Thoughts from the Vicar
Sunday 19 May
Fifth Sunday of Easter
One of the good things about moving house is that it gives a new view and a different perspective. The view from the kitchen table of the river and its wildlife is very different from the view at Meadowside. It’s strange munching lunch as the Herons stand watching from the river bank or wading up and down in the search for their lunch, or as the kingfisher sits on the post by the river (very beautiful but it kills its prey by bashing them on the post) or while the buzzards are constantly bickering with the crows or chasing the magpies.
Jesus often used observations from the world he saw around him to teach important truths about God’s kingdom and what was happening in response to his message and ministry. Squabbling buzzards and magpies or the stealthy hunting of a heron open up all sorts of allegorical and metaphorical possibilities for the state of society and our Christian mission today, but it is something else that has caught my attention today.
Looking out of the study window there are trees in full leaf and others where the leaves are only just starting to burst out from their buds. For some, growth comes early and for others growth comes later on in the year. That is so true for patterns of growth in the Christian faith; we all grow at different times and in different ways. It would be bizarre if the oak trees said to the maple or the ash to the willows: “you’re growing wrong” or “that’s not the way to do it”.
The most important thing is that we should be growing ‐ it doesn’t matter if we perceive others to have burst into spiritual growth before us, all that matters is that we are spiritually alive and growing. It is never too late to be confirmed, it is never the wrong time to come to bible study, go on retreat, read a Christian book from the library, sign up for Alpha, try a different service or come to morning prayer. Why not stretch your faith by putting it into action, joining a Christian group at work, inviting a friend to church, volunteering to serve in church whether in young church or on the coffee rota, street angels or any of the huge range of opportunities available?
Growth for trees is natural, and we can all too easily forget that’s also true for Christians. Next time you look out of your window perhaps ask God how he wants you to grow.
Sunday 12 May
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Christian Aid week
Yesterday was the Christian Aid walk in Lyme Park and next Saturday is the Christian Aid Big Brekkie which hopefully lots of us have booked in to support, and throughout Christian Aid week envelopes will be delivered door to door. Hopefully all that we do will raise awareness of issues as well as funding for Christian Aid’s work.
Bringing hope to a broken world is part of our DNA as a church, as we support with prayer, people and resources, projects and charities working locally, nationally and internationally.
As the Church we often look first to Jesus’ life and teaching for the motivation to bring healing to a broken world. We think of him bringing healing to those unable to walk or hear or see, to those like lepers who were excluded. Of teaching that we should think beyond those like us when we are to love our neighbours.
But we would be wrong if we assume that God’s desire to bring healing to a broken world was restricted to the New Testament or the Gospels. The Old Testament reminds us,”Justice should not be withheld from the poor” (Exod 23:6 ). Similarly, just because a person was poor they should not have second rate justice (23:3; Lev 19:15). As part of God’s people the poor person was to be treated with respect (Deut 24:10‐13).
The Old Testament law contained a number of special provisions for the poor. Gleaning laws over gathering the unharvested crops from the edge of fields were particularly concerned with for widows, the fatherless, strangers and the poor (Lev 19:9‐10; 23:22; Deut 24:19‐22).
Every seventh or sabbatical year would have been particularly welcomed by the poor as in the sabbatical year the poor could eat freely of the produce of all of the fields (Exod 23:11; Leviticus 25:6‐7 Leviticus 25:12). Every seventh sabbatical year was a jubilee when debts were to be cancelled (Deut 15:1‐9), those in bondage through debt set free and lands restored.
It is the failure of God’s people and their leaders to live out these instructions to care for widow and orphan and for stranger and foreigner that is often at the heart of God’s rebuke to his people through the prophets.
God’s love and purposes don’t change, he has not stopped calling us to live holy, faithful and worshipful lives and he hasn’t stopped calling us to seek justice, love and mercy and bring his hope to a broken world.
Sunday 5 May
Third Sunday of Easter
On 26 May our 10.00am worship at St Peter’s will be a Confirmation Service and for this, Bishop Peter will come to lead, preach, confirm and celebrate Communion with us. As many of you will have read or seen in the news, Bishop Peter is retiring and so this will be the last time that he will come to St Peter’s to lead worship as our Diocesan Bishop. For those wanting to say farewell to him, or thank him for his ministry, and for whom a trip to Chester for the official leaving events is a journey too far, this will be a good opportunity to do so.
Bishop Peter coming to the end of his ministry, however, should not distract us from the most important thing that will happen that day. Four members of our Sunday morning congregation (a fifth is being confirmed at a different time) have made the decision to affirm as adults the faith into which they were baptised when they were children.
One of the most poignant parts of the service is where the bishop names the candidates and says “God has called you by name and made you his own”. This is applicable not just for the Confirmation candidates but for us all. It reminds us that God knows our name and he calls us because he loves us. In a world that in so many ways says people are worthless and of no value, God is saying the opposite, that people are precious, loved and called by their name.
Those being confirmed are: Clare, Michael, Liz, Lynne and Sian. Do remember them in your prayers, listen to their story of faith and share your story of faith with them.
Confirmation is an important step on the journey of Christian growth and commitment. It opens the door to receiving the bread and wine at Holy Communion. It is not the end of the journey of growing in faith and it’s good for us all to ask what is the next step on our journey of growth in faith. What is God asking us to become and how is he encouraging us to do that?