Magazine Letters from 2015
The Letter – LIGHT AND DARKNESS
We often take light for granted but when the nights draw in we realise how much we miss it. We are familiar with light as an image of God, but I would like us to consider the problems with that image for those who are blind and live in darkness.
Biblical images of light are plentiful, including sunlight, moonlight and starlight in creation, the hope to move from darkness and despair to light and salvation.
At the same time there are issues to bear in mind. For a person in deep blindness to represent light as goodness and darkness as evil is problematic. For a person living in darkness the reference to light about everything that is supposed to be good and of value can be frustrating, especially when images of light becomes exclusive and insensitive. There is a solace to be found, however in Psalm 139. “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night’, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
Light remains a powerful image for example “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4)
In another translation of the Bible, The Message, the same verse would read: “The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.”
While thinking about light, I am reminded of a talk given at Christmas to children who were hiding glow sticks under their costumes and then brought them out again. It demonstrated the experience that at times we see or know that the Christ-light is present and at times we feel it is hidden, but know it is always there.
So may at this time of Advent and Christmas the Lord make his face shine upon you, be gracious to you and give you peace.
The Letter from The Reader
Summer is giving way to autumn, leaves are starting to fall from the trees; the light evenings are becoming darker with each successive night. Things are changing all around us, nothing stays the same. It’s because things change that it’s important to make time to stop and remember.
This time of year is always good to do that. Through these months the church gives us plenty of opportunity to remember all sorts of important things. Last month we remember with thanksgiving God’s provision of good things to eat at Harvest time. This month we remember with gratitude those who fought and sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today at our Remembrance Services and we fondly bring to mind those who we have loved yet lost at our Memorial Service.
We also remember that All Saints Church celebrates its Patronal Festival this month. During the afternoon of the 7th November it will be a pleasure to listen to some of our musical talent – our choir, our band and others sharing their talents to the glory of God. Let’s also remember that we have a special concert on the eve of Remembrance Sunday full of beautiful music interspersed with poetry and prose presented by Stevie Higgins. A pleasure because our remembrance of Saints is an uplifting way of reminding ourselves of our heritage of faith in Staplehurst, and because a Patronal Festival reminds us of our heritage and history in this place, and calls us to faithfulness as God’s saints here and now in our parish.
Yet some things never change, the Bible tells us that God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13 v8). He is the sure anchor point that we can build our lives upon through all the changing scenes of life. Whether our lives are going well or are in difficulty God’s constant, steadying presence can help us and change us for the good.
I remember reading a book that played with the word ‘remember’. It suggested that we should read the word as ‘re-membered’ as in, having the members (pieces) of your lives put together again. God can do this as we remember his love and constant care for us, but like the other opportunities we have to remember over these next few weeks we need to make a conscious effort to do this otherwise it will mean nothing. I hope to see you at our ‘remembering’ services and also at our services which help us to remember again God’s amazing, transforming love for us all.
You reap what you sow
“If you want to have something done properly, do it yourself”
Jesus did not subscribe to the “if you want to have something done well, do it yourself” philosophy. When faced with a massive hungry crowd on the occasion we know as the feeding of the five thousand, he didn’t turn to his disciples, saying “Finally lads, a chance to show you that magic trick I have been working on”. Instead he asked for their help and they found a boy who was willing to share his packed lunch. Jesus worked with what they had and somehow he made it enough.
God does not need us to help him to achieve anything, but the God we meet in Jesus is the kind of God that wants us to get involved and to play our part in building his kingdom here on earth.
“GOD”. I shouted as my car spun off an icy C road just outside Smarden. I was totally out of control of my wheels, and so scared, as I hurtled across a wide verge towards a line of trees. A slight rise in the ground slowed me down. “Thank you, thank you” I said as danger was averted.
What would I, or you, have done in the same situation if we did not believe in God? It is all very well hearing people say that they do not believe in God, and be proud of their lack of faith. I suspect that if they were in a similar, or worse situation to mine, they would also shout out “God”. Who else would they call to and hope to be heard?
The secular section of our society may be trying to take God out of our lives in case the mention of His name will upset someone, but He is always there, waiting for us to acknowledge Him, to listen when we call to Him and help us as He sees best for us.
It is no surprise that in a crisis many more people think about God, and in a national crisis more people come to church.
Perhaps we should already be going to church and worshipping our heavenly Father before disaster strikes and we are desperate for His help. Who knows but that the secular section may join us and be secular no more.
