Thoughts from the Vicar
Sunday 14 July
Fourth Sunday after Trinity
One of the discussions when I take the lads to the Barbers concerns the ‘batting order’ - who goes first, second etc. The objective is to have one’s hair cut by the preferred barber and to avoid “the new one”.
This week another customer asked the barber we always describe as the new one how long he had been working there. If I had been asked, I would have answered a year or two and hence was most surprised to overhear the answer six years.
It started me thinking about the equivalent in the Christian life: when does a person stop being a new Christian and become simply a Christian? The new barber was our least favourite because we wrongly assumed, he would be slower, less skilled and less experienced, rather than the most up to date with fashions, more contemporary in ways of working, more thorough etc.
The “new one” is how many Christians feel about their own faith, they make the assumption they don’t know enough, have enough skills or experience to be active for God and hence they don’t take on responsibilities or commitments. The equivalent for the barber would be if he had always let the customers be served by the experienced barbers while he simply watched. Such an action would have been clearly detrimental for him both for his development and for the business.
Last Sunday in our Gospel reading Jesus sent out the seventy to share good news - they were to learn by doing, by putting their faith into action. The result was joy and confidence and a better understanding of what they needed to learn from Jesus.
verybody has gifts and skills; everyone can say yes to Jesus’ invitation to use them for the building of his kingdom. In my early twenties when I did Foundations for Ministry (a great way for lay people to explore their faith, calling and how to use their gifts) two areas of the course covered were small groups and every member ministry. The importance of every Christian having a group where they belong and it’s safe to ask questions, study, pray and be prayed with and also the opportunity for every Christian to use their gifts in God’s service hasn’t changed. Both are still vital for the growth and hence the future of the church.
On this Sunday when we celebrate Church children coming to the end of primary school and moving up to Secondary school let us all be bold to Move up to a new commitment and responsibility in Church life.
Sunday 7 July
Third Sunday after Trinity
On a journey down south, I passed a large airfield upon which stood multiple aircraft in differing states of disrepair. It was clear many would never fly again. The road ran close and it was not just the state of dereliction but the huge size of them which soon became apparent.
At the other end of the spectrum we have seen in the news recently about the build up of plastic in the oceans and the consequences of this in the problem of micro plastics both in our seas and in the food chain.
Closer to home, drive along any motorway or A road and you will find it hard to miss the ubiquitous wrappers and drinks cartons on the side of the road. There are a staggering range of items idly tossed out of car windows for someone else to clear up.
One of my last tasks before the old vicarage is demolished is the final sorting of things in the garage. It is strange, reflecting on all of the above: some things we store unsure if we will need them again and other things are just thrown away with little regard for the consequences.
So I ask the question: What do we do with the rubbish in our souls? The thoughts, words and actions which fall short of God’s call and standard for our lives.
Have we metaphorically left them in the garage of our life - stored away, just in case we want to get them out again, and never handed them over to Jesus or have we thrown them out of the window in the hope no one will see us?
God’s answer to the problem of the rubbish in our lives is the Cross. At the Cross Jesus not only defeats death but he deals with Sin and because he deals with sin death is defeated. This is amazing good news. It means our sins are not sat like discarded aeroplanes visible to all, our sins are not left by the road for others to have to clear up and they are not left swirling in the oceans gradually poisoning our culture. They are wiped away forever by the love of God.
The creator God is passionate about his creation and one of the ways we respond as Church is through meeting the requirements to be an Eco Church. The creator God is passionate in his love for humankind, for us. He longs to see individuals restored, sins forgiven, lives healed and invites us all to hand over the rubbish in our lives and experience the fullness of his forgiveness and love.
Sunday 30th June
Second Sunday After Trinity
Today at Chester Cathedral a group of 14 men and women will be ordained as deacons in the Church of England. Some will be stipendiary and some are self-supporting or non-stipendiary. In every-day language some are paid and some unpaid, but all are equally ordained. What is Ordination about?
Ordination is not about status or prestige. A friend of mine was proudly walking through their parish just after ordination in smart new clerical shirt and collar when a passer by turned and said “why don’t you get a real job?” The media don’t need to bring clergy ideas of importance crashing down to earth - the church is quite able to make a fool of itself without any external help, but the bumbling vicars and incompetent clergy of film and fiction have left their impact in the popular mindset.
Ordination is not about Power. Long gone are the days when the vicarage was the second largest house in a village after the local Manor. With the cleric taking a similar position of importance.
Ordination is not about Pay: Whatever their title whether its Rector, Canon, Vicar - and irrespective of the size of the Church whether it’s Bath Abbey or St Mary’s Little Snoring, with Upper and Lower Snoring and Snoring in the Marsh - Clergy are all paid the same £25,000 per year. (Archdeacons and Bishops get slightly more.)
If these are what Ordination is not, then what is Ordination?
Ordination is a particular call: it is a call both to be and to do. Every Christian lay or ordained has a vocation, every Christian is called to use the gifts God has given them in the particular contexts God has put them in Christ’s service. Ordination places a person’s ministry in the particular context of the church with a particular purpose and ordered in a particular way. A former Archbishop described ordained ministry as being “Stewards of the mysteries of God”.
Of those being Ordained as Deacon, one of them, Steve Murphy, will be serving his title here. A Curacy is a time of learning how God’s call and a person’s vocation combine in a new way in a particular role. That is learned in the context of a Church family and as such we look forward to getting to know Steve over the years ahead as he gets to know us. Do hold him and his family, Anne and Tom, in your prayers today and throughout his time with us.