- 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 (June/July 2021)
As I write this the club football season is drawing to a close. Liverpool fans may be relieved to have finished third in the Premier League. Tranmere fans will be disappointed to have lost out in the play-offs. Nottingham Forest fans, like myself, will just be glad that the season is over and hope for a better season next time! Yet we now have the excitement of Euro 2020 to look forward to (the football tournament is still called that, even though it’s a year later than planned!). I’m optimistically predicting an England victory!
Meanwhile, the Tokyo Olympics still look set to go ahead, starting late July. Competitors will be training hard, indeed, some may have spent years of dedication and determination to build towards this event. There would have been strict training regimes, needing to be followed with discipline and perseverance.
Maybe you’re not quite an Olympic athlete but many may be glad, with the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions, to be able to return to the gym or the swimming pool. Others, like myself, last year, took up the challenge of “Couch to 5k”. Almost a million people downloaded the app during the first three months of lockdown last year. I’m glad that I’ve continued running since I completed that challenge (well, more like a slow jog!).
I’ve been thinking over the importance of physical training this week as I prepare for the latest sermon from 1 Timothy, on chapter 4. There the apostle Paul declares, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (v7-8).
As a young man, Timothy knew the importance of taking exercise. He also knew that training was essential for athletes intending to compete. But Paul wants to stress how even more important is training for godliness. Paul literally writes, “exercise yourself unto godliness”. It has value not simply for life in this world, but for eternal life in God’s perfect new world.
Although Paul is addressing Timothy, a church leader, the whole letter calls for godliness among the whole church family. So Paul explains the reason why he wrote the letter in 3:14-15 “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing to you with these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth”. Paul later writes, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (6:6).
The challenge, therefore, for us, is to consider whether we put as much effort into our godliness as we do in getting ourselves fit and taking regular exercise. Although the Lord is at work in us as we go on in the Christian life, we also need to take personal responsibility for our spiritual progress. We need to work hard at growing our relationship with God and developing godly attitudes.
Rather than being the equivalent of a couch potato slumped in front of the television, Timothy is urged to be diligent in becoming more loving, more godly, gentler, purer and so on. The same must surely apply for us too. It is very easy to coast along in the Christian life and reach a plateau of godliness. We need to keep battling with sin and to train ourselves in the practice of godly living. We need to be nourished in the truths of God’s Word to spur us on to live for Jesus. Let’s always remember that a greater prize awaits us than an Olympic gold medal – the joy of being with Jesus and his people in the kingdom of heaven and hearing his words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
So let me encourage you to come along to St Catherine’s (or listen to the sermons on the website if you’re unable to attend) to find out more from 1 Timothy and how it can encourage us all in godly living.
Vicar’s Letter (April/May2021)
I write this the day before the National Day of Reflection on March 23rd, to commemorate the first anniversary of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown in the UK. Organised by Marie Curie, the National Day of Reflection looks to reflect on our collective loss, support those who've been bereaved, and have hope for a brighter future.
We are rightly saddened that during the last year over 125,000 people in the UK alone have died from coronavirus. Behind the numbers are individuals, who were much loved and are greatly missed. A mum, a dad, a wife, a husband, a brother, a sister, a grandparent, a friend, a colleague. So what does the church have to say on a day like today? Well we should point people to the truth of Jesus Christ and his words in the Bible.
First, Jesus is aware of our heartache in the face of death. In John 11, the apostle records Mary’s grief when her brother Lazarus dies. We read, in verses 33-36: “When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord”, they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him”.
Mary cries. She is overcome with grief at her brother’s death. Her friends cry with her. When death comes we need friends to weep with us, to walk with us and support us through the dark days.
Jesus cries too at the death of his friend. We read in v35, “Jesus wept”. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible! We see the humanity of Jesus. He loves. He cares. And he weeps. Jesus is not remote from the sufferings of his fellow humans.
He understands the deep sense of loss and grief that we all experience in the face of death. He knows the many tears shed across this nation in this last year. It’s good to know that Jesus cares and grieves at the brokenness of our world. But Jesus also does something about this broken world.
Secondly, Jesus gives us hope in the face of death. Hope comes from Jesus’ words to Martha after her brother Lazarus died. In verses 25-26 Jesus declares: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” It is amazing. In the midst of Martha’s mourning Jesus directs her attention to himself. To trust that Jesus grants eternal life now and promises life after death in the kingdom of heaven, in God’s perfect new world, to all who believe in him. And Jesus’ question to Martha is a question for each of us: “Do you believe this?”
