Blogs for October 2017

Strange Group. Today we heard that Rock Legend, Tom Petty died at the age of almost 67 (1950-2017). He was still relatively young and at a new peak in his career, along with his group The Heartbreakers and had just finished a sell-out tour before dying of a massive heart attack about a week or so later. He was also one of the founder members of supergroup, The Travelling Wilbury's, along with fellow band members that sound like some Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - George Harrison (Deceased), Roy Orbison (Deceased), Bob Dylan and former ELO star, Jeff Lynne. Now Tom Petty is deceased. For some strange reason I thought of another strange and unlikely mix of people who, together, came to be known in early church circles as "The Twelve". Not the Twelve Wilburys. I'm speaking of course of the original band of disciples that Jesus chose to be with Him during His short period of ministry here on earth but who (and the proof of the pudding is in the eating) went on to form and take the Early Church forward. It's an interesting thought - that Jesus chose this incongruous bunch of mis-fits who were by no means perfectly matched: James and John (the Sons of Thunder - that says a lot), Doubting Thomas (really?), Simon Peter who for all his faith had walked on water but denied Jesus in the end when the rubber hit the road. Then we have Judas Iscariot who helped himself from the common purse and in the end betrayed the Son of God. Andrew and Philip seemed to be OK (..ish!). That leaves Matthew (at least he wrote a gospel), another James and another Simon, Alpheus, Thaddeaus and Bartholomew, none of whom seem to have left any lasting impressions in the Church. Any Parish Church you walk into today is an equally strange mix once you begin to get under the skin of that congregation. Someone said something to me the other day: what impact will you have had in the life of your Church when you finally depart this life? Will you be an Apostle Peter, or a John or a Paul (or even a Ringo!) or a relatively unknown Alpheus. Hopefully not a Judas. One final thought which might encourage us. I said earlier that Jesus put His group, this wandering band of misfits together and He made it work by the Holy Spirit of Pentecost and at the end, in that Upper Room he told them that he loved them as true friends. In Matthew 28 He entrusted them with a great project. He clearly thought they were up to that great commission. It is God's Holy Spirit that will make todays Church work if we will heed His voice. 2 October 2017 StanH

Giving WayWhat a day! We had a great day yesterday on the North Yorkshire Moors with our son Philip who lives and works in Whitby. Not that we spend much time in Whitby - Philip likes to be out on the moors walking or cycling. But yestersay, after a nice breakfast at the Witz End Cafe in Sandsend, we drove off to Castleton and headed out to the famous Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge. We'd come out towards Westerdale to be amazed by a new 3m high bronze statue known as the Seated Man. Great spectacle though it was, that's not what my blog is about today. What made the day memorable (though not in the usual sense of the word), was the sheer number of times we had to give way to passing cars on the many narrow moors road that we encountered. But it wasn't just me. I was also given way to. You could say giving way is a "two-way street". See what I did there way? It wasn't until later, when I was reflecting on our day that I saw that giving way is an attitude also required in the Church. It's not one of the listed fruits of the Spirit as such but it really could be. It's a form of patience, a type of self-control, an aspect of gentleness. It even contains echoes of 1 Corinthians 13 as an expression of love for our fellow man. Matthew also talks about doing to others in everything what you would have them do to you. Its also an expression of humility - if that is true then we can be sure that our Lord Jesus Christ would have made a great car driver. So that's "giving way" in my book and "everything" surely includes every practical and mundane aspect of daily living and human interaction. So today let us meditate on what Christian "giving way" really entails and explore the many ways, other than driving along a narrow road, we might be called upon to give way in the Church.

As an afterthought I reflected upon the Highway Code and the Give Way sign. This is not a nice suggestion. It;s not even advisory. It's the law. Just like the Law of Moses. We have to obey the Give Way sign. But "giving way" in the Church is not the law. We're not even obliged to give way if we don't want to. But not doing so would be very sad. Giving way reflects the Grace Of God in Christ Jesus operating in us. Like the fruit of the Spirit its an outcome and a reflection and a mirror of God in us shining out on a dark world. Every time we give way its like lighting a candle - a light coming on to lighten our darkness. When I first pondered that list which is the Fruit of the Spirit I thought it was complete and I couldn't think of anything else to add to it. I thought it was a perfect and a complete list. But now I'm no longer sure. I suspect there's a lot more fruit still to be discovered. 7 October 2017 StanH.

Physician Heal Thyself. If you follow the Parish Blog you will notice that I've been "offline" since 7 October.

Why ? Well too busy, too pre-occupied, too worried, too harrassed - you name it. I may have told you before that the content of my blogs is often the product of my first thoughts on waking in the morning. Recently they've not been the kind of thoughts I could use in a blog - TO DO LISTS and things like that. In the last few days I've been drawn to those well-known words in Matthew's Gospel [11v28]: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest". Jeremy Hunt, our Minister for Health said the other day that our GP's are "knackered" - meaning worn out like a broken down horse or other beast of burden. Overworked and stressed or harrassed as Jesus said. If you wanted an example of rude good health then don't look at your GP - often they are more in need of a doctor than you are. An article in the 27 September edition of the Independent Newspaper claimed that Doctors and Nurses are at high risk of committing suicide:

Nurses and doctors are more likely to take their own lives than anyone in Britain, show figures disclosed yesterday.

