Category Archives: Vicar’s weekly thought

Longing for Hope – Vicar’s weekly thought 8th Dec

Longing for Hope

Where does your hope come from, where does it lie? Or have you even given up on hope?

I hope not! They say hope is one of the things that eventually springs up in the human heart, even after years of being squashed down – rather like a dry seed that germinates after years of lying in a dark corner! The reason? I believe God has put hope in the human heart. But also that it is hope for something. I suddenly noticed, reading the famous Christmas passage again ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…’ [1] , how many hopes then get a mention! Hopes of: ‘enlarging’ of the people, of rejoicing, of harvest, of yokes being broken and burdens lifted, of oppressors being destroyed. This list of hopes speaks to my heart, I expect it does to yours too. But here’s the thing, the promise is that all those hopes rest on, yes, a child: ‘For unto us a child is born’ [2] . And a child through whom, God is with us no less (the meaning of the word ‘Immanuel’ as the angel explained to Joseph). This seems impossible. But I have found that a hope resting in this child Jesus is immensely powerful. As his Spirit moves among us, comes into our lives, we find genuine, deep steadfast hope arises – and then peace comes upon us sometimes even in the middle of great darkness (the bringer of peace will be at the centre our Christmas celebrations this year – so of this more later!). St Peter wrote, ‘pay close attention to what the prophets wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.’ [3] May He rise in your heart and so re-fire your hope. [1] Isaiah 9.2 [2] Isaiah 9.6 [3] 2 Peter 1.19

Longing for Joy – Vicar’s weekly thought for 1st Dec

This Advent and Christmas, and then into the New Year through Epiphany, we will be speaking under the heading, ‘from longing to finding – a journey’. There are many things all of us deeply long for, but then many of us have discovered moments when in Christ we find we can say, “We found!” The full set of themes is set out inside, but we begin Advent with ‘Longing for Joy’. Every now and then Margaret and I say, “I feel like prince, like a princess!” Jesus speaks over and over again of inviting us to his feast, his table of joy. And it seems his favourite was a wedding feast. In some ways it’s only hinted at (as in today’s parable) but by the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, it’s full scale:

‘And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem,

coming down from God out of heaven

like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.’ [1]

Life seems tough, there’s a lot of waiting, a lot of persistence, a lot of faith required. Joy may sometimes seem far off, but God in his love has made our hearts for joy, and we long for it to ‘come up through the cracks’ as several Christian writers have put it. I long to know that joy of Christ, his joy over us indeed. May His Joy come to us. Amen Lord Jesus. Come!

[1] Revelation 21.2

Christ the King – Vicar’s weekly thought 24th Nov

Christ the King

In these uncertain times, there seem to be lots of questions buzzing around to which there are no clear cut answers. What is going to happen to us, our families, our community and our country? Will our next set of leaders be trustworthy, keep their promises, really listen to what people are saying, respect and value everyone from the homeless guy on the streets, the asylum seeker to the high powered executive? Do they really want to serve others or their own self interests? We know that no leaders can ever fulfil all our expectations, because they are not perfect, they are people like us who make mistakes and get things wrong.

But what if, there is someone who ‘came not to be served but to serve others.’1 Christ our Servant King, who loves to listen to you, who values you, who tells us that ‘the very hairs on your head are all numbered.’2   Someone who has plans for you. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Isn’t that someone you would want to give your allegiance to, to worship as your King.

1. Mark 10:45, 2. Luke 12:7, 3. Jeremiah 29.11

Going forward this weeks Vicar’s thought

Going forward

St. Paul wrote in today’s reading, ‘I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.’ [1] What a strange thing to say! About us possessing perfection, and being possessed by Christ. What does it mean? We’re far from likely to reach perfection, nor am I sure I want to be owned by anyone! Last week at Remembrance we spoke of the immense, immense love of God towards us, from which nothing can separate us, not even the powers of hell. A reluctant convert to Christ was recently writing about the many promises and commitments we seem to be asked to make in our day, but then asked, ‘what if there is a creature of infinite love who has made a promise to us?’ He asked us to ’consider the possibility that we are the ones committed to’, and what is more that it is ‘a commitment to redeem us and bring us home’? [2] As we hear the call of this loving Lord to go forward with Him, both as a Church and in our own lives, to respond to his calling to us – what if He is the One who promises to present us faultless before the throne of grace? What if He is the One who comes to take hold of us with his deep, deep love? Will we not say ‘Yes’ to his ‘Yes’ to us?

[1] Philippians 3.12 [2] David Brooks New York Times Columnist (‘reluctant’ is my interpretation!)

