- 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 (October 2019)
This season the Premier League have introduced the use of VAR – Video Assistant Referees. It is hoped that the use of this technology will enable more correct referring decisions to be made. VAR only gets involved when officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas; goals, penalties, red cards and mistaken identity.
VAR reviews the video footage of the incident and advises whether or not action needs to be taken. The Video Assistant Referees can talk to the on-field referee through an earpiece. If something needs to be looked at the referee will put his hand up to stop play and inform the players that a decision is being reviewed. If there has been an error, the referee will draw a rectangle with their arms - like a big TV screen in the air - to show they're changing their original decision.
Liverpool have benefited from VAR so far in the season. At the end of September Chelsea had a goal disallowed by VAR, which prevented them from equalising and Liverpool went on to win the game. Liverpool’s rivals, Manchester City, were negatively impacted by VAR at the start of the season. Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus scored a last-minute winner against Tottenham, only to see it ruled out for an accidental handball following a VAR review.
The use of VAR means there is no escaping the eye of at least the Video Assistant Referee. They can see and review every move that is made. I wonder how we would feel if that applied to life outside of the football pitch? Well at a recent prayer meeting we began by reading Psalm 139, that speaks of the all-seeing, all-knowing creator God.
Perhaps it seems scary to think of a God who sees and knows all that we do. A God we cannot escape from. It certainly should make us realise that all our wrong doing, thinking, speaking, is known by God. Yet the Psalmist also sees this truth about God as being of great comfort.
He rejoices that God knows him intimately. So v2, “you know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways”. Furthermore, God knows our thoughts; he knows what we’re about to say even before we have uttered the words. David praises God because of this, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me”. We don’t need to pretend what we’re like with God – he knows us and still loves us.
David is also encouraged that God is with him continually. In v7 he asks the hypothetical question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” But David knows full well that there is nowhere he can go where God isn’t. “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even though your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”. David is thankful that God is always with him. It seems that David is thinking, “no matter what happens to me, I can always rely on you being there; not to threaten me but to direct me, not to make me feel anxious but to make me feel secure”.
May these truths about God encourage you, whatever is going on in your life right now. God doesn’t want you to run away from him, in fact you cannot run away from him as the prophet Jonah discovers (we’re studying Jonah in home groups this term). Instead, He wants you to draw close to him. If you would like to find out more about the God who knows all about you and invites you to know him personally please do come along to our Christianity Explored course. We begin our evening course on Tuesday, October 8th, 8pm-9pm. Please contact me if you like to find out more.
Vicar’s Letter (September 2019)
September often feels like a new start for many. It is the start of a new school term, perhaps back to familiar routines after a summer break. So I wonder what your hopes and ambitions are at this point? As I was pondering on this during August I’ve just being working on a sermon on Psalm 27. There, in the midst of pressures and problems, the writer David cries out: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (v4).
It is an amazing thing for King David to say. It is the most single minded statement of purpose to be found in the OT. It is not that David literally wanted to live in “the house of the Lord”, the tabernacle in David’s time, for the rest of his life. Only the priests lived in the area of God’s house. What David wanted was to enjoy unbroken fellowship with God. David’s deepest desire – his one thing - is not for safety, military dominance or prosperity. David wants God, to be near God, to see and be satisfied with God’s glory and to live by God’s wisdom and guidance. Imagine visiting a good friend, a much loved member of the family. What you enjoy is not being in their house so much as to enjoy being in their company. Well David loves being in the company of God.
Can you say the same thing as David? If you only had one wish what would it be? Well we should wish to have God with us and enjoy his presence in a deeper way. This is not a prayer to be spending the whole of our lives in a church building but the whole of our lives with God. In the battle of the normal Christian life we can understandably be focused on being delivered from particular troubles. So it is good to be reminded of the one thing we ultimately need, God himself.
Of course, it’s still right to pray to God about all the problems and pressures we face. The apostle Peter writes, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Yet, at the same time we should long to know God better.
