke 2.22-40 when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord and when Simeon greeted him as "a light to lighten the Gentiles". So the festival has two other names: "The Presentation of Christ in the Temple" and "Candlemas". In the past it has suffered from some confusion – sometimes regarded as a "purple" penitential rite and sometimes as a time of light and joy.
Modern liturgy has sought to rescue the feast from this confusion. It is now regarded as a festival of the Lord – his presentation in the temple – although his mother still has a significant place in the story. During the season of Epiphany we have celebrated the revelation of Christ’s glory in a variety of ways. Candlemas marks the end of that season; but more than that it has become a pivotal point in the Christian year – when we take a last look back to Christmas and the Incarnation and then turn to face in another direction - with Lent near we turn towards Christ’s passion, Holy Week and Easter.
In this benefice we shall keep Candlemas on 4th February. May we celebrate this festival with joy and then turn towards the keeping of a holy Lent.
Happy New Year!
Looking ahead, 2018 has two prominent dates, the 5th July and 11th November. On the 11th November which coincidentally is a Sunday it is not only Remembrance Day, but we will mark exactly 100 years since the end of the first world war. I have heard some say that following that major anniversary we should no longer mark the occasion; it is important to note that nowadays we don't just remember the fallen from the first world war, but those who have suffered in all conflicts no matter how recent. It is not celebrating or glorifying in war, far from it, it is a sign of hope. A time when politicians stand together, united and differences put to one side, a time when religious leaders of all faiths stand together. It is vital for our future vision of the world in which we live, for as George Santayana said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Wouldn't it be wonderful to think that perhaps one day the world would celebrate 100 years of global peace?
It was on the 5th July 1948 That Nye Bevan launched the National Health Service at The Park Hospital Manchester (now Trafford General) and bought free healthcare into every home in the United Kingdom. Of course the NHS isn't free, its paid for through taxes and national insurance. And of course, some use it more than others, there are many people whose survival and quality of life would not have been possible without the NHS and the NHS can only survive if we pay for it, even though it may mean that many will pay more into it than they will ever get out. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus gave us a vision of a world of equality and justice, where everything will be levelled and put right. The NHS is a move towards that vision of equality, where those who can pay do, so that those who cannot, don't have to. I hear more and more often in the media that the NHS is under threat; it would be one of the greatest tragedies in modern times if it were to fail, so please do support it in any way you can.
With my prayers and best wishes, Ron
Williamson once invited some Liverpool gentry to dine with him in one of his excavated chambers. To the dismay of the guests, the chamber was bare rock, the only furnishings a trestle table and chairs, and the meal simple porridge and ship's biscuits. Some guests showed their disgust by leav-ing immediately and were seen out by a courteous footman. When it was obvious no other guest was going to leave a signal was given and for those who remained, a curtain was pulled back and a fur-ther chamber was revealed, richly decorated and containing a lavish banquet.
In Jesus day many people came out to see him and hear him preach. Many expected to find a great leader dressed as a prince and travelling in the finest style. Some were gravely disappointed and fell away returning to their homes believing this Jesus to have been another flash in the pan and without substance.
Those disciples could not have been blamed if they had decided to leave Jesus, as some of William-son's guests had done. In fact, it is fairly certain that many did. One can imagine them being quite excited at first, thinking that God's blessing meant that Jesus was going to give them gold and food. How disappointed some of them must have been when he didn't turn stones into bread - neither did he overthrow the Roman occupation and give everyone a tax rebate.
Many people live lives that are full of disappointment, for some it may be because they feel they have not made a difference. Many want to see tangible results from their faith, perhaps a church grown from nothing to a thriving multi faceted community. Or they think they should make many people turn to Christ simply by listening to the words they preach. Many feel the need of a sign that will affirm their discipleship and let them know God is pleased with them, that they are God's right arm on earth.
It is not surprising we are obsessed by celebrity today you only need to listen to the contestants of X factor to hear how for them celebrity is all and how life ends when they are rejected. Some at the great age of 16 are devastated at not making it. Something they may have wanted all their short life. However being a follower of Christ does not mean we will be celebrated or feted by kings and gover-nors. Our lives could be bleak and filled with anguish or even, God forbid ordinary. Jesus promises nothing for this life but he promises everything for the life to come.
We are told to keep the faith to believe and we shall be rewarded just as those guests of Joseph Williamson supper were rewarded. David
In the Celtic Christian tradition, we have a prayer for the start of each day which goes;
“Lord, help us to see you in all we meet today; Lord, help us to be you in all we meet today”. This can at times be challenging. The essential elements of both aspects, seeing God and being God, meet in one simple function and that is listening. God always listens though we can be forgiven for sometimes thinking that our words are not heard, so to be God to others, we must first listen. Similarly, if God is to speak to us through someone else, then similarly, firstly we must listen.
Simple? Not really, listening can take a great deal of effort and sacrifice. How often do you find yourself listening with your eyes, but you are planning what you are going to say next, and not really taking in what is being said? I often catch myself doing this. What is happening when we do this, is we are saying ‘I have no interest in what you are saying, but what I am planning on saying is much more interesting'. When Lynne and I trained as bereavement visitors, we were given a copy of this symbol:
It is the Japanese word for ‘listen'. As with many Japanese words it is made up of others; in this case, its constituent parts are: undivided attention, eyes, ears and heart. That is, we should give our undivided attention and use our eyes, our ears and our heart. Our tutor wrote underneath the symbol: there is no mouth. Simply, listening does not need a mouth. Another piece of Western philosophy goes: we have two eyes, two ears, and one mouth, and we should use them in that ratio.
Sometimes people say to me that they don't know how to deal with someone who is bereaved. The best thing to do is just listen. Listening is the most important aspect of our relationship with others; when you are listening, you are showing that you value the other person and taking an interest in them. Just as God does. With my prayers and best wishes, Ron
One of my favourite hymns is Dear Lord and Father of mankind. Strangely, it was written by a man who deplored singing in church. John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92) was a Quaker who firmly believed that God was best worshipped in silent meditation. However, he allowed the verses to be used in a hymn book in 1884, to which none other than Hubert Parry's music was later set.
The verse which I think encapsulates Whittier's sentiment is the fifth one:
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace
This verse is most appropriate for modern living, where our lives are governed and dictated by the ever-moving, never sleeping world in which we live, even though it was written in the mid nineteenth century.
This always seems to come to the fore in the summer when holidays, gardens and the outdoor life place additional demands on us. As much as we should try to enjoy all that the better weather and holidays offer, think about trying to ensure that there is a regular moment where you are free from others, entertainment and demands, so that you can be still and at peace with God. This also can be a time for you to reflect on who you are and for a while at least stop being what others want you to be. This may lead to you experiencing what the last line of verse 5 is about - the beauty of God's peace. Jesus often took himself off from the disciples and his followers to be with God and many of those in ministry try to go on a quiet retreat as often as they can for the same reason. Have a happy, peaceful, restful and joyful Summer. With my prayers and best wishes,
On the 8th May, we celebrate the feast of Julian of Norwich. Julian was an anchoress, that is, someone who had withdrawn from the sinful world and lived in a cell; this action probably quarantined her from the plague and so saved her life. During her 74 years, she wrote a great deal, particularly about sin, a subject which has caused many great debates. One of the questions I am often asked is what is sin? A very good ques-tion, to which many have offered answers.
One of the less attractive traits of human beings is the way we load expectations on to people that are unrealistic and unfair. Then, when the expectations are not met, we criticise the others, not ourselves.
Jesus was well aware of what people wanted him to be and do. He knew he could not be the conquering liberator of their imagination because his path was to lead to defeat and death - something very hard for his followers to accept. St Luke tells us that even when Jesus hung on the cross ‘the leaders scoffed at him, saying “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”' (Luke 23:35-37.) These must have been bitter words for the Son of God to hear, when he knew that he could have summoned legions of angels to release him from the cross, but chose not to.
In that choice he in fact exceeded all expectation. Instead of liberating the nation he sacrificed himself so that every man, woman and child in the world could come back to God. That's how much he loved us.
Sometimes if we let our relatives, friends, the local school, the NHS or whoever it may be off the hook and not pile a weight of expectation upon them, they may in fact deliver in a way that we had never thought of. No-one on that first Good Friday believed that Jesus would rise again, although he had told them he would. On Easter Day he turned defeat into victory and silenced the mockery of his enemies by a far greater miracle than stepping down from the cross would have been. However, he still didn't do what we might have expected, namely to appear to the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers. Instead he appeared secretly to his friends, that not very wonderful bunch of disciples. Gradually the message that he was alive again spread and spread, so that now all round the world people can rejoice in God's great work in saving lost humanity. He has done far more than we could ask, or think, or deserve. It's a secret that we can all share in one of our churches this Holy Week and Easter as we proclaim ‘Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again!'