Love….and the powers of hell – Vicar’s weekly thought

Love….and the powers of hell

Remembrance Sunday is a difficult day….that’s not just me saying that. As the day has approached lots of you have said how tough it is. Wars, and rumours of wars, untold suffering not just for the direct combatants, but all and any caught up in its repercussions – just think of refugees in our day. Many also ask me, how can there be a God who says He is love in the face of all that? Today’s key verses are these: Of this I am convinced – that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do you notice that St Paul, and Jesus too, didn’t avoid the question of the very powers of hell – in the same breath as speaking of God’s love? I can’t work it out, but it is in the very place of difficulty, suffering and evil that we are most likely to find the powerful love of God. God’s love is far from easily overcome, indeed is more powerful than anything else we will ever discover. It led Christ to his own sacrifice on a cross. God’s heart of love wants to reach out to us too, in our past memories, our present struggles and our future plans. I pray you may hear, sense, discover something of His love this very day, however He may come to you – even as we Remember.

Do you see the Harvest? – this week’s Vicar’s thought

Do you see the Harvest?

If Jesus said, ‘the Harvest is plentiful, is great’ might he just be right? I
sometimes wonder if it’s just that we don’t see the harvest, not that it isn’t
there (you could say, ‘Lift up your eyes unto the fields rather than to the
hills!’). You see Jesus also said, ‘the Kingdom of God is near (or among) you’!
He might just be right again! And the Kingdom of God is a beautiful,
grace-filled, peaceful place of blessing. If you have found Christ, you will at
times have seen just how true that is, how real that is. But if you’re anything
like me you may also have frequently lost sight of that reality!

I think Jesus is saying, there is a deep thirst for the Lord and his love out there, for his peace and healing, for reconciliation. These are the things we as human beings long for; and yes, in his Kingdom all these things are found! They are what Jesus came to release into our world by his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Until the last day, yes we will indeed ‘see as through a glass darkly’ to quote from St Paul’s famous writings on love in 1 Corinthians 13. But these things of his Kingdom are deeply real nonetheless, and when we catch sight of them, when those we seek to bring Christ’s love to catch sight of them, they are all they promised to be and more. So how do we share the peace and blessings of Jesus’ Kingdom? This is our question for today as we hear how
Jesus sent out 72 of his disciples to go ahead of him.

To believe or not to believe….. Vicar’s weekly thought 13th Oct

To believe or not to believe…..

Now there’s an interesting thing, ‘the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah…..’, well I’d be interested anyway!

He’s come and is waiting to speak to Gideon son of Joash (he of the putting out of the fleece to test the Lord, if you know the story). Gideon is going to be called to rescue the people of Israel from under ‘the Midianites’ who are continually harassing the people of God; and Gideon (called Mighty Hero by the angel – “yea right!” he may think) is undoubtedly going to doubt whether this is at all possible, and certainly whether he’s the man for the job.

And then there’s ‘doubting’ Thomas, who despite all the other disciples saying they’d seen the Risen Lord that first Easter, famously says, “I won’t believe it unless I see for myself the nail wounds in his hands…..” And like Gideon’s angel, the Lord Jesus comes to see Thomas. Jesus has heard what Thomas has said…… Both men are finally persuaded and set off to do the very things the Lord is calling them too – Gideon to free the people from the Midianites, Thomas by tradition to bring the Good News of Jesus to the people of India. I find this very encouraging. The Lord knows us doubts and all, he knows who we are, how we are, what makes us tick – and it doesn’t put him off! No, He comes, explains, calls, says have faith in Me after all, and that’s OK with him. Yes, as Jesus finishes by saying to Thomas, “You’ve seen me and believed, but blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” But he comes to bless and use those of us who doubt too – in spades!

‘Stand Firm in this Grace’ this weeks vicar’s thought 22nd Sept

Stand Firm in this Grace[1]

Over the summer, we have studied and reflected upon Peter’s letter to scattered Christians in first-century Asia Minor, and have come to realise that it has a truly contemporary ring. His teaching and encouragement to those early Christians is still relevant to us twenty first century Christians in Oldfield Park. It is a letter full of certainty about our inheritance and our home, pointing us to the day when Christ will be revealed in glory. Time and again he reminds us of the fundamental truths of the way of Jesus. Peter gives us encouragement that God is with us and that any hardship we suffer will not overwhelm us. Above all, we need to experience more of God’s grace and have our trust in him deepened. We do not know what lies in store for us in the times ahead, but we do know that God is faithful and his compassion and protection will surround us. Peter started his letter by saying, ‘Grace and peace be yours in abundance,’ [2] and ends it by saying, ‘Stand firm in this grace’

[1] (this week’s one liner!). 1 Peter 5.12 [2] 1 Peter 1.2

This week’s vicar’s thought 15th Sept

A message from Richard White on his first Sunday with us!

