- 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 (Dec 2023/Jan 2024)
We live in a world that longs for peace. Our news is full of the devastating effects of war and conflict, whether in Israel-Gaza or in Ukraine. We long for peace in our relationships with others. In the workplace we can become frustrated over the mistakes of others. At home we may experience tension with family members. Christmas time so often brings conflict rather than peace with those around us. We also long for peace with ourselves. We regret past mistakes. We struggle with our present weakness. We worry about the future. Peace on earth is an elusive thing. Everyone wants peace, yet few seem to possess the peace they would like. So where can we turn to for peace?
The good news of Christmas is that Jesus offers us peace. The prophet Isaiah foretold the birth of Jesus. “For to us a child is born…And he will be called wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus is “the Prince of Peace”. Jesus came into the world peacefully, as a baby and with Him came the capacity for true, lasting peace. By peace I mean not only the absence of conflict and animosity, but also the presence of joyful relationships, ultimately with God himself. We will never experience true peace in our life apart from relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
How does Jesus offer us that peace? By offering himself. In Colossians 1:19-20 we read about Jesus: “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”. 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, even to mock 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 live. Through the death of Jesus we can have peace with God. God’s anger at us because of our sin can be put away. Our rebellion against him can be overcome. God can adopt us into his family. As we sing at the beginning of the carol, Hark the Herald Angels, “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born king; peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled”.
God’s peace in Christ is offered to the world. But how can we enjoy this peace? When the angels appeared to the shepherds they praised God and sang: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14). God’s offer of peace goes out to all. But only those whose God’s favour rests on them will enjoy the peace he brings. To have God’s favour rest on them, people need to repent and put their trust in Jesus.
And when we have peace with God we can experience true peace. It’s not a temporary peace, but a lasting peace. God enables us to enjoy the kind of peace that will carry us through the ups and downs of life, that sustains us through the hardest of times. As we enjoy peace with God we can also enjoy peace with others. When we become part of God’s family we can enjoy new relationships with fellow Christians. God’s Holy Spirit changes us and we begin to love others with the love of God, forgive others knowing that we’ve been forgiven by God and be patient to others, with the help of God.
So let me encourage you to come along to St Catherine’s for our various Christmas services to find out more about Jesus and the peace he offers us. These include our Carols by Candlelight (Sunday Dec 10th 6pm), Nativity (Sunday Dec 17th, 11am) and Christingle (Christmas Eve 4pm).
Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!
Vicar’s letter (October & November 2023)
This last month I’ve been reflecting on kingship. September 8th marked not only the first anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth but also the first anniversary of Charles becoming King. A BBC News article asked that day, “What sort of monarch has he been in his first year?” It noted that this year has been much more about stability and reassurance than about change or reform. One royal commentator, Pauline Maclaran, said this, “People have very quickly become used to him as King”. I wonder if that’s been your experience? Or does it feel strange to refer to him as King Charles rather than Prince Charles?
But I’ve been reflecting on kingship not only because of Charles’ anniversary as king but because the two Old Testament books we’ve been covering in our sermon series (2 Samuel on Sunday mornings and Daniel on Sunday evenings) have featured the role of king.
In the early chapters of 2 Samuel we’ve seen another transition of monarch. Saul, a flawed king, died at the end of 1 Samuel and was succeeded by King David. Earlier in 1 Samuel Saul had rejected God and his Word. So God rejected him and appointed David to replace him, with the prophet Samuel secretly anointing David in chapter 16. David wins a great victory over Goliath and then is successful in other battles. But with David becoming increasingly popular, Saul is jealous of him and tries to kill him. David is forced to flee and remains a fugitive for many years. As we read of these trials we are left asking, “Can David really be the chosen one of God, the anointed, if he is persecuted and rejected in this way?” But we can then see in David’s life a foreshadowing of Jesus, the great son of David. Jesus was also anointed by God but was despised and hated by many – leading to his death on the cross. But there was no doubt that he was God’s choice and God’s king.
We will see in 2 Samuel that David, although a good king, is also a flawed king. It leaves the reader longing for a better king. There’s a wonderful promise of this king to come in 2 Samuel 7, as God says to David, “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom…I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father and he shall be my son” (v12-14). That glorious promise is ultimately fulfilled with the coming of Jesus. As the angel tells Mary before the birth of Jesus, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him he throne of his father David…his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33).
