The Vicar's Monthly Magazine Articles

Rev'd Charles - December 2017

posted 2 Jan 2018, 06:56 by Richard Jones

View From the Vicarage 

Describe Christmas in Three Words! 

Now that’s a challenge, so what might we say? Last minute shopping, eating too much, filling a stocking, holly and ivy or simply friends and family. But what about the words ‘Christ is born’? Where do these three words fit in? For many, the answer is they don’t, and yet for Christians there are three other words about Christmas that we would like to share with our families, friends and neighbours, and these are: Historical, Joyful and Essential! 

 1 Christmas is Historical: it really happened. 

Jesus is not some mythical make believe character. St Luke, who based his account on information from eyewitnesses, carefully investigated everything (Luke 1:1-4) and came to the conclusion that there had never been anyone else like Jesus. St Peter said the same (2 Peter 1:16)

Jesus lived a life of astonishing power and humility, authority and kindness, self sacrifice and compassion. He performed extraordinary miracles which even his enemies couldn’t deny (John 9) and having died for us, God raised him from the dead (1 Peter 1:21) In fact, he appeared to over 500 people in the days following his resurrection (Luke 24, 1 Corinthians 15) 

 2 Christmas is Joyful: God really cares. 

As the angelic messenger said, ‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today a Saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 1:8-20). Christmas tells us that God, the creator of this incredible universe, loves us (Colossians 1). Why else would he have come in Christ, leaving all the glory of heaven, to be born as a man in the midst of a sinful and suffering world. This is surely a great reason to be joyful: God really cares and demonstrates that care in action. And the knowledge of this can be of enormous strength and encouragement when difficulties arise. 

 3 Christmas is Essential: it really matters. 

Jesus didn’t just come to earth to demonstrate God’s love; he came to achieve an urgent rescue. The apostle Paul, one of the greatest early Christian leaders tells us: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’, and he did that by taking the punishment we deserve for not letting God be God in our lives, by dying in our place (Romans 3:23, 5:8). That is why he is called ‘Jesus’ because Jesus means Saviour (Matthew 1:21). But his death for us on the cross will mean nothing unless we respond in repentance, faith and trust. Indeed our eternal future, said Jesus, depends on the decision we make about him, now while we are still alive (John 5:24, 39-40, 14:6). That is why Christmas is so important. It really matters.     

For ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season’ so this year why not put CHRIST back into CHRISTmas. Make time for your creator and saviour. Come and learn more about him. For at the heart of Christmas is God’s heart of love. That is why there are three other words with which we could close. Three other words which tell us what Christmas is all about and they are God Loves You. Now that is something to celebrate and enjoy– and not just now but throughout the coming New Year.

 Charles


Rev'd Charles - November 2017

posted 4 Dec 2017, 08:13 by Richard Jones

View From the Vicarage 

LIGHT UP THE FIRE!

 Winter is certainly here with the approach of November 5th for no matter how dark and cold it may be outside the sky will soon be ablaze with the whiz and bang of fireworks because that’s the day we remember the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot.

 For it was around midnight on November 4th 1605, just a few hours before the official opening of Parliament, that Guido (or Guy) Fawkes (born 1570) was caught red handed in a cellar under the House of Lord’s, surrounded by 32 hundred weight of gunpowder. He had hoped to ‘light up a fire’ which would change the face of England. But the whole plan went disastrously wrong and on January 31st 1606 he was publicly hung drawn and quartered.

  We still remember Guy Fawkes and the fire that failed, and yet hundreds of years before he was born, a ‘fire’ was started which continues to spread all over the world today – a ’fire’ fuelled not by gunpowder but by love, the love of God for a world he had come to save (John 3:16).

  For Guy Fawkes, of course, death was the end. For Jesus Christ, however, it was just the beginning – for because of his resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit he became an eternally living person who can enter and transform our lives so setting us ‘on fire’ for him. For the ‘fire’ that Jesus brings has done more than overthrow governments – it has overthrown in those who have welcomed him in, the most stubborn tyrant of all – selfishness in the human heart.

  And down through the centuries countless millions have been inspired to share that light with others, even at the expense of giving up their lives. Like Hugh Latimer, the Bishop of Worcester (1485-1555), burnt at the stake in Oxford who, as the fire was kindled around them, said to Nicholas Ridley, the Bishop of London (1500 – 1555), ‘Be of good comfort Master Ridley and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.’