You may know the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary. Martha gets so cross that her sister Mary is just listening to Jesus when she is rushing around, doing all kinds of jobs. But Jesus tells her, “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
The lesson for us is clear. Amongst all life’s duties, there is one supreme necessity which must always be given priority. One thing, which if circumstances compel us to choose, must be chosen to the exclusion of others. That supreme necessity is to sit at the Lord’s feet, listen to his word and grow in our relationship with Jesus. That will not be taken away from Mary because a relationship with Jesus will last for all of eternity. Death, retirement, redundancy, illness, none of that can take us away from knowing Jesus.
This week I read a really interesting interview with Tim Farron, former Liberal Democrat leader, on the Premier Radio website. It concluded with him saying, “If I’d not been through the trials and tribulations of my leadership, I’d not be in the position that I am in now where I can openly talk about my faith. If you’ve given up the thing that you most wanted to achieve in life – for me it was being leader of my party – because there’s something more important, it’s so important you then focus on that thing, which is following Jesus.”
I hope that in the term ahead you may put following Jesus as the most important thing in your life. Do come along to St Catherine’s if you want to find out more about how you may do so.
Vicar’s Letter (August 2019)
The month ahead hopefully promises a glorious few weeks of cricket, as England play Australia in the Ashes Test series. Can England continue their great summer of cricket, having just won the Cricket World Cup? What a marvellous and dramatic victory it was against New Zealand in the final, going all the way to a “Super Over”. Sadly, the final didn’t finish until after 7pm so I had to wait until after the end of our 7pm service to discover the final result! There were great celebrations after England won and the next day the team went to 10 Downing Street for a celebration reception.
As I reflected on that sporting triumph it reminded me of an even greater celebration Christians have to look forward to. The Bible often uses sporting analogies and in 2 Timothy Paul writes, as he anticipates the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown if righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will aware to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Paul pleads with every Christian to finish the race, not to give up, to stay the course and long for the second appearing of Jesus. It can be so easy for the concerns of life, of career, relationships, hobbies, to draw people always from following Jesus wholeheartedly. Paul reminds us of the certain hope of heaven, of enjoying God’s perfect new world with God and his people. The England cricket team may have received praise from the Prime Minister, but how much better will it be to arrive in heaven and be told by the Lord: “well done, good and faithful servant”.
It is a mind blowing thought to consider that one day God will renew this world. Brian Johnson, the cricket commentator, wrote these words in his autobiography “Someone who was” shortly before he died: “I find the after-life an impossible place to imagine or believe in, though I persuade myself that there must be some light at the end of life’s dark tunnel. But I do not find it easy to conceive what it might be”.
The Bible, though, speaks of heaven as a perfect restoration of this world. Revelation 22, the very last chapter of the Bible, contains a description of heaven which includes a number of similarities to the Garden of Eden at the very beginning of the Bible. The same key elements are there – a river flowing through it and trees next to it. The point is that God has undone the effects of the Fall, after Adam and Eve turned away from God’s rule, and has restored the perfect garden. This imperfect world will pass away and will be replaced by a physical new creation which will last for ever.
God’s new world will be a physical place and those who live there will be physical people. All those who have trusted in Jesus will be there. We will have new physical bodies that will never fade away. There will be no more suffering, no more sickness, no more sin. Instead, it will be a vibrant and alive people with God’s people rejoicing at being with God and with one another. Revelation 21:3-4 puts it like this: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. 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”.
Recently, on July 20th, was the 50th anniversary of two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin walking on the moon: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” A few months before, December 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 travelled to, but did not land on, the moon. On Christmas Eve, Apollo 8 entered into orbit around the moon. The crew read from Genesis 1 as they transmitted to approximately one billion people worldwide a breathtaking view of the earth rising above the surface of the moon.
Well one day God’s people will experience seeing the new world for ourselves, walking in God’s perfect new creation, so much better than this world. That will be an experience we will enjoy forever. Do chat to me if you want to find out more about how you can be part of that. It is not wishful thinking. Jesus’ death and resurrection is what gives Christians that certain hope for our future.