May God’s blessing be on us,
FAMILIES. …they are great, but, although we love each member all the time, we may not like them all the time, or like what they do. We, however, carry on as a family and sooner or later harmony is usually restored. Everyone in each family is an individual and understanding and catering for all their foibles can be a challenge.
We are God’s family, and think what a challenge He has coping with each of us. Fortunately His love is unconditional. Each of us is equally loved, and if God does not like something we do, then he leads us back to his side to continue as His loved son or daughter. Sometimes we forget about God, but He never forgets us. It is amazing how often people say “that was lucky…” or “if that hadn’t happened I would have…” Think about that for a moment in the context of God’s love.
Of course sad and bad things happen in our families and the world because we are human, but fortunately God is surrounding us with His love to help us all to cope with everything that happens. Someone said that things do not happen to anyone that they, with God, cannot overcome.
As God’s family many people go to services in the churches in our village. This is similar to being at home with our families and talking and praising and encouraging and asking each other about all the day to day concerns and achievements.
Some people say they can be good Christians without going to church, and they are right, but it is helpful to be together with other Christians in the family of the church, to ask for support and guidance from God in all we do.
May we all receive God’s blessing.
MAY- Maia’s month
May has always had 31 days. The original Roman year had 10 named months Martius “March”, Aprilis “April”, Maius “May”, Junius “June”, Quintilis “July”, Sextilis “August”, September “September”, October “October”, November “November”, December “December”, and probably two unnamed months in the dead of winter when not much happened in agriculture.
The year began with Martius “March”. Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome circa 700 BC, added the two months, Januarius “January” and Februarius “February”. He also moved the beginning of the year from Marius to Januarius and changed the number of days in several months to be odd, a lucky number. After Februarius there was occasionally an additional month of Intercalaris “intercalendar”. This is the origin of the leap-year day being in February. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar (hence the Julian calendar) changing the number of days in many months and removing Intercalaris.
Maia (meaning “the great one”) is the Italic goddess of spring. Maia embodied the concept of growth, as her name was thought to be related to the comparative adjective maius, maior, “larger, greater.” She was explicitly identified with Earth and the Good.
When I am out and about this time of the year I find myself delighted by the beauty and colours of all the flowers and shrubs that break forth and I cannot help but be awe inspired by God’s creation. It often leaves me speechless. I love the story about the Buddhist monk who teaches his disciples what it means to appreciate and really sums it all up for me.
A wise teacher stood beside a lake and prepared to give a sermon to his disciples who were gathering there to hear him speak.
As the Holy One waited for his students to settle down, he noticed a golden lotus blooming in the muddy water nearby. He pulled the plant out of the water – flower, long stem, and root. Then he held it up high for all his students to see. For a long time he stood there, saying nothing, just holding up the lotus and looking into the blank faces of his audience. Suddenly one of his disciple smiled. He understood!
Enjoy the beauty of this month and give thanks to God for all that is good in your life.
When we speak to one another we do not do so only with words, but also with body language. With body language we convey emotions and modify meaning when communicating. You may have heard people say: “Wait a minute let me put my glasses on, otherwise I can’t hear what you are saying.” This is an example of how words, our body gestures and facial expression work together interdependently to put across meaning.
During the Holy week, the week before Easter, you suddenly have Passion plays popping up all over the country. The passion of Jesus (the suffering and death of Jesus) includes very few words. The drama unfolds in what happens to Jesus and how Jesus and those around him respond to the tragic events.
During Lent and especially in Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday we attempt to retrace Jesus’ steps towards the Cross we observe:
|Judas betrays Jesus with||a kiss;|
|Peter reacts to Jesus’ arrest violently with||a sword;|
|Most of the male followers||run away;|
|The women sadly||follow, watch, weep, and grieve;|
|Simone of Cyrene is forced to help||carry the cross;|
|Veronica steps forward||to wipe Jesus troubled face;|
|The women of Jerusalem||weep|
|The soldiers brutally||carry out their orders:|
|Mary and John||stand faithfully by the cross|
|The body is||taken down from the cross|
|and gently||laid in the tomb|
Comfort in times of bereavement can rarely be expressed even in the most carefully thought out words. Comfort comes principally from being there and simply sharing the grief.
Jesus shows his love and forgiveness most effectively when he “allows himself to be handed over into the hands of wicked people”. He shows his love and forgiveness principally in how he reacts to what others do to him. Society in the past has erroneously taught us to judge people by what they do. The Christian message and the Passion in particular, show us that we should judge people by how they react to what happens to them.
