- 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 (December 2019)
This month of December will see for many of us some frantic gift buying as we try to think what gift to buy for that family member or that friend. There is something very exciting about finding the right gift for someone, something a bit more thoughtful than a box of chocolates or an Amazon gift card.
In families we try to make sure that we conceal the presents from the children before Christmas day comes. Perhaps under beds or on top of wardrobes. Then of course we conceal the presents in special coloured paper!
On Christmas Day families have their own various traditions for the giving of presents. As families gather around the Christmas tree, some have a grab and rip free-for-all. Others are more orderly, as each person in the room receives the gift, weighs it, shakes it and dutifully thinks out loud, “I wonder what this could be”.
Then after Christmas we “gently” encourage children to write their thank you letters, including the one to Great Aunt Sally for the lovely patterned socks.
But of course, the greatest Christmas gift we can receive is the gift of Jesus, the greatest gift ever. God went to great lengths to give us this gift, sending his one and only Son into the world. This gift was no afterthought, no panic buy but a gift planned from before time began. As John puts it, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus was not a gift concealed from us. In his birth, Jesus was not a gift concealed from us. He arrived 2,000 years ago, born in Bethlehem, visited by wise men who brought him gifts fit for a king. In his life, Jesus was not a gift concealed from us. His miracles demonstrated he truly was the Son of God. Who else could calm a storm, heal the sick, walk on water, feed the 5,000? In his death, Jesus was not a gift concealed from us. As he hung on a cross, he took God’s punishment for sin upon himself, enabling us to be forgiven and to have eternal life. In his resurrection, Jesus was not a gift concealed from us. He rose from the dead, was seen alive by many witnesses, who were then prepared to die for their proclamation of a risen Jesus.
Jesus is a gift that is to be received with joy and grateful thanks. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who believed in his name, he gave us the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12). To believe in Jesus is personal. It means to receive him, to take him into your life, to embrace him. Believing is receiving. And to receive Jesus is to be received into God’s family – to become a child of God. To receive this gift is to receive the best ever gift.
Let me invite you to think more about the gift of Jesus this Christmas time. I encourage you to come along to our Christmas services, whether Carols by Candlelight (December 15th 6pm), our Nativity (December 22nd 11am) or Christingle (Christmas Eve 4pm). You can receive a free copy of Glen Scrivener’s book, “The Gift: What if Christmas gave you what you’ve always wanted”, which has led to some of the above Christmas reflections.
Ps The PCC has recently decided that, with rising costs for producing this magazine, it will now be produced bi-monthly, beginning in January 2020. We hope that it will continue to encourage you with all that goes on at St Catherine’s, as we try to share the gift of Jesus with all those around us.
Vicar’s Letter (November 2019)
I write this on Tuesday evening, October 22nd, after the Brexit process ran into further uncertainty in Parliament today. Boris Johnson hit the pause button on his Brexit deal legislation after MPs rejected his plan to get it through the Commons in three days. MPs gave the PM a boost by backing his Withdrawal Agreement Bill - but minutes later voted against his timetable for it, leaving it "in limbo". The PM said he was still committed to leaving the EU on 31 October. But EU Council President Donald Tusk said he would recommend accepting the UK's request for an extension. So will there be a short extension or a long extension? Will there be an election in the meantime? Will Brexit ever happen?
How should Christians deal with all this Brexit uncertainty? I was struck earlier this year by an article on the Christian Institute website (www.christian.org.uk) by one of its Trustees, Rupert Bentley-Taylor, on how Christians should respond. It seemed appropriate to read it again tonight and share it with you.
Rupert Bentley-Taylor said we should begin by giving thanks because God is sovereign. Psalm 46:1-2 declares that, “God is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea”. So Bentley-Taylor writes that, “if we are Christians responding to a time of uncertainty and volatility in our country, the first thing we do is to remember that our God is not tossed to and fro by Brexit. He is absolutely, totally sovereign over what happens and over all the individuals and even though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea God is still on the throne and we should rejoice in that”.
He adds that, “we should rejoice that we actually live with many privileges which because we have them we take easily for granted. Privileges that we’re living in a society where the measure of religious and personal freedoms and the rule of law and order is actually remarkable compared with many places on earth.”
After praise comes petition. Bentley-Taylor points us to 1 Timothy 2, where Paul writes: “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”.
So he writes, “we should be praying that we will be in a context where sufficient peace and order prevails, that churches can thrive and the gospel can be preached and that actually we take the opportunities of our times, where people are insecure to point them to a security that is really outside ourselves”. He adds that we should “pray that peace and justice would prevail and that wisdom would prevail and out of all this somehow God would save us from ourselves and give us good and wise decisions.” He finishes by saying that we should plead with God for his mercy to our nation.
I hope that Christians can be distinctive in our understanding of these times, whether they are for or against Brexit. At the same time we must be aware of the wider perspective. On Sunday evenings recently we’ve been looking at Luke 11-13. In these chapters Jesus has been emphasising the certainty of his return to this world, even though we do not know when this will happen. So Jesus says we must serve him faithfully in the meantime, “you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 11:40).
Whatever ultimately happens with Brexit, with politics in this country, we persevere in our faith, knowing we serve the ultimate leader, the Lord Jesus. Jesus’ timetable for this world, for his return, cannot be delayed or put off. His return will bring about a perfect new world, full of joy at being in the presence of God and his people, that political hopes, whatever they maybe, can never match. So whatever our political views, may our faith in Jesus, deepen at this time.
With best wishes
Vicar’s letter (October 2019)
This season the Premier League have introduced the use of VAR – Video Assistant Referees. It is hoped that the use of this technology will enable more correct referring decisions to be made. VAR only gets involved when officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas; goals, penalties, red cards and mistaken identity.
VAR reviews the video footage of the incident and advises whether or not action needs to be taken. The Video Assistant Referees can talk to the on-field referee through an earpiece. If something needs to be looked at the referee will put his hand up to stop play and inform the players that a decision is being reviewed. If there has been an error, the referee will draw a rectangle with their arms - like a big TV screen in the air - to show they're changing their original decision.
Liverpool have benefited from VAR so far in the season. At the end of September Chelsea had a goal disallowed by VAR, which prevented them from equalising and Liverpool went on to win the game. Liverpool’s rivals, Manchester City, were negatively impacted by VAR at the start of the season. Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus scored a last-minute winner against Tottenham, only to see it ruled out for an accidental handball following a VAR review.
The use of VAR means there is no escaping the eye of at least the Video Assistant Referee. They can see and review every move that is made. I wonder how we would feel if that applied to life outside of the football pitch? Well at a recent prayer meeting we began by reading Psalm 139, that speaks of the all-seeing, all-knowing creator God.
Perhaps it seems scary to think of a God who sees and knows all that we do. A God we cannot escape from. It certainly should make us realise that all our wrong doing, thinking, speaking, is known by God. Yet the Psalmist also sees this truth about God as being of great comfort.
He rejoices that God knows him intimately. So v2, “you know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways”. Furthermore, God knows our thoughts; he knows what we’re about to say even before we have uttered the words. David praises God because of this, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me”. We don’t need to pretend what we’re like with God – he knows us and still loves us.
David is also encouraged that God is with him continually. In v7 he asks the hypothetical question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” But David knows full well that there is nowhere he can go where God isn’t. “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even though your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”. David is thankful that God is always with him. It seems that David is thinking, “no matter what happens to me, I can always rely on you being there; not to threaten me but to direct me, not to make me feel anxious but to make me feel secure”.
May these truths about God encourage you, whatever is going on in your life right now. God doesn’t want you to run away from him, in fact you cannot run away from him as the prophet Jonah discovers (we’re studying Jonah in home groups this term). Instead, He wants you to draw close to him. If you would like to find out more about the God who knows all about you and invites you to know him personally please do come along to our Christianity Explored course. We begin our evening course on Tuesday, October 8th, 8pm-9pm. Please contact me if you like to find out more.