- 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 – 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.
Vicar’s letter – January 2019
Happy New Year! I hope that you had a good Christmas and that you are looking forward to 2019.
Each year St Catherine’s has a verse for the year. Our verse for 2019 is from Romans 12:1, “I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship”.
What comes to mind when you think of what it means to be a Christian; what it means to worship God? Some may think it just means coming along to church on Sundays and other Christian meetings. But the Bible insists that worship concerns the whole of our life. It matters to God what we do and say on Monday to Saturday as well as on Sundays.
Romans 12:1 helps us to understand what “true and proper worship” is. Firstly, worship requires us to remember “God’s mercy”. This verse is one of the great turning points of Paul’s magnificent letter to the Roman Christians. Chapters 1-11 focus on what God has done for sinful humans. Jesus has died for us so we can be in the right with God and enjoy eternal life. The theme of chapters 12-15 is what we should do in response. Paul in saying, in effect, “God has done so much for you, now live for him”. If we are gripped by the mercy of God, awed by his love for us, we will long to worship God with all that we have.
That’s because, secondly, worship is to be sacrificial, an offering of my body to God. Now we do not have to offer a sacrifice to God to make us be in the right with God. Christ’s sacrifice himself of the cross has done all that is necessary to achieve that. But there is still a sacrifice that I am called to offer – the sacrifice of myself. Paul is saying, don’t bring a sacrifice to God. Be one, be “a living sacrifice”. Such a sacrifice is what is “holy and pleasing to God”.
Paul’s use of the word “body” tells us that he does not understand worship to be a purely intellectual, mental activity. It is not a mystical experience. It is about what I do with my body as I offer it to God in his service. It is about what I say with my tongue, what I watch with my eyes, where I go with my feet, what I do with my sexual organs and my hands. Have you said in your heart: “Lord, here I am, wholly available, I’ll do anything. Here’s my job, my family, here are my relationships, my talents. Use it for your glory; use every part of my life”.
In 12:2 Paul spells out more what this means in practice: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. If we are to worship God properly, we must be prepared to be non-conformists, to stand out and be different.
This term, to help us think through what it means to offer the whole of our lives to God, I’m doing a seven part series that looks at the topics of “God and work” (which is both paid and unpaid work!), “God and money”, “God and leisure”; “God and friendship” and “God and sleep”. Home groups will do a series called “Making work work”. In the summer I’m planning a sermon series on James, a great New Testament book that shows how real faith works hard and lives distinctively. Do come along to find out more.
And if you wonder what is so amazing about God’s mercy, why not come along to our new “Life Explored” course, beginning on Tuesday 15th January 8pm. This 7 week course helps us to investigate what Christians believe. We would love to see you there or at one of our Sunday services.
Best wishes. Happy New Year!
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!!