Perhaps you’re wondering, is it possible to believe in life beyond death? Well Jesus proves that he really can bring life after death. He goes to Lazarus’ tomb. Lazarus has now been dead for 4 days.
Verse 43: “Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out”. The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face”.
Death is defeated. With just a word, a command, Lazarus comes back to life. Jesus has supreme authority and power over death. Lazarus’ rising points forward to Jesus’ own resurrection on that first Easter Sunday. The evidence is there to believe – the empty tomb and the numerous appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Jesus’ resurrection points forward to the resurrection of all believers.
One day in heaven Christians will see loved ones who have died in Christ. Christians are the resurrection people. Through the heartache of the last year we have a hope that comes from Jesus’ own resurrection.
May you have a happy Easter, trusting in all that Jesus’ death and resurrection offers you. Do come along to St Catherine’s or listen to our audio services this Easter. We have a Good Friday all-age service at 12pm and an Easter Sunday all-age service, with the Lord’s Supper, at 11am. Please do book in these services by e-mailing me at least two days before the service that you wish to attend.
Vicar’s Letter (February 2021)
Our verse for 2021 is “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). In these difficult times it seems a very appropriate verse to encourage us all to keep going with faith in Jesus. In January our first sermon looked at this verse from Romans before three further sermons looked closely at each of the three parts of this verse from 1 Peter 1:3-13 (“joyful in hope”), James 5:7-11 (“patience in affliction”) and Luke 18:1-8 (“faithful in prayer”).
Let me ask you whether you have hope and are you joyful in hope? Last week I read about the importance of hope for our lives in a column by Dr Radha Modgil in the I newspaper. She wrote that, “Hope is a daily, tangible and vital tool for well-being. We have never needed to understand this more than now”. Dr Modgil acknowledges that it is a battle for hope in the midst of the pandemic – “It takes effort every single day at the moment to try to find hope and remain hopeful. Once we lose hope, we lose everything”. But what is hope? Dr Modgil describes it as “the belief that things can get better”. She suggests that we can find hope in science (development of vaccines), nature, past challenges in history that have been overcome and the kindness of people.
Now I think she’s right to view the importance of hope for each one of us. Hope is one of those human characteristics which God has built into us. All of humanity clings tenaciously to a hope of one kind or another. To lose one’s hope is perhaps the most tragic thing that can ever happen in life. However, the hope Christians have is more than believing that things can get better. Christian hope is a joyful and confident expectation which rests on the trustworthy promises of God.
An e-mail from the Good Book Company recently gave this lovely description of the Christian hope.
“Whether you're keen to leave 2020 behind, or anxious about what 2021 has in store, if the last year has taught us anything, it's that when the world shifts and shakes around us, our Christian hope remains an anchor for our souls: In our frailty, it is our strength; in our barrenness, it is life; in our desert-like places, it is soul-quenching water.”
But what is our hope? Paul describes the goal of our hope in Romans, “we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (5:2). The ultimate hope of the human heart is not forgiveness or justification or heaven or freedom from disease. The ultimate hope of every heart is the glory of God, that is his radiant splendour, which will be fully revealed when Jesus returns. We will see the Lord Jesus face to face, we will enjoy him perfectly and delight in him truly. Paul writes in Titus 2:13 that “we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”.
The glory of God has been made manifest in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, most notably in his death and resurrection. But one day the curtain will be raised and the glory of God will be fully disclosed in the kingdom of heaven. John Piper writes, “This is the ultimate experience that will wipe away every tear. This will rectify every wrong. This will make you say that it was all worth it, no matter what you suffered”. But what we hope for is not just to see the glory of God in Him. We hope for God’s glory to be seen in us. One day, you and I will be transformed people. No more sin!
We can have confidence that this will happen because it is grounded on the resurrection of Jesus. So the apostle Peter writes, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Knowing the goal of our hope and the ground of our hope what should we do? Be joyful!! Christian joy is never found in our circumstances but in Christ. Deep within us, there is to be a joy in Jesus that sustains us in every situation. We can set our hearts on how good it will be in the world to come. If we just focus on life now and the troubles of this world we will miss out on the joy that is ours.
So let me encourage you to be “joyful in hope” because of Jesus even in these difficult times. And that will help us to be “patient in affliction” as well – especially when it’s underpinned by faithfulness in prayer! Why not check out our sermons for January on our church website, so that you may be encouraged to keep going in these difficult times! Do contact me if you want to find out more about hope in Jesus. Best wishes