My name is Richard and I’m the new Team Rector down at St Michaels. As I’m preaching this Sunday with you Robert suggested I might write something for your notice sheet and website. So here are some musings: 1 Peter 5:3 (The Passion Translation) ‘Don’t be controlling tyrants but lead others by your beautiful examples to the flock.’ What does it look like to lead not by directing people or wielding power over them, but by living as a beautiful example? For Peter to have written this, he must surely have witnessed it in the life of the Great Shepherd King, Jesus himself. Jesus had a strategy for filling the whole earth with the glory of God, and it was through imitation. Living a life worth imitating is at the heart of Jesus’ discipling culture: followers of Jesus modelling the life of Jesus to others. Jesus models to us the kind of relationship we are to have with each other in the church. It’s a ripple affect. Paul called the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitates Christ (1 Cor 11:1), not as a overbearing dictator, but as a spiritual father. This leads to two key questions we need to ask ourselves regularly as imitators of Christ: 1. Who is pouring into you? 2. Who are you pouring into?

‘We cannot see the glory!’

Vicar’s thought for 8th Sept 2019

A couple of years ago, some of us had the privilege of being in the same room as an older North Korean Christian woman who had finally escaped from her country. She had been through unimaginable suffering for being a Christian – imprisoned, made to stand naked in the freezing cold all day, and many other tortures. At the end of that freezing day, she heard her Lord say to her, “My dear woman, you have suffered all that for me, you are precious beyond measure”. I might have said, “Well, thanks for that Lord, if I were that precious might you not have saved me from this freezing day?!” But no, she just radiated a simple beauty, joy and thankfulness. In fact she was like a bit like a child, laughing as she freely ran around taking pictures of us all worshipping! St Peter wrote, ‘It is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!’ [1] You see we are bearers of His glory, His Name. Let us too keep walking faithfully, listening out for our dear Lord’s voice through it all. For as Jesus said, “No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else.” [2] We cannot see these things, do more than occasionally glimpse the glory, but we bear the name of the one true Messiah.

[1] 1 Peter 4.16 [2] John 10.28-29

This week’s Vicar’s thought 21st July

Today we start our new series on 1 Peter. Peter specially highlights the great themes of the Christian gospel, It is a letter full of certainty about our inheritance and our home, pointing us to the day when Christ will be revealed in glory and reminding us that ‘the end of all things is near’, but in doing so he is concerned that we also live the life of heaven here and now. We should have our eyes on the horizon, but our boots on our feet!

Living Hope that gives great encouragement and joy

By ‘hope’ Peter does not mean something we merely wish for, or would like to happen in the future. It is much more definite than that. It is our inheritance – our new birthright -preserved for us and indestructible. The hope is of eternal life with God, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It takes real faith to focus on this hope when we are going through periods of struggle and difficulty. Peter is so aware that Christians may well have to face all kinds of sorrow, yet believes this need not defeat our faith; it can refine it. Peter encourages us to trust in Jesus and to ‘rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy’. [1]

[1]1 Peter 1.8

The blessing with the greatest reward – Vicar’s weekly thought 14th July

The blessing with the greatest reward…. ….is the one attached to persecution and suffering for the sake of Christ! Very strange. Does it mean that those who seriously suffer persecution have some kind of special reward tucked away in heaven that somehow makes it all worthwhile? You might think so, for the reward Jesus mentions is: ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs’. But then Jesus also said that the Kingdom of Heaven is already among you. Perhaps we can experience that Kingdom among us even now, and find that the joy of that Kingdom is far more special than we thought…..? Jesus makes it plain – his Kingdom is the main thing. Rather shockingly he suggests that other things really are much less important (‘Let the dead bury their own dead’ and so on[1] ).

So, what is the cost of following Jesus to you? Perhaps it’s just that lies are told about you? (that’s the one Jesus mentions). I don’t know. We had some moving answers to the question of the cost from our Small Group leaders at a recent session – it’s OK we won’t share them – and they were different for each person. So what do you make of these questions? What is the cost to you of following Jesus in your time and place? What do you think others will say when they come to hear about the cost of going Jesus’ way? I can only say there is no other way as amazing as Jesus’ way, full of his life, his joy, his peace – in whatever circumstances. As St Peter put it, ‘In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus’ [2]

[ ]1 Luke 9.57-62 [2] 1 Peter 5.10