- 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 2018)
One of the TV shows we love watching as a family has recently begun again – “Michael Macintyre’s Big Show”. It’s great Saturday night entertainment, with some memorable features.
There is the “Midnight Game Show”, where Michael Macintyre lets himself into a person’s home (with the knowledge of their spouse/partner) at midnight. He then asks the surprised person some questions and celebrity guests also make an appearance.
“Celebrity Send to All” is where McIntyre takes a celebrity's phone (with their permission!) and sends an awkward text message to all of his or her contacts; at the end of the show, McIntyre checks the celebrity's phone and see what replies have come through from the contacts.
In each episode, a guest performer or group will appear on stage with their latest song. In some episodes. The programme ends with the segment, “Unexpected Star of the Show”, where an unsuspecting member of the public, set up by their family, find themselves on stage and perform one of their favourite songs.
The series ends with “Michael McIntyre's Big Christmas Show”. Well after reflecting on the programme, I realised how the some of these features, or at least the titles, could be applied to the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2. That is the greatest ever “big Christmas show”!
The members of the public who are surprised by a midnight visitor are shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem, “keeping watch over their flocks at night”. Their visitor is not a comedian with a quiz but an angel with a message.
Their message is something that is certainly “Send to all”! The angel declares, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: he is the Messiah, the Lord”. The good news of Jesus is for everyone – of all backgrounds, classes, countries.
Next up is not a pop group but a choir, a choir of angels who appear praising God. They sing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests”.
And of course the “unexpected star” of the Christmas show is Jesus. Unlike the programme, it’s not unexpected for Jesus, but it certainly is for everyone else. It is completely unexpected that God himself comes to earth, takes on human flesh and is born as a baby. The reason he came was to be our Saviour. Yet what is even more unexpected is how He saves – through his death on the cross. It’s through Jesus’ death that we can have peace with God and forgiveness of sour in.
With “Celebrity sends to all” it’s great to see what response the message sent gets. Well we see different reactions to the message of Jesus in Luke 2. The shepherds rush off to Bethlehem to see the baby and praise God for him. Others are simply amazed, but do nothing more.
The question for us, is what is our response to the message of Jesus this Christmas? Just amazement, or delighted praise? And if we’ve trusted in him, do we then send the message to all. That’s what the shepherds did, “when they had seen him they spread the word” about Jesus.
At St Catherine’s we want to “send to all” the message of Jesus this Christmas. We warmly invite you to our various Christmas events, whether Community Carols with Salvation Army Band (Wednesday, Nov 28th 6.15pm); Carols by Candlelight (Sunday, Dec 16th 6pm); Children’s Nativity (Sunday, Dec 23rd 11am); Christingle (Christmas Eve 4pm).
I hope to see you there! Happy Christmas!!
Vicar’s letter (November 2018)
“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.”
Remembrance Sunday, 11 November 2018, marks the centenary of the end of World War One. It was a war in which some 65 million men were mobilized. Nearly a third were wounded. Some 8.5 million were killed. It’s a time for reflection. A time to pray for peace.
100 years ago there was jubilation and relief at the peace that had come. It had been the bloodiest conflict in human history, a deadly, agonising struggle that looked as though it would never end: and now it was over. There would be no more killing. There was a sense of vindication – the sacrifices they'd made had been worth it. And there was hope – Lloyd George, the prime minister, said shortly after the Armistice, that he wanted to make Britain 'a fit country for heroes to live in'.
It didn't work out quite like that. Just 20 years later, a new war – more terrible even than the first – was to plunge the world into conflict and bloodshed again. But for now, there was peace: a great trial passed, and a sense of hope for the future.
It's sometimes imagined that the First World War dealt a mighty blow to the nation's faith in God, as the bereavements and the traumas caused millions to question their faith. Yet in his book, “Faith in Conflict”, Stuart Bell says that churchgoing actually rose after the war. People continued to read their Bibles. They still believed, and the Scriptures continued to speak to them.
