- St Catherine's Church
- Church Road
- CH42 0LQ
The vicar's letter found here is a duplicate of the letter found in our parish magazine.
Vicar’s letter – Feb 2018
What do you hope could be achieved through science in 350 years’ time? I was reading in the newspaper this week about the “prophetic wish list” that the scientist Robert Boyle created in 1660, when he helped set up the Royal Society. He made a series of 24 predictions, many have which have come true. The list includes the invention of flight, scuba diving and submarines (“The Art of Continuing long under water, and exercising functions freely there”). Top of his list were predictions for the “Prolongation of Life” and “the recovery of youth, or at least some of the marks of it, as new teeth, new hair colour’d as in youth”.
I was partly struck by the article as we are currently looking at Matthew’s gospel on Sunday morning and the events leading up to the death of Jesus. Matthew stresses that Jesus has come to fulfil the prophecy of the Old Testament. Twelve times Matthew introduces a quotation by saying something like, “This took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet”. So the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, born of a virgin, and his subsequent escape to Egypt was prophesised in the Old Testament (Matthew 1:22; 2:5; 2:15). Furthermore, so was his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey as God’s King, on what we know as Palm Sunday (21:5). Jesus knew that the Scriptures foretold his betrayal by Judas (26:24) and that he would die (26:54).
Matthew wants us to know that Jesus’ death was not a tragic accident nor that events spiralled out of control. Jesus is in control, the religious leaders aren’t; however much they scheme. Jesus knew that his death was part of God’s plan to bring forgiveness for his people. Jesus willingly went to his death out of love for his people. Realising this should give us a greater appreciation of Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sake.
That should also be a reassurance to us in our own lives. That even though today wicked men scheme and plot, nothing they do is outside the sovereign control of God. Knowledge of God’s sovereignty ought to give us courage when we face adversity of any sort. The songwriter Margaret Clarkson, songwriter who herself experienced deep personal pain, wrote: “The sovereignty of God is the one impregnable rock to which the suffering human heart must cling”; trusting that God can work through our pain and suffering.
Our Sunday evening sermons have focused on the prophet’s Isaiah’s writings. Isaiah foretold the future sufferings of Jesus for our sake, 700 years before his crucifixion. So he wrote, for example, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him” (Isaiah 53:3-5). It is hard to read this and not think of how this found its’s fulfilment in Jesus’ death.
I wonder what would be on your wish list for the future? Perhaps you long for a world of peace, of perfect security. Last Sunday we heard how Isaiah prophesied that, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (Isaiah 32:18). Is that just wishful thinking? Well Christians have every confidence that this promise will be fulfilled in God’s perfect new world, in heaven. It will be a time when we will know King Jesus perfectly, “Your eyes will see the king in his beauty” (33:17).
Robert Boyle may have wished for science to discover a way to prolong life. Well if we put our trust in Jesus we can know eternal life in God’s perfect new world. That can give us great hope in a world where we know sadness and suffering; pain and perplexity. Do chat to me or come along to St Catherine’s and find out more about how we can know true joy in trusting in all the promises of Scripture.
Vicar’s letter – January 2018
Happy New Year! I hope that you had a good Christmas and that you are looking forward to 2018.
Each year St Catherine’s has a verse for the year. Last year the verse was from 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it”.
Paul uses the picture of the church as a body to emphasise our given unity together. It is as if each of us are different organs or limbs of the body. And so the link between members of the church is as strong and intimate as the link between your leg and your foot. When we become Christians we haven’t simply joined a voluntary club, like a hockey club or a drama group. We have become part of the family of God, united together with other believers.
One of the encouragements over the last year at St Catherine’s is that I believe we’ve grown closer together as a family, looking out for others, caring for one another. I hope we continue to do that. One way this will happen is as we remember that through Jesus’ death on the cross we are brought close to God and thus brought close to other Christians
So our verse of the year for 2018 is from 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”.
The cross is one of the world’s most recognisable symbols. It is not a crib or a manger but a gruesome cross that is the unmistakeable sign of the Christian faith. When you stop to think about it that is very shocking, for in the first century crucifixion meant a shameful death, reserved for the worst criminals. We would shudder today at the thought of wearing a little gold electric chair or a silver hangman’s noose. Yet around our necks many wear an even worse instrument of execution.