The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures, said doctors were almost twice as likely to take their own lives and nurses were at 50 per cent greater risk. But 90 per cent of nurses are female and when compared with the female population, their suicide rate was almost four times the average.

In Luke 4v23 Jesus coined the phrase "Physician heal thyself". Unfortunately it is not often the case that this can be done. But there is something in Matthew's verse for we Christians that should encourage us today if you find yourself losing your own peace and your own close connection with God as other things of this world press in. If that is the season you suddenly find yourself in look again at that promise in Matthews Gospel: "Come to me, all you [Christian Man/Christian Woman] who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest". 16 October 2017 StanH

 

And I will raise it again in three days. In John 2v19 Jesus said this: "Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days". Continuing the tale John then tells us how his critics responded: They replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead [oddly, after just three days], His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. There you have it - Jesus was talking about one thing but they got it wrong and thought He was talking about something completely different. It's an easy mistake to make, even in the Church. Someone relayed a possible prophesy (-ish!) that had been made about our church. They had this vision of the church (maybe the building) surrounded with scaffold of the kind and on the scale you might associate with a great project going on. Well ours is indeed a very big church building and very tall and we do have grand designs on one day undertaking a great re-ordering project - though our so-called prophet would presumably not have known that. Hence our ears should prick up if only in passing. But have we jumped to completely the wrong conclusion just as those erstwhile Jews did in the time of John ? As we know "the church" means two different things - a building and the people, the Christians, who worship inside it. Scaffold is synonymous with building work. A lot of scaffold is indicative of a great project. On an ecclesiastical listed building like St James it would also be suggestive of restoration and repair. So what is God saying to us through the prophet? On what is God going to work - is it the building or is it the people ? We need to pray to God for more illumination on this subject. How sad it would be if we were to spend millions (not an unrealistic figure given the size of our church) on re-ordering if the people inside remain unchanged by what God was really trying to do, especially if it was us He is trying change? 17 October 2017 StanH

In a world of one. In Luke Chapter 15 the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law were again muttering about how Jesus ran His missionary business. Let me put it that way; think of it has a business. They didn't get it. Most folks still don't get it today. Afterall - in the natural who would welcome and eat (have fellowship) with sinners and tax collectors. What they didn't get was that in God's World it made absolute sense. That was the point - that was why He sent Jesus and why Jesus came. As we read on we find Jesus telling three different stories (parables) but all having the same underlying theme. The importance of each single one of us to the Father. We live in a world where we expect to lose a few quid, or lose fifty pence down the side of our settee, or throw away our surplus food, or whats left in a tin of paint, or leave an umbrella somewhere or a scarf. But worldly values are not acceptable to God. To us its not a big deal and more often than not, not worth the effort of going back to look for whatever happens to have been misplaced or lost. Nowadays, we factor in waste, we expect some losses; loss of life in war,collateral damage, in natural disasters, by famine or thirst; it's all become common place. Everything devalued. We can even train ourselves to harden our hearts in such matters. But the attutude of the Pharisees provoked Jesus into telling these three parables. Three subjects they could relate to in that long-ago Jewish society. Things that held value to the crowd that listened as he told his stories. Three stories where the value of the object (notice this) progressively increases in value; from a lamb to a piece of valuable jewellery to a precious son. One sheep - not important to us who buy our lamb joints at the supermarket and throw away whats left afer a couple of days but precious in an agrarian society where wealth is measured in the size of one's flocks and fields. One small coin - again not important in our modern plastic throw away world but precious where a womans standing and status in her town or village is measured in the size and value of her necklaces and adornrnents. One son - now we're getting closer to something we can relate to even in our modern world, Where our children and what they grow up to be is important and, in some way where what they become, reflects in society in what we have made them up to be. This particular son was a waster, a spendthrift - he went wrong, took the wrong road. He was a picture and a model of every prodigal son before him and ever since. But go back again and re-read the three stories with clearer eyes. God is not mirrored in the one or the thing that got lost or went astray but in the one who went to find it, went to restore it, went to bring it back home. He is the Shepherd of the lost lamb. He is the diligent women who cleaned her house and went to great lengths to find that which was lost. He is the Father of all those fathers who look in angish to the horizon every day in the hope of seeing their son or daughter return home. Luke put it this way: "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him". [Luke 15v20b]. That is what God the Father is all about. That is the Good News for every prodigal man, woman and child who will do what that son did: "So he got up and went to his father. [Luke 15v2c] . 21 Oct 2017 StanH

 

 


Printer Printable Version