 They were convinced that God in Christ longs for nothing more than to enter our lives and to set them ablaze with his love. In the words of that popular song ‘Colours of Day’ (1974) so they too longed that God’s people in turn would ‘light up the fire and let the flame burn, open the door, let Jesus return. Take seeds of His Spirit, let the fruit grow, tell the people of Jesus, let His love show.’                                                                    

  But we will only be able to show Christ’s light and love to others if we have first welcomed him into our own lives as Lord and Saviour (Romans 10:9-13). After all, Jesus himself has said, ‘Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’ (Revelation 3:20).For those who follow Jesus are ‘the chosen race, the  king’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light’ (1Peter 2:9). So let us then LIGHT UP THE FIRE for God, as we seek in his strength to live for him.

 Charles

Rev'd Charles - October 2017

posted 3 Nov 2017, 04:46 by Richard Jones

View From the Vicarage

“Sticks and stones . . . 

 May break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Well whoever wrote that had never come across the web or twitter because although sticks and stones can leave bruises, words which are particularly unkind can sometimes leave far more lasting and permanent damage. 

 And words feature prominently in the Bible because God knows the power they have –  to heal or to hurt.  So why should Christians be especially careful about the words they use? Well the message of scripture is very clear. 

 Paul for instance writes, “You must get rid of all these things: anger, passion, and hateful feelings. No insults or obscene talk must ever come from your lips. Do not lie to one another, for you have taken off the old self with its habits and have put on the new self” (Colossians 3:8-10). “Do not  use harmful  words, but only helpful words. Get rid of all bitterness, passion and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort” ( Ephesians 4). Do not be ”slanderers, gossips and busy bodies, talking of things you should not”( 1 Timothy 5:11-13, Titus 2:3). 

 James speaks of the tongue as “a fire spreading evil through our whole being. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison” (3:6-12) and advises “be quick to listen but slow to speak” (1:19).  Indeed he adds “do not criticize one another and do not complain against one another” (4:11). 

 While Peter writes, “ No more lying or hypocrisy or jealousy or insulting language”(1Peter 2:1). And if we needed any more encouragement to watch what we say, Jesus himself warns, “Do not judge others” for “you can be sure that on Judgement Day everyone will have to give an account of every useless word he has ever spoken. Your words will be used to judge you – to declare you either innocent or guilty” (Matthew 7:1-5, 12:36-37). 

 Now of course it’s often only when we are tired or upset that we may say things we later regret (although English speakers swear on average at least one obscenity once in every 140 words, so that over the course of a day 0.7% of our language consists of swear words), but what we often forget is the damage hateful words do to us as well as to others. The Jewish rabbis call malicious slander the third tongue because it slays 3 persons – the speaker, the spoken to and the spoken of. 

So what should our approach be? Well someone once said that ‘great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events but small minds discuss people’ for ‘the tongue is where the mind comes out into the open.’ 

But a Christian is called to follow Christ, of whom Peter wrote, “No one ever heard a lie come from his lips. When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God the righteous Judge” (1Peter 2:22). 

 So when we consider that latest email, Facebook or twitter, or meet over coffee or chat together at an event what will our words say about us?  Will they point others to Christ, because God’s Holy Spirit is at work in us (Galatians 5:16-24) or will they instead reveal what is in our hearts (Luke 6:45)? 

 We all know how easy it is to be ‘hung by your tongue’ and that is why the prayer of the Psalmist is so important when he prays, “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my refuge and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). 

Charles

Rev'd Charles - September 2017

posted 1 Oct 2017, 07:25 by Richard Jones

View From the Vicarage

‘Do something religious!’ 

 Perhaps you know the story told by Bob Hope, the American comedian. He’s on a plane when it’s struck by lightning. The passengers begin to panic and one turns to him and says, ‘Do something religious!’  ‘So I did’, he said, ‘I took a collection!’ Why? Because our churches often appear to be only concerned with money even though Jesus himself said, “Our Father in heaven will give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11) and Paul was confident that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). 

 So while recognising that the ordained ministry has to be paid for, and places of worship provided for, it could be that many churches have lost sight of what they are called to be and to do (Mark 11:15-18). After all, Jesus’ final command to those who believed in him was simply to “Go to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:16-20). 

 But what are the distinctive characteristics of a disciple of Christ? The answer to that can be found in Acts Chapter 2 verses 37-47 where we read that they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  In other words, they believed the Good News about Jesus. They turned away from their sins (repented), committed themselves to Christ (were baptised) and received God’s gift, the Holy Spirit. So there was Bible teaching and Bible reading (John 8:31), sacrificial Christ-like concern for one another, worship (Hebrews 10:23-25) and prayer (Acts 1:14). These are what distinguished those first Christians and “every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved”. 

