- 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, which is now published every 2 months instead of monthly.
Vicar’s Letter (February 2021)
Our verse for 2021 is “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). In these difficult times it seems a very appropriate verse to encourage us all to keep going with faith in Jesus. In January our first sermon looked at this verse from Romans before three further sermons looked closely at each of the three parts of this verse from 1 Peter 1:3-13 (“joyful in hope”), James 5:7-11 (“patience in affliction”) and Luke 18:1-8 (“faithful in prayer”).
Let me ask you whether you have hope and are you joyful in hope? Last week I read about the importance of hope for our lives in a column by Dr Radha Modgil in the I newspaper. She wrote that, “Hope is a daily, tangible and vital tool for well-being. We have never needed to understand this more than now”. Dr Modgil acknowledges that it is a battle for hope in the midst of the pandemic – “It takes effort every single day at the moment to try to find hope and remain hopeful. Once we lose hope, we lose everything”. But what is hope? Dr Modgil describes it as “the belief that things can get better”. She suggests that we can find hope in science (development of vaccines), nature, past challenges in history that have been overcome and the kindness of people.
Now I think she’s right to view the importance of hope for each one of us. Hope is one of those human characteristics which God has built into us. All of humanity clings tenaciously to a hope of one kind or another. To lose one’s hope is perhaps the most tragic thing that can ever happen in life. However, the hope Christians have is more than believing that things can get better. Christian hope is a joyful and confident expectation which rests on the trustworthy promises of God.
An e-mail from the Good Book Company recently gave this lovely description of the Christian hope.
“Whether you're keen to leave 2020 behind, or anxious about what 2021 has in store, if the last year has taught us anything, it's that when the world shifts and shakes around us, our Christian hope remains an anchor for our souls: In our frailty, it is our strength; in our barrenness, it is life; in our desert-like places, it is soul-quenching water.”
But what is our hope? Paul describes the goal of our hope in Romans, “we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (5:2). The ultimate hope of the human heart is not forgiveness or justification or heaven or freedom from disease. The ultimate hope of every heart is the glory of God, that is his radiant splendour, which will be fully revealed when Jesus returns. We will see the Lord Jesus face to face, we will enjoy him perfectly and delight in him truly. Paul writes in Titus 2:13 that “we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”.
The glory of God has been made manifest in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, most notably in his death and resurrection. But one day the curtain will be raised and the glory of God will be fully disclosed in the kingdom of heaven. John Piper writes, “This is the ultimate experience that will wipe away every tear. This will rectify every wrong. This will make you say that it was all worth it, no matter what you suffered”. But what we hope for is not just to see the glory of God in Him. We hope for God’s glory to be seen in us. One day, you and I will be transformed people. No more sin!
We can have confidence that this will happen because it is grounded on the resurrection of Jesus. So the apostle Peter writes, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Knowing the goal of our hope and the ground of our hope what should we do? Be joyful!! Christian joy is never found in our circumstances but in Christ. Deep within us, there is to be a joy in Jesus that sustains us in every situation. We can set our hearts on how good it will be in the world to come. If we just focus on life now and the troubles of this world we will miss out on the joy that is ours.
So let me encourage you to be “joyful in hope” because of Jesus even in these difficult times. And that will help us to be “patient in affliction” as well – especially when it’s underpinned by faithfulness in prayer! Why not check out our sermons for January on our church website, so that you may be encouraged to keep going in these difficult times! Do contact me if you want to find out more about hope in Jesus. Best wishes
Vicar’s Letter (December 2020)
This will be a Christmas like no other as the country remains in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. No office parties, no carol singing (as guidance currently stands), no large family gatherings. As I write this the government has just published it’s guidance for Christmas. There has been some limited relaxation of the tiered restrictions that will apply after December 2nd. Between 23rd and 27th December, the three households will be allowed to form an exclusive temporary "Christmas bubble". They can mix indoors and stay overnight.
Newspapers have been calling for politicians to “save Christmas”. But that’s the wrong way round. No-one can save Christmas. It’s Christmas that saves us. By that I mean, it’s the message of Christmas that saves us, the birth of a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. As the angel told a bewildered Joseph about his young fiancée Mary, “She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
We’ve spent so much of this year having to social distance from one another. Many of us have discovered the world of Zoom. Yet, wonderfully, God does not social distance from us. He doesn’t have a Zoom call to us from heaven. No, God came into this world himself. The Lord Jesus Christ, fully man and fully God, lived amongst us, demonstrating his divinity by his miracles.
