- 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 (August 2019)
The month ahead hopefully promises a glorious few weeks of cricket, as England play Australia in the Ashes Test series. Can England continue their great summer of cricket, having just won the Cricket World Cup? What a marvellous and dramatic victory it was against New Zealand in the final, going all the way to a “Super Over”. Sadly, the final didn’t finish until after 7pm so I had to wait until after the end of our 7pm service to discover the final result! There were great celebrations after England won and the next day the team went to 10 Downing Street for a celebration reception.
As I reflected on that sporting triumph it reminded me of an even greater celebration Christians have to look forward to. The Bible often uses sporting analogies and in 2 Timothy Paul writes, as he anticipates the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown if righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will aware to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Paul pleads with every Christian to finish the race, not to give up, to stay the course and long for the second appearing of Jesus. It can be so easy for the concerns of life, of career, relationships, hobbies, to draw people always from following Jesus wholeheartedly. Paul reminds us of the certain hope of heaven, of enjoying God’s perfect new world with God and his people. The England cricket team may have received praise from the Prime Minister, but how much better will it be to arrive in heaven and be told by the Lord: “well done, good and faithful servant”.
It is a mind blowing thought to consider that one day God will renew this world. Brian Johnson, the cricket commentator, wrote these words in his autobiography “Someone who was” shortly before he died: “I find the after-life an impossible place to imagine or believe in, though I persuade myself that there must be some light at the end of life’s dark tunnel. But I do not find it easy to conceive what it might be”.
The Bible, though, speaks of heaven as a perfect restoration of this world. Revelation 22, the very last chapter of the Bible, contains a description of heaven which includes a number of similarities to the Garden of Eden at the very beginning of the Bible. The same key elements are there – a river flowing through it and trees next to it. The point is that God has undone the effects of the Fall, after Adam and Eve turned away from God’s rule, and has restored the perfect garden. This imperfect world will pass away and will be replaced by a physical new creation which will last for ever.
God’s new world will be a physical place and those who live there will be physical people. All those who have trusted in Jesus will be there. We will have new physical bodies that will never fade away. There will be no more suffering, no more sickness, no more sin. Instead, it will be a vibrant and alive people with God’s people rejoicing at being with God and with one another. Revelation 21:3-4 puts it like this: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”.
Recently, on July 20th, was the 50th anniversary of two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin walking on the moon: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” A few months before, December 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 travelled to, but did not land on, the moon. On Christmas Eve, Apollo 8 entered into orbit around the moon. The crew read from Genesis 1 as they transmitted to approximately one billion people worldwide a breathtaking view of the earth rising above the surface of the moon.
Well one day God’s people will experience seeing the new world for ourselves, walking in God’s perfect new creation, so much better than this world. That will be an experience we will enjoy forever. Do chat to me if you want to find out more about how you can be part of that. It is not wishful thinking. Jesus’ death and resurrection is what gives Christians that certain hope for our future.
Vicar’s letter (July 2019)
There’s been much discussion on the news recently, when covering the Conservative Party leadership content, about the power of the words of politicians. Words can be controversial. At one news conference, Sky Political editor Beth Rigby challenged Boris Johnson over some of his language in the past. He replied that “occasionally some plaster comes off the ceiling as a result of a phrase I may have used”, while insisting that he will “continue to speak as directly as I can.”
Words can be destructive. As I write this, I’ve just read about how a former MP, Harvey Proctor, broke down in court as he recalled being named a child murderer and paedophile by a man later charged with lying over the claims. He said that "The allegations are wrong, malicious, false, horrendous."
Words have the power to inspire. Think of famous speeches which have stood the test of time – Winston Churchill’s “we will never surrender”; Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream”. We all know the power of positive words spoken to us – the words “I love you”; a message of encouragement, a simple thank you can brighten our day and make us feel valued. Yet words can do an awful lot of damage to us too. That old saying, “sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me” is clearly false.
I’ve been reflecting on the power of our words as I’ve looked at the book of James for our sermons and home group studies. James is constantly challenging us to be careful about the use of our tongue. Early in the letter he writes, “those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves and their religion is worthless” (1:26).