 So was Bob Hope right? For a Christian the answer is surely ‘no’, because all Christian giving is first and foremost a response to God’s incredible gift of himself to us (2 Corinthians 8:5 John 3:16) for at it’s heart Christianity is neither a ritual nor a religion. Rather it is a relationship in which by grace (Ephesians 2:8) we become God’s children (Romans 8:14-17) and God becomes our Father (Matthew 6:9). Therefore, when our priorities are right, God’s provision will follow. 

  So – do something religious? No. Instead, says Jesus, we are to “believe in the one whom God has sent” (John 6:28-29). 

 Charles


Rev'd Charles - July & August 2017

posted 4 Sep 2017, 05:58 by Richard Jones   [ updated 4 Sep 2017, 05:59 ]

View From the Vicarage  -  Why Worship? 

            It’s a fair question because so many of us do it. Whether it’s a football team, a loved one, our family, the car or even our job, worship is a common experience. But what is special about Christian Worship?

            It is Personal not Private. The question Jesus asked Simon was, ‘Do you love me?’ Not, do you believe in me, or agree with me or even like me. But do you personally ‘love me’ (John 21). And if the answer is yes then that love for Jesus is to spill out into a love for others (Matthew 28).

            It is Christ Centred not Self-Centred. ‘Why do you call me Lord, Lord,’ said Jesus ‘and do not do what I tell you?’ (Luke 6).  In worship we seek to hear God’s voice through the reading of the Scriptures and through the faithful and practical exposition of the Word of God. Indeed Paul writes, ‘Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ’ (Romans 10:17). So Christians are disciples – literally learners, people who are willing to learn from the Master (John 3, 6) and then, with God’s help, put that learning into practice (Romans 12).

            It is Spiritual not Superficial. ‘True worshippers,’ said Jesus ‘will worship the Father in spirit and truth’ (John 4). As we open our hearts and minds prayerfully to God, so the Holy Spirit begins to transform us from within giving us a new sense of joy and peace (Galatians 5) ‘for where the Spirit of the Lord is present there is freedom’ (2 Corinthians 3) – freedom to praise and enjoy worshipping God because our hearts and lives have been warmed by the love of God.  Not surprisingly, worship like that is both attractive and infectious! And finally Christian worship

            Is a Relationship not a Ritual. For some, worship appears to be little more than a series of do’s and don’ts. You must say this and you mustn’t do that. But all our service books and hymn books are ephemeral – none are eternal. Only Jesus Christ is the ‘same, yesterday, today and forever ‘ (Hebrews 13). It is God alone who does not change (Malachi 3).

            For the Bible says, we are put right with God, not by repeating the words of a man-made service to the letter (Matthew 15), but by responding to Jesus with the heart. For it is through repentance and faith that we are able, by the grace of God, to be welcomed into the family of God – a family in which we can call God our Father (Romans 8) and know Jesus as our Saviour (Romans 5). And without that relationship we will be unable to pray the prayer that Jesus taught us and mean it (Matthew 6).

            So worship – from the old English ‘weorthscipe’ –  to give worth to something. What does worship mean to you? Is the object of your worship worthy of worship? And if you claim to be a Christian then what part does God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit play in your worship?

            Some years ago a famous Archbishop, William Temple (1881-1944), said these words, ‘To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.’

While more recently Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best selling book ‘The Purpose Driven Church’,  has written, ‘in genuine worship God’s presence is felt, God’s pardon is offered, God’s purposes are revealed and God’s power is displayed’. May that be true for us.

      Charles

Rev'd Charles - June 2017

posted 28 Jun 2017, 02:59 by Richard Jones   [ updated 28 Jun 2017, 02:59 ]

“Make the Cross Count!”


‘The church should stay out of politics’. Now where have we heard that before? But as the French President General Charles De Gaulle (1890-1970) once said, ‘Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians!’ So how might the Christian faith influence our vote? To start with, Christians believe that…

God is the Creator – as well as the Saviour. That’s why climate change, protecting our heritage, controlling pollution, conserving energy, making transport clean and efficient, building a sustainable economy and reviving rural communities are important because we believe that creation belongs to God.

And because people are made in the ‘image of God’ (Genesis 1:26) all life – both before and after conception – is important to him. That’s why the future of the Health Service and concern about abortion and euthanasia will be on a Christian’s agenda. Secondly…

God is a God of Justice – as well as Justification. In his first sermon Jesus said “The Sprit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people” (Luke 4) So all forms of injustice and discrimination need to be confronted, whether it’s debt relief and global poverty, or asylum and the right to a safe refuge, household debt or interest rates – for all are important to God. Then thirdly…

God is a God of Relationships – as well as Revelation. That is why marriage and family life, care for the young and the elderly, education and provision for those who are infirm need to be supported, because Jesus said that he had come to bring ‘life’ – life is all it’s fullness’ (John 10:10) to both young and old. But that is also why no political party can ultimately satisfy the deepest needs of human beings, because we were created to love God and enjoy him forever. As St Augustine (354 – 430) once said of God ‘You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in thee.’

