"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season;
Here our Rector Rev. Trevor Kemp shares his reflections on topics of interest to him and the wider church.
As some of you will know my wife recently had knee replacement surgery. We were truly touched not just by the prayer support from so many but by the practical help we were given (especially more than a whole week of suppers to save the Vicar from learning to cook properly). I can manage of course but it was a real blessing from an emotional and spiritual perspective as well as the very practical one of enjoying the gastronomic gifts. I am very grateful for all that we received, not least because of the hours of preparation and cooking I was saved and had expected to need to find and for the far more varied and healthy diet we enjoyed. In the end though this was not the greatest gift but rather it was the feeling of being valued, cared for and supported that was for me the most significant gift we received.
We are now entering the last part of Lent as we prepare to remember again the story of Jesus arrest, crucifixion and resurrection, as part of this story in Matthew 25, shortly before his arrest Jesus speaks of the final judgement and that is all about how we have fulfilled the commandment to love others as we love ourselves. How do we respond to the needs of others? This is a fundamental question of Christian faith for Jesus died for all of us (even if we choose to reject the gift) and he dies because he loves all of us (even if we reject his love). I sense that within the gifts we received I have learned something new of this scripture and the need to allow others to minister God’s grace to us. Jesus said as you do this for the least member of my family you did it to me. This says something profound about God’s relationship with his creation, that the creator of the universe is aware of the needs of all and of the responses of all to those needs and that at the final judgement we will be held to account for our actions or lack of them. It is personal to God and our actions reveal our priorities, as St. James said words without actions are not a life changed by faith.
As we move on from Easter to celebrate the wonder of resurrection and the joy of the Holy Spirit how will we respond? How will we listen to God? Will we allow ourselves to continue the process of transformation so that we reflect more of the nature of God in our lives? Jesus is Good News because he brings a new grace and because he calls us into a new life and a new love. You may remember what it was like to fall in love, the desire to see, to hear, to be with this person you love, It should be like that with God, the more we seek to be with him the more wonderful we will discover he is and the more lovable we will discover we are.
Finally I would like to thank all who supported my son on his charity walk for Blind Veterans UK for whom you raised £280. Thank you.
“Father Christmas has been bastardised to represent materialism gone mad” said Benedict Cumberbatch in a contribution to National Letter Writing Day he went on to say that Father Christmas or Santa Claus has its origins in pagan rituals a million miles from the commercial manipulation and demands of today. It is rather unfair to write out the Christian story so simply especially when the answer to his concerns is actually held within the Christian story.
There was of course a pagan ritual in Northern Europe around this time of year (as there was at most times of year) centred I believe on a Norse myth about Odin and the Wild Hunt that went through the sky. Father Christmas though is actually based on Bishop Nicholas of Myra in the 300’s AD (in modern Turkey) who it is said inherited a substantial sum and generously used it to make anonymous dowry gifts to young girls from poor families who would otherwise not have been able to marry. In this way they almost certainly avoided being sold into prostitution or slavery and so signify something of the rescue we too know in God. ‘Father Christmas’ brought the gift of freedom and hope to those in material need. Our modern commercial and materialistic Christmas stands in marked contrast to this original act of compassion inspired by the grace of Jesus. Today commercial power has changed Christmas from something focussed on the gift of God in Jesus and the reflective life changing gifts of the Bishop of Myra into something far less wholesome. Today all too often we seem to indulge children in particular, showering gifts of substantial cost in the hope of them knowing they are special and loved but the inspiration for this is commercial, it is the businesses that tell us that unless we have this that or the other our lives will be incomplete. It is incredibly clever and huge sums are spent on persuading us every year to spend, spend, spend and our Governments collude in it because the capitalist system relies on us wanting ever more goods and services as tax revenue relies on it too.
The Bishop of Myra instead gave away his excess to bring hope to the hopeless because he understood that in Jesus God gave of himself to bring us hope. Benedict Cumberbatch like most of us wants more peace and more positive community in our mad world, you won’t get that from any human political or social system because always we will want more for ourselves at the expense of others. It is in the generosity of God in Jesus that we will find inspiration for a new and better way, a world that loves its neighbour as itself will be a world that reflects Jesus, reflects the nature of the Creator. This is the message of God’s relationship with humanity from the beginning of time and until we discover it and respond to it the world will not be healed.
Fear or Fruitfulness
Inspired by Hebrews
One of my top three scripture passages is the opening to the letter to the Hebrews. I love it because it is a fabulous and concise statement of the truth about God.
" In the past God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son. He is the one through whom God created the universe, the one whom God has chosen to possess all things at the end. He reflects the brightness of God's glory and is the exact likeness of God's own being, sustaining the universe with his powerful word." (The Good News © Bible Society)
We believe that creation itself is all about God's love. In the beginning God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit ) begins creation, the force of his creative thought coalescing the stuff of the universe into what we experience today. We believe it only exists because of God and that Jesus himself is our Emmanuel (God with Us). For thousands of years God made himself known through individuals like Abraham and Moses but eventually he fulfils his original purpose by coming among us as Jesus. Jesus is both human like us and yet also fully God and so in him we can see and know what God is truly like. Jesus is unique in so many ways and his purpose in coming is not just to reveal the true nature of God but to do so in the most powerful of ways. Who would dare to die for others? A few perhaps and then mostly inspired by Jesus. When Jesus is nailed to the cross he dies for us, that in him our failures and weaknesses, our sins, might be redeemed. It is an outrageous idea and yet it is the heart of our Christian story. It is an unpopular idea in the modern world that we might not be the arbiters of our own salvation, that we cannot do as we wish without consequence but it is true and the consequence of our action (or sometimes inaction) was the need for Jesus to be crucified. The story goes on for Jesus does not stay in the grave but passes beyond the grave into a deeper living. We all know that this is not possible for death is the end, or is it? Why should life as we know it be the best there is? God loves all he creates and wants to bring it back into the fullness of HIS reality because that is where it is truly fulfilled. Jesus makes this not just possible but certain when he returns to the Father in heaven. All he asks us to do is to acknowledge who he is, that we are not perfect, that there are things we do and say that hurt ourselves and others or damage the world we live on, (hands up if you have never done anything to regret and if you have without fail always done everything you could to help family, friend or neighbour in need). to say sorry (confess) for those things and to ask him to forgive us and heal us of our past. We cannot earn God's grace he offers it freely to any who will return to him. Then we move on living not just for the future but striving to make God's love shine in the present.
To receive Jesus is to begin a wonderful process of transformation into the people we were actually made to be.
I believe in a created universe not an accidental one. What do you believe in? I trust in a God who loves me and who dies for me and lives with me by his Holy Spirit. What do you trust in? What do you hope for? For me a world without Jesus is a world without hope.
Photo © Elaine Kemp
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