In Daniel we also see that God promises to put his king in place. Daniel receives visions from God while he is exiled in Babylon. He sees terrifying beasts that represent different kingdoms that will oppress God’s people. But Daniel is reassured that these kingdoms will not win in the end. God’s kingdom will prevail. So in Daniel 7:13-14 we read, “In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and people of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will never pass away and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed”. Jesus is that great “son of man” promised here. He is the great universal king that Daniel saw in his vision. But he must first suffer and die before he enters his glory.
It is so exciting to see God’s promises from hundreds of years before Jesus being fulfilled in him. It reassures us that God is both trustworthy and powerful in keeping his promises. Why not come along to our Sunday services and hear more about how the Old Testament points ahead to King Jesus. If you read through one of the four gospels about the life, death and resurrection of King Jesus you will soon see what sort of monarch he is. He is the best ever king – full of love and compassion, who willingly goes to the cross for our sake, to suffer the punishment we deserve for our sin.
The question then gets asked of us: will we have Jesus as king in our life? So let me encourage you to reflect on kingship and King Jesus too!
Vicar’s Letter (August & September 2023)
As we head into August it’s that time of year when many are able to relax a little, enjoy the summer school holidays and hopefully soak up the sun (once it stops raining so much!). Summer also brings the opportunity to watch some great blockbuster movies. I can’t say I’m excited about watching Barbie or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But I do enjoy a good action film or a film based on a true story. So Oppenheimer (the biopic about the father of the atomic bomb) and Indiana Jones are films on my hope-to-watch list. I’m also hoping to see Mission Impossible very soon!
Having come to the end of preaching through the book of Acts recently (we’ve covered this book over the last few summers) I thought what an amazing film could be made of Acts! It would be utterly gripping and fast-moving, whether covering the amazing escape by Peter from prison (Acts 12) or Paul’s dramatic sea journey culminating in attempts on his life and a shipwreck (Acts 27).
Indeed, Acts is all about what seems “Mission Impossible”. It begins with the risen Jesus telling his disciples about their mission, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (1:8). It seems like an impossible mission! The disciples were few in numbers, very ordinary people. They would face opposition and persecution both from Jewish religious leaders and sceptical Romans crowds. Yet Jesus promises his disciples that he will equip them for this mission, encouraging them that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (1:8).
As we read through Acts we see the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), encouraging them to boldly proclaim Jesus wherever they went. By the end of Acts 9 the good news of Jesus has spread throughout Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, just as Jesus promised. With the conversion of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, in Acts 10 it’s clear that the gospel will go out not only to Jews but to Gentiles too. The apostle Paul soon takes centre stage and the gospel goes out to Europe, to modern day Greece and Turkey. Many churches are founded across the region. We constantly read the refrain, “the word of the Lord spread wisely and grew in power” (19:20).
By the end of Acts, chapter 28, we see that the gospel has indeed reached the ends of the earth – or at least Rome! Paul comes through various trials before both the Jewish and Roman authorities and a hazardous sea journey to reach Rome. He’s under house arrest but is still able to speak of Jesus. The book ends on this note: that Paul, “proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance” (v31). The advance of the gospel is unstoppable.
We may want to know what happened to Paul. But the author Luke ends Acts this way as if to say what’s really important is that the reader should be doing what Paul was doing – boldly proclaiming Jesus. So will you play your part in the advance of the gospel, telling people about Jesus? Maybe you think it seems too hard, that it is mission impossible for us? Perhaps you’re fearful of saying the wrong thing or being rejected by people around us. You don’t think you have the courage to speak boldly. So we need to pray for boldness. That’s what the disciples did, back in Acts, when facing persecution. They prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (v29). We see a remarkable answer to prayer in v31, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly”.
So let’s pray and trust in the in the Holy Spirit equipping us for our Mission Impossible. Since Acts the gospel has continued to spread today throughout the world. Indeed, in seeming to leave his book unfinished, Luke is implying that the story of the unstoppable advance of the gospel will indeed continue until Jesus returns. The sermons on Acts can be found on our church website – why not take a listen: https://www.stcatherinestranmere.co.uk/sermons.htm And if you’re new to thinking about Christian things why not have a read through of Acts and see what an inspirational message about Jesus the disciples shared with everyone.
Have a great summer!