In chapter 3 James describes the power of our tongues. James illustrates this with two visual aids – horses and ships. “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal” or large ships “are steered by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot wants to go” (3:3-4). Similarly, despite its small size the tongue can have an enormous impact. It is able to direct the very course of our lives. I’m sure we can all think of things that you’ve said that have changed the course of your lives.
James warns us that the tongue can be as destructive as a great forest fire, which “is set on fire by a small spark”. We can all fail at this point – a harsh word to a family member, a bitter word to bring someone down, a piece of juicy gossip that is passed on – all can have consequences. One commentator, Sam Allberry, writes, that “just a few careless words, either deliberate or accidental, and the result can be untold damage. We think of careers that have toppled, marriages that have fallen apart, conflicts that have been started and decades of self-loathing that have been generated, all because of carelessly uttered words” (“James for You”, p93).
It’s no good claiming to be a Christian if our words regularly upset people. So before you speak – THINK about what you are saying:
Is it True
Is it Helpful
Is it Inspiring
Is it Necessary
Is it Kind?
Yet James also warns us that there is a deeper point, that what we say is revealing what is going on in our heart. He is echoing what Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34). So we need God to be at work, to change our hearts by His Holy Spirits, so that we are able to use our tongue for good, to build others up, to encourage. We should pray that we can speak in such a way that we points others to Jesus. As Paul writes, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:5-6). Our speech should be filled with the grace of God and seasoned with the salt of the gospel. So perhaps take time out to reflect on what you have said to others in the last few days. What does your tongue reveal about your heart?
Vicar’s letter – June 2019
Have you heard of “Thy Kingdom Come”? Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement, which invites Christians around the world to pray between Ascension and Pentecost for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. What started out as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 2016 to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer.
The Archbishops have invited every Christian around the world to join them in prayer from 30th May to 9th June, 2019. Archbishop Justin Welby writes: “We are praying that the Spirit would inspire and encourage us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our friends and families, our communities and networks.
We are asking every Christian in every worshipping community to join us in praying for the renewing and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. It is our prayer that those who have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and his love for the world will hear it for themselves and in faith respond and follow him. We invite each and every Christian across the country to pray that God’s Spirit might work in the lives of 5 friends who have responded with their “Yes” to God’s call”
On Ascension Day Jesus told his disciples that “in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you ; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:5, 8).
After Jesus’ Ascension It was no use the disciples wishing that Jesus was still with them or longing for him to come back straightaway. Jesus had given them a job to do! They must tell others about Jesus. That is the same thing that Christians today are called to do, to boldly share with others the good news about Jesus.
After that first Ascension Day we read that the apostles “all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). It’s a lovely mix of people praying together - the apostles, the family of Jesus and women who ministered with Jesus. Meeting to pray together is something for everyone, not just for the church leaders. They prayed constantly. This was not just a one-off. They were committed to prayer. Prayer is to be the heartbeat of a church.
There is a spirit of unity in praying. Not just that they prayed together but that they were united in their purpose in praying, in agreement with what they were praying. Although we’re not told specifically what they prayed for I’m sure that in the light of what they had just been told by Jesus they were be praying in line with God’s promises – praying for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. They were be praying in line with Jesus’ commissioning – to be his witnesses across the world.
Then on Pentecost God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his people. Peter proclaimed about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. There is a wonderful response: “those who accepted his message were baptised and about three thousands were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41). From that day the message of Jesus has spread around the world as Christians have prayed for God to be at work, bringing people to know Him through his Son Jesus Christ.
As we remember those events I hope that it is an encouragement for us to be prayerful too. Who are the 5 people you can be praying for regularly to come to know Jesus? At the very least, we’re encouraging people on Fridays to “pray for 5 at 5pm” – to set your watch/alarm for 5pm and then pray for your 5 friends. Why not join us at our Sunday services or our monthly prayer meeting on Wednesday, June 5th 7.30pm? There is also a “Love Birkenhead” Prayer event for Birkenhead Churches at Christ the King Church at 7.30pm. Why not download “Thy Kingdom Come” app to encourage you in praying for others!