- 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 – June 2019
Have you heard of “Thy Kingdom Come”? Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement, which invites Christians around the world to pray between Ascension and Pentecost for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. What started out as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 2016 to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer.
The Archbishops have invited every Christian around the world to join them in prayer from 30th May to 9th June, 2019. Archbishop Justin Welby writes: “We are praying that the Spirit would inspire and encourage us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our friends and families, our communities and networks.
We are asking every Christian in every worshipping community to join us in praying for the renewing and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. It is our prayer that those who have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and his love for the world will hear it for themselves and in faith respond and follow him. We invite each and every Christian across the country to pray that God’s Spirit might work in the lives of 5 friends who have responded with their “Yes” to God’s call”
On Ascension Day Jesus told his disciples that “in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you ; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:5, 8).
After Jesus’ Ascension It was no use the disciples wishing that Jesus was still with them or longing for him to come back straightaway. Jesus had given them a job to do! They must tell others about Jesus. That is the same thing that Christians today are called to do, to boldly share with others the good news about Jesus.
After that first Ascension Day we read that the apostles “all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). It’s a lovely mix of people praying together - the apostles, the family of Jesus and women who ministered with Jesus. Meeting to pray together is something for everyone, not just for the church leaders. They prayed constantly. This was not just a one-off. They were committed to prayer. Prayer is to be the heartbeat of a church.
There is a spirit of unity in praying. Not just that they prayed together but that they were united in their purpose in praying, in agreement with what they were praying. Although we’re not told specifically what they prayed for I’m sure that in the light of what they had just been told by Jesus they were be praying in line with God’s promises – praying for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. They were be praying in line with Jesus’ commissioning – to be his witnesses across the world.
Then on Pentecost God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his people. Peter proclaimed about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. There is a wonderful response: “those who accepted his message were baptised and about three thousands were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41). From that day the message of Jesus has spread around the world as Christians have prayed for God to be at work, bringing people to know Him through his Son Jesus Christ.
As we remember those events I hope that it is an encouragement for us to be prayerful too. Who are the 5 people you can be praying for regularly to come to know Jesus? At the very least, we’re encouraging people on Fridays to “pray for 5 at 5pm” – to set your watch/alarm for 5pm and then pray for your 5 friends. Why not join us at our Sunday services or our monthly prayer meeting on Wednesday, June 5th 7.30pm? There is also a “Love Birkenhead” Prayer event for Birkenhead Churches at Christ the King Church at 7.30pm. Why not download “Thy Kingdom Come” app to encourage you in praying for others!
Vicar’s letter – May 2019
I write this two days after Easter Sunday and the horrific events in Sri Lanka. While Christians in Sri Lanka were in church, celebrating the risen Christ, bombs went off in four cities, targeting churches and hotels. At the time of writing there are over 300 dead and 500 injured from the eight bombings.
Ajith Fernando, the teaching director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, wrote a moving article on the Desiring God website (www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-bombs-on-easter-sunday) on 5 ways to pray for Sri Lanka, which can encourage us in our prayers.
1. For Holy-Love: Please pray that the church would act with maturity, reflecting the holy-love of God: on the one hand, insisting that the authorities will carry out a thoroughgoing investigation and will punish the wrongdoers; and on the other hand, personally and corporately showing love to all, including our enemies.
2. For Faithfulness: Pray that the church would faithfully carry out its calling to be an agent of healing in broken situations. Individually, that Christians in Sri Lanka, can get close to suffering people.
3. For Healing: Pray for the injured and for their speedy recovery, and pray for the medical services to do their work well. Pray also for the emotionally scarred and for their steady recovery. This is a time when we can be agents of the God of all comfort through our listening and ministering (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
4. For Comfort and Strength: Pray for God’s comfort and strength to the many Christian and non-Christian people who have been devastated by the loss of their loved ones.
5. Against Unrest: Pray that extremist forces would not use these incidents to cause unrest in the country. Christians can act as moderating agents because, while we may be enraged by what happened, we are freed from bitterness as we know that a just God who controls history is greater than the problems.
The Bishop of Truro, Philip Mountstephen, is leading a government review into the persecution of Christians around the world. Speaking before the attacks Bishop Mountstephen said that Britain had “something of a blind spot to the persecution of Christians. There is a lot of post-colonial guilt around a residual sense of the Christian faith is an expression of white western privilege. Whereas actually the Christian faith is overwhelmingly a phenomenon of the global poor and people who, by their very socio-economic status, are vulnerable”.
The Open Doors UK Charity found this year that 245 million Christians face severe persecution worldwide. The government review into the persecution of Christians around the world is to be welcomed and we should pray that significant action will follow. St Catherine’s supports, both in prayer and giving, the work of Barnabas Fund and Open Doors with persecuted Christians.
Of course, we should be saddened but not surprised by the persecution Christians face. One Thursday evening, just before His arrest and crucifixion, the Lord Jesus warned His disciples, as they ate together, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18, 20). Yet the resurrection of Jesus gives us eternal hope for the future and strength to keep enduring in the present.
Bishop Mountstephen tweeted in response to the bombings, “Easter joy tempered this morning by awful news from Sri Lanka. But Jesus is indeed risen – and those who follow him even in the darkest times will know the light of life he alone can bring”.
May you know that light of life yourself, whatever dark times you may be experiencing.
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.