- 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 (May 2018)
Sadly, Damascus has been in news for all the wrong reasons over recent years, due to the terrible war raging in Syria. Yet in the Bible Damascus has very powerful associations as it was on the way to Damascus that Saul, the great persecutor of Christians, encountered the risen Lord Jesus.
The book of Acts records that, “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord”, Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”, he replied, “Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:3-6).
At once, Saul must have grasped, from the extraordinary way in which Jesus identified with his followers, so that to persecute them was to persecute him, that Jesus was alive and his claims were true. The light he saw was the glory of Christ and the voice he heard was the voice of Christ. Paul would speak of this as the turning point of his life. From now on he would be on the side of Christ and would unashamedly speak of Christ, “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20).
Over the next few weeks on Sunday mornings we’re looking at Acts, chapter 6 to 12, which powerfully records the spread of the gospel. It’s a heart-warming tale of how the good news of Jesus keeps reaching out to different people, despite opposition and persecution. We will see how the most unlikely people become Christians – from Saul, a persecutor of Christians, to a Roman centurion and an Ethiopian eunuch. And we’ll see the gospel spreading out from Jerusalem across the Middle East and Mediterranean, just as Jesus had promised.
Today the good news of Jesus continues to change the lives of people. At St Catherine’s, I’m always encouraged to hear of how people have come to faith in Jesus from a variety of backgrounds It may be in dramatic ways, it must be very gradually over a period of time. In March we had a wonderful Confirmation service, with 7 people being confirmed, all with different stories of how they came to know Jesus for themselves. Former Gladiator, “Ace”, Warren Furman, also came and shared his testimony, during our Family Fun Afternoon.
On Wednesday June 6th 7.30pm , at All Saints Thornton Hough, the Wirral Gospel Partnership have organised an event called, “Real Lives”, when 4 local people will share their stories of how their faith in Jesus has changed them and helped them, over through difficult times. Chris and Pauline Power, for example, will speak of how their faith in Jesus helped them cope with their home being badly damaged by the explosion in New Ferry last March. Do come along to find out more.
Having begun with mention of Syria, I’ll close with another story from Syria of life-changing faith in Jesus. While an estimated 5 million people have left Syria since the war began, a further 6 million are displaced within Syria itself. Of those who remain, some are simply too old, unwell or poor to leave, and continue to need support, while others have chosen to stay and serve those in need.
One organisation that St Catherine’s support is Open Doors, which serves persecuted Christians around the world. Their website tells the story of one man from Aleppo deciding whether to stay or leave. His wife is pregnant, and they have had two children during the war. He said, “In our road the war is finished. But during the war it was very difficult to live with these bombs. Two bombs hit our apartment building. Here in this street maybe a hundred hit. But we live in God. We stayed with our faith. We prayed as a family here. We went to the church. I love my people. I have a mission to stay here and help people.”
It’s a moving testimony about the difference faith in Jesus makes. I hope Jesus makes a difference to your life today.
Vicar’s letter (April 2018)
Happy Easter! This year Easter Sunday falls on April 1st, April Fool’s Day! If you’re like me, you may have memories of tricking someone on April Fool’s Day. I once persuaded a member of my family that my son and I had been given an invite to the Royal Wedding between William and Kate, representing Blackburn with Darwen Council! Needless, to say the person was not happy when she discovered later on that it was an April Fool. To catch someone with an April Fool is fun. But to be tricked is humbling. Nobody wants to be fooled or, even worse, be called foolish.
So it seems startling to read that Jesus, whose words and action, were full of love, should actually call two people foolish. The risen Jesus was walking with them on the road to Emmaus. They had no idea who they were walking with but shared with him that were distraught at the death of Jesus, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel”. Furthermore, they were bewildered by reports that Jesus had risen from the dead, that angels were saying that Jesus was alive, that disciples had seen the tomb in which Jesus was buried now empty.
Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).
Jesus wants to clear up their confusion about both the cross and the resurrection. He wants to challenge their foolish thinking. Jesus explains from the Old Testament that it was always God’s plan for him to die: “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things”. Jesus’ death was no accident. Jesus knew that He had to suffer and die because it was the only way that people could be forgiven for their sin and become friends with God. Jesus has died in our place, taking God’s judgement for sin upon himself.
