- 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 – April 2019
In our most recent sermon from John 1:35-51, the theme of the passage was seeing, seeing Jesus. Those people who had experienced a life changing encounter with Jesus invited others to meet Jesus. So, for example, Philp tells a sceptical Nathanael, “Come and see” (John 1:46). In other words, “come and see for yourself. You don’t simply have to take my word for it, do your own investigating and make up your own mind”.
Who do you see, when you see Jesus? A prophet, a good teacher, a moral guide, or, as Jesus himself claims to be, the Son of God. And when it comes to Easter, what do you see when you think of Jesus on the cross? A tragic waste of life? A terrible crime? Or a great rescue, Jesus, dying for the sins of his people, to bring us forgiveness from God.
18 June 1815 is one of the most significant dates in British history – the day on which Wellington faced Napoleon at Waterloo. The future of the nation was at stake. People up and down the county were on tenterhooks – everyone was waiting to hear what had happened. One of the main lookout posts was on the roof of Winchester Cathedral, from where the signal could just be seen. At last, the signal ships came into view. A severe fog almost prevented the signal from being visible. But before the mist finally came, the essentials of the message could just be made out: “Wellington defeated”.
The worst had happened, and the depressing news began to spread from beacon to beacon. But a few hours later the fog lifted and only then could the full message be seen: “Wellington defeated the French”. Well on the cross Jesus did not look like the great promised Messiah. His miracles may have suggested that he was the promised king – but surely his death had put an end to those hopes. The message of the cross seemed to be clear to all: “Jesus defeated”.
But 3 days later, that first Easter Sunday, the full message of the cross was made clear: “Jesus defeated sin”. On the road to Emmaus the risen Lord Jesus came alongside two disciples who were despondent at his death. Jesus explained, “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26). In other words, Jesus had to suffer to save us, to forgive us. Then we read how the risen Jesus revealed himself to these disciples, “he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him and he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:30-31).
Jesus had not only defeated sin, he defeated death too. Perhaps that seems hard to believe. Is it too good to be true? Certainly it was for Thomas, who was sceptical of reports about a risen Jesus. The other disciples came to him and told him, “We have seen the Lord! But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe”. Well a week later the risen Lord Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your fingers here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe”. Doubting Thomas now believed in who Jesus was, exclaiming, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:25-28).
Maybe we’re tempted to think, well it was easy for Thomas. He literally saw Jesus. But we can’t! Well Jesus went on to say to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. We can believe because we have the Bible, the Gospels, eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. We’re not left to take a leap of faith in the dark; faith is based on the evidence before us.
So this Easter I invite you to do what Philip asked the sceptical Nathanael, “Come and see”. Come and check out Jesus for yourselves. Come along to our Easter services and find out more. Come and read a gospel and think through the astounding claims Jesus makes about himself. If you’re believing in Jesus, why not be like Philip and ask others to “come and see”; invite people along with you.
Vicar’s letter – March 2019
We are living in a time of political uncertainty that we’ve not experienced for many years. Brexit has dominated the political debate for almost 3 years and there is still turmoil in Parliament over the Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union. The UK are due to leave the EU on March 29th but at the time of writing there is still grave uncertainty as to whether this will happen and whether we are heading for a “no-deal”. Furthermore, divisions within both the Conservative and the Labour parties are growing all the time. The day before writing this 7 Labour MPs left the Labour Party and became an independent grouping.
So at this time of uncertainty I’ve been encouraged by our Sunday evening sermons from Isaiah, which speak of God’s sovereignty over all events of history. Isaiah was a prophet in Old Testament times, writing 700 years before Jesus appeared on earth. To people who doubted God’s promises to bring his people out of exile from Babylon, who were questioning God’s power and love, Isaiah chapters 40-41 provide a wonderful picture of God’s greatness.
Through a series of questions Isaiah encourages God’s people to trust in the God of creation, verse 12: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand, marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” These questions are meant to blow our minds, to force us to stop and think about the sheer incomprehensibility of the vastness and power of our God.
Think for a moment about the oceans of the world, miles deep, thousands of miles across – but they are like a little pool of water in the palm of God’s hand. The Himalayas, the Andres, are to God like a couple of ounces of sugar weighed on the scales for a Delia Smith recipe. Compared with that, the pressures that are weighing us down are nothing for God.
God is infinitely wise in ruling the world. Verse 13: “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord or instruct the Lord as his counsellor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?” So, the complexities of Brexit and the backstop are certainly not outside the understanding of the Lord!
Isaiah then goes on to point to the stupidity of trusting in man and trusting in idols. They are all “nothing”, empty. So v17: “Before him all the nations are as nothing”; v23: “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing”. Then in 41:24, the idols are “less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless”. Trust in God and no-one else, nothing else.
The amazing truth about God is that He is not only all-powerful but all-loving too. He knows our weaknesses, our fragility and cares for us individually with great compassion. Do you ever wake up and sigh deeply as you think of all that’s coming your way that day? Well be encouraged by Isaiah 40:29-31: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”. God shares his strength with those who trust him. God gives us his power.
The message is clear – when facing uncertainty in our nation, uncertainties in our own lives or the lives of our loved one, look to the living God who rules over the world but also cares for you. Why not join us on a Sunday evening to hear more of Isaiah’s words of comfort to people living in an uncertain world. Our Sunday@7 service is an informal gathering, café-style, in our church lounge, with drinks and cake served beforehand. We praise God through singing, have His word read and taught and come to God in prayer along. We average around 20 people for a service and welcome new people to join us. Why not come it along?
Vicar’s letter – February 2019
Who are your heroes? BBC Two are currently running a programme called Icons. It asks views to assess the achievements of the 20th century's most important and influential figures – men and women who helped shape our world today. Seven programmes are devoted to seven different categories of human excellence – sport, artists & writers, leaders, explorers, scientists, entertainers and activists. At the end of each show viewers vote on their favourite individual from a choice of four. The winners so far have been Nelson Mandela, Ernest Shackleton, David Bowie and Alan Turing. Ultimately viewers get to decide who is the greatest icon of them all, as the category winners go head to head in a live final with a public vote on February 5th.
It’s left me thinking – if the programme instead asked who were the most important and influential figures of all time, who would be the key individuals that people could choose from? In 2013 Time Magazine did a data-driven ranking of “The most significant figures in history”. Included in the top ten were Napoleon, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln and Aristotle. Top was Jesus Christ.
That shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus has influenced people in each of the last twenty centuries, in every corner of the globe, from all backgrounds. His very birth is the pivot of our calendar, from BC to AD.
Yet the significance of Jesus is not that he was simply a great example of how to live and speak. Jesus is more than a moral teacher, a wonderful example of love, a prophet. He is God himself, the Son of God, who through his death and resurrection offers everyone the opportunity to know God personally, to be reconciled to God, to enjoy eternal life in God’s new world. Jesus described himself as “the bread of life” and “the light of the world”. Jesus is the good shepherd who gives his life for his people. He promises that he gives them “eternal life and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
At our monthly men’s breakfast on Saturday’s we are working through biblical heroes with the help of a book entitled, “A few good men: inspiring biblical heroes for today’s Christian men”. The topic at our next breakfast on February 16th is “unworldly Moses”. The author of the book, Richard Coekin, concludes: “The Bible offers many heroes for Christians to admire and emulate. But towering above them all, the superhero among mere mortals, is the Lord Jesus himself. He is not just one of “a few good men”, He is the perfect man, the real man, the only God-man. God’s word urges Christian men consciously to enthrone Jesus as the super-hero we admire, follow and love”.
Jesus continues to change us today. At the bi-monthly women’s breakfast (the next one is March 23rd), the women are studying: “Meeting Jesus: women of faith from the New Testament”. Jesus devoted time and care to all sorts of women – the godly, the grieving, the sick, the stressed. His encounters with them changed the lives and the good news of Jesus still transforms the lives of countless women today. In fact, at Sunday@7 on February 10th & 17th, in our next missionary slot, we’ll learn about Amy Carmichael, who spent 55 years in India, sharing the love of Jesus (she founded an orphanage) and speaking of Jesus’ love.
Our children’s holiday club in February half-term (18th-20th of February) is on the theme of “superheroes”. We may think of superheroes from comic books and films, like Batman, Superman and Spiderman. They possess supernatural or superhuman powers, dedicated to fighting the evil of their universe, protecting the public, and usually battling supervillains. But the children will be hearing about Jesus – the true superhero.
So we hope in the month ahead we may see you or your children at one of these events so you can know more about why Jesus is the great superhero.