Yet the apostle Paul was not ashamed of the cross. Among the sophisticated intellectuals of first century Corinth, in Greece, he “resolved to know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified”. Of course, Paul still spoke of many other areas of the Christian life in Corinth, such as the resurrection. Yet this resolve expressed Paul’s determination never to be deflected from the central importance of the cross in his life and ministry, despite its unpopularity in the world.
We love the cross because of what Jesus achieved there. Christ bore our punishment, securing our forgiveness. Christ defeated Satan, conquering our enemy. Christ set us an example, showing us both how to endure persecution and to serve others. Jesus challenges us all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
At St Catherine’s this year our Sunday morning sermons after Christmas will look at the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 26-28). After Easter we’ll see from our series in Acts 7-12 how the early church proclaimed the significance of the cross.
Personally, one of my aims during the year is to re-read John Stott’s classic book, “The Cross of Christ”; which not only explains the great achievements of the cross but also what it means for the Christian community to “live under the cross”.
Stott argues that the cross “lies at the centre of the historic, biblical faith” (p7). If you’re not convinced of this or unsure what the cross really means for your life why not come along to our new “Life Explored” course, beginning on Tuesday 16th January 8pm. This 7 week course helps us to investigate what Christians believe. We would love to see you there or at one of our Sunday services.
Yours in Christ
Vicar’s letter (Dec 2017)
Another Christmas season is fast upon us! So the inevitable flurry of Christmas TV adverts hits our screens again. It’s also the inevitable vicar’s letter in December that comments on these adverts (this will be the fifth December letter that has done so!) because they seem to so capture our imagination.
Once again the John Lewis advert has been hugely popular. It features a 7 year old child called Joe, who discovers Moz the Monster sleeping (and snoring!) under his bed. Although the child is at first scared, then irritated by the monster's antics, the two very quickly become friends. They play through the night in Joe’s bedroom leading to a very tired Joe struggling to stay awake at school. Joe wakes up on Christmas morning to find a gift under the tree from his Monster friend – it’s a night light that helps him to get a good night’s sleep! The advert ends with the caption, “For gifts that brighten the world”.
Athe time of writing (Nov 21st) the advert had been seen 8.5 million times on YouTube! The advert has not been without some controversy though. Chris Riddell, author and illustrator of 1986 children's book “Mr Underbed”, which also featured a friendly blue monster who lives under a little boy’s bed, accused John Lewis of “help[ing] themselves” to the story for their Christmas TV ad. However, copies of Chris Riddell’s picture book have since sold out!
so why have the John Lewis Christmas adverts, in particular, become so popular? I think it’s because these adverts cleverly feature a self-contained narrative that people can relate to. They incorporate story, heart, and genuine emotion that gets people engaging with and talking about the brand.
Yet I want to encourage you that Christians have “a better story” that we can relate to at Christmas. Perhaps the story of the birth of Jesus has become so familiar to us that we lose sight of how wonderful it is. That God took on human flesh, was born to an ordinary family in the Middle East, the son of a carpenter. Yet he was visited by shepherds and then wise men bearing gifts. This is such a heart-warming story that it has been re-told countless times through children’s nativities in both churches and schools.
What better story can there be of God, rather than a monster, coming into our lives, to help us with all our anxieties and fears? In Luke 2:10, the angel says to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people”.
What better story can there be of God taking the initiative to form a friendship with us, longing to know us, to be our Lord and Saviour? Luke 2:11, “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord”.
What better story can there be of a God giving us the gift of his son that truly does brighten the world? John 1:4 “In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind”. John 1:9. “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world”.
What better story can there be when we remember not only Christmas but Easter too? Jesus dying on the cross, for the forgiveness of the sins of his people. Jesus rising from the dead, to bring the hope of eternal life for all who believe and trust in him.
Can I encourage you to come along to our various Christmas services that tell of this better story? Our Children’s nativity on Sunday, Dec 17th (11am) helps us to recapture the wonder of the Christmas story; while our Christingle on Christmas Eve (4pm) points us to Jesus as the light of the world. Our Carols by Candlelight on Sunday, Dec 10th (6pm) will speak powerfully of God’s love for each one of us!