The Vicar's Monthly Magazine Articles

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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