“Life is mostly froth and bubbles, two things stand like stone, kindness in another’s trouble; courage in your own.” (Adam L. Gordon)
I wish you a happy and creative Eastertide.
‘Time, time, time, see what’s become of me?’ Simon and Garfunkel sang this particular line back in the day, and I must admit I said it to myself this last week. Where is the time going? Christmas was over in a flash, New Year is now in the distance, children back to school, and Easter Eggs were on the shelves before the Christmas season was over. I remember when I was young my parents and grandparents saying ‘Doesn’t time fly!’ Well the scary thing is, I am now saying it – is this what happens when you turn a certain age?
We were talking about a family get together in the future and I hear my son saying ‘but that is such a long time away’ and I nod, knowing that when I was his age a week felt like a month, but now I blink and a fortnight disappears. How can I make things slow down, especially in this Lenten season?
I Googled ‘time’ (what did we do before Google?) and I found some great quotes “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” H Jackson Brown Jr. “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” Henry Van Dyke. “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” Harvey MacKay.
How many of you have nodded your head reading those quotes? Psalm 90 is allegedly the oldest psalm and the only written by Moses and it’s a prayer to God asking for wisdom to make the most of his time on earth. Verse 12 says “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Moses knew the value of making the most of his time left on earth.
A lecturer at college once asked a class I was in: Suppose every day there was deposited in your bank account £86,400. There is a catch to it, what you don’t use during the day, you lose. There is no forwarding balance carried to the next day. Each day you begin with £86,400. What would you do with it? Go on a spending spree every day?
We are given 86,400 seconds each day. Once the day is up, it’s history. You can’t save it, it’s gone forever. It’s foolish to squander and waste £86,400, and it is much more foolish to squander and waste 86,400 seconds. Not everyone would agree. Many people would say, money is more important than time. Many would say wasting money is foolish, but wasting time doesn’t matter. When the twin towers were engulfed in flames on 11th September 2001, money was not a major issue, the stock market was not a major issue. The major issue was time. Time meant everything. Time to get out of the building. Time to rescue as many as possible. When many were trapped and death was inevitable, then time to use a mobile phone to say final words to loved ones.
So remember Moses’ prayer – God, teach us to make the most of our time remaining. Give us a heart of wisdom to do the right thing. We all only have a certain amount of time, so let’s make the most of it. Realise the value of time. Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present – remember it is the most precious gift you will ever be given. Don’t waste it.
May you use the days of this month wisely!
With every blessing.
As the days draw out and the Spring bulbs are flowering, we turn our thoughts from Candlemas (the end of the Christmas Season) on February 2nd, to those for Lent.
Lent is a special time for preparing our hearts and minds to be ready to walk spiritually with Jesus through Holy Week and rejoice in His resurrection on Easter Day.
There were hot cross buns and Easter eggs in the shops before the end of 2014, some even before Christmas Day.
It seems sad that the church’s seasons, in a Christian country, mingle together because the secular area of society has forgotten that these are symbols attached to a religious season. They see food, treats and money instead of setting the time apart for selling these items at the appropriate time of year. They want to be first in the market.
Perhaps we should try to be first in the market to respect and cherish these special times of the Church’s year and try to be Jesus’ hands, eyes, voice, ears and feet as we walk through this life.
May we all receive God’s blessing.
Now that the Christmas and New Year festivities are over, I hope this letter finds you refreshed and well rested from the holidays and looking forward with excitement and optimism to all that 2015 will offer!
From a personal perspective I struggle, frequently, with the darkness of this time of year, which can be made worse by cold, damp and inclement weather, but I am always uplifted with the possibilities that each New Year offers us. I’m not alluding to New Year’s Resolutions at all by the way, being the first to admit that I have failed to achieve them every time I have made them, but to the new beginnings and new opportunities that may be out there for each and every one of us if we look more closely, or just listen perhaps with an open heart and mind to suggestions from a friend or family member.
Often without really realising it, we may come across new avenues or directions in our lives which we hadn’t really thought about before – it might be a hobby or interest we are considering, or we may find renewed confidence to give something that we have never done before a try! And remember, it doesn’t need to be a glamorous or adventuresome pursuit or activity either and so if you have an inkling to do something afresh and positive, why not do it? It might unleash untapped potential never recognised before or just be really, really good fun to do.
And so I wish you all the very best for 2015.