Thoughts from the vicar
Sunday 23 July
6th Sunday after Trinity
The last month has seen some long awaited and very good news. There had been a shadow of financial anxiety hanging over Church like a gathering storm, but now the weather has changed. The long awaited repayment of the VAT expended on the building project has been made by the tax office and Church has been able to repay its loan to the Diocese and also the loans from congregation members that enabled the completion of the building work. I would like to thank those congregation members for their willingness to the risk and sacrifice of helping Church through a difficult period.
One of the dangers of passing through such a time is that our confidence in God is undermined and we look for the storms rather than focussing on what God has called us to do. Anxiety is like a weed that likes to takes root and is hard to dig out, whereas God calls us to abide in Him, to trust to live lives governed by faith and hope and love.
St Paul in his first letter to Timothy warns the young Christian leader that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Money of itself is not evil, but the love of it can be directly and indirectly problematic. The Archbishop’s book Dethroning Mammon and NT Wright’s Spiritual and Religious both highlight in different ways how for many people in our culture, money has become the object of most importance and primary devotion. There is a new paganism with money sat upon the throne. (Both books are excellent if you are looking for a good Christian read for the summer holiday.)
For Church we need to demonstrate that Christianity not only sets us free from ancient pagan superstitions and fears, but also from contemporary ones. The most important question we should ask in Church life is always the question Why? Why are we doing things? Is this part of what God is calling us to be and do? Does this particular activity fit with our primary purpose as Church and our mission here in Prestbury? The answer to which we discover as we root ourselves in God.
Sunday 25 June
2nd Sunday after Trinity
One of the most popular and challenging activities that young people are involved in is the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. It’s great that a number of young people from our church have signed up for the challenge, either via school or uniformed organisation. The awards involve achieving the required mix of skills, service and expedition targets that are needed to obtain bronze, silver and gold awards. it is also great that being involved in church life and serving in a variety of ways is recognised as accredit able and can count towards achieving some of these objectives.
With exams out of the way young people are heading out on their practice expeditions, loading up the right equipment for walking the required distance and camping for the requisite number of nights.
English weather is wonderfully unpredictable, the temperature can be perishing or boiling, it can be dry or virtual monsoon. I remember hearing of a cricket match snowed off in Buxton in July, but was never certain if it was an apocryphal tale or true, but either way it nicely highlights the uncertainty of the weather and the need for the young people to make wide choices in their preparation.
What applies to the young people on their Duke of Edinburgh expeditions also applies to all of us on our Christian journey. What are the resources we carry when storm or heatwave arrives?
There are wonderful Scriptural promises:
The psalmist declares “the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” Psalm 23
“I will never leave you or forsake you” Hebrews 13:5
“Remember I am with you always to the end of the age” Matthew 28; 20
There are prayer resources too. The most well-known prayer is the Lord’s Prayer. Probably the next most well-known is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner”.
Prayer and Scripture the food and water of the spiritual journey. Why not find a scriptural promise to hold, to pray over, to memorise – or find a special prayer to put somewhere you can’t miss it, and try to pray it each day.
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.