That is why ‘The central issues of our time aren’t economic or political or social, important as these are. The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature, and our calling is to declare Christ’s forgiveness and hope and transforming power to a world that does not know him or follow him. May we never forget this’ (Billy Graham). For inscribed into the stone floor of the Central Lobby in the Houses of Parliament are these words from Psalm 127 “Unless the Lord builds the house it’s labourers labour in vain”.


Charles

Rev'd Charles - May 2017

posted 30 May 2017, 22:28 by Richard Jones   [ updated 8 Jun 2017, 08:26 ]

Easter – dead and buried!

  So that’s it then. Another Easter has been and gone. You may be a few pounds lighter depending on what you’ve spent or a few pounds heavier depending on the chocolate you’ve eaten, but is there anything more? For a Christian the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’!

 First, the resurrection reveals the uniqueness of Christ. Respect for other faiths, of course; toleration for their customs – as long as they don’t break the law, certainly. But amongst all the world religions no-one has come back from the dead like Jesus Christ, even though he said on more than one occasion that this was precisely what he would do ( Mark 10:32-34). So unlike many of us whose actions do not always match our words Jesus’ claim to be the unique Son of God is backed up by what people saw him do (1 Corinthians 15).

 Secondly, the resurrection assures Christians that death, although fatal is not final (1 Peter 1:3). There is a future life with God which we can experience and enjoy once we ask for God’s forgiveness and then put our faith and trust in him (Luke 23:39-43).

 Back in the Middle Ages there was much speculation about whether there was any land in the western Atlantic. Some thought one thing, some thought another. But after 1492 the matter was no longer in dispute. Christopher Columbus had both reached America and returned. From now on he was uniquely qualified to tell people about this land beyond the sea and to guide them there. He was the living proof that there was such a land. He was also the pilot who could take others where he had gone. It is rather like that with the resurrection of Jesus.

  So when Thomas asked Jesus about where he was going and how could anyone know the way to God, Jesus replied “ I am the way, the truth and the life, no one goes to God the Father except by me. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14).

  Therefore, amidst the cacophony of voices and the multitude of opinions, to whom should we look in order to guide us through the really important stages of life? It has to be the one who said “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). As Sherlock Holmes once put it ‘It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth’. 

With best wishes, 

Charles Jefferson


Rev'd Charles - April 2017

posted 30 Apr 2017, 08:46 by Richard Jones   [ updated 8 Jun 2017, 08:25 ]

Living with Doubt.. 

            ..is uncomfortable isn’t it, because we would far rather live with certainties. But life’s not like that – not now or 2,000 years ago. And one man who had every reason to doubt was Thomas – absent when Jesus first appeared to his disciples and therefore sceptical when they claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead. And yet as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) the famous Elizabethan philosopher and statesman once said “ if man will begin with certainties he will end in doubt, but if he will be content to begin with doubt he shall end in certainties.”

            So what transformed ‘Doubting Thomas’ into a fearless disciple of Christ – from someone who could say “unless I see the nails holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes and place my hand where the spear went into his side, I will not believe” – into someone who could exclaim “My Lord and my God !” (John 20)? The answer is – the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            It is this which distinguishes Christianity from being a merely another religion or simply a moral code or system of ethical behaviour; into a faith in a person who through the presence of God the Holy Spirit is alive in Christians today. Because 30 years before the dreadful events of Easter a baby was born who would be called ‘Emmanuel’ which means ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1). And the resurrection of Jesus is proof for Christians that this is true and therefore death, for those who die with a faith in Christ, has been defeated (1 Corinthians 15).

            And that means that although the circumstances of life may often lead us to doubt ourselves, each other or even God, a Christian believes that behind and in control of this incredible universe is the God who has revealed His power and His love in the historical person of Jesus Christ – and because of that is someone on whom we can depend as Thomas himself discovered.

            So this Easter whatever your fears or uncertainties, why not bring them to God in Christ? He knows and understands what we are going through (Hebrews 4:14-16) for with “little doubts come little understanding, but with great doubts come great understanding” (Chinese proverb) when we bring our fears and anxieties to Jesus.  And in doing that we may find understanding and so be able to say with Thomas “My Lord and my God.”

            With best wishes for a very happy and Christ centred Easter,

 

 Charles Jefferson

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