Jesus not only clears up the confusion about the cross but also about the resurrection. Jesus again shows them from the Bible how it said that he would rise again from the dead. Later on the eyes of the two disciples are opened and they recognise Jesus. Fully persuaded now that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead, they run to tell their friends that Jesus is alive. They are no longer fools, they trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
What about yourself? Perhaps your attitude to Jesus has been foolish in that you have never looked at the evidence that Jesus was crucified, died and rose again. Perhaps you feel it’s simply on the level of believing in the Easter bunny? But the resurrection of Jesus is too serious to neglect. Our future destiny of heaven or hell depends on our response to Jesus. The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is overwhelming; there is no other credible explanation for the empty tomb; the claim by many that they had seen the risen Jesus; the changed lives of the disciples after seeing Jesus alive again.
This was not the only time that Jesus called someone foolish. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus challenged the crowds that, “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his hand on sand” (Matthew 7:26).
Jesus also told the parable of the rich fool, where in the parable a rich man thought nothing of God; nothing of eternity and simply focused on his material possessions. Jesus concludes the parable with these words, “But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” This is how it will be with whoever stores things up for themselves but is not rich towards God” (Luke 12:20-21).
So can I encourage you not to be foolish in your thinking towards Jesus. Instead, be wise and put your trust in Jesus; who has died for our sin; who rose again, demonstrating that death has been defeated. Easter is certainly more than an April Fool trick!
Vicar’s letter – March 2018
Have you been enjoying watching the Winter Olympics these last couple of weeks? There has been some wonderful action in sports that, normally, would rarely feature on television. I write this the day after Lizzie Yarnold successfully defended her Skeleton title, winning gold again, an amazing performance. Since winning gold four years ago, Yarnold has struggled with a back problem and a debilitating vestibular condition leading to extreme motion sickness.
"It means so much to me," she said, "At times over the last four years it's been so hard and I've wondered whether I could get back to where I wanted to be, but the team never lost faith and that's why I'm back here on the podium."
Curling has been one of the most popular sports to watch at these Winter Olympics. It combines technique, strategy and brooms in a compelling visual experience! It’s a bit like lawn bowls but on ice and with giant granite stones.
In each round team members fire these stones down the 150 feet long ice sheet, aiming to land it in in the target, known as the “house”. There are four players per team, each delivers two stones per round. The other teammates use brooms to reduce friction and to help the stone travel much straighter. A great deal of strategy and teamwork go into choosing the ideal path and placement of a stone for each situation. At the last Olympics the British team won silver in the men’s event and the woman won bronze. By the time you read this you will know whether we’ve won medals at this year’s Olympics.
So whether it’s the teamwork behind an individual sport or the working together in a team sport, teamwork is vital. And t’s one of the aspects of church life I’ve been pondering on as we put on our annual holiday club for primary school children in February half-term. Teamwork is vital for the holiday club to work. There are people helping with craft, others doing the set and decorations, then those working hard at the teaching, refreshments, leading the groups. We all need to work alongside one another and encourage each other.
Teamwork is vital for the life of a church too. A church can never depend on one individual, many people are needed to work together, to spur one another on. God has given gifts to every member of the body of the church so they can serve the body and help to build it up. In 1 Corinthians 12:4 the apostle Paul writes that, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service but the same Lord”. He then adds in v7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” and later on declares, “Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it” (v27).
At St Catherine’s, I’m so thankful for the many people who serve in a variety of ways; whether with practical tasks, paperwork, children’s groups, IT, fabric, finance, Bible teaching, visiting or simply looking out for and encouraging one another. Thank you to all of you who give time and effort to serving and working alongside others.
And always remember that we do it to enable others to come to faith and to grow in faith in Jesus Christ, so that one day they will have something greater than an Olympic gold, an eternity in God’s perfect kingdom of heaven. It is worth all the effort in serving. As we’ve been reminded in our home group series on 2 Timothy, Paul writes, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2.10).