Thoughts from the Vicar
Sunday 24 June 2018
4th Sunday after Trinity
Like most people reading this I was deeply distressed to see the pictures from America of small children being held in cages, that reminded me more of the enclosures for wild animals at Chester zoo than the expected facilities for small children provided by a civilised country. Whatever the number of illegal immigrants, the appropriate destination after being caught or the challenges this may cause to the world’s richest nation, to separate and cage children is wrong. Once a society starts treating people as less than human, as less valuable, as problems to be solved or dealt with, it not only loses its moral authority and right to comment on issues elsewhere in the world, but starts down a worrying slippery slope to some very dangerous places.
But the behaviour of a supposedly Christian nation and its leader got me thinking. I find the current President’s values and the ‘Christian leaders’ who surround him to be completely at odds with the Christian faith I have. Christianity is about holiness and humility, acknowledging our failures and seeking forgiveness, not about groping and boasting about promiscuity. It is about turning the other cheek, thinking and praying before responding, seeking to be Godly and good. It is about loving others, caring for the weak and vulnerable. Jesus didn’t say blessed are the rich and those who insist on their own way. It is about welcoming the outcast, defending the widow and the orphan. The more I see in the newspaper of legislation that gives tax cuts to the rich and takes health care from the poor, the more I wonder – is this a different faith?
One response to this is to remind myself how often this happened to God’s people in the Old Testament, that the role of the prophets was to correct a national leadership that all too often ran after sex, power, money and national prestige, rather than faithfulness to God. Yet in this secular age to criticise other Christians seems to be giving ammunition to those who only desire to undermine our faith.
Another response is to ask myself – is this how Muslims feel when they see people wearing the name of their faith and acting in ways that they would feel are totally at odds with their belief? How difficult it is to be both supportive and critical. And how easy for those of us who are evangelical Christians to be put in the same box as Trump, and for faithful Muslims to be put in the same box as terrorists. How vital therefore for us to build friendships and networks across cultures and communities, racial groups and faith differences, to work together for those good things we have in common and in doing so to understand more of what is unique to each.
Sunday 10 June
2nd Sunday after Trinity
One of the great things about St Peter’s is that new worshippers are always joining us and becoming part of the Church family. Today’s ‘vicar’s thoughts’ has something old, as a reminder, and something new. The ‘something old’ is that the different spaces within St Peter’s Rooms are all named after significant places in the life and ministry of Jesus. The lounge area is called Bethany after the home village of Mary, Martha and Lazarus that Jesus often used as a base when ministering in Jerusalem. Bethany was only a couple of miles – half an hour – from the city.
Emmaus, where the disciples encountered Jesus when he blessed and broke the bread at the inn, is the name for the area where we lay out the round tables and serve church meals or have Sunday teas.
Jesus’ long prayer, farewell conversation and last supper with the disciples was in the Upper Room. This is the name for our room upstairs with the storage cupboards and where the soundproofing makes it a good place for conversations.
The other space upstairs is the area on the balcony, Galilee. Much of Jesus’ ministry took place in the Galilean towns, villages and around the lake itself. Galilee is one of the spaces where our children in young church learn about the Christian faith. But learning and growing in faith is something we should all seek to do for all of our earthly life. To help this something new has arrived in Galilee. The library of Christian books that David and Elizabeth Briggs left to the Church when they downsized and moved to Surrey has now been added to the other Christian books donated, and we now have a great resource of them on the shelves in Galilee.
What would be great is if someone would like to be the Church librarian and sort, catalogue and organise the books and a system for borrowing them. For generations reading Christian books has been one of the ways Christians grow in their faith. Christian books cover a wide range of subjects from biographies, devotional books, help with prayer, apologetics as well as Bible commentaries or Christian lifestyle issues. Do have a look at the wealth of resources and if you would like to be the librarian, please have a word with me.
Sunday 27 May
Next Thursday afternoon the advance party from St Peter’s will be setting up camp at Capesthorne Hall for The Big Church Day Out (BCDO) that starts the next day. This year, as well as the group camping and caravanning over the two days, others are coming but sneaking home on the Friday night for the comfort of warm showers and soft beds. Why is it that 15,000 or (we pray) as many as 20,000 people will gather for BCDO? I think amongst all the good things there are four great things about BCDO which make it such a fantastic experience.
Diversity In Revelation 7:9 we read “I looked and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” Those who gather at BCDO come from a variety of cultures –a wonderful mix of ages, church traditions, ethnicity, race and colour. One day we will worship in huge numbers before the throne of God, and in the wonderful mix and diversity at BCDO we see a glimpse a foretaste of heavenly worship and the diversity of brothers and sisters in Christ we will be spending eternity with.
Variety The worship is not monochrome either, there is a huge variety across the different venues. It is like a taster menu where there is opportunity to experience things that might not be our usual cup of tea. Unlike a restaurant where once you’re in you’re stuck and it looks bad if you don’t eat what’s put before you. At the different venues from tent to Marquee to big top to main stage, at BCDO it’s easy to watch from the edge, slip away or move in closer.
Charity It is not only about worship, many Christian mission organisations, charities and support organisations are present. It is a great opportunity to talk with specialists in different areas of ministry and mission, to find how they can support what we do and vice versa.
Encounter Jesus said “For where two or three are gathered in my name I am there among them” Matthew 18:20 When God’s people gather and worship, Jesus is present. BCDO is a great opportunity to encounter Jesus. We live a culture where many are closed to the possibility that they can know God, though they may know things about the God idea. In worship we see others encountering God and the truth dawns that God is not an idea or concept, but is personal and loves us, and through Jesus invites us into relationship with him for eternity.
That encounter with God is the most precious life- changing experience that anyone can have and consequently the best reason to be there and to bring someone with you.