The Bible has lots to say about peace. But it’s clear that peace is not just the absence of war. Peace means being in a right relationship with God, with other individuals and with wider society. Christians believe that peace with God comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Colossians 1 speaks of the peace that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, brings through his sacrifice on the cross: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness in him, and through him to reconcile all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).
The problem is that we are not at peace with God. We are naturally alienated from him because of our selfish desire to live life our way without reference to God. God is the loving creator of the world. He made us. He loves us. He knows what is right for us. And yet we choose to ignore him, to go against him.
But wonderfully God does not give up on us. The Lord Jesus Christ entered the world on a peace mission. The world killed him. He was hung on a cross. And yet that was part of God’s plan. Jesus died in our place, taking the judgement of God we deserve for our rebellion upon him. He shed his blood so that we may enjoy God’s forgiveness and being part of his family. Through the death of Jesus we can have peace with God.
We are filled with God’s peace when we trust in him. Not by good deeds. Not by baptism. Not by coming to church. But by faith alone, trust in Jesus alone. Romans 15:13 puts it like this: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him”. And when we have peace with God we can and will experience true peace. It’s not a temporary peace, but a lasting peace with God.
It does not mean that Christians will have an easy life. Yet God’s peace will surround us in tough and painful times and gives strength to persevere. And one day the Lord Jesus will return and bring about a new world where there is no more sin, no more struggle, no more suffering. There will finally be peace in this new world. Revelation 21:3-4, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people and he will dwell with them…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”.
I invite you to come along to our service on Remembrance Sunday, beginning at 10.50am, to remember, to reflect, to pray and to give thanks for the Lord Jesus, who offers us perfect peace.
With best wishes
Vicar’s letter (October 2018)
Were you among the 11 million people who watched the finale of the gripping BBC drama “Bodyguard” on Sunday evenings? It has been a hugely enjoyable series, as over 6 episodes we’ve watched David Budd, Principal Protection Officer first watch out for Home Secretary, Julia Montague, before then seeking to track down who was responsible for her death. There’s been terror plots and political intrigue which have left many of us on the edge of our seats.
Perhaps you may have wondered what it would be like to have a bodyguard, a constant presence and protection for your life?
Christians have the encouragement and security of knowing that God is, if you like, our bodyguard. God promises to be with us by His Spirit, watching over us, caring for us.
In our home groups we’ve been looking at the Old Testament book of Daniel. In chapter 3 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are threatened with both thrown into a blazing furnace of they do not worship the huge image of gold set up by King Nebuchadnezzar. They respond with great courage and conviction:
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from your majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of God you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
These believers had every confidence that God could deliver them. But their courage and conviction was such that even if it meant that they had to die for their faith they would not compromise. God would deliver them in the end, even if that meant through death.
Of course, in Daniel 3, God does miraculously rescue Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they are thrown into the blazing furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar is amazed by what he then sees, “I see four men walking around in the fire, unbounded and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25).
Who the fourth man is has caused much speculation. Some have suggested that it is a pre-incarnation appearance of Christ while others, that this is the angel of the Lord. The key point is that no matter what happens to God’s people, God will be there with them. If we stand with God, he will stand with us.
This does not mean that God will always save the lives of his people on this earth, although he will save them for eternity. Later on in Daniel it is clear that some Christians will indeed be martyred for their faith. In church history and indeed today, many Christians have been killed for their belief. Cranmer and other reformers were burnt at the stake during the Reformation in the 16th century.
We need to remember that ultimately, God’s promised deliverance is from death to eternal life. The Christian, trusting in God’s promised deliverance, is safe and secure, even if they lose their lives for the sake of the gospel.
The confidence we can have in that truth is because, like the most heroic bodyguard ever, Jesus gave his life, so that we might live. He died instead of us, on the cross. Jesus uses the language of the good shepherd, rather than the good bodyguard, in describing his sacrificial death, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Do come along to our new Christianity Explored course on Tuesday evenings from 8pm if you want to find out more. The course begins on October 16th and runs for 7 weeks. It’s an opportunity to ask any question you like and discuss some of the key aspects of Christian faith. Do contact me if you would like to find out more.
With best wishes