Thoughts from the vicar
Sunday 11 June
How long did you watch the election results for on Thursday night/Friday morning? From the buzz on social media through the night it was evident that I was not the only one who was intrigued and surprised by the prediction of the exit polls, and that large numbers of people were staying up watching the late night results programmes. One reflection as I write this is that there are elements of a sporting contest in how the incoming results are both presented and received. Scores are kept, there is ebb and flow to how these move, there are shocks and surprises and there are the speeches of victorious winners and vanquished losers.
What the unexpectedness of the results reminds us is that democracy is a wonderful and precious thing. It is something to value and defend – especially when we look around the world and see democracy being undermined, overthrown or corrupted by greed, power self-interest and chaos. That whatever the style of the presentation on the media, these results were and are much more important than sports’ results.
A question to ponder as church is the relationship between democracy and faith. Although democracy’s origins predate Christianity, it was within that same Greek-speaking culture that the early church thrived and we can see how well democracy connects with a Christian understanding of the person.
Each person is precious, created in God’s image. In a world where what we have (whether status, money or looks) is often perceived as defining worth, the Christian understanding of innate value of the individual is a countercultural one, but reflected in each person’s vote being of equal worth.
Each person has different gifts and skills and the whole is greater than the parts, one person does not have all wisdom and knowledge. The Christian community is often described as a body because of this. In a similar way our democracy elects a group of people to use their combined wisdom and skills to lead.
God gives us free will to choose, the nature of the world is that we are free to respond to God’s invitation to worship and commit our lives to him. That in-built freedom applies in all areas – we are wonderfully free to choose not only which political party to vote for now, but also free to change our minds next time.
Wherever we see these Christian understandings undermined – especially by the newspapers or on social media – we should be concerned that far from strengthening democracy they weaken it.
Sunday 14 May 2017
5th Sunday of Easter
Confirmation: At next Sunday’s evening service the Bishop of Chester will confirm 8 adult members and one young person from St Peter’s and a group of adults from a the neighbouring parish of Henbury and St John’s. Everyone is very welcome and it would be wonderful to have good representation from all the different congregations to support the candidates, to share in their first Holy Communion, to hear the Bishop preach and to enjoy the party afterwards.
What is confirmation? There is no one simple answer. Below are five aspects of confirmation that will resonate with today’s candidates.
Affirming faith: for some confirmation is the next step on the journey of faith. Baptised as a child, growing up within the family of church, confirmation provides that moment to say publicly ‘I am a Christian’ and to affirm their Christian faith
Renewing commitment: the faith journey can be a bumpy ride. Sunday School can be forgotten as football and friends take priority. University and early career time pressures can similarly squeeze out faith. A church wedding or the arrival of the first child is often a time to reflect on matters of life and faith, and perhaps through coming back to worship, or through an Alpha course, the decision is made to make a recommitment to the Christian faith, and confirmation is the expression of that commitment.
Accompanying adult baptism: spiritual promises are not taken lightly, and the invitation to be a godparent or our own child’s baptism invites the question ‘should I be baptised?’ For adults baptism and confirmation involve the same promises and are of necessity linked. Consequently the decision to be baptised is a decision to be confirmed, so both should happen together but for pastoral reasons we sometimes separate the two.
Joining the Church of England. It is wonderful when Christians move to the area and make St Peter’s their spiritual home. For many Christians nowadays the style of worship and type of Church community is more important than denominational labels. Confirmation is the route for those from other denominations and traditions who wish to join not only St Peter’s but the Church of England
Admission to Holy Communion: at the heart of Christian worship is Holy Communion, Jesus commanded us to do this in remembrance of him. Holy Communion nourishes us and strengthens us in our faith, it reminds us of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice. It is through confirmation that we are admitted to Holy Communion.
At a typical 9.45am Contemporary Communion service 20% of the congregation are not confirmed, if that is you I would encourage you to ask God in your prayers if confirmation should be the next step on your journey of faith?
Sunday 7 May 2017
4th Sunday of Easter
Writing this on a sunny Thursday afternoon, my plans for tomorrow’s day off is to spend it in the garden. Providing that is tempest, storm, rain or snow don’t arrive between now and tomorrow.
There are a number of tasks that need doing; stinging nettles have invaded the raspberries and need to be carefully weeded out, the grass growing between the bricks in the paths round the vegetable patch needs removing. There is ground to prepare ready for sowing.
Garden tasks often find parallels with Jesus’ teaching and with the Christian life.
Removing the nettles reminds me of the parable of the wheat and tares, how the two grew up together and how difficult they are to separate. Getting the grass out from between the bricks can sometimes be easy to pull out, but at other times it takes time on the knees and the help of the right tools. Just as the process of sanctification involves uprooting undesirable behaviours, some come out easily some need time on our knees. And whenever preparing ground for sowing, it is the parable of the soil that comes to mind.
The garden is a great place to remind us of God but is it more than the reminders of Jesus’ parables and teaching. Is there a bit of all of us that is searching for something we lost, somewhere we left long ago?
There are some who say the story about the garden in the second creation account in Genesis is not just about somewhere that we have left, but somewhere we are returning to.
Easter faith is about forgiveness and new starts through Jesus’ death on the Cross – the penitent thief is promised “today you will be with me in paradise” (the word used interestingly means the garden of a king with trees) and the resurrection points towards new life and new creation. And it is at the garden tomb that the women disciples first encounter the risen Jesus.
Jesus said, if every tongue was silent the rocks and “stones would shout out” in praise – does every garden proclaim God’s loving purpose and the path from creation to new creation?