If we’d been there 2,000 years ago, we would have seen him face-to-face. Jesus knows what it is to be human, to walk in a world of darkness. He knows himself the pain and suffering of a broken world. He wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Jesus knows the grief, the pain, the isolation, that you have suffered this year. He is not distant from you.
Yet the tragedy is that humanity have distanced itself from God. When Jesus came many rejected him. The apostle John writes that, “He came to that which was his own but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). The ultimate rejection of Jesus came as all representatives of humanity came together to crucify Jesus.
Yet Jesus’ death, as the angel told Joseph, was planned by God to bring about our salvation. Through his death we can receive all the spiritual blessings of forgiveness, adoption into God’s family and a sure and certain hope for the future.
At Christmas we remember that Jesus came as light of the world. John writes, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Jesus’ death was not the end of the story. Three days later, he rose again, giving the guarantee of eternal life for all who trust in him.
At the moment we rejoice in encouraging news of vaccines. Dr Tedros, head of the World Health Organisation, said this week that promising results from vaccine trials meant that “the light at the end of this long dark tunnel is growing brighter”. He said that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, would help to “end the pandemic”.
And yet I want to say that it’s the coming of Jesus, that we remember each Christmas, is what brings ultimate light to our world. It is in Jesus that we can find our ultimate hope. So can I encourage you to take time this Christmas to reflect on Jesus, who came to save us. Sadly, St Catherine’s are unable to have our usual Christmas programme. We are planning to have two Christingle services on Christmas Eve (2pm and 4pm) due to the need to limit numbers at each service as a result of social distancing measures. You will need to book in if you wish to attend – please do e-mail me for more details. Do check our website for the latest on our Christmas services.
In these unusual times may I still wish you a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Vicar’s Letter (Oct/Nov 2020)
I write this on the day that the Wirral begins a local/regional lockdown and the Prime Minister has issued more national restrictions following a concerning rise in the number of Coronavirus cases. It can all feel very unsettling. We had hoped over the summer that the situation was improving, that slowly we may return to normality. Instead, the situation is now getting worse and the country has been warned that it could be a hard six months ahead.
How are you coping with all this? What emotions are you grappling with? Fear, anxiety, anger, disappointment? So much keeps changing. You may have had to grapple with new rules in the schools your children are going to or contend with different regulations in the workplace. For some, it all feels very exhausting. There’s been “decision fatigue” as everything we used to take for granted now needs to be rethought. Or “disappointment fatigue” as plan after plan has to be cancelled.
So how should Christians cope with this? I shared with the PCC this week these verses from Romans 12:11-12 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Ne joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”. Indeed, verse 12 is the verse on the poster on our noticeboard.
At this time it would be all too easy for Christians to be struggling in their relationship with the Lord. But the apostle Paul encourages us to do otherwise, to remain enthusiastic about knowing God and serving him. We need to constantly seek the Lord in prayer and spend time in God’s Word. We’re not to despair in these uncertain times but instead be full of joyful hope as we have a certain future. Nor are we to panic but instead be patient when times are hard. We’re not to be faithless but faithful in prayer.
And when we look to the Lord in these troubled times we have the encouragement to look to help others too. We need to be careful that we keep looking outwards, rather than inwards. Paul notes beforehand “Be devoted to one another in love” (v10) and then adds “Share with the Lords people who are in need” (v13). Selfless, sacrificial behaviour flows out of our relationship with the Lord.
At St Catherine’s we’re thankful that we’ve continued to be able to gather for corporate worship on Sunday morning for our 11am service. We do so in line with government regulations and guidelines, with social distancing, lots of hand sanitiser and, sadly, no singing. However, we’re grateful that we can still gather together, while recognising that some are unable to do so. Therefore, are audio online service still continues, available on our website. You’ll be very welcome to come along and join us on a Sunday morning or check out our audio services.
This week Bishop Mark Tanner began public ministry as the new Bishop of Chester. We welcome him to the diocese and will be in prayer for him. In his sermon at his Crozier Service, which marked the beginning of his ministry, Bishop Mark reflected on life's struggles and reminded us that people have continually brought their burdens before God as “the one still peaceful point of calm in the midst of the storm”. He added that, “I cannot tell you what the future holds, but, as the hymn writers put it, I can tell you who holds the future. And I can tell you that if we resolve even here and now, that, at this phase, indeed for every day of the life of this diocese, we will look in two directions: at Christ and at the lost”.
Well may you and I look to Jesus in these troubled times. As our 2020 verse of the year says so aptly